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Nanotechnology in the
Military
National Defense
Homeland Security
By Angela Jones, Ph.D., Jeanne Nye and Andrew Greenberg, Ph.D.

From the east coast to the
west coast, from the north
to the south, from the Army
to the Navy, from the Air
Force to the Marines.

How can small science help us protect
such a big country?

Images source: Public Domain from http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imagery.html

What is nanotechnology?
A description • Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at
dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, or
nanoscale.
• Unusual physical, chemical, and biological properties can
emerge in materials at the nanoscale. These properties may
differ in important ways from the properties of bulk materials
and single atoms or molecules.
• Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and
technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring,
modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.
Note: This slide and the next 9 slides are the same for all research areas.
Resource: www.nano.gov

How BIG is nano?
Macrosize

meters, decimeters, centimeters, millimeters

Child

Hand

Pi nk y Fi nger

100

A child is about 1 meter tall
1 meter = 1,000,000,000 nm
(1 billion nanometers)

Freck le

10-1

St rand o f Hai r

10-2

10-3

10-4

A hand is about 1 decimeter wide
A pinky finger is about
A freckle is about 1 millimeter wide
1 decimeter = 100,000,000 nm
1 centimeter wide
1 millimeter = 1,000,000 nm
(100 million nanometers)
1 centimeter = 10,000,000 nm
(1 million nanometers)
(10 million nanometers)

Microsize

A hair is about one tenth of a
millimeter wide
0.1 millimeter = 100,000 nm
(100 thousand nanometers)

Nanosize

micrometers

nanometers

Red Blood Cell

Bac t er i a

10-5

A red blood cell is about
10 micrometers wide
10 micrometers = 10,000 nm
(10 thousand nanometers)

Virus

10-6

A bacterium is about
1 micrometer wide
1 micrometer = 1,000 nm
(1 thousand nanometers)

Cell M em brane

10-7

A viron is about one tenth
of a micrometer wide
0.1 micrometer = 100 nm
(1 hundred nanometers)

Sugar M o l ecul e

10-8

A cell membrane is about
10 nanometers wide
10 nanometers = 10 nm

Atom

10-9

A sugar molecule is about
1 nanometer wide
1 nanometer = 1 nm

10-10

An atom is about one tenth
of a nanometer wide
0.1 nanometer = 0.1 nm

Created in 2008 by Sciencenter, Ithaca, NY, www.sciencenter.org
Accompanying book available for purchase at www.lulu.com
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. ESI-0532536.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Nanoscale
1 nanometer =
1 billionth (10-9) of a
meter

D
a marble

109 D

Why do we care?
Things behave differently at this scale
• Quantum mechanics plays a
much more important role
• For example,

– A brick of gold is shiny and
“gold”-colored.
– A vial of gold nanoparticles in
solution can be a range of colors
depending on the size of the
nanoparticles.
– This is because of a phenomenon
know as quantum confinement. Suspensions of discrete (separated)
gold nanoparticles in clear solution
vary in color from pink to purple as
the nanoparticle size gets bigger.
Image source: “Causes of Color”, WebExhibits,
http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/9.html

Why else do we care?
This is the scale of biological processes
• Human cells and bacteria have
diameters around 1-10
micrometers
BUT
• Cellular machinery is on the
nanoscale
– Diameter of DNA is ~2
nanometers
– Hemoglobin, the protein that
carries oxygen through the
body, is 5.5 nanometers in
diameter

Structure of DNA
PDB ID: 1BNA

Structure of hemoglobin
PDB ID: 1BUW

One more reason: surface area
Another reason nanomaterials behave differently from bulk materials of
the same chemical is because of surface area – or the area of an object
that is an exposed surface.
For this cube, each
edge is 1 meter in
length.
1m

1m

Volume
(in cubic meters):
Surface Area
(in square meters):

1m

1m X 1m X 1m = 1 m3
(1m X 1m) X 6 sides = 6 m2

For these
cubes,
each edge
is 0.1
meters in
length, but
there are
1000
cubes.
(0.1m X 0.1m X 0.1m) X 1000 cubes = 1 m3
(0.1m X 0.1m) X 6 sides X 1000 cubes = 60 m2

Surface Area and Reactions
• This increased surface area allows chemical reactions to
go much faster.
• Think about it this way:
Which dissolves faster in your coffee or tea, a sugar
cube or a teaspoon of granulated sugar?

