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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

UCSD Medical Center Requesting MCSC’s Help to Support COVID-19 Crisis

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020


The University of California San Diego Medical Center has requested Marine Corps Systems Command’s assistance to help medical professionals as they deal with the evolving crisis of COVID-19.

On March 16, Dr. Sidney Merritt, an anesthesiologist at UCSD Medical Center, contacted MCSC’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell requesting assistance in coordinating 3D printer assets to design parts to enable the simultaneous ventilation of multiple patients.

AMOC initiated collaboration with the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific Reverse Engineering, Science and Technology for Obsolescence, Restoration and Evaluation Lab to rapidly design, print, test and evaluate prototype ventilator splitters using various materials.

The AMOC team also worked with the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery for support in evaluating, certifying and approving the parts prior to delivery to the medical center.

MCSC, NIWC Pacific and UCSD have established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to facilitate current and future support requests. A Memorandum of Understanding among MCSC, NIWC Pacific and the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery is also being established to codify roles and responsibilities.

MCSC’s involvement

On March 18, Merritt provided design files for the ventilator splitter based upon a successful test print conducted by the UCSD engineering team. UCSD requested assistance in printing ventilator splitters in higher resolution and with diverse materials that could meet specific design requirements.

After receiving the design files, AMOC and the NIWC Pacific RESTORE lab printed several prototypes using different materials. In less than a day, AMOC used its industrial printer in Quantico, Virginia, and the RESTORE Lab employed its organic printers to produce initial prototypes. 

The 3D-printed ventilator splitters were scanned to ensure accuracy with the design files and then brought to UCSD Medical Center for fit testing and further design analysis.

AMOC’s reputation in advanced manufacturing has grown since its establishment in 2019. The cell has demonstrated the ability to produce 3D-printed parts and provide other sustainment and manufacturing solutions in a timely fashion. When called upon, the AMOC can produce parts in a fraction of the time it takes traditional manufacturers.

“AMOC’s response to this situation demonstrates how additive manufacturing can respond quickly to supply chain disruptions and rapidly prototype, evaluate and test new solutions to meet emerging urgent requirements,” said Scott Adams, AMOC lead at MCSC.

The rapid response by AMOC and the NIWC Pacific RESTORE lab to UCSD Medical Center’s request for support is indicative of how the Department of the Navy is prepared to respond to the medical community during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the Marine Corps and NIWC Pacific team,” said Carly Jackson, NAVWAR Chief Technology Officer. “We are demonstrating the power, agility and speed of response that our Naval research and development centers bring to bear in times of national need.”

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

Army Scientists Create Innovative Quantum Sensor – Covers Entire RF Spectrum

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

ADELPHI, Md. — A quantum sensor could give Soldiers a way to detect communication signals over the entire radio frequency spectrum, from 0 to 100 GHz, said researchers from the Army.

Such wide spectral coverage by a single antenna is impossible with a traditional receiver system, and would require multiple systems of individual antennas, amplifiers and other components.

In 2018, Army scientists were the first in the world to create a quantum receiver that uses highly excited, super-sensitive atoms–known as Rydberg atoms–to detect communications signals, said David Meyer, a scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. The researchers calculated the receiver’s channel capacity, or rate of data transmission, based on fundamental principles, and then achieved that performance experimentally in their lab–improving on other groups’ results by orders of magnitude, Meyer said.

“These new sensors can be very small and virtually undetectable, giving Soldiers a disruptive advantage,” Meyer said. “Rydberg-atom based sensors have only recently been considered for general electric field sensing applications, including as a communications receiver. While Rydberg atoms are known to be broadly sensitive, a quantitative description of the sensitivity over the entire operational range has never been done.”

To assess potential applications, Army scientists conducted an analysis of the Rydberg sensor’s sensitivity to oscillating electric fields over an enormous range of frequencies–from 0 to 10^12 Hertz. The results show that the Rydberg sensor can reliably detect signals over the entire spectrum and compare favorably with other established electric field sensor technologies, such as electro-optic crystals and dipole antenna-coupled passive electronics.

