Vacuum tubes are used all the time in technology, in science, in research and development. Now, these tubes are about to join together with high speed technology to change the way wireless networks communicate.
You see, the submillimeter wave, or terahertz, part of the electromagnetic spectrum falls between the frequencies of 0.3 and 3 terahertz, between microwaves and infrared light. Historically, device physics has prevented traditional solid state electronics (microchips) from operating at the terahertz scale.
The world’s first terahertz-class traveling-wave tube amplifier. (Image provided by Northrop Grumman/Released)
New vacuum power amplifier demonstrated at 0.85 terahertz.
Unlocking this band’s potential may benefit military applications such as data rate communications, improved radar and unique methods of spectroscopy-imaging techniques that provide better tools for scientific research.
However, access to these applications is limited due to physics.
Researchers under DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics (THz) program have designed and demonstrated a 0.85 Terahertz power amplifier using a micromachined vacuum tube-a world’s first. The achievement comes from DARPA-funded researchers at Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, who built the 1 centimeter-wide traveling wave vacuum tube.
The vacuum tube power amplifier is only one achievement of the broader THz program, which seeks to develop a variety of breakthrough component and integration technologies necessary to one day build complex THz circuits for communications and sensing.
Red blood cells are the most transfused blood product in battlefield trauma care. Unfortunately, they are sometimes in limited supply in a battlefield environment.
Red blood cells viewed with a scanning electron micrograph using false color. Courtesy of Mustafa Mir, Sam Copeland and Gabriel Popescu via the National Science Foundation. (Photo provided by DARPA/Released)
DARPA created its Blood Pharming program to potentially relieve this shortage by developing an automated culture and packaging system that would yield a fresh supply of transfusable red blood cells from readily available cell sources.
If the program is successful, it will eliminate the existing drawbacks of laboratory grown red blood cells, including cost, production efficiency and scalability, compared to those grown inside the human body.
Pharmed blood could also offer additional benefits. These potential benefits include eliminating the risk of infections from donors, on-demand availability, avoiding the detrimental effects of storing donated blood, and circumventing the issue of matching blood types between donor and recipient.
Before pharmed blood becomes practical for common use, the production costs must be significantly reduced. Under the Blood Pharming program, DARPA has decreased the cost of the chemical stock required to support blood growth for one unit of blood from more than $90,000 per unit to less than $5,000 per unit.
DARPA believes that future reductions in the cost of chemical stock for unmodified red blood cells will eventually make pharmed blood practical for basic transfusions.
Marines test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System for the first time. Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, put the system through its paces at Fort Devens, Mass. The system, or LS3, is designed to reduce the load Marines carry in combat, can reach speeds of 6 mph and carry up to 400 pounds.
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Military operations depend upon the unimpeded flow of accurate and relevant information to support timely decisions related to battle planning and execution.
DARPA’s Insight program aims to create an adaptable, integrated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) system to augment intelligence analysts’ capabilities to support time-sensitive operations on the battlefield. (Photo provided by DARPA)
To address these needs, numerous intelligence systems and technologies have been developed over the past 20 years, but each of these typically provides only a partial picture of the battlefield, and integrating the information has proven to be burdensome and inefficient.
DARPA’s Insight program aims to take defense intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to the next level by creating the capability to meaningfully integrate disparate “stovepiped” source information into a unified picture of the battlefield.
As DARPA’s capstone ISR processing program, Insight seeks to enable analysts to make sense of the huge volumes of intelligence-rich information available to them from existing sensors and data sources.
Automated behavioral learning and prediction algorithms would help analysts discover and identify potential threats, as well as make and confirm hypotheses about those threats’ potential behavior.
The goal is a comprehensive operating picture in which expedient delivery of fused actionable intelligence would improve support of time-sensitive operations on the battlefield.
Adversaries’ sophisticated air defense systems can make it difficult for current air- and surface-launched anti-ship missiles to hit their targets at long range.
The free-flight LRASM transition test of this B-1 bomber verified flight characteristics and assessed key subsystems and sensors. (Photo provided by DARPA)
To engage specific enemy warships from beyond the reach of counter-fire systems, warfighters may require launching multiple missiles or employing overhead targeting assets such as radar-equipped planes or Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites—resources that may not always be available.