Answer:
Granulated
sugar

Nano-enabled Consumer Products
As of the March 10, 2011, there are over 1300
consumer products around the world that are
manufacturer-identified as nanotechnologybased.
• Touch screens (iPhone) • Bicycles
• Fabric
• Sunscreens
• Computer memory
• Cosmetics
• Many more…
• Tennis rackets
These products are here, ready to buy today!
Resources:

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website: http://www.nanotechproject.org/

Activity Description
• You have been assigned an area of nanotechnology research
to support.
• Go through this presentation and any other credible sources
to identify three benefits of research in nanotechnology
toward your area of interest and up to three potential risks
you perceive in your area of interest.
• As a group, we will weigh the risks and benefits of each area
to decide how much of our federal nanotechnology budget
should go to each research area.

Disclaimer:
this is a contrived scenario
• There are no federal nanotechnology budget cuts

– $1.7 billion estimated for FY2012 (fiscal year 2012)
– Increased investment proposed for FY2013 (nearly $1.8 billion)

• Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) subcommittee of
the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology
is an actual government entity

– Composed of representatives from 25 federal agencies (NIH, DOE, DOD, etc.)
– Purpose is to coordinate planning, budgeting, and implementation of the
National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)
– These representatives work together to create an integrated federal program.

• Actual nano “budget” is different from what is proposed in this activity

– Actual “budget” is given as a supplement to the President’s 2013 Budget
Request submitted to Congress
– It represents the sum of the investment in nanotechnology and nanoscience
planned for 2013 by federal agencies
– The agencies submit how much they are planning to spend on nanoscience
– In the activity scenario, we’re doing the opposite of what the actual NNI
Budget represents in that we’re distributing a pre-determined amount
amongst these research areas.

Resources:

NNI Budget website: http://www.nano.gov/about-nni/what/funding

Military Research

In this presentation, you will learn about some
of the developments in nanotechnology in
military and national security research.

Consider the following when learning
about these developments:
1. Might these nanotechnology developments infringe
on human rights to privacy and freedom?
2. Is it safe for me? Is it safe for others?
3. Could the use of this nanotechnology development
have unwanted and negative environmental effects?
4. What economic impact could the use of this
nanotechnology development have on producers,
consumers, and other industries? Might they be
negative or positive?

What About Your Rights?
If so, are these developments
more important than
• Your privacy?
• Your rights as a citizen?
• Your rights as a human
being?
Are the answers somewhere
in between?
Image source: http://www.info4security.com/Pictures/web/w/v/m/iStock_Law.jpg

Links to outside sources
Within this presentation will be many underlined words.
If you click on the underlined text, your browser will
take you to other websites, videos, or other
resources to learn more about what is on the slide.
These links are chosen to give you additional
information, but these presentations can stand
alone. It is unnecessary to go to the links for the
purpose of this activity.
We try to make sure the links are active, but given the
ever-changing nature of the internet, you might find a
few that take you to a location that is no longer
active. Please let the facilitator know if you find an
inactive link.

Nanotechnology in National Defense
What can nanotechnology do for the military? Nanotechnology
research in the following areas can help the military:
•
•
•
•

•

•

Fabrics/Materials
o Armor
o Withstand extreme conditions
Robotics
Security
Weapons
o Detection
o Defense
o Development
Vehicles
o Fuel economy
o Soldier protection
o Stealth movement
Military personnel health
o Medicine
o Diagnosis

Fabrics and Materials
• The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies
is a research center founded through a
U.S. Army Research Office contract with
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT).
• The goal of this center is to create a
lightweight and comfortable, high-tech
battlesuit for the modern soldier.
• They imagine that nanotechnology will
help them create “a bullet-resistant
jumpsuit, no thicker than ordinary
spandex, that monitors health, eases
injuries, communicates automatically, and
reacts instantly to chemical and biological
agents.”

