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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

28 Topics Open for US Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

The Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program released 28 contract opportunities for U.S.-based small businesses to tackle challenges in some of the Army’s most critical modernization priorities. Phase I awards are nearly $260,000 and six months in duration, and Phase II are up to $1.7 million and 18 months in duration.

“Partnering with our small businesses is critical in helping us to develop innovative technology to support the Army and our Soldiers,” says Dr. Matt Willis, Director, Army Applied SBIR and Prize Competitions in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology (DASA (R&T)). “These crucial partnerships not only foster, strengthen and encourage the roles of small businesses, but also help us modernize our world-class Army and transition life-saving technology into the hands of our Soldiers.”

Phase I releases comprise 27 of the 28 Army Applied SBIR topics:

Advanced Manufacturing
– Impact Resistant Baseplate
– Digital High-Energy Neutron Radiography (NR) Detection Panel
– Development of Novel Miniature Reserve Batteries on the Chip
– Large Format Color Low Light Level (LLL) Focal Plane Arrays (FPAs)
– Full Color, Low Power, High Brightness Micro-Display Capabilities
– Picatinny Smart Rail (PSR) Enabler Integration
– Environmental Conditioning of Man-Portable Weapons Systems

AI/ML
– Behavioristic Electromagnetic Spectrum Assessment General Learning Engine (BEAGLE)
– Advanced GPS-Based Minefield Detection/Clearance System
– Stationary Target Indicator Waveforms for Theoretical Active Electronically Scanned Array Antenna
– Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Full Motion Video (FMV) Enhancement
– Pandemic Entry & Automated Control Environment (PEACE)
– Recognition Biometric Camera System
– Biometric Data Cleansing
– Correlation of Detected Objects from Multiple Sensor Platforms
– Multi-Spectrum Combat Identification Target Silhouette (MCITS)
– Immersive Gaming of C5ISR Training and Testing
– CTA Track/Discrim Improvements for Advanced Threats
– Q-53 Long Range Artillery Guidance
– TPQ-53 Managed Comms/Radar Functionality
– Threat/Target Sensor Stimulation Technology

Hypersonics

– Dynamic Hartmann Turbulence Sensor Processing
– Risk Assessment Modeling Tool (RAMoT)

Materials
– Metamaterial Based Antenna
– Wide Bandgap Bi-Directional Converter
– Enhanced Impact Protection HGU-56P Aviator Helmet
– Advanced Thermal Management Systems

This round includes one Direct to Phase II release:

Network
– Dismounted Device-to-Device (D2D) Communication Platform

The submission period for proposals closes May 18 at noon EST (sic). Full proposal packages must be submitted through the DSIP Portal.

Information in this post was gathered from a story written by Michael Howard

New Process Breaks Down Biodegradable Plastics Faster

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Invention Could Solve Waste Management Challenges on the Battlefield


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — With Army funding, scientists invented a way to make compostable plastics break down within a few weeks with just heat and water. This advance will potentially solve waste management challenges at forward operating bases and offer additional technological advances for American Soldiers.

The new process, developed by researchers at University of California, Berkeley and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, involves embedding polyester-eating enzymes in the plastic as it’s made.

When exposed to heat and water, an enzyme shrugs off its polymer shroud and starts chomping the plastic polymer into its building blocks — in the case of biodegradable plastics, which are made primarily of the polyester known as polylactic acid, or PLA, it reduces it to lactic acid that can feed the soil microbes in compost. The polymer wrapping also degrades.

The process, published in Nature, eliminates microplastics, a byproduct of many chemical degradation processes and a pollutant in its own right. Up to 98% of the plastic made using this technique degrades into small molecules.

“These results provide a foundation for the rational design of polymeric materials that could degrade over relatively short timescales, which could provide significant advantages for Army logistics related to waste management,” said Dr. Stephanie McElhinny, program manager, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “More broadly, these results provide insight into strategies for the incorporation of active biomolecules into solid-state materials, which could have implications for a variety of future Army capabilities including sensing, decontamination, and self-healing materials.”

Plastics are designed not to break down during normal use, but that also means they don’t break down after they’re discarded. Compostable plastics can take years to break down, often lasting as long as traditional plastics.