“Quantum mechanics allows us to know the sensor calibration and ultimate performance to a very high degree, and it’s identical for every sensor,” Meyer said. “This result is an important step in determining how this system could be used in the field.”This work supports the Army’s modernization priorities in next-generation computer networks and assured position, navigation and timing, as it could potentially influence novel communications concepts or approaches to detection of RF signals for geolocation.

In the future, Army scientists will investigate methods to continue to improve the sensitivity to detect even weaker signals and expand detection protocols for more complicated waveforms.

The Journal of Physics B published the research, “Assessment of Rydberg atoms for wideband electric field sensing,” in its special issue on interacting Rydberg atoms. Army scientists David H. Meyer, Kevin C. Cox and Paul D. Kunz led this research, as well as Zachary A. Castillo from the University of Maryland. This work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

By US Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

New Error Correction Method Provides Key Step Toward Quantum Computing

Monday, March 16th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — An Army project devised a novel approach for quantum error correction that could provide a key step toward practical quantum computers, sensors and distributed quantum information that would enable the military to potentially solve previously intractable problems or deploy sensors with higher magnetic and electric field sensitivities.

The approach, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Army funding, could mitigate certain types of the random fluctuations, or noise, that are a longstanding barrier to quantum computing. These random fluctuations can eradicate the data stored in such devices.

The Army-funded research, published in Physical Review Letters, involves identifying the kinds of noise that are the most likely, rather than casting a broad net to try to catch all possible sources of disturbance.

“The team learned that we can reduce the overhead for certain types of error correction on small scale quantum systems,” said Dr. Sara Gamble, program manager for the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “This has the potential to enable increased capabilities in targeted quantum information science applications for the DOD.”

The specific quantum system the research team is working with consists of carbon nuclei near a particular kind of defect in a diamond crystal called a nitrogen vacancy center. These defects behave like single, isolated electrons, and their presence enables the control of the nearby carbon nuclei.

But the team found that the overwhelming majority of the noise affecting these nuclei came from one single source: random fluctuations in the nearby defects themselves. This noise source can be accurately modeled, and suppressing its effects could have a major impact, as other sources of noise are relatively insignificant.

The team determined that the noise comes from one central defect, or one central electron that has a tendency to hop around at random. It jitters. That jitter, in turn, is felt by all those nearby nuclei, in a predictable way that can be corrected. The ability to apply this targeted correction in a successful way is the central breakthrough of this research.

The work so far is theoretical, but the team is actively working on a lab demonstration of this principle in action.

If the demonstration works as expected, this research could make up an important component of near and far term future quantum-based technologies of various kinds, including quantum computers and sensors.

ARL is pursuing research in silicon vacancy quantum systems which share similarities with the nitrogen vacancy center quantum systems considered by the MIT team. While silicon vacancy and nitrogen vacancy centers have different optical properties and many basic research questions are open regarding which type(s) of application each may be ultimately best suited for, the error correction approach developed here has potential to impact both types of systems and as a result accelerate progress at the lab.

By U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Going Green: Eco-friendly Plastic to Replace Soldier’s Supplies in Battle

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Advanced 3D printing from recycled plastic is an eco-friendly way to strengthen operational readiness, curb supply chain reliance, and improve troop safety, says a top Army scientist — with testing and evaluations on a mobile lab set for next year.

In a collaborative effort with the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory has explored new, resourceful ways to salvage plastic waste to integrate with 3D printers, said Dr. Nikki Zander, ARL research chemist.

“We have the [20 ft.] container at Marine Corps Base Quantico,” Zander said. “We’ve got all the extrusion equipment installed. We’re hoping by the end of this calendar year we’ll be able to do a demonstration of the capabilities there.”