Resource:

Institute for Solder Nanotechnologies website, http://web.mit.edu/isn/

Army paratroopers and their gear.
Image source:
http://www.defenseimagery.mil/

Army sergeant in patrol gear in
Afghanistan. Image source:
http://www.defenseimagery.mil/

Waterproof and Bullet-proof
Vests
•

•

•

One of the first advancements that
came out of the center was
developed by Prof. Karen Gleason.
She and her researchers were able
to create ultrahydrophobic surfaces
(waterproof) using a technique
called chemical vapor deposition
(CVD).
With CVD they could deposit
nanolayers of Teflon (yes, the same
stuff that’s on your frying pan) on
Kevlar panels, the material used to
make bullet-proof vests. [1]

Army Outer Tactical Vest
Image source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ar
my_IOTV.jpg

Watch this video to learn more about
Prof. Gleason’s research.
Resource:

Downing, E. “Team creates new process for waterproofing,” MITNews, http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2003/waterproof-0205.html

An Invisibility Cloak?
• Though far from becoming a reality,
researchers are making strides in optical
negative-index metamaterials (NIM) to make
objects invisible.
• Metamaterials are typically man-made to
have properties that cannot be found in
nature.
• Optical NIM have the ability to bend light in
ways different from conventional materials.
• Professor Vladimir Shalaev at Purdue
University is studying nanostructured
composites to create these metamaterials.
• Beyond the invisibility ability, these structures
also have applications in microscopes,
circuits, and antennae.

Resources

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]

Light refraction through a
conventional material

Light refraction through a
negative-index metamaterial

Fountain, H. “Strides in Materials, but No Invisibility Cloak,” New York Times, Nov. 8, 2010.
Cai, W. S., et al. "Optical Cloaking with Metamaterials." Nature Photonics 1.4 (2007): 224-27.
Shalaev, V. M. "Optical Negative-Index Metamaterials." Nature Photonics 1.1 (2007): 41-48.
Xiao, S. M., et al. "Loss-Free and Active Optical Negative-Index Metamaterials." Nature 466.7307 (2010): 735-U6.

Nature’s Armor
• MIT Professor Christine Ortiz is taking a
cue from nature in developing materials
to protect the modern soldier.
• Using a scanning electron microscope
(SEM), Prof. Ortiz and her students were
able to examine the nanostructure of the
scales of the Senegal bichir or the
dinosaur eel, a species that has been
Dinosaur eel
able to survive enemy attacks for over
Image source:
http://web.mit.edu/cortiz/www/
96 million years.
• The four layers of the scales dissipate
Now this
the energy of a strike, protect the soft
knowledge can be
tissue beneath the scales, and also
applied toward
prevent the spread of fractures within
human body armor.
the scale.
Resources:

[1] Halber, D. “Natural Armor: Nature's impenetrable defense systems,” MIT Spectrum. http://spectrum.mit.edu/articles/normal/natural-armor/
[2] French Press Agency, “'Dinosaur eel' points to future body armor,” Cosmos Magazine.
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2100/dinosaur-eel-points-body-armour-future
[3] Bruet, B. J. F., et al. "Materials Design Principles of Ancient Fish Armour." Nature Materials 7.9 (2008): 748-56.

Chemical and Biological
Warfare

From the Defense Threat Reduction Agency & US STRATCOM
Center for Combating WMD (DTRA and SCC-WMD) Website:
“Nuclear warheads are not the only weapons of mass
destruction threatening the United States and our allies.
Because nuclear weapons require sophisticated technologies
and elements difficult to obtain, our nation’s adversaries may find
chemical and biological weapons more attractive.
DTRA and SCC-WMD are actively engaged in efforts to defend
against chemical and biological weapons. Our work in this arena
has global reach, impacting everyone from our men and women
serving on the frontlines to American citizens in the heartland.”

Chemical and Biological
Warfare

Chemical: mustard gas, phosgene, chlorine, sarin…
We’ve all heard of these chemicals, and they have been
used on the battlefield as early as World War I and have
since also been used in acts of terrorism.
Biological: anthrax, Ebola virus, Brucella…
Examples of their use in history range from poisoned
tipped arrows of Antiquity to the letters containing
anthrax spores after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Both: toxins like botulinum neurotoxin and ricin which are
produced by living organisms
How do we defend ourselves? The first thing we need to
do is to know they are there.

