Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

Epirus Wins Contract to Develop Counter Convoy Capability for Department of Defense

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020


Los Angeles, June 30th, Epirus Inc. received a Small Business Innovation Research Phase Two contract to develop a directed energy prototype for the US Navy. The system will support efforts to deploy non-kinetic capabilities for stopping nefarious vehicles or vessels. This increases stand-off ranges for US service members performing security missions, and minimizes collateral damage caused by other methods such as lasers or small arms.

“This win helps validate Epirus’ approach and advances directed energy technology into the digital age. Challenging the status quo of directed energy has been an uphill battle, but I’m glad to see the work of our engineering teams pay off by providing new data and demonstrated capability,” said Bo Marr, Chief Technology Officer at Epirus.

“Whether it’s checkpoint activities or performing a vehicle interdiction, things can get real dangerous real quick in close quarters with potentially hostile motorists. Increasing stand-off ranges is always a plus for operators on the ground,” commented Aaron Barruga, Epirus team member and Special Forces combat veteran.

Epirus’ approach to electromagnetic pulse utilizes commercial semiconductor technology to deliver unprecedented reduction in size and weight. Their flagship product—Leonidas—delivers a counter drone capability and is also in development for the Department of Defense.

New research advances Army’s quest for quantum networking

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Two U.S. Army research projects advance quantum networking, which will likely play a key role in future battlefield operations.

Quantum networks will potentially deliver multiple novel capabilities not achievable with classical networks, one of which is secure quantum communication. In quantum communication protocols, information is typically sent through entangled photon particles. It is nearly impossible to eavesdrop on quantum communication, and those who try leave evidence of their tampering; however, sending quantum information via photons over traditional channels, such as fiber-optic lines, is difficult – the photons carrying the information are often corrupted or lost, making the signals weak or incoherent.

In the first project, the University of Chicago research team, funded and managed by the U.S. Army’s Combat Capability Development’s Army Research Laboratory’s Center for Distributed Quantum Information, demonstrated a new quantum communication technique that bypasses those traditional channels. The research linked two communication nodes with a channel and sent information quantum-mechanically between the nodes—without ever occupying the linking channel.

“This result is particularly exciting not only because of the high transfer efficiency the team achieved, but also because the system they developed will enable further exploration of quantum protocols in the presence of variable signal loss,” said Dr. Sara Gamble, program manager at the lab’s Army Research Office and co-manager of the Center for Distributed Quantum Information. “Overcoming loss is a key obstacle in realizing robust quantum communication and quantum networks.”

The research, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, developed a system that entangled two communication nodes using microwave photons—the same photons used in cell phones—through a microwave cable. For this experiment, they used a microwave cable about a meter in length. By turning the system on and off in a controlled manner, they were able to quantum-entangle the two nodes and send information between them—without ever having to send photons through the cable.

“We transferred information over a one-meter cable without sending any photons to do this, a pretty unusual achievement,” said Dr. Andrew Cleland, the John A. MacLean Sr. Professor of Molecular Engineering at Pritzker Molecular Engineering at University of Chicago and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “In principle, this would also work over a much longer distance. It would be much faster and more efficient than systems that send photons through fiber-optic channels.”

Though the system has limitations, it must be kept very cold, at temperatures a few degrees above absolute zero, the researchers said it could also potentially work at room temperature with atoms instead of photons.

The team is now conducting experiments that would entangle several photons together in a more complicated state, which could ultimately enable enhanced quantum communication protocols and capabilities.

Entangled particles aren’t just limited to photons or atoms, however. In a second paper published June 12 in the peer-reviewed journal Physical Review X, the same Chicago team entangled two phonons—the quantum particle of sound—for the first time.

Using a system built to communicate with phonons, similar to the photon quantum communication system, the team entangled two microwave phonons, which have roughly a million times higher pitch than can be heard with the human ear.

Once the phonons were entangled, the team used one of the phonons as a herald, which was used to affect how their quantum system used the other phonon. The herald allowed the team to perform a so-called quantum eraser experiment, in which information is erased from a measurement, even after the measurement has been completed.

“Phonons give you a much bigger time window to do things and relieve some of the challenges in doing a quantum eraser experiment,” Cleland said.

Though phonons have a lot of disadvantages over photons—for example, they tend to be shorter-lived—they interact strongly with a number of solid-state quantum systems that may not interact strongly with photons. As a result, phonons could provide a better way to couple to these systems.

This coupling is a critical capability for many quantum networking applications, and may also benefit other quantum information science applications such as quantum computing. Additionally, the wavelengths of phonons are shorter than those of photons for the same frequency, potentially enabling smaller quantum circuits.