The containers include the tools and equipment needed to fabricate 3D items from recycled materials, Zander said. Although the printing capabilities exist, ARL researchers plan to make them more automated, user-friendly, and eventually require less than a day of training for Soldiers in the field.

Right now, researchers are actively scanning parts to build an imagery database for Soldiers to pull from to quickly print parts.

“Three companies are working on making the next generation mobile lab,” Zander said. “We hope within three years we’ll have a prototype from one of those companies, and it will be more robust have more automation capabilities.”

“We’re trying to reduce supply chain dependence by using available materials,” Zander said. “We’re interested in looking at plastic packaging materials we could repurpose to use as a feedstock for additive manufacturing.”

In austere environments, a cache of plastic debris — such as empty water bottles, milk jugs, and yogurt containers — often pile up and cause a logistical burden on Soldiers to dispose of.

With nowhere to go, the garbage is often burned. The smoke releases toxic fumes into the air, and potentially causing respiratory hazards for Soldiers, Zander said.

Although actions to help the environment were “a huge motivation,” for Zander, an avowed environmentalist, the technology does more than provide conservational alternatives for troops. It is also a cost-effective way to help Soldiers be more self-sufficient on the frontlines.

One example of how recycled plastic is used on vehicle radio brackets, Zander said. It takes roughly ten emptied water bottles, and two hours, to fabricate a plastic radio bracket.

The vehicle brackets “commonly break, and usually a new, $200 radio is ordered. The new radio can take many months to get into the field, but, now you can print the part for [the cost of an empty, plastic water bottle] with no wait, and there’s very little statistical difference in the strength of the material.”

“This supports sustainment and the next-generation combat vehicle,” Zander said. “That is because there is a lot of plastic parts that need to be replaced and when you’re in a remote area, and it’s very difficult to get those shipments in.”

Even though some units have conventional 3D printers, their conventional filament must be refilled. Supplying troops with mission-critical items, like printing refills, can take weeks and the shortage can also leave Soldiers vulnerable during transportation.

“If Soldiers run out of conventional filament, then they’re dead in the water,” she said. “I think this technology provides a large level of comfort to know that they don’t need anything outside of what they already have to make the things they need.”

Not all plastic has the industrial strength of water bottles. Other plastics, such as polypropylene, often used as yogurt containers, and polystyrene, used in plastic utensils, are generally too weak to fabricate.

However, those plastics forge a stronger composite material when reinforced with other materials, “When PP is mixed with cardboard, wood fibers, and other waste materials found on military bases — they create a new composite filament,” Zander said. “Giving them the strength to make more durable filaments for 3D printed parts.”

This procedure is called solid-state shear pulverization. During this process, the materials are milled into a twin-screw extruder to form a fine powder that is melted down into a 3D printing filament. Looking ahead, ARL scientists hope to incorporate tire rubber.

“If we’re able to take the waste out of the area, and the burning out of the air and turn it into something useful, that’s win-win,” Zander said.

Story by Thomas Brading, Army News Service

Photos by E.J. Hersom

SOFWERX – SOF Space, Cyber Space and Electromagnetic Spectrum Rapid Capabilities Assessment

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

In conjunction with USSOCOM, SOFWERX will host a SOF Space, Cyber Space and Electromagnetic Spectrum Rapid Capabilities Assessment (RCA) 27 April – 01 May 2020 in Tampa.

The goal of the event is to develop and produce a “Technology Road Map” to provide a system/subsystem level breakdown of technology partners, their technology maturity, risk and provide insight for deciding next steps, such as technology investment opportunities.

Twenty (20) selected participants will be afforded up to $5,000 for the week to offset travel costs and provide for a modest stipend for their participation.

Request to Attend NLT 26 March 11:59 PM EST. For will details, visit www.sofwerx.org/rca2.

Army Scientists Develop Cutting-Edge, Durable 3D Printing Technology

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Army scientists are on the brink of a pioneering additive-manufacturing technology to help Soldiers quickly swap out broken plastic components with durable 3D printed replacements, says a top Army researcher.