Chemical and Biological
Sensors

According to a study commissioned by Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), key sensor metrics
are:
• Sensitivity
• Probability of correct detection
• False positive rate
• Response time
The requirements for these metrics vary depending on
perceived threat levels and mission objectives.
Other attributes affect the sensor utility for missions: cost,
power consumption, reliability, maintenance/logistics, as
well as form factors like size, weight and shape
Resources:

[1] Carrano, J., Chemical and Biological Sensor Standards Study. (2005): http://www.darpa.mil/mto/publications/pdf/cbsss.pdf

Nanosensors
Nanotechnology can help!
• “With their small size, light weight, and large reactive surface area…
engineered nanostructures have been shown to improve – by orders of
magnitude – sensitivity, selectivity, and response time of sensor
technology (thereby providing an advantage over slower, more costly,
laboratory-based analytical methods), and to dramatically reduce size,
weight and power requirements of the resulting monitoring devices
compared to the conventional, macroscaled alternatives.” [1]
• Detection of multiple chemical species
• Conventional chemical sensors are optimized to detect a single
chemical – some nanosensor designs are capable of detecting a
target chemical amongst multiple chemical species because they
allow for numerous sensors within a single monitoring device. [1]
• Each nanosensor is chemically coated or decorated with functional
groups that can recognize a specific chemical or biological agent. [1]
Resources:

[1] Shelley, S. “Nanosensors: Evolution, not Revolution… Yet,” Chemical Engineering Progress, 2008, 104, 8-12.

NASA Nanosensors
Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center working under
the Cell-All program in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and
Technology Directorate developed an iPhone chemical sensor [1]
• With 64 nanosensors, it can detect airborne chemicals including ammonia,
methane, and chlorine gas. [1]
• “Cell phone owners could use their phone's GPS to provide sensor location
information to emergency operation centers.” [2]
• One goal of the Cell-All program is to “crowd-source” human safety –
anywhere a threat breaks out, authorities are notified, and if more people
have the sensors, it makes it easier for first responders to distinguish false
positives from true threats. [3]

Resources:

[1] http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/features/2009/cell_phone_sensors.html
[2] http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2009/M09-136.html
[3] http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1268073038372.shtm

Photo credit:
Dominic Hart/NASA

•

Bio-inspired Nanosensors

In August 2010, DARPA awarded a $6.3 million grant to Radislav Potyrailo and
his team at GE Global Research’s Chemical and Biological Sensing Laboratory
to develop sensors inspired by chemical sensing nanostructures found on the
scales of the wings of the Morpho butterfly. [1, 2]
• The left set of wings on the Morpho
butterfly on the right has been exposed
to the liquids ethanol (forewing) and
toluene (hindwing). See how it changes
color? [3]
• The group uses nanophotonics depicted
in the bottom figure to selectively detect
numerous gases with a single sensor
rather than an array of sensors. [3]
• Nanophotonics is “the science and
engineering of light-matter interactions
that take place on wavelength and
subwavelength scales where the
physical, chemical or structural nature of
natural or artificial nanostructured matter
controls the interactions.” [4]
Resources: [1] http://www.gereports.com/butterfly-tech-team-darpa-nod-detonates-status-quo/
[2] Potyrailo R.A., et al. “Morpho butterfly wing scales demonstrate highly selective vapour response,” Nature Photonics, 2007, 1, 123-128.
[3] http://ge.geglobalresearch.com/blog/developing-new-bio-inspired-sensors-breakthroughs-from-butterflies/
[4] National Research Council. Nanophotonics: Accessibility and Applicability. 2008. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Electronic Nose
Kenneth Suslick, Professor of Chemistry at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his
collaborators have developed a handheld sensor that
can be used to differentiate 19 different toxic industrial
chemicals. [1]
• Similar to the smelling response of mammals,
distinguishing one chemical from another comes from
a composite response of many sensors rather than the
response of a single chemical-specific sensor. [1]
• The array is comprised of a diverse set of nanoporous
pigments with colors that are changed by chemical
reactions with the “smelled” chemical [1].
• Prof. Suslick has co-founded iSense with this
research. [2]
Resources:

iSense Output
Image source:
Suslick Research Page

[1] Lim, S. H.; Feng, L.; Kemling, J. W.; Musto, C. J.; Suslick, K. S. “An Optoelectronic Nose for Detection of Toxic Gases” Nature Chemistry,
2009, 1, 562-567.
[2] http://www.isensesystems.com/index.php

