An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News & Media : News

    NRL News & Press Releases

NEWS | Aug. 18, 2023

NRL Transfers NAUTILUS Instrument to University of Notre Dame: Strengthening Navy Research Academic Partnerships

By Nicholas E. M. Pasquini, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher W. Grady served as the guest speaker at an event finalizing the agreement to transfer U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) NAval Ultra-Trace Isotope Laboratory Universal Spectrometer (NAUTILUS) instrument to the University of Notre Dame on Aug. 18 in Washington, DC.

NRL researchers designed and built the NAUTILUS spectrometer instrument to provide new measurement capabilities unlike those available at other laboratories at the time. NAUTILUS was declared operationally capable of measuring nuclear, cosmo/geo-chemical, and electronic materials in 2015.

“The partnership between Notre Dame and the U.S. Navy is steeped in history, and I am incredibly proud to stand at the intersection of Navy and Notre Dame as we gather today to celebrate this future collaborative opportunity,” said Adm. Grady. “The USNRL’s long and fruitful relationship with industry, academia, and other government agencies is a testament to the power of partnership in pushing science forward as a force for good. To meet the challenges of providing the joint force with new capabilities, we must continue our work with industry, Allies and partners, and academia to harness their collective energy, knowledge, and vision. Our collaboration is America’s competitive advantage.”

NAUTILUS research goals encompassed the development of a novel suite of techniques for precision measurement of elemental composition across the entire periodic table for a wide range of sample types relevant to Department of the Navy (DON) applications ranging from trace elemental analysis of nuclear fuels to materials analysis of new types of semiconductors, metal oxides, and two-dimensional (2D) materials. 

“The NAUTILUS was developed at NRL by incorporating a Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (SIMS) instrument (CAMECA ims-4f) as the ion injector to a Secondary Single-stage Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (SSAMS) to create a unique facility for mass spectrometry,” said Dr. Bruce G. Danly, NRL director of research.

Instrumentation disassembly and its future installation at the University of Notre Dame campus will be led by personnel from Notre Dame’s Nuclear Science Laboratory (NSL), which is one of the leading low-energy particle accelerator facilities in the country and is funded by the National Science Foundation. The NSL is comprised of 20 faculty, 50 graduate and 30 undergraduate students, with about 100 outside collaborators. 

 “The instrument will now operate at the University of Notre Dame,” Danly said. “Researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will continue to have access to the instrument and opportunities for collaboration. There is extensive overlap in NRL and the university’s research areas in atomic mass spectrometry.”

Congress authorizes a defense laboratory to transfer scientific equipment commonly used by educational institutions that is surplus to the needs of the laboratory via the use of Educational Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

NRL and Notre Dame have signed an EPA to transfer all rights, title, and interest in the NAUTILUS to the university. The College of Science and the College of Engineering at Notre Dame have committed the required resources to install and operate NAUTILUS as a joint Research and Teaching Facility between the colleges.

NRL serves as an effective coupling point with industry and academic partners in the research and development chain for the Navy and Marine Corps. NRL is the principal in-house component in the Naval Research Enterprise’s portfolio of research and innovation organizations in support of science and technology requirements for the DON.

As the DON’s corporate laboratory, NRL leads space systems development and support, fire and materials research, tactical electronic warfare, microelectronic device development, and artificial intelligence innovation. The laboratory focuses its research efforts on current and future Navy strategic interests and technological requirements in a period marked by global terrorism, shifting power balances, and irregular and asymmetric warfare.

“The interdisciplinary and wide-ranging nature of NRL’s work keeps this ‘great research laboratory’ at the forefront of discovery and innovation, solving naval challenges and benefiting the nation as a whole,” Danly said. “NRL continues moving technology rapidly from concept to operational use when high-priority, short-term needs arise.”

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory 

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, Key West, Florida, and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or

News Search