In the past, troops have either lugged replacement parts around or ordered them from warehouses thousands of miles away, only to wait weeks for them to arrive.

But with dual-polymer 3D printed parts — developed by scientists at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, or ARL — Soldiers could be a few clicks away from swapping out broken pieces and heading back to the fight within hours.

“We’re crossing a threshold where low-cost, easy-to-operate and maintain printers will be proliferated on the battlefield — and able to produce engineering parts of very good quality with short turn-around times,” said Dr. Eric Wetzel, ARL’s research arealeader for Soldier materials.

“In order to do that, we need printing technologies that can print parts that are accurate geometrically and have mechanical properties that are sufficiently robust to survive conditions in battle,” he added.

The printing technology comes on the heels of Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy pushing an advanced manufacturing policy last October, intended to enhance supply chains in the field.

Until this point, 3D printing technologies that produce mechanically robust parts have required printers and print technologies that are not suitable for austere environments, while the printers suitable for austere environments produced poor-quality parts, Wetzel said.

That’s where the ARL scientists come in. For the last few years, they have delved into this issue, Wetzel said. For the first time, ARL scientists have developed a cutting-edge filament capable of being used in off-the-shelf, low-cost 3D printers to produce mechanically strong, battlefield-ready parts.

“By summer, we hope to have samples of the filament distributed to Army transition partners,” Wetzel added. Based on their feedback, ARL could ramp up production — with help from industry partners — and have it in the hands of Soldiers within the calendar year.


“Conventional polymer filaments for 3D printing are made up of a single polymer,” Wetzel said. “Our innovation is that we’ve combined two different polymers into a single filament, providing a unique combination of characteristics useful for printing and building strength.”

The dual-polymer filament combines acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, with polycarbonate, or PC. A critical design feature of the filament is that the ABS and PC phases are not simply mixed together, a common approach for creating blended polymers. Instead, a special die-less thermal drawing process developed by ARL is used to create an ABS filament with a star-shaped PC core. Once coupled, the filament is used as feedstock in a desktop fused-filament fabrication, or FFF, printer to create 3D prints with a heavy-duty ABS/PC meso?structure.

FFF printers work with a heated nozzle that emits thin layers of melted plastic, similar to molten glass. The filament is deposited onto a print bed, one layer on top of another until it forms the 3D printed part. In order to fabricate a unique part, the nozzle, print bed, or both move while the hot plastic streams down.

The two polymers found in the new filament technology have distinct melting temperatures, Wetzel said.

After the solid bodies are initially printed, they are put in an oven to build strength. During this annealing process, the deposited material layers fuse together while maintaining their geometry and form. This stability is caused by the higher temperature resistance of the built-in framework.

“The second polymer holds the shape like a skeleton while the rest of it is melting and bonding together,” Wetzel said. “Through a series of filament design trials, we were able to identify that the star-shaped PC core provided a superior combination of part toughness and stability compared to other arrangements of ABS and PC in the filament.”

Current filaments — traditionally consisting of a single thermoplastic — produce parts that are brittle and weak, and would deform excessively during the annealing process, he said.

“We focused in on what can we do to improve those mechanical properties,” he added. “We wrote a series of papers getting very fundamentally down to the details of exactly why conventional single-polymer parts are not sufficient, what’s happening in the physics of the polymer — really at a molecular level — that prevents conventional printed polymer parts from meeting these requirements.”

The legacy thermoplastic deposits like a hot glue gun, he said. As the layers build, they don’t stick very well to the previous layer because by the time the second layer adds, the first one is cooled off.

“So, you’re not melting the layers together, you’re just solidifying material on top of one another, and they never really bond between layers,” Wetzel said. “Our technology is an approach that allows us to use these conventional desktop printers, but then apply post-processing to dramatically improve the toughness and strength between layers.”

