By mimicking the natural response of living tissue to injury, cross-departmental researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a polymeric material that heals itself when damaged. Cracks can be precursors to structural failure, and the ability to treat weakened regions will result in longer-lasting materials used in a variety of applications from microelectronics to aerospace.
research and development
The U.S. military may one day obtain detailed reconnaissance imagery with laser light that has never touched a target. By using two laser beams and taking advantage of a unique characteristic of quantum mechanics that permits one beam to mirror the state of its twin, researchers are developing low-power systems that can measure, or illuminate, objects across a variety of frequencies, yet generate detailed pictures in the visible spectrum.
The science-fiction image of robot warriors engaging in decisive battlefield conflicts may be closer to reality with the development of new robotic technologies. Researchers are sending autonomous vehicles up stairs, through fields and across a nation as they work toward mobile machines that can learn new behaviors while operating independently of human control.
U.S. Defense Department science and technology investment is transcending the requirements model of the past in a shift from threat-based to capabilities-based thinking. While researchers are examining areas such as avionics, materials and nanotechnology, military leaders are exploring how cutting-edge developments can move more quickly from the laboratory to the field.
Industry is focusing on how to reduce computer system complexity by modeling the human body's autonomic nervous system. From servers to software, researchers are building all components of the infrastructure based on the same characteristics-regulation and protection of key functions without conscious involvement. Autonomic computers will make more decisions on their own and require less human intervention.
A new generation of autonomous, problem-solving robots will soon be entering commercial service. Recent advances in computer processing power have allowed researchers to design prototype machines that can navigate in unfamiliar surroundings unassisted. Using a variety of sensors, the robot creates a constantly updated three-dimensional map as it goes through its routine. It is this self-navigation that is finally placing mobile robotic systems on the verge of commercial viability, scientists say.
The race is on for super-advanced, beyond-next-generation technologies. Vying for a cash prize of $1 million, teams of engineers, software developers and car enthusiasts are taking on the challenge to create totally autonomous robotic ground vehicles that can travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a designated course within a specified amount of time. The competition is part of a new program the military has developed to tap into the ingenuity of inventors throughout the United States who will design seemingly impossible capabilities that one day may be as commonplace in military operations as Predators.
The U.S. Navy is using virtual reality to build better warships. By molding data into three-dimensional images with cutting-edge computer systems, engineers can identify potential trouble spots on a vessel's hull and share the information with other design teams around the country. Virtual imaging systems allow engineers to evaluate many different hull types before expensive model testing or full-scale trials occur.
U.S. Defense Department researchers are developing software that may be capable of accurately understanding the nuances of human language. The technology promises to greatly enhance a spectrum of computer-based systems-from commercial Web browsers and personal virtual assistants to advanced intelligence gathering and command and control systems.