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Nanotechnology

Alion Awarded Nanotechnology Delivery Order

August 4, 2014

Alion Science and Technology Corp., Burr Ridge, Illinois, has been awarded a $10,027,721 cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order (0067) on the AMMTIAC indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity cost-plus-fixed-fee sole-source (FA4600-06-D-0003) for nanotechnology development and technology transfer. AMMTIAC will provide technical, engineering, and expertise in nanotechnology applications in materials, manufacturing and testing of interest to the military. Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, is the contracting activity.

Researchers Develop One-of-a-Kind Nanocomputer

January 31, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Scientists and engineers from MITRE Corporation and Harvard University published a paper this week revealing the development of what they call the most dense nanoelectronic system ever built. The ultra-small, ultra-low-power processor could be used for tiny robotics, unmanned vehicles and a broad range of commercial applications, including medical sensors.

Nanowire Sensor Detects Minute Amounts of Explosives, Chemicals

December 1, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

A prototype nanotechnology-based sensor offers the possibility for ubiquitous, networked, real-time chemical agent detection and tracking. By using easily produced super-small components, the devices potentially can be installed in a variety of devices, such as smartphones, robots or commercial appliances.

Nanowire-Based Memory Technology Records Movement, Pressure

December 1, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Physical movement stored as memory in a microchip could lead to advances in touch screens, robot control devices and medical implants. Researchers are arraying nanowires on a microchip to form a write-read memory cell as part of ongoing work that could convert motions, such as a hand in a glove or pressing a display, into memory. Moving or putting pressure on the nanowires creates an electrical current that can be read and recorded as memory. Arrays of such cells offer the potential for a variety of user interface applications and for new ways to convert mechanical or biological actions into electronic data.

Developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), the piezoelectrically modulated resistive memory (PRM) system relies on the piezoelectric effect, where some materials, in this case zinc oxide nanowires, will generate electrical current when they are put under pressure or moved, which causes them to temporarily bend or deform. Piezoelectric materials also create mechanical strain (movement) when they are exposed to an electric current. PRM technology allows the creation of a new type of transistor that is switched on or off through movement or mechanical activity, explains Zhong Lin Wang, regents professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Material Science and Engineering in Atlanta.

Current memory systems, such as flash memory, are mainly if not entirely electronic, Wang says. But PRM technology allows the direct writing of electrical or optical memory through physical means. “Once you introduce the piezoelectric effect into the memory, you talk about the memory of strain and stress,” Wang notes.

Nano Looms as the Next Pervasive Technology

December 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Nanotechnology is the new cyber, according to several major leaders in the field. Just as cyber is entrenched across global society now, nano is poised to be the major capabilities enabler of the next decades. Expert members from the National Nanotechnology Initiative representing government and science disciplines say nano has great significance for the military and the general public.

According to the initiative, its aim is to move discoveries from the laboratory into products for commercial and public benefit; encourage students and teachers to become involved in nanotechnology education; create a skilled work force and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and support responsible development. The initiative involves more than two dozen government agencies, industry, academic partners and international participants.

Dr. Mihail Roco is the main architect and founding chair of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). In addition to that work, he sits on various committees and serves as the senior adviser for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Having helped advance the field to its current point, he predicts that in the next five to 10 years the focus will shift to application. Because of improved tools for more accurate measurement and control at the nanoscale level, he foresees more economical development of nanotechnology. “We’ll be able to understand and build robust solutions,” he states. Most solutions now are based on assumptions and trial and error. For these reasons, they are still expensive, he adds.

Nanomaterial Fabrication Moving to Desktop

December 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

A new printing technology could move the production of nano-sized electronic components from multibillion-dollar facilities into the hands of users, including military users in the field. The device, which is about the size of a desktop printer, will allow rapid prototyping of nanomaterials, contribute to stem cell and other medical research, offer a range of commercial uses and save potentially billions of dollars. Furthermore, because the product builds upon already widely available technology, it could be fielded within two years, researchers say.

New Touch Technology Has Sensitive Skin

July 26, 2013

Engineers at UC Berkeley have created a system of sensors on flexible plastic that reacts to pressure by lighting up. The new "e-skin" recognizes the amount of pressure and responds with a brighter or dimmer light accordingly.

The technology can be used to give robots a more precise sense of touch and also might be used to create interactive wallpapers or automobile dashboards.

What differentiates the e-skin from other touch sensor networks is its flexibility and interactivity, says Chuan Wang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University. Wang participated in the research as a post-doctoral student at UC Berkeley, as part of a research team led by Ali Javey. Because the e-skin is pliable, it can be applied as a laminate to other surfaces.



You can view the e-skin in action here:

 

Nanosatellites STARE at Space Junk

May 17, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

 

 

Meet 
Laser-Triggered, Origami-Like Pixie Dust

May 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army researchers have developed micro materials that fold when hit with a low-intensity laser. The advance may eliminate the need for relatively bulky power systems—such as battery packs—on tiny robotic systems. It also could enable robotic microthrusters, unattended ground sensors, or even—theoretically—programmable, easily changeable camouflage patterns.

The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are shaped like stars with four, six or eight legs. The legs fold—like origami—when heated slightly with light from a low-level laser. That folding action is accomplished without the materials being tethered to batteries, wires or other any other power supply.

One of the most likely applications would be a new kind of switch that prevents electricity leakage when a device is turned off. “You could turn on a structure or turn off a structure from a distance by shining a light on it,” explains Chris Morris, an Army Research Laboratory (ARL) electronics engineer who leads the On-chip Energetics and MEMS team. “And when the structure is in an off state, it would be truly off, unlike a solid-state electrical switch where there’s always some leaking through even when it’s off.”

Microrobotic applications are more futuristic. “I could see this as potentially being a way to enable very, very small robotic-like platforms where you have little legs that would move in response to light—and potentially even different colors of light, so they could be directed to walk in one direction or another depending on what color of light you’re flashing at them,” Morris explains. “That’s one interesting aspect that circumvents the current power supply challenge with small-scale robotic systems for surveillance and reconnaissance. The power supplies are so bulky and heavy that in order to get something big enough to carry the power supply, you no longer have a small, cheap, disposable package. You have something the size of a kid’s remote-control car.”

Second Skin for 
a Lighter Warfighter

May 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Academic, research and industry teams join forces to improve uniform materials.

New fabrics now under development will one day relieve troops from the burden of wearing additional garments to protect from chemical and biological attack. The effort, dubbed Second Skin, is being led by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department. The goal is to weave a new generation of multifunctional materials that can be manufactured into everyday military uniforms but use molecular-level technologies to protect against such attacks as soon as the wearer enters a contaminated area. The program is budgeted for $30 million over the next five years.

Hooded, heavy and cumbersome suits in hot desert climates worn in anticipation of possible chemical attacks and the accompanying discomfort would become a thing of the past if the Second Skin program is successful, according to Tracee Harris, science and technology manager for Novel Materials, Chemical and Biological (CB) Technologies Department, at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “The vision of dynamic multifunctional materials for Second Skin technology is to enable the manufacture of autonomous protective garments—in other words, garments that can respond to a CB threat by optimizing the balance between the CB protection that the garment can offer and thermal comfort for the wearer,” she explains.

Harris cites studies performed by the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine that show a physiological effect that current suits have on soldiers’ abilities to perform their mission. “They’re performing moderate work, marching under those conditions, under high relative humidity, and high temperatures,” she says, adding that in normal use, soldiers usually must rest after wearing the suit for one hour. Generally, suits are issued to troops for use only in situations where they may be marching into a known threat.

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