Technological innovation

  • Prize competition for tracking first responders indoors

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the Department’s first crowdsourced prize competition in support of the first responder community. The Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responder prize competition seeks innovative ideas for solving the challenges of real-time, accurate indoor tracking of first responders during an incident. S&T says it is looking for innovate solutions that will help first responders with basic questions such as “where am I?” and “where is my team?”

  • Quantum radar can detect stealth aircraft

    A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team. The new breed of radar is a hybrid system that uses quantum correlation between microwave and optical beams to detect objects of low reflectivity such as cancer cells or aircraft with a stealth capability. Because the quantum radar operates at much lower energies than conventional systems, it has the long-term potential for a range of applications in biomedicine including non-invasive NMR scans.

  • New gear technology makes wave energy more attractive

    Wave energy has been held back in part because of the cost of electricity generation. The amount of steel and concrete needed in order to produce each MWh has simply been too great to make it into a profitable business. In addition, the power of waves presents a problem with reliability, and because waves vary greatly in height and timing, it is difficult to create a conversion system that functions across the full wave spectrum. Swedish researchers have developed a new wave energy system which generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost, when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.

  • Improved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor

    Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires. Researchers have discovered that a material traditionally used in ceramics, glass and paint can be manipulated to produce an ultra-sensitive UV light sensor, paving the way for improved fire and gas detection.

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  • Los Alamos leads collaborative effort of explosives detection innovation, education

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a collaboration of strategic public and private partners focused on the innovations in and education about explosives detection technologies. The Los Alamos Collaboration for Explosives Detection (LACED) site serves as a virtual gateway to world-class expertise and capabilities designed to counter all types of explosives threats, predominantly through enhanced detection capabilities. The site went public online in January and is beginning to attract attention among specialty audiences.

  • U.S. Navy: Investment in new ideas, scientific research needed to keep technological edge

    At the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington D.C., Department of Navy leaders on 5 February called for investment in new ideas and scientific research to keep the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps technologically superior in increasingly uncertain times. Tight budgets at home and technological advances by other nations must be met with a powerful response grounded in innovation from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps S&T community, said Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

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  • Scientists develop accident-tolerant nuclear fuels

    The summer of 2014 marked an important milestone toward further innovation in the nation’s nuclear plants regarding the development of light water reactor nuclear fuel with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics. For several years, nuclear researchers have designed, fabricated and tested a host of novel nuclear fuels and fuel cladding materials (enclosed tubes that house the fuel in a reactor) in laboratories across the U.S. Now, testing of promising fuels and materials with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics in a U.S. nuclear test reactor is commencing. Scientists and engineers from research labs and industry have prepared advanced concepts for insertion into Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor.

  • Floating wind turbines bring electricity – and power generation -- to customers

    Most wind turbine manufacturers are competing to build taller turbines to harness more powerful winds above 500 feet, or 150 meters. Altaeros is going much higher with its novel Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the BAT. The Altaeros BAT can reach 2,000 feet, or 600 meters. At this altitude, wind speeds are faster and have five to eight times greater power density. As a result, the BAT can generate more than twice the energy of a similarly rated tower-mounted turbine. The BAT’s key enabling technologies include a novel aerodynamic design, making it, in effect, a wind turbine which is being lifted by a tethered balloon. In the future, the company expects to deploy the BAT alongside first responders in emergency response situations when access to the electric grid is unavailable.

  • A first: Engineering students design firefighting humanoid robot

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy better to assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.

  • Protecting the security for networks of the future

    Today’s company networks comprise hundreds of devices: routers for directing data packets to the right receiver, firewall components for protecting internal networks from the outside world, and network switches. Such networks are extremely inflexible because every component, every router and every switch can carry out only the task it was manufactured for. If the network has to be expanded, the company has to integrate new routers, firewalls or switches and then program them by hand. This is why experts worldwide have been working on flexible networks of the future for the last five years or so, developing what is known as software-defined networking (SDN). It presents one disadvantage, however; it is susceptible to hacker attacks. Researchers have now developed a way to protect these future networks.

  • Handheld sensor sniffs out fish fraud

    It is estimated that up to 30 percent of the seafood entering the U.S. is fraudulently mislabeled, bilking U.S. fishermen, the U.S. seafood industry, and American consumers for an estimated $20-25 billion annually. Passing off other fish as grouper is one of the rackets this sensor aims to stop. Fighting seafood labeling fraud using rapid, on-site screening may benefit consumer wallets and U.S. seafood industry. Scientists at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science have developed a handheld sensor capable of debunking fraudulent seafood species claims, helping to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for.

  • Color-changing film detects chemical weapons

    In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs — an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

  • New Chinese cyber rules aim to facilitate intellectual property theft: U.S. tech companies

    The Chinese government’s cyberspace policy group in late 2014 approved a 22-page document which contained strict procurement rules for technology vendors. Those rules would require U.S. firms selling computer equipment in China to turn over sensitive intellectual property — including source codes — submit their products for “intrusive security testing,” and use Chinese encryption algorithms. U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese banks will be required to set up research and development centers in China, get permits for workers servicing technology equipment, and build “ports” which allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. U.S. tech companies charge that the new rules would make it easier for China to steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.

  • Smart-gun technology faces many hurdles

    At last Wednesday’s Seattle International Smart Gun Symposium, lawmakers, smart-gun industry representatives, and gun-safety advocates met to discuss the future of “authorized” guns which only discharge in the hands of pre-authorized owners. Representatives from Sentinl, maker of an add-on fingerprint sensor for existing handguns; TriggerSmart, an RFID-enabled system for existing and brand-new guns; and Allied Biometrix, a firm developing fully integrated biometric sensors which unlock a gun once they sense an individual’s “reflexive actions” and “grip style,” attended the event, though these companies do not yet have a ready-for-market product.

  • CODE program would allow UAVs to fly as collaborative teams

    The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike. Most of the current systems, however, require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator as well as a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These requirements severely limit the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and pose operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance engagements with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. DARPA’s CODE program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to help develop groundbreaking software enabling unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.