• Rare earth elementsRecovering rare earth materials from electric and hybrid vehicle motors

    China currently supplies about 97 percent of rare earth materials used in manufacturing around the world. In an effort to help develop a sustainable domestic supply of rare earth elements and lessen the U.S. dependence on China for materials that are vital to the production of electronics, wind turbines, and many other technologies, researchers have developed a method of extracting rare earths from the drive units and motors of discarded electric and hybrid cars.

  • Personal protective equipmentClothing that guards against chemical warfare agents

    Recent reports of chemical weapons attacks in the Middle East underscore the need for new ways to guard against their toxic effects. Scientists report that a new hydrogel coating that neutralizes both mustard gas and nerve agent VX. It could someday be applied to materials such as clothing and paint.

  • First response technologyDHS recruits Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to develop first-response technology

    DHS wants better technology for first responders — police, firefighters, and EMTs — but rather than pushing for innovation from within the massive corporations that already provide technology to government agencies, the DHS has come to Silicon Valley to tap the entrepreneurial ecosystem of northern California. Giant technology firms have resources of large scale manufacturing and distribution, but there is one crucial difference. Technology startups are much more nimble, and can shift their development much faster than the huge corporations can.

  • EnergySmall-scale nuclear fusion may be a new energy source

    Nuclear fusion is a process whereby atomic nuclei melt together and release energy. Because of the low binding energy of the tiny atomic nuclei, energy can be released by combining two small nuclei with a heavier one. Fusion energy may soon be used in small-scale power stations. This means producing environmentally friendly heating and electricity at a low cost from fuel found in water. Both heating generators and generators for electricity could be developed within a few years, according to researchers.

  • In the trenchesRobots to pull wounded soldiers off battlefield

    Most Americans have seen at least one war movie, where at some point a fresh-faced young private is hit with some shrapnel. From the ground, he calls out for the unit medic — another young guy, from another small town, whose quick reaction and skill just may save his life. In the near future, however, it may no longer be another soldier, who comes running to his side. Instead, it might be an Army-operated unmanned aerial or ground vehicle.

  • Radiation detectionTesting radiation detection systems in harsh conditions

    Researchers from five laboratories and a private company recently spent two days in blistering 100 degree heat testing radiation detection technologies amidst cargo containers. The fifteen researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using gamma-ray and neutron imaging detectors to identify radioactive materials using the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) cargo container stack testbed.

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  • First response gearSeeing through the dark clearly

    A new device, dubbed Thermal on Demand (TOD), allows firefighters to see everything in a heavily smoke-filled room, where the unassisted eye sees nothing but a pitch-black environment. TOD allows responders to see doors, furniture, light switches, debris on the floor, and victims lying on the floor. Looking through a periscopic lens, in front of a thermal camera, the wearer sees a detailed image of everything in the immediate vicinity.

  • Invisibility cloak Engineers design invisibility cloak for military drones

    Inspired by the well-known Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter, electrical engineers have created a new design for their cloaking device, using a Teflon substrate, studded with cylinders of ceramic, which is thinner than any prior development and does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects. The Teflon has a low refractive index, while the ceramic’s refractive index is higher, which allows light to be dispersed through the sheet without any absorption. Compared to an invisibility cloak, this technology has not only the ability to conceal, but the ability to increase optical communication signal speed and to collect solar energy.

  • War & peaceHow Western Europe came to dominate the globe

    Although Europe represents only about 8 percent of the planet’s landmass, from 1492 to 1914, Europeans conquered or colonized more than 80 percent of the entire world. There are many possible explanations for why history played out this way, but few can explain why the West was so powerful for so long. Caltech’s Philip Hoffman, a professor of business economics and history, has a new explanation: the advancement of gunpowder technology. The Chinese invented gunpowder, but Hoffman argues that certain political and economic circumstances allowed the Europeans to advance gunpowder technology at an unprecedented rate — allowing a relatively small number of people quickly to take over much of the rest of the globe. What lessons does his explanation of the West’s rise to dominance offer for today’s policy makers? “In a world where there are hostile powers, we really don’t want to get rid of spending on improving military technology,” Hoffman says. “I would much rather see expenditures devoted to infrastructure, or scientific research, or free preschool for everybody – things that would carry big economic benefits,” and “I wish we did live in that world, but unfortunately it’s not realistic.”

  • Law-enforcement technologyPrepaid card reader helps law enforcement in seizing fraudulent cards

    During arrests of criminal couriers, law enforcement officers rarely find bundles of cash wrapped in rubber bands anymore. Instead, they find stacks of plastic cards — bank credit and debit cards, retail gift cards, library cards, hotel card keys, even magnetic-striped Metrorail cards — which have been turned into prepaid cards. DHS S&T’s Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader is a small, handheld device which uses wireless connectivity to allow law enforcement officers in the field to check the balance of cards. This allows for identification of suspicious prepaid cards and the ability to put a temporary hold on the linked funds until a full investigation can be completed.

  • First response gearWearable device helps medics save lives in disasters, on the battlefield

    The First Response Monitor is a wearable device designed to measure and monitor the vital signs of multiple trauma patients for emergency response in disasters and battlefield situations. The device has been primarily designed with first response medics in mass casualty incidents in mind, but it has applications in many other fields — such as civilian medicine where additional monitoring of conditions has benefit in patient outcomes, wellness monitoring, and within sports for training and performance monitoring.

  • Infrastructure protectionNew technology solves city pipelines leakage problem without excavation

    In Mexico City there are twenty-six thousand kilometers of water pipes and drainage, of which about 8,000 are useless, with risk of collapse and resulting cuts in service. The water pipes infrastructure of many other cities is not much better. A Mexican start-up has created a technology to renew piping without the need for excavation, ensuring it lasts fifty years, twice as long as traditional piping.

  • Infrastructure protectionInspired by bats, sensor technology detects dangerous structural cracks

    Researchers have developed an ultrasound sensor for detecting dangerous cracks in structures such as aircraft engines, oil, and gas pipelines, and nuclear plants. The device, known as a transducer, identifies structural defects with varying ultrasonic frequencies and overcomes the limits of other, similar devices, which are based on rigid structures and have narrow ranges. It is thought to be the first device of its kind in the world.

  • Unmanned maritime systemsU.S. Navy champions unmanned systems over, on, and under the sea

    The presence of unmanned systems in the maritime military domain is growing, and the U.S. Navy has decided to make several organizational, and conceptual, changes in order to deal with unmanned systems in a more holistic fashion. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier has been named the Navy’s first director of unmanned weapon systems, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in April that he would appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, “so that all aspects of unmanned — in all domains — over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land — will be coordinated and championed.”

  • Unmanned maritime systemsFlorida teens hold their own in challenging maritime robotics competitions

    For the past three years, Team S.S. Minnow from Florida – consisting of Nick Serle, 15, and Abby Butka, 14 – has been competing against some of the finest technical universities in the world via the SeaPerch, RoboSub, and RoboBoat robotic competitions, all cosponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “I’ve seen Nick and Abby rise through these contests and become fierce competitors,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “It is success stories like theirs that motivate us to support these competitions.”