• Technology confronts disasters

    In 2010, soon after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, a team from MIT Lincoln Laboratory collected and analyzed information to help the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the lead military agency responding to the crisis, effectively dispatch vital resources, including food, water, tents, and medical supplies, to the victims of this disaster. This Haiti experience demonstrated to Lincoln Laboratory researchers that advanced technology and technical expertise developed for the Department of Defense (DoD) can significantly benefit future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. In February, the Laboratory established the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group to explore ways to leverage or advance existing capabilities for improving disaster responses.

  • Developing nuclear cladding to withstand Fukushima-like meltdown conditions

    Like much of the rest of the world, thousands of scientists and engineers watched in March 2011 as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors exploded. The fuel’s cladding, a zirconium alloy used to contain the fuel and radioactive fission products, reacted with boiling coolant water to form hydrogen gas, which then exploded, resulting in the biggest nuclear power-related disaster since Chernobyl. Challenged by this event, two research teams have made progress in developing fuel claddings that are capable of withstanding the high temperatures resulting from a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), like that at Fukushima.

  • Airborne networking capabilities for hostile environments

    Modern airborne warfare is becoming increasingly complex, with manned and unmanned systems having rapidly to share information in a volatile environment where adversaries use advanced, commercially available electronic systems to disrupt U.S. and allied communications. DARPA’s Dynamic Network Adaptation for Mission Optimization (DyNAMO) program. DyNAMO seeks novel technologies which would enable independently designed networks to share information and adapt to sporadic jamming and mission-critical dynamic network bursts in contested RF environments.

  • Improving precision of drone navigation

    Researchers are working to bring a new level of precision to the navigation systems used to guide drones. The work is supported through a contract with Southern Company, one of the U.S. largest energy companies, which plans to use unmanned aircraft to enhance safety for crews in the field and improve reliability for customers. The researchers have designed a prototype which uses onboard ultrasound sensors to relay information on the aircraft’s location to its operator.

  • Instant water heater offers energy, cost savings

    Traditional water heaters take time to reach preferred temperatures, thus wasting water and energy. A new instant hot water solution, developed through the EU-funded RAPIDHEAT project, successfully optimized heating and control technologies to develop a lightweight low thermal mass heater that provides full temperature output within two seconds of switch-on.

  • An app alerts people, law enforcement about potential crime risk

    You are walking home after a night out on a dark autumn evening. Suddenly, you get the feeling that someone is following you. You look over your shoulder, and see a shadow between the trees in the park. You quicken your steps. When you glance behind you again, you see the shadow disappear in between two houses. This is when you could press the “help” button on the app that you have downloaded. It sends a message to everyone in the area who also has the app, with information about your phone number and where you are. This way they are able to call you, alert emergency services, or get to your location if need be. The app has been developed by a group of student entrepreneurs.

  • New flame retardant is naturally derived, nontoxic

    Flame retardants are added to foams found in mattresses, sofas, car upholstery, and many other consumer products. Once incorporated into foam, these chemicals can migrate out of the products over time, releasing toxic substances into the air and environment. Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans.

  • Recovering 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.

  • Clothing 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.

  • DHS 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.

  • Small-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.

  • Robots 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.

  • Testing 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.

  • Seeing 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.

  • 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.