“Manufacturing at the point-of-need provides some exciting possibilities,” Wetzel said. “In the future we can imagine Soldiers deployed overseas collaborating with engineers in the United States, allowing new hardware concepts to be designed and then sent as digital files to be coverted into physical prototypes that the Soldiers can use the same day. This paradigm shift could allow us to innovate at a much higher speed, and be keenly responsive to the ever-changing battlefield.”

Story by Thomas Brading, Army News Service

Photos by EJ Hersom

Rare-Earth Element Material Could Produce World’s Smallest Transistors

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A material from a rare earth element, tellurium, could produce the world’s smallest transistor, thanks to an Army-funded project.

Computer chips use billions of tiny switches called transistors to process information. The more transistors on a chip, the faster the computer.

A project at Purdue University in collaboration with Michigan Technological University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Texas at Dallas, found that the material, shaped like a one-dimensional DNA helix, encapsulated in a nanotube made of boron nitride, could build a field-effect transistor with a diameter of two nanometers. Transistors on the market are made of bulkier silicon and range between 10 and 20 nanometers in scale.

“This research reveals more about a promising material that could achieve faster computing with very low power consumption using these tiny transistors,” said Joe Qiu, program manager for the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, which funded this work. “That technology would have important applications for the Army.”

The Army-funded research is published in the journal Nature Electronics. The Army is focused on integration, speed and precision to ensure the Army’s capability development process is adaptable and flexible enough to keep pace with the rate of technology change.

“This tellurium material is really unique. It builds a functional transistor with the potential to be the smallest in the world,” said Dr. Peide Ye, Purdue’s Richard J. and Mary Jo Schwartz Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

One way to shrink field-effect transistors, the kind found in most electronic devices, is to build the gates that surround thinner nanowires. These nanowires are protected within nanotubes.

Ye and his team worked to make tellurium as small as a single atomic chain and then build transistors with these atomic chains or ultrathin nanowires.

They started off growing one-dimensional chains of tellurium atoms, and were surprised to find that the atoms in these one-dimensional chains wiggle. These wiggles were made visible through transmission electron microscopy imaging performed at the University of Texas at Dallas and at Purdue.

“Silicon atoms look straight, but these tellurium atoms are like a snake. This is a very original kind of structure,” Ye said.

The wiggles were the atoms strongly bonding to each other in pairs to form DNA-like helical chains, then stacking through weak forces called van der Waals interactions to form a tellurium crystal.

These van der Waals interactions set apart tellurium as a more effective material for single atomic chains or one-dimensional nanowires compared with others because it’s easier to fit into a nanotube, Ye said.

Because the opening of a nanotube cannot be any smaller than the size of an atom, tellurium helices of atoms could achieve smaller nanowires and, therefore, smaller transistors.

The researchers successfully built a transistor with a tellurium nanowire encapsulated in a boron nitride nanotube. A high-quality boron nitride nanotube effectively insulates tellurium, making it possible to build a transistor.

“Next, the researchers will optimize the device to further improve its performance, and demonstrate a highly efficient functional electronic circuit using these tiny transistors, potentially through collaboration with ARL researchers,” Qiu said.

In addition to the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency partly funded the work.

By U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

SOFWERX Presents The $225,000 Tech Sprint: Hyper Enabled Partner Force

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

In concert with the USSOCOM Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF), SOFWERX is hosting The $225,000 Tech Sprint: Hyper Enabled Partner Force event, 04-14 May 2020.

Up to 15 selected technologies and their submitters will receive a prize award in the amount of $15,000 to combine and/or integrate their most provocative technologies into the Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO) system. Participants may also have the opportunity to showcase their technology at SOFIC.

The technologies of interest are those that will assist in providing new, novel or provocative solutions in the following categories:

• Linguistical Fluency

• Cultural Fluency

• Social Awareness

• Operational Awareness

• Other Hyper Enabled Capabilities

To get involved, you’ll need to submit NLT 23 March 11:59 PM EST.

For full details, visit www.sofwerx.org/partnerforce