“Together, these experiments provide multiple avenues for future research into how we construct quantum networks that function in non-ideal environments, and reliably transfer quantum information between systems,” said Dr. Fredrik Fatemi, researcher at the laboratory and co-manager of the Center for Distributed Quantum Information. “Both are critically important for developing future quantum technologies.”

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

The Catalyst Accelerator Unveils Next Cohort: Cyber for Space Applications

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Discovering Innovative Tech to Keep our Nation’s Cyber-Physical Systems Secure
Colorado Springs, Colo – June 11, 2020 – The Catalyst Accelerator (CA) announced its next cohort, Cyber for Space Applications, launching September 1, 2020.  The goal of the CA is to increase Space  Force [TS1] awareness and rapid acquisition of commercial, dual-use space technology by providing relevant business development training to Accelerator companies and connecting these entrepreneurs with users, decision makers, and potential new customers in the DoD and commercial realms. Eight companies will be chosen to participate in the program held at Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“How might we apply cyber technologies to secure the next generation of space operations and increase resiliency?” the problem statement poses.  Cyber-physical systems are becoming more integral than ever before, introducing new sets of unique problems in both public and private sectors. It is vital that we come together to identify, understand and limit areas where threats could arise before they are exploited. The Cyber for Space Applications Accelerator, powered by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, will be a 12-week, semi-residential program. Participating companies will receive a $12K-grant through the Catalyst Accelerator’s Corporate Sponsor, Booz Allen Hamilton, with an additional $3K available at the end of the Accelerator program when all deliverables have been met.

At the end of the program, all participating companies will have the opportunity to pitch to government stakeholders, industry leaders and commercial investors during a demonstration day. This enables cohort companies to raise awareness of their capabilities in order to solicit additional capital or follow-on government funding for further technological development.

KiMar Gartman, the Catalyst Accelerator Program Director, states, “We are excited to assist the Air Force and Space Force in finding companies with unique cyber solutions that will secure the next generation of space operations and increase resiliency.  We look forward to collaborating with our dynamic space community to offer the very best program possible!”

Captain Keith Hudson, Government Lead for the Cyber for Space Applications cohort, stated, “As we face increasing cyber resiliency challenges in space, the upcoming Accelerator provides an opportunity for the USSF and AFRL to connect with small businesses to develop the necessary solutions to those challenges.”

Applications for the Cyber for Space Applications Accelerator will be closing August 3. The Catalyst Accelerator will be holding “Ask Me Anything” sessions on June 18 and July 23 to address inquiries related to the current CA Problem Statement along with other general program questions potential applicants may have.

For updates and other relevant announcements regarding the Cyber for Space Applications Accelerator, follow this cohort on social media with #CACSA. Interested applicants may learn more about the program and apply on the Catalyst Accelerator’s website, CatalystAccelerator.Space/Cyber-for-Space-Applications/.

Technique Analyzes Hot Electron Energy to Enable Efficient Technologies

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new U.S. Army-funded discovery could improve energy efficiency of technologies such as solar panels and fuel cells.

The research, funded by the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, developed a novel technique to directly measure for the first time, energy distributions of hot electrons.

Hot electrons feature much larger energies than normal that can be generated in nanostructures.

Published in the journal Science, the research, conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Michigan and Purdue University, was part of the Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives Program, supported by ARO.

“This multidisciplinary basic research effort sheds light on a unique way to measure the energy of charge carriers,” said Dr. Chakrapani Varanasi, an ARO program manager, who supported this study. “These results are expected to play a crucial role in developing future applications in energy conversion, photocatalysis and photodetectors, for instance, that are of great interest to the Department of Defense.”

The team demonstrated how a technique using a scanning tunneling microscope integrated with lasers and other optical components reveals the energy distribution of hot electrons.

“For example, if you wanted to employ light to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, you can use hot charge carriers because electrons that are more energetic can more readily participate in the reaction and drive the reaction faster,” said Dr. Edgar Meyhofer, a professor of mechanical engineering at University of Michigan, who co-led the research along with professors Pramod Sangi-Reddy and Vladimir Shalaev.

It’s one possible use for hot carriers in energy conversion and storage applications, Meyhofer said.

Hot electrons are typically generated by shining a certain frequency of light on a carefully engineered nanostructure made of metals such as gold or silver, exciting so-called surface plasmons. These plasmons are believed to eventually lose some of their energy to electrons, making them hot. While hot electrons can have temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s their high energy – rather than the material temperature – that makes them useful for energy technologies.