Nano Air Vehicle
•

•

•

Resources:

AeroVironment, based out of
Monrovia, CA, has developed their
Nano Hummingbird under a DARPA
research contract. [1]
The goal was to create an air vehicle
system that could fly both indoors
and outdoors.
On February 17, 2011, they
announced they had reached a major
milestone, “controlled precision
hovering and fast-forward flight of a
two-wing, flapping wing aircraft that
carries its own energy source, and
uses only the flapping wings for
propulsion and control.” [2]

Nano Hummingbird
Image source: DARPA

Follow this link to
watch it fly.

[1] AeroVironment Nano Hummingbird webpage, http://www.avinc.com/nano
[2] February 17, 2011 press release, http://www.avinc.com/resources/press_release/aerovironment_develops_worlds_first_fully_operational_lifesize_hummingbird

Warships
• The U.S. Navy is getting a nextgeneration all-electric warship with the
help of researchers at the University at
Buffalo, and it’s expected to be ready by
2012.
• It’s predicted that this ship can be run by
a crew of 100 people, much smaller than
the thousands of people that run
battleships in service now.
• The biggest problem is distributing power
to the entire ship.
• Cemal Besaran, director of the Electronic
Packaging Laboratory at UB, is turning to
nanotechnology to solve this problem.

Resources:

Artistic rendering of all-electric warship
Image Source: University at Buffalo via Gizmodo

[1] Fallon, S., “Navy Developing All-electric Warship,” Gizmodo, http://gizmodo.com/#!337377/navy-developing-all+electric-warship

Smart Fabrics
Imagine uniforms that can diagnose and treat a
soldier in the field, no doctor needed. The following
development is the first step in achieving that goal.

Professor Joseph Wang at the University of
California at San Diego has developed
method for screen printing sensors on
the waistband of underwear [1, 2].
On the waistband, the sensor is in close
contact to the skin where it can monitor
biomarkers in the sweat of the person
wearing the underwear [1, 2].
Undergraduate student, Jimmy Chou,
describes the work in this video found at
this link.
Resources:

Example of sensor on a
waistband. Image source:
UC San Diego / Daniel
Kane from ref. 1

[1] “NanoEngineers Print and Test Chemical Sensors on Elastic Waistbands of Underwear,” June 16, 2010,
http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=958
[2] Yang, Y. L.; Chuang, M. C.; Lou, S. L.; Wang, J., Thick-film textile-based amperometric sensors and biosensors. Analyst 2010, 135
(6), 1230-1234.

More links on the Military and
Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology and the Military research
• Northwestern University’s Discover Nano website describing
applications of nanotechnology and national security
http://www.discovernano.northwestern.edu/affect/applications_conte
nt/security
• MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies website – founded by a
contract with the U.S. http://web.mit.edu/isn/
• U.S. Naval Research Lab Institute for Nanoscience
http://www.nrl.navy.mil/nanoscience/
• Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Search term “nano” to indentify projects in nanoscience
Military Research Priorities
• Department of Defense Research & Engineering website
http://www.acq.osd.mil/ddre/
• Armed with Science – Department of Defense’s webcast on the role
of science and technology in the military http://science.dodlive.mil/

Nano-enabled consumer
products

To learn more about nano-enabled consumer products in all areas of
research visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

• Established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts
• “The Project is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies
advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer
engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new
technologies are realized.”
• Their website includes news and publications about issues with
nanotechnology.
• It also includes inventories of consumer products that are manufactureridentified as nanotechnology based, and as of the March 10, 2011
update, there are over 1300 products around the world.

Resources:

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website: http://www.nanotechproject.org/

More on the website

If time allows, return to the main website and
watch some of the videos that provide “expert
testimony” in the area of nanotechnology in
military and national security.
Click here


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