The research teams embedded nanoscale polymer-eating enzymes directly in a plastic or other material in a way that sequesters and protected them until the right conditions to unleash them. In 2018, they showed how this works in practice. The team embedded in a fiber mat an enzyme that degrades toxic organophosphate chemicals, like those in insecticides and chemical warfare agents. When the mat was immersed in the chemical, the embedded enzyme broke down the organophosphate.

The researchers said protecting the enzyme from falling apart, which proteins typically do outside of their normal environment, such as a living cell, resulted in the key innovation.

For the Nature paper, the researchers showcased a similar technique by enshrouding the enzyme in molecules they designed called random heteropolymers or RHPs, and embedding billions of these nanoparticles throughout plastic resin beads that are the starting point for all plastic manufacturing. The process is similar to embedding pigments in plastic to color them.

“This work, combined with the 2018 discovery, reveals these RHPs as highly effective enzyme stabilizers, enabling the retention of enzyme structure and activity in non-biological environments,” said Dr. Dawanne Poree, program manager, ARO. “This research really opens the door to a new class of biotic-abiotic hybrid materials with functions only currently found in living systems.”

The results showed that the RHP-shrouded enzymes did not change the character of the plastic, which could be melted and extruded into fibers like normal polyester plastic at temperatures around 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit).

To trigger degradation, it was necessary only to add water and a little heat. At room temperature, 80% of the modified PLA fibers degraded entirely within about one week. Degradation was faster at higher temperatures. Under industrial composting conditions, the modified PLA degraded within six days at 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Another polyester plastic, PCL (polycaprolactone), degraded in two days under industrial composting conditions at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). For PLA, the team embedded an enzyme called proteinase K that chews PLA up into molecules of lactic acid; for PCL, they used lipase. Both are inexpensive and readily available enzymes.

“If you have the enzyme only on the surface of the plastic, it would just etch down very slowly,” said Ting Xu, UC Berkeley professor of materials science and engineering and of chemistry. “You want it distributed nanoscopically everywhere so that, essentially, each of them just needs to eat away their polymer neighbors, and then the whole material disintegrates.”

Xu suspects that higher temperatures make the enshrouded enzyme move around more, allowing it to more quickly find the end of a polymer chain and chew it up and then move on to the next chain. The RHP-wrapped enzymes also tend to bind near the ends of polymer chains, keeping the enzymes near their targets.

The modified polyesters do not degrade at lower temperatures or during brief periods of dampness. For instance, a polyester shirt made with this process would withstand sweat and washing at moderate temperatures.

Soaking the biodegradable plastic in water for three months at room temperature did not cause it to degrade, but soaking for that time period in lukewarm water did.

Xu is developing RHP-wrapped enzymes that can degrade other types of polyester plastic, but she also is modifying the RHPs so that the degradation can be programmed to stop at a specified point and not completely destroy the material. This might be useful if the plastic were to be re-melted and turned into new plastic.

“Imagine, using biodegradable glue to assemble computer circuits or even entire phones or electronics, then, when you’re done with them, dissolving the glue so that the devices fall apart and all the pieces can be reused,” Xu said.

This technology could be very useful for generating new materials in forward operating environments, Poree said.

“Think of having a damaged equipment or vehicle parts that can be degraded and then re-made in the field, or even repurposed for a totally different use,” Poree said. “It also has potential impacts for expeditionary manufacturing.”

In addition to the Army, the U.S. Department of Energy with assistance from the UC Berkeley’s Bakar Fellowship program also funded the research.

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

Advancement Creates Nanosized, Foldable Robots

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Army-funded researchers created nanosized robots that could enable locomotion, novel metamaterial design and high-fidelity sensors.


Cornell University researchers created micron-sized shape memory actuators that fold themselves into 3D configurations and allow atomically thin 2D materials with just a quick jolt of voltage. Once the material is bent, it holds its shape, even after the voltage is removed.

To demonstrate the technology, the team created what is potentially the world’s smallest self-folding origami bird.

“The research team is pushing the boundary of how quickly and precisely we can control motion at the micro- and even nano-scales,” said Dr. Dean Culver, program manager for Complex Dynamics and Systems at Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “In addition to paving the way for nano-robots, the scientific advancements from this effort can enable smart material design and interaction with the molecular biological world that can assist the Army like never before.”

The research may result in future applications 10 to 20 years from now, he said.