“Measuring energy distribution means quantifying how many electrons are available at a certain amount of energy,” said Harsha Reddy, a doctoral candidate in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-lead author on this paper. “That crucial piece of information was lacking for expanding the use of hot electrons.”

The team created the hot electrons by shining laser light onto a gold film just 13 nanometers thick, or hundred or so gold atoms thick, with tiny ridges spaced so that they would resonate with the incident laser light and generate the surface plasmon waves. Then they measured the energies of the charge carriers by employing carefully chosen molecules.

These molecules, some of which were synthesized by collaborators at the University of Liverpool, allow only charge carriers with certain energies to pass. By filtering the charge carriers siphoned off the nanostructure, the researchers figured out the energy distribution of the charge carriers.

“Electrons can be thought of as cars running at different speeds on a highway,” said Dr. Kun Wang, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. “The molecule acts like an operator—it only allows cars travelling at a certain speed to pass through.”

Wang spent more than 18 months working with Harsha Reddy on how to make this idea work. Once they had developed a successful method, Wang and Reddy repeated the experiments with a second gold structure, this one about 6 nanometers thick. The results showed that light generates hot charge carriers more efficiently on a thinner metal film, confirming theoretical predictions.

“These advances were achieved by insightfully combining nanotechnology tools that were developed at the University of Michigan and nanophotonic expertise from our collaborators at Purdue University, which was only possible due to a Multi[disciplinary] University Research Initiative effort supported by ARO,” Sangi-Reddy said.

With the method now demonstrated, the team believes that others can also use it to explore and optimize nanostructures.

The Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research provided additional funding for the research. Seed funding from the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering supported complementary calculations.

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

HENSOLDT and Nano Dimension Achieve Breakthrough in Electronics 3D Printing

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

New multi-layer PCB boosts electronics rapid prototyping


Munich, Germany/Nano Dimension’s USA HQ, South Florida (Nasdaq, TASE: NNDM), May 19, 2020 – Sensor solutions provider HENSOLDT together with the leading Additively Manufactured Electronics (AME)/Printed Electronics (PE) provider, Nano Dimension, has achieved a major breakthrough on its way to utilizing 3D printing in the development process of high-performance electronics components. Utilizing a newly developed dielectric polymer ink and conductive ink from Nano Dimension, HENSOLDT succeeded in assembling the world-wide first 10-layer printed circuit board (PCB) which carries high-performance electronic structures soldered to both outer sides. Until now, 3D printed boards could not bear the soldering process necessary for two sided population of components.

“Military sensor solutions require performance and reliability levels far above those of commercial components.” says HENSOLDT CEO, Thomas Müller. “To have high-density components quickly available with reduced effort by means of 3D printing gives us a competitive edge in the development process of such high-end electronic systems.”

“Nano Dimension’s relationship with HENSOLDT is the type of partnership with customers we are striving for,” commented Yoav Stern, Nano Dimension President & CEO. “Working together and learning from HENSOLDT led us to reach a first-of-its-kind in-depth knowledge of polymer materials applications. Additionally, it guided us in the development of Hi-PEDs (High Performance Electronic Device) that create competitive edges by enabling unique implementations with shortest time to market.”

AMEs are useful to verify a new design and functionality of specialized electronic components before production. AME is a highly agile and individual engineering methodology to prototype a new electronic circuitry. This leads to significant reduction of time and cost in the development process.  Furthermore AME allows for a verified and approved design before production starts, leading to higher quality of the final product.

HENSOLDT started working with Nano Dimension’s DragonFly 3D printing system in 2016, in order to examine the possibilities of 3D printing electronics. Last year, HENSOLDT successfully implemented the DragonFly Lights-Out Digital Manufacturing (LDM) printing technology, the industry’s only additive manufacturing platform for round-the-clock 3D printing of electronic circuitry.

Meet PEO SOF Digital Applications – USSOCOM’s Newest Program Office

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

In order to realign efforts in accordance with the National Defense Strategy, United States Special Operations Command took a look at its Acquisition, Technology & Logistics enterprise and decided to do a little reorganization. Acquisition Executive Jim Smith made the determinant to stand up the new Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Digital Applications. After all, Mr Smith’s goal is systems that are “Software Defined, Hardwear Enabled”.

On 1 June, 2020, PEO SOF Digital Applications will charter with US Army COL Paul Weizer at the helm. An aviator and member of the Army’s Acquisition Corps, he started out in SOCOM’s PEO Rotary Wing but was handpicked to shepherd the command’s software development. Think of the new team as the software guys. They will be the cradle-to-grave, one-stop-shop for software intensive digital applications into the SOF enterprise.

