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Prieto Battery and Intel have announced a business collaboration to accelerate the introduction of Prieto’s 3D solid-state battery cell into the marketplace. Prieto, a spinoff company out of Colorado State University, has agreed to complete a series of milestones focused on improving the performance of the battery against size, energy density, and complexity vectors. Intel will be staging their investment to each milestone; and in exchange, Prieto is granting Intel the ability to implement the technology first in computing devices.


Prieto will be initially focused on introducing a novel 3D anode in late 2016 to replace a segment of the market served by conventional graphite anodes. Prieto then will incorporate that anode, which is said to feature higher energy density and safety levels, into its patented 3D Lithium-ion, solid-state battery cell.


Prieto Battery’s patent-pending architecture is designed around a porous copper structure (a copper foam, which is approximately 98% air), coated by an ultra-thin polymer electrolyte and then surrounded by a cathode matrix. The result is a three-dimensionally structured lithium-ion battery composed of interpenetrating electrodes with extremely short Li+ diffusion distances and a power density claimed to be orders of magnitude greater than comparable two-dimensional architectures in use today.


At the heart of this product is a technology for the fabrication of the copper antimonide (Cu2Sb) foam substrate. Using a novel electrodeposition method, the Cu2Sb may be directly deposited without the costly requirement of further annealing or other post-treatments. This technique ensures continuous electrical contact throughout the 3D anode.  The fabrication of the electrolyte layer is accomplished through an electrochemical polymerization method - specifically designed to uniformly encapsulate the entire conductive surface of the anode. Prieto says the anode has already demonstrated excellent capacity over extensive cycling.


Then the cathode material is applied as a liquid slurry.   Due to an increase in surface area of approximately 60X, Prieto's foam battery is expected to have power densities reaching 14,000 W/L while maintaining energy densities of 650 Wh/L. The foam battery will be capable of being optimized for either power density or energy density. 


The foam battery measures a couple of inches across and is as thin as a sheet of paper. Sealed in a plastic pouch, the Prieto battery is said to be able to charge quickly, store up to twice as much energy per unit of volume as conventional batteries, and does not have lithium-ion batteries’ propensity to overheat.

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PredPol maps this red box onto areas where heightened crime is predicted to occur. Also.. it's their logo. (via Predpol)


With budget cuts and shortages of officers, police departments are feeling the pressure to become smarter about preventing crime. One innovation born out of this pressure is PredPol, a newly developed “predictive policing” cloud-based software that uses past crime data and a fancy algorithm to predict where and when crimes are likely to occur.


Cofounders Jeff Brantingham and George Mohler were inspired to create PredPol after noticing that criminal activity follows surprisingly predictable patterns. They scrutinized the reported causes of archived crimes as well as their likelihood to trigger more crimes in the area. They then used these patterns to craft a mathematical model of criminal behavior, which became the PredPol algorithm. PredPol uses this algorithm along with adaptive computer learning to produce predictions they say are twice as accurate as predictions made using traditional practices.


PredPol uses three pieces of data—type, place, and time of crime—which it then feeds through its algorithm. Then, using 500 by 500 foot red boxes, it tells the officers which areas of the district are at the highest risk for criminal activity for that shift. PredPol suggests that officers patrol these red-boxed areas for about 5-15% of their shift, hopefully deterring crime with their presence. 


Departments that have tried PredPol, which now number 60, have had some success in reducing crime. For instance, Santa Cruz had an 11% reduction in burglaries and a 27% drop in robberies within the first year of employing the technology. Los Angeles and Atlanta, the largest police departments trying out PredPol, also saw significant reductions: Los Angeles’ Foothil Division saw a 13% decrease in crime after four months, and Atlanta saw a 19% decrease after integrating the software citywide. Although it’s impossible to know for sure that PredPol is responsible for these drops in crime, there certainly seems to be a correlation. To be more rigorous, co-founder Brantingham hopes to have PredPol’s six-month randomized controlled study in Los Angeles published in a peer-reviewed journal. This study found that PredPol was twice as effective in accurately predicting crimes than LAPD’s analysts.


Although its predictive powers are impressive, misgivings about the new technology are inevitable. The public, already suspicious of the police in the wake of recent displays of police brutality and racial profiling, will need to be fully informed about what exactly this technology is used for. Because the software does not take into account personal information about community members, says PredPol, personal freedom is not compromised and profiling is not a concern. Another worry, Louisiana State criminologist Peter Scharf points out, is that the red-box areas will be more feared by the officers, putting them on edge and making accidents more likely to occur.


Although harmful effects remain to be analyzed, the implications of PredPol software at this stage seem to be pretty good: Departments are able to use their resources more wisely; police officers can use their time on duty more effectively; new police officers may be trained more quickly; and communities can save the money they would have otherwise spent on catching, trying, and jailing criminals. Keep an eye on PredPol—it may be coming to your community soon.

It's interesting. I sometimes can predict gunshots in my neighborhood with high accuracy... Every weekend evening!


