Researchers at a national laboratory have discovered a way to construct microelectrical systems using magnetic fields to arrange internal structures. The technology already is opening the door to breakthroughs in sensor and magnetic identification systems, and yet-undiscovered capabilities such as realistic artificial limbs and more esoteric applications may lie on the horizon.
A research and development organization originally created to boost economic development in North Carolina is now providing cutting-edge technologies to the U.S. Defense Department. Areas of exploration range from information assurance to sensors to ultrahigh-speed communications. Many of the projects will facilitate intelligence gathering and directly support warfighters.
Advances in miniaturization, integration and energy management show that a complete wireless sensor/communication system can be merged into a package the size of a grain of sand and networked. Applications are far-reaching-from military sensor networks to industrial quality control.
What began accidentally could be the foundation for a revolutionary approach to optical data storage. By enhancing and controlling fluorescence exhibited by nanoparticles, scientists can rapidly switch the particle colors on and off, creating robust nanoscopic storage elements that can pack a large amount of data in a small amount of space.
An experimental hybrid technology that combines both laser and radio frequency communications into a single system may soon provide warfighters with robust, high-bandwidth data networks. Software protocols will allow nodes in these networks to switch automatically between the two transmission modes based on the type of message sent and on prevailing atmospheric conditions.
A new digital signal processing technology originally developed for the commercial world now is being incorporated in military systems where it offers significant improvements over current techniques. Known as pipelined frequency transform, the architecture is a licensable intellectual property of cores, or engines, that can be included in programmable logic devices such as semiconductors or system-on-chip designs. Major defense application areas include advanced radar, signals intelligence, secure wireless communications and electronic warfare.
Laser-based position location systems are entering a new era that is based on quantum mechanics. The research could lead to the dawn of technologies such as entangled lasers that surpass a fundamental limit on the accuracy of classical systems and add a built-in cryptographic capability.
Researchers have developed highly efficient thermal transfer devices that can cool or heat an area thousands of times faster than existing methods. An alloy-based substance can be deposited in microscopic layers on hot spots in electronics or next-generation fiber optic switches to improve their efficiency. The technology also makes possible the creation of tiny, localized heat sources for use in biochemistry, laboratory-on-a-chip systems, and mobile power sources for soldiers.
Engineers have updated and improved a 60-year-old lens antenna technology to create a low-cost, high-gain steerable microwave antenna for satellite tracking applications. Conceived in 1944, the Luneberg lens currently is being employed to maintain two-way satellite contact when a satellite, a receiver or both are moving.
Analysts who must search hours of audio recordings for key words of particular importance to a mission now can find them in a matter of seconds with nearly 100 percent accuracy. Because the technology supports any task that requires the search, analysis and monitoring of voice content, potential customers for the capability range from intelligence organizations looking for terrorist code words to customer service personnel seeking to improve client relations. Additional applications include knowledge management, training and education.