In a peer-reviewed article published in Science Robotics, researchers said this work could make it possible for a million fabricated microscopic robots releasing from a wafer to fold themselves into shape, crawl free, and go about their tasks, even assembling into more complicated structures.

“We humans, our defining characteristic is we’ve learned how to build complex systems and machines at human scales, and at enormous scales as well,” said Prof. Paul McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science at Cornell University. “What we haven’t learned how to do is build machines at tiny scales.”

This is a step in that basic, fundamental evolution in what humans can do, of learning how to construct machines that are as small as cells, he said.

The researchers ongoing collaboration has generated a throng of nanoscale machines and components, each seemingly faster, smarter and more elegant than the last.

“We want to have robots that are microscopic but have brains on board,” said Prof. Itai Cohen, professor of physics at Cornell University. “That means you need to have appendages that are driven by complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor transistors, basically a computer chip on a robot that’s 100 microns on a side. The hard part is making the materials that respond to the CMOS circuits.”

This shape memory actuator developed by the research teams allows them to drive with voltage and make the materials hold a bent shape. The machines fold themselves fast–within 100 milliseconds. They can also flatten and refold themselves thousands of times and they only need a single volt to be powered to life.

“These are major advances over current state-of-the-art devices,” Cohen said. “We’re really in a class of our own.”

These actuators can bend with a radius of curvature smaller than a micron–the highest curvatures of any voltage-driven actuator by an order of magnitude. This flexibility is important because one of the bedrock principles of microscopic robot manufacturing is that the robot size is determined by how small the various appendages can be made to fold. The tighter the bends, the smaller the folds, and the tinier the footprint for each machine. It’s also important that these bends can be held by the robot, which minimizes the power consumption, a feature especially advantageous for microscopic robots and machines.

The devices consist of a nanometer-thin layer of platinum capped with a titanium or titanium dioxide film. Several rigid panels of silicon dioxide glass sit atop those layers. When a positive voltage is applied to the actuators, oxygen atoms are driven into the platinum and swap places with platinum atoms.

This process, called oxidation, causes the platinum to expand on one side in the seams between the inert glass panels, which bends the structure into its predesignated shape. The machines can hold that shape even after the voltage is removed because the embedded oxygen atoms bunch up to form a barrier, which prevents them from diffusing out.

By applying a negative voltage to the device, the researchers can remove the oxygen atoms and quickly restore the platinum to its pristine state. And by varying the pattern of the glass panels, and whether the platinum is exposed on the top or bottom, they can create a range of origami structures actuated by mountain and valley folds.

“One thing that’s quite remarkable is that these little tiny layers are only about 30 atoms thick, compared to a sheet of paper, which might be 100,000 atoms thick. It’s an enormous engineering challenge to figure out how to make something like that have the kind of functionalities we want,” McEuen said.

The team is currently working to integrate their shape memory actuators with circuits to make walking robots with foldable legs as well as sheet-like robots that move by undulating forward. These innovations may someday lead to nanorobots that can clean bacterial infection from human tissue, microfactories that can transform manufacturing and robotic surgical instruments that are 10 times smaller than current devices, according to Cohen.

The team is also researching the principles that need to change in order to design, manufacture and operate machines at this scale.

In addition to ARO, the National Science Foundation, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science funded the work.

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

Army, Air Force Fund Research to Pursue Quantum Computing

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Joint Army- and Air Force-funded researchers have taken a step toward building a fault-tolerant quantum computer, which could provide enhanced data processing capabilities.

Quantum computing has the potential to deliver new computing capabilities for how the Army plans to fight and win in what it calls multi-domain operations. It may also advance materials discovery, artificial intelligence, biochemical engineering and many other disciplines needed for the future military; however, because qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum computers, are intrinsically fragile, a longstanding barrier to quantum computing has been effective implementation of quantum error correction.

Researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst, with funding from the Army Research Office  and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, identified a way to protect quantum information from a common error source in superconducting systems, one of the leading platforms for the realization of large-scale quantum computers. The research, published in Nature, realized a novel way for quantum errors to be spontaneously corrected.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. AFOSR supports basic research for the Air Force and Space Force as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“This is a very exciting accomplishment not only because of the fundamental error correction concept the team was able to demonstrate, but also because the results suggest this overall approach may amenable to implementations with high resource efficiency, said Dr. Sara Gamble, quantum information science program manager, ARO. “Efficiency is increasingly important as quantum computation systems grow in size to the scales we’ll need for Army relevant applications.”