PEO SOF Digital Applications inherits it’s new portfolio from other PEOs. These include Distributed Common Ground Station – SOF, Mission Command/Common Operating Picture, Integrated Survey Program, SOF Planning, Rehearsal and Execution Preparation, Tactical Assault Kit Core, Special Operations Mission Planning Environment as well as a few others.

Along with those programs, comes personnel. But COL Weizer is hoping to attract some new talent from industry. He relates that the current PEO structure is “jello” and he is working to shape the organization to best work with industry to acquire the proper software. By no means are they “vendor locked” and he looks forward to engagement. COL Weizer also wants to look at what software the components are using and share it with more of the Force where appropriate.

Currently, as part of TAK efforts, the command operates a marketplace where operators may download specialized applications. COL Weizer related that this capability will transition to PEO SDA and he sees it as a model for software dissemination across the SOF enterprise.

The PEO will be located at MacDill AFB, With satellite offices at Ft Belvoir and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, both in Virginia.

New Design Could Make Fiber Communications More Energy Efficient

Friday, April 24th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Researchers say a new discovery on a U.S. Army project for optoelectronic devices could help make optical fiber communications more energy efficient.

The University of Pennsylvania, Peking University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology worked on a project funded, in part by the Army Research Office, which is an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. The research sought to develop a new design of optical devices that radiate light in a single direction. This single-sided radiation channel for light can be used in a wide array of optoelectronic applications to reduce energy loss in optical fiber networks and data centers. The journal Nature published the findings.

Light tends to flow in optical fibers along one direction, like water flows through a pipe. On-chip couplers are used to connect fibers to chips, where light signals are generated, amplified, or detected. While most light going through the coupler continues through to the fiber, some of the light travels in the opposite direction, leaking out.

A large part of energy consumption in data traffic is due to this radiation loss. Total data center energy consumption is two percent of the global electricity demand, and demand increases every year.

Previous studies consistently suggested that a minimum loss of 25 percent at each interface between optical fibers and chips was a theoretical upper bound that could not be surpassed. Because data centers require complex and interwoven systems of nodes, that 25-percent loss quickly multiplies as light travels through a network.

“You may need to pass five nodes (10 interfaces) to communicate with another server in a typical medium-sized data center, leading to a total loss of 95 percent if you use existing devices,” said Jicheng Jin, University of Pennsylvania doctoral student. “In fact, extra energy and elements are needed to amplify and relay the signal again and again, which introduces noise, lowers signal-to-noise ratio, and, ultimately, reduces communication bandwidth.”

After studying the system in more detail, the research team discovered that breaking left-right symmetry in their device could reduce the loss to zero.

“These exciting results have the potential to spur new research investments for Army systems,” said Dr. Michael Gerhold, program manager, optoelectronics, Army Research Office. “Not only do the coupling efficiency advances have potential to improve data communications for commercial data centers, but the results carry huge impact for photonic systems where much lower intensity signals can be used for the same precision computation, making battery powered photonic computers possible.”

To better understand this phenomenon, the team developed a theory based on topological charges. Topological charges forbid radiation in a specific direction. For a coupler with both up-down and left-right symmetries, there is one charge on each side, forbidding the radiation in the vertical direction.

“Imagine it as two-part glue,” said Bo Zhen, assistant professor, department of physics and astronomy at University of Pennsylvania. “By breaking the left-right symmetry, the topological charge is split into two half charges – the two-part glue is separated so each part can flow. By breaking the up-down symmetry, each part flows differently on the top and the bottom, so the two-part glue combines only on the bottom, eliminating radiation in that direction. It’s like a leaky pipe has been fixed with a topological two-part glue.”

The team eventually settled on a design with a series of slanted bars, which break left-right and up-down symmetries at the same time. To fabricate such structures, they developed a novel etching method: silicon chips were placed on a wedge-like substrate, allowing etching to occur at a slanted angle. In comparison, standard etchers can only create vertical side walls. As a future step, the team hopes to further develop this etching technique to be compatible with existing foundry processes and also to come up with an even simpler design for etching.

The authors expect applications both in helping light travel more efficiently at short distances, such as between an optical fiber cable and a chip in a server, and over longer distances, such as long-range Lidar systems.

This project also received funding from the Air Force Research Laboratory, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Natural Science Foundation of China, and HPCP of Peking University.

By US Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Integrated Visual Augmentation System Soldier Touchpoints

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

Soldiers at Fort Pickett, Virginia are testing a Microsoft-designed prototype goggle, the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). New technology offers capabilities that troops need to regain and maintain over-match in multi-domain operations on battlefields that are becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable.

US Army video by Mr Luke J Allen