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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

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

Army Files Patent on New 40mm Camera Drone

Friday, April 10th, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Scientists from the Army Research Laboratory have designed a camera drone capable of being fired from a 40 mm grenade launcher, researchers say, on the heels of a patent filed last month.

There are two variants of the Grenade Launched Unmanned Aerial System, or GLUAS, one is a is a small, paragliding system with folding blade propellers and Mylar paragliding wings to help it stay in the air, and the other is a helicopter-style that hovers on a gimbaling set of coaxial rotors, said John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer with ARL.

The GLUAS is a small projectile, 40 millimeters in diameter, can cover a long distance with a gun-launching system. The breakthrough, he said, is with how miniaturized autonomous flight hardware has become.

The drone has a 2-kilometer range with a projected battery life that could top 90 minutes, and is capable of operating up to 2,000 feet in the air, according to researchers.

After launching, the drone spreads its wings and soars at a fixed airspeed controlled by ground troops with a joystick or handheld device. On the drone, a camera is equipped to provide a video feed to a ground station below.

“In battle, there are multiple scenarios of when Soldiers would use this technology,” Gerdes said. “How it’s used depends on which theater they’re operating in.”

For example, on the mountain ranges of Afghanistan, if Soldiers found themselves under sniper fire, they could deploy the drone to check over the area and determine the enemy’s location.

The lightweight GLUAS drone is designed to increase Soldier lethality by giving them a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, he explained, and will easily integrate into most kits carried by Soldiers in the field.

“This device provides an autonomy and intelligence platform to help Soldiers perform useful missions while having a lookout from hundreds of feet in the air,” Gerdes said. “This integrates modern types of intelligence.”

“[GLUAS] is aligned with Army modernization priorities,” said Hao Kang, another mechanical engineer with ARL. “We’re trying to provide capabilities to individual Soldiers. The most exciting part of this is the viability of this platform, coupled with its gun-launched deployment capabilities.”

“Things like GPS receivers and flight controllers are very feasible to install [onto the GLUAS], which makes it easy to maintain a position or follow a ground unit,” Gerdes said. “Basically, if there is something you want to look at, but you have no idea where it is yet, that’s where the drone comes in.”

Although they’re making technological breakthroughs at ARL, the scientists aren’t working on the same timelines as other developers, Kang said.

“We’re here to develop innovative concepts for the warfighter’s needs, which generally means we bring the size and weight down of a device, and push up the range and lethality,” Gerdes said. “At ARL, we’re typically focused on the basic innovation and discovery aspects of research.”

ARL is part of the Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power.

By Thomas Brading, Army News Service

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

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

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.