Today’s computers are built with transistors representing classical bits, either a 1 or 0. Quantum computing is a new paradigm of computation using quantum bits or qubits, where quantum superposition and entanglement can be exploited for exponential gains in processing power.

Existing demonstrations of quantum error correction are active, meaning that they require periodically checking for errors and immediately fixing them. This demands hardware resources and thus hinders the scaling of quantum computers.

In contrast, the researchers’ experiment achieves passive quantum error correction by tailoring the friction or dissipation experienced by the qubit. Because friction is commonly considered the nemesis of quantum coherence, this result may appear surprising. The trick is that the dissipation has to be designed specifically in a quantum manner.

This general strategy has been known in theory for about two decades, but a practical way to obtain such dissipation and put it in use for quantum error correction has been a challenge.

“Demonstrating such non-traditional approaches will hopefully spur more clever ideas for overcoming some of the most challenging issues for quantum science,” said Dr. Grace Metcalfe, program officer for Quantum Information Science at AFOSR.

Looking forward, researchers said the implication is that there may be more avenues to protect qubits from errors and do so less expensively.

“Although our experiment is still a rather rudimentary demonstration, we have finally fulfilled this counterintuitive theoretical possibility of dissipative QEC,” said Dr. Chen Wang, University of Massachusetts Amherst physicist. “This experiment raises the outlook of potentially building a useful fault-tolerant quantum computer in the mid to long run.”

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

DARPA Awards Silvus Up to $13.1M to Develop Distributed Beamforming Solution

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Under RN DMC Program, Silvus to Enable Resilient, Long-Range Comms Over Large Geographic Areas

Los Angeles, California (March 16, 2021) – Silvus Technologies, Inc. (“Silvus”) today announced the company has been awarded a contract worth up to $13.1 million as part of DARPA’s Resilient Networked Distributed Mosaic Communications (RN DMC) program. Under RN DMC, Silvus will develop a distributed beamforming/beamnulling solution to enable resilient, long-range terrestrial communications of up to 100km using multiple collaborative radios distributed over hundreds of meters.

RN DMC stems from DARPA’s investment in mosaic warfare, a concept in which large numbers of lower-cost systems, referred to as “tiles,” are deployed to perform complex mission functions in a coordinated fashion. By building a mosaic of inter-connected tiles, functions such as command and control, communications, and sensing can be performed with more resilience and higher performance.

Building on a proven track record of developing real-time solutions enabling distributed frequency and time synchronization, Silvus’ solution for RN DMC is dubbed Mosaic Scattered Wide-Area Resilient Network (MScWRN or M2N). M2N will enable spatially distributed beamforming and beamnulling with minimal communications required between tiles, resulting in mosaic clusters that are able to bridge large range gaps while seamlessly interoperating with the rest of a traditional Silvus mesh network.

“The reliability of long-range communications utilizing multiple radios distributed over large distances is a critical component in DARPA’s vision of mosaic warfare,” said Dr. Babak Daneshrad, Chief Executive Officer of Silvus. “The RN DMC program will enable the continued development of our M2N solution, and we look forward to demonstrating its matured operation.”

Note to readers:

Since 2018, DARPA has placed significant emphasis on the development of “Mosaic Warfare,” bringing together individual warfighting platforms to create a larger “force package.”

Under the Resilient Networked Distributed Mosaic Communications (RN DMC) program, Silvus will develop a beamforming/beamnulling solution that will enable reliable and resilient long range terrestrial communications utilizing multiple collaborative radios distributed over large distances – an integral component to DARPA’s vision for the future of Mosaic Warfare.

Breakthrough Lays Groundwork for Future Quantum Networks

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — New Army-funded research could help lay the groundwork for future quantum communication networks and large-scale quantum computers.

Researchers sent entangled qubit states through a communication cable linking one quantum network node to a second node.

Scientists at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, funded and managed by the U.S. Army Combat Capability Development, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory’s Center for Distributed Quantum Information, also amplified an entangled state via the same cable first by using the cable to entangle two qubits in each of two nodes, then entangling these qubits further with other qubits in the nodes. The peer-reviewed journal, Nature, published the research in its Feb. 24, 2021, issue.

