Technological innovation

  • Bomb-detecting lasers to improve security checkpoints

    Research has put the possibility of bomb-detecting lasers at security checkpoints within reach by developing a laser that can detect micro traces of explosive chemicals on clothing and luggage. The laser not only detects the explosive material, but it also provides an image of the chemical’s exact location, even if it’s merely a minute trace on a zipper.

  • Flexible vehicle-arrest system stops cars involved in crime, terrorism

    Researchers have developed a mathematical model that could help engineers design a flexible vehicle-arrest system for stopping cars involved in criminal activity or terrorism, such as suspect car bombers attempting break through a check point, without wrecking the car or killing the occupants.

  • New detectors for chemical, biological threats

    In the late 1990s, Sandia scientists developed a simple-to-use handheld chemical detector for the military, the MicroChemLab. Ever since, Sandia has improved such microfluidics- and microelectromechanical (MEMS) systems-based instruments that identify chemicals based on gas chromatography, or GC, and resonator-style instruments such as surface acoustic wave (SAW) detectors. The lab’s researchers are building on this sensor work to invent tiny detectors that can sniff out everything from explosives and biotoxins to smuggled humans.

  • Top Five most awesome robots

    In the last decade, robots have often been employed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, usually to seek out hidden bombs. More and more of these the robots are now being adopted by first response agencies to help in search-and-rescue operations in the wake of disasters. The growing interest in – and usefulness of — robotics have also inspired a series of competitions and challenges, some of which are directed at high-school and college students, to encourage budding scientists to go into the field of robotics.

  • 3D Earth model accurately pinpoints source of earthquakes, explosions

    During the cold war, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they are looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests. Researchers are working on developing a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D. The purpose of this model is to assist the U.S. Air Force and the international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria, more accurately locate all types of explosions.

  • New technology improves IED detection

    Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are homemade bombs that can both injure and kill civilians and service members. One solution to the problem of IEDs is to find them before they explode by detecting the chemicals used in the explosives. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed a technology, using silicon to fabricate a sensor that may revolutionize the way trace chemical detection is conducted

  • Unmanned undersea platform network to help better deploy naval capabilities

    Today’s naval forces rely primarily on highly capable multifunctional manned platforms, such as ships and submarines. Even the most advanced vessel, however, can only be in one place at a time, making the ability to respond increasingly dependent on being ready at the right place at the right time. New Hydra program aims to make it easier, faster, and cheaper to deploy crucial capabilities worldwide.

  • World's smallest drone may be a search-and-rescue tool

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    Researchers have designed, built, and tested the world’s smallest open source autopilot for small unmanned aircraft. A smaller and lighter autopilot — it weighs only 1.9 grams — allows these small flying robots to fly longer, fit into narrower spaces, or carry more payloads such as cameras. This makes them more suitable to be used, for example, rescue operations.


  • A flying car is developed for the U.S. military

    Flying cars would enhance the mobility of soldiers. Transportation will no longer be restricted to trafficable terrain that makes movement predictable and easy to track, and a flying car will enhance capabilities for resupply operations, fire-team insertion and extraction, and medical evacuation — reducing timelines and increasing the probability of survival.

  • Collaboration with industry leads to improved forensics

    Three-dimensional (3D) scanners used at crime scenes for forensic investigations are not just the stuff of prime time television. Investigators and crime laboratories are using 3D laser scanning measurement systems to measure and model, in 3D simulations, the critical aspects of crime scenes. A 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, however, questioned the reliability of some forensic sciences, including the use of 3D scanning technique. Furthermore, pressure began building in the forensics community to have crime laboratories and stand-alone crime scene units in the United States adhere to specific standards in their services, which require traceability to the SI [the SI in SI traceability refers to the International System of Units (Système International d’unités)].

  • Secure, private Internet and cloud to soldiers, marines at the tactical edge

    Squads of soldiers or marines on patrol in remote forward locations often do not have the luxury of quickly sharing current intelligence information and imagery on their mobile devices, because they cannot access a central server. Troops frequently have to wait until they are back at camp to download the latest updates. In the meantime, mission opportunities may erode because the information needed at the tactical edge isn’t immediately available. DARPA’s Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program aims to provide an alternative approach to the top down focus of most military networks by starting the content sharing at the individual soldier or marine level.

  • Breakthrough fuel cell technology: the future of electricity generation

    We currently rely upon an increasingly vulnerable electrical grid to provide the energy we need. The best way to decrease that vulnerability is through distributed energy, that is, by making our own energy on-site. A breakthrough fuel cell technology promises to provide always-on electricity to businesses, homes, and eventually automobiles, at about one-tenth the cost and one-tenth the size of current commercial fuel cell systems. The technology allows people to generate their own electricity with a system nearly impervious to hurricanes, thunderstorms, cyberattacks, derechos, and similar dangers, while simultaneously helping the environment.

  • Detecting radioactive material smuggled in containers

    Nearly 90 percent of imported and exported goods travel the globe in shipping containers. Roughly 500 million containers travel the sea each year. A Sandia National Laboratories team completed acceptance testing on an enormous mobile scanner — the Mobile Radiation Detection and Identification System (MRDIS) — which makes smuggling radiological materials in containers more difficult.

  • New camouflage makeup shields soldiers, firefighters from heat of bomb blasts, fire

    Camouflage face makeup for warfare is undergoing one of the most fundamental changes in thousands of years, as scientists today described a new face paint that both hides soldiers from the enemy and shields their faces from the searing heat of bomb blasts. Firefighters also could benefit from the new heat-resistant makeup.

  • Top 6 hottest new weapons

    Competition spurs innovation and there is nothing more competitive than countries battling in the trenches of war. With billions upon billions in defense budget to spend, research into developing the best and most efficient weapons is on the forefront of investment.