Designed for both surface and air launch,LRASM seeks to develop an autonomous, precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile based on the successful Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) system.
LRASM aims to incorporate sensors and systems to create a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile with reduced dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. The program also focuses on precision lethality in the face of advanced countermeasures.
Step onto an elevator beside Martin Drake, U.S. Central Command’s chief science and technology advisor, and one might be surprised to hear him deliver to perfect strangers an unclassified tutorial he calls “Science and Technology 101.”
Army Pfc. David Diaz ollects a DNA sample for biometrics from an Afghan man at a security checkpoint in Afghanistan’s Khost province. Central Command’s Science and Technology Division has been a major advocate of the technologies used for biometric identification and battlefield forensics to support deployed warfighters. (photo provided by U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Trumbull)
The impromptu briefing completed, Drake is known to cajole his unsuspecting “students” into raising their right hands so he can deputize them as “honorary deputy science advisors for U.S. Central Command.”
“I tell them, ‘It takes a village to be the best and to be able to understand where technology is going,’” said Drake, who runs Centcom’s dozen-member Science and Technology Division. “We can’t do this by ourselves, and we need their help.”
The elevator encounters are just one example of the team’s unrelenting quest to identify better ways to support warfighters in the command’s demanding and complex area of operations.
The office members, an eclectic mix of active-duty forces, military retirees and civilian employees, scour the Internet, professional journals and technology expositions to seek out new and emerging technology-related capabilities.
That boils down to taking gaps and requirements as identified by U.S. forces and partner nations in the theater, converting them into technical requirements, then going out to the science and technology community for solutions.
Of the many risks dismounted soldiers face in the field, one of the most common is injury from carrying their gear—often topping 100 pounds—for extended periods over rough terrain.
Entering its final phase, program seeks proposals that would help combine promising technologies into a comfortable, lightweight undersuit that would help prevent injury and boost endurance. (Photo provided by DARPA)
Heavy loads increase the likelihood of musculoskeletal injury and also exacerbate fatigue, which contributes to both acute and chronic injury and impedes soldiers’ physical and cognitive abilities to perform mission-oriented tasks.
To help address these challenges, DARPA seeks performers for the last phase of its Warrior Web program.
Warrior Web aims to develop a soft, lightweight undersuit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions.
The garment would protect injury-prone areas and promote efficient and safe movement over a wide range of activities (walking, running, jumping, crawling, etc.). Comfortable, durable and washable, the garment would not interfere with body armor or other standard clothing and gear.
DARPA seeks to create a working prototype that significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall soldier effectiveness—all while using no more than 100 watts of power.
“Many of the individual technologies currently under development show real promise to reduce injury and fatigue and improve endurance,” said LTC Joseph Hitt, DARPA program manager for Warrior Web. “Now we’re aiming to combine them—and hopefully some new ones, too—into a single system that nearly every soldier could wear and would provide decisive benefits under real-world conditions.”
How do you take the temperature of a cell? The familiar thermometer from a doctor’s office is slightly too big considering the average human skin cell is only 30 millionths of a meter wide.
Artist’s concept of researchers heating gold nanoparticles inside of a cell with a laser and monitoring diamond sensors to measure temperature. This image is not to scale. (Photo by Steven H. Lee – graphiko.com)
But the capability is significant; developing the right technology to gauge and control the internal temperatures of cells and other nanospaces might open the door to a number of defense and medical applications: better thermal management of electronics, monitoring the structural integrity of high-performance materials, cell-specific treatment of disease and new tools for medical research.
To measure temperature, the researchers used imperfections engineered into diamond, known as nitrogen-vacancy (NV) color centers, as nanoscale thermometers. Each NV center can capture an electron, such that the center behaves like an isolated atom trapped in the solid diamond.
Changes in temperature cause the lattice structure of the diamond to expand or contract, similar to the way the surface of a bridge does when exposed to hot or cold weather.
These shifts in the lattice induce changes in the spin properties of the trapped atoms, which researchers measure using a laser-based technique. The result is that scientists can now monitor sub-degree variations over a large range of temperatures in both organic and inorganic systems at length scales as low as 200 nanometers.