“The entanglement distribution results the team achieved brought together years of their research related to approaches for transferring quantum states and related to advanced fabrication procedures to realize the experiments,” said Dr. Sara Gamble, program manager at the Army Research Office, an element of the Army’s corporate research laboratory, and co-manager of the CDQI, which funded the work. “This is an exciting achievement and one that paves the way for increasingly complex experiments with additional quantum nodes that we’ll need for the large-scale quantum networks and computers of ultimate interest to the Army.”

Qubits, or quantum bits, are the basic units of quantum information. By exploiting their quantum properties, like superposition, and their ability to be entangled together, scientists and engineers are creating next-generation quantum computers that will be able solve previously unsolvable problems.

The research team uses superconducting qubits, tiny cryogenic circuits that can be manipulated electrically.

“Developing methods that allow us to transfer entangled states will be essential to scaling quantum computing,” said Prof. Andrew Cleland, the John A. MacLean senior professor of Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise at University of Chicago, who led the research.

Entanglement is a correlation that can be created between quantum entities such as qubits. When two qubits are entangled and a measurement is made on one, it will affect the outcome of a measurement made on the other, even if that second qubit is physically far away.

To send the entangled states through the communication cable—a one-meter-long superconducting cable—the researchers created an experimental set-up with three superconducting qubits in each of two nodes. They connected one qubit in each node to the cable and then sent quantum states, in the form of microwave photons, through the cable with minimal loss of information. The fragile nature of quantum states makes this process quite challenging.

The researchers developed a system in which the whole transfer process—node to cable to node—takes only a few tens of nanoseconds (a nanosecond is one billionth of a second). That allowed them to send entangled quantum states with very little information loss.

The system also allowed them to amplify the entanglement of qubits. The researchers used one qubit in each node and entangled them together by essentially sending a half-photon through the cable. They then extended this entanglement to the other qubits in each node. When they were finished, all six qubits in two nodes were entangled in a single globally entangled state.

“We want to show that superconducting qubits have a viable role going forward,” Cleland said.

A quantum communication network could potentially take advantage of this advance. The group plans to extend their system to three nodes to build three-way entanglement.

“The team was able to identify a primary limiting factor in this current experiment related to loss in some of the components,” said Dr. Fredrik Fatemi, branch chief for quantum sciences, DEVCOM ARL, and co-manager of CDQI. “They have a clear path forward for increasingly complex experiments which will enable us to explore new regimes in distributed entanglement.”

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

Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments (AEWE) 2022 Calls for White Papers

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

The Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2022 will assess concepts and capabilities of merit for individual Soldier and small unit modernization within the context of Multi Domain Operations (MDO) and Cross Domain Maneuver (CDM).  

The AEWE 2022 learning demands will be examined in terms of SEE, TALK, SENSE, DECIDE, and ACT. The end state is that small units overmatch peer threats in lethality, maintain momentum to pursue threats over extended distances for more than 72 hours of continuous operations. Capabilities of interest enable the small unit to:

SEE: Understand the terrain in three dimensions, the electromagnetic spectrum, the threat, non-combatants and friendly forces through technologies like enhanced small unit mission command systems enabled by artificial intelligence, applications on ATAK and Nett Warrior, and heads up displays.

AEWE 2022 is open for Submissions. White Papers and Quad Charts due NLT COB 01 APRIL 2021. See our website to download and complete all AEWE 2022 documents:

www.benning.army.mil/MCoE/MCDID/MBL/Live-Experimentation

Please send all submissions to:

[email protected]mail.mil

and

Janet Sokolowski

[email protected]

(706) 544-8107

SOFWERX – Tag, Track, and Locate Transformational Technology

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

This isn’t an ordinary game of tag

The newest topic for Tech Tuesday has been released! SOFWERX and USSOCOM are searching for transformational technologies to tag, track, and locate air, surface, and underwater moving objects. Desired capabilities will emphasize reduced physical contact to tag and the ability to track through water.

Selected organizations will have the opportunity to virtually pitch their cutting-edge technology to interested Government partners during a 30-minute discussion. Tech Tuesday hosts Government attendees from all Services, USSOCOM, DHS, OSD, ODNI, FBI, DOE, NASA, and FVEY groups.

To submit, visit sofwerx.org/techtuesday