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BodyCap, a French start-up company that specializes in miniaturized wireless monitoring devices today announced it has tested its e-Celsius Performance connected pill for temperature monitoring on ten FC Nantes soccer platers during two French League 1 games. Using e-Celsius Performance the club was able to measure the effectiveness of recovery techniques such as ice treatment for players.

e-Celsius Performance is an ingestible pill that continuously monitors the user’s internal temperature, helping to minimize the risks of hypothermia and hyperthermia for elite athletes. Once the pill is ingested, the athlete has complete freedom of movement, as there is no requirement to wear a monitor. Every 30 seconds, the pill wirelessly transmits the athlete’s gastro-intestinal temperature measurements to a monitor called e-Viewer Performance. The monitor, which can be connected with up to three pills simultaneously, shows alerts when the measurement is outside the set range. The pill stores measurements for up to 16 hours when away from the monitor.This data is then wirelessly transmitted once the pill is back within a 3-meter range.

Staff at FC Nantes used e-Celsius Performance during training and in two French league matches, against Rennes on September 13 and Paris Saint-Germain on September 26. The aim was to analyze the players’ ability to regulate their temperature during warm-up and play and then track the return to baseline values during recovery. With better knowledge of each player's ability to regulate their core temperature, it is believed that sporting performance can be improved.

The pill is swallowed a few hours before the start of the match, allowing temperature to be monitored throughout the game.

e-Celsius Performance is used to monitor players during the ice treatment phase of their post-match recovery, to help them recover more quickly from their physical exertions and to relieve associated aches and pains. The data obtained from the pill will help to introduce individual recovery programs for each player, based on their capacity for recovery, their position on the field and weather conditions.

FC Nantes retrieves the player’s temperature data the day after the games. The data helps to create a detailed analysis of each player’s responses and measures the impact of the recovery techniques used by the club, including the post-match sleep. With regular use, the data on individual players is expected to help in fine-tuning and tailoring their training and development programs. The aim, of course, is to significantly improve player performance on the pitch.


Schematic of electrode process design: (a) Components mixing under ultrasonic irradiation, (b) an optical image of the as-fabricated electrode made of SiNP, SG and PAN, (c) the electrode after SHT, (d) Schematic of the atomic scale structure of the electrode. (Source: Nature Communications 6, article 8597).

Current lithium-ion batteries normally use graphite anodes. Engineers at the University of Waterloo have found that silicon anode materials have a much higher capacity for lithium and are capable of producing batteries with almost 10 times more energy.

Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, and a team of graduate students created a low-cost battery using silicon that boosts the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries. Their findings are published in the current issue of Nature Communications.

The most critical challenge the Waterloo researchers faced when they began producing batteries using silicon was the loss of energy that occurs when silicon contracts and then expands by as much as 300 per cent with each charge cycle. The resulting increase and decrease in silicon volume forms cracks that reduce battery performance, create short circuits, and eventually cause the battery to stop operating. To overcome this problem, Professor Chen’s team along with the General Motors Global Research and Development Center developed a flash heat treatment for fabricated silicon-based lithium-ion electrodes that is said to minimize volume expansion while boosting the performance and cycle capability of lithium-ion batteries. Professor Chen stated that the economical flash heat treatment created uniquely structured silicon anode materials that delivered extended cycle life to more than 2000 cycles with increased energy capacity of the battery.

The researchers say the new anode can bring about a 40 to 60 percent increase in energy density of lithium ion batteries and that type of advance could see electric cars driven up to 500 km (310 mi) per charge. They also note a Coulombic efficiency of 99.9 percent-- pertaining to the charge transferred to and from the electrode—which had been seen as a weakness of silicon anodes.

Professor Chen expects to commercialize this technology and expects to see new batteries on the market within the next year.



Future commercial hypersonic flight will require an orbiter stage which, after main engine cut-off, will enter a high-speed gliding flight phase and will be capable of attaining altitudes of 80 km and Mach numbers beyond Mach 20. This vehicle would travel long intercontinental distances within a very short time--flight times from Australia to Europe would take just 90 minutes, Europe to California no more than 60 minutes.

A new kind of high-speed transport based on a two-stage Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) has been proposed by DLR, the national aeronautics and space research center of the Federal Republic of Germany, under the name “SpaceLiner”. The two-stage vehicle will be powered by rocket propulsion. Several advanced technologies are required for the realization of SpaceLiner which are currently under investigation at DLR and with international partners.

Passenger safety is one of the main obvious goals for the development of this future trans-atmospheric transportation system. For this reason acceleration loads for passengers will be designed to remain below those of the Space Shuttle astronauts, with a maximum of 2.5 g being experienced during the propelled section of the flight. Also for safety reasons the high levels of energy associated with this type of flight (hypersonic) as well as the level of reliability of the enabling technology leads to the need for a passenger escape system in case of an aborted flight.

The implementation of a cabin escape system for a hypersonic aircraft is challenging on several levels: integration within the larger launch vehicle, load factors for passengers, the ejection propulsion concept, the capability to withstand an extreme thermal environment (the thermal protection system is a critical component of any trans-atmospheric flight system as re-entry into the atmosphere creates tremendous heat due to a combination of compression and friction with atmospheric molecules) and adaptability to a wide range of abort scenario conditions (low and high speed and different altitudes).

Any successful approach to a hypersonic flight escape system will require breakthroughs in current technologies in the area of control, structures, aerothermodynamics and other systems. Researchers have come up with an innovative morphing concept based on an inflatable vehicle sidewall and deployable rudders. The concept, funded by the EU and called HYPMOCES (for Hypersonic Morphing for a Cabin Escape System) is being worked on by a consortium composed of four main partners from four different European countries: Deimos Space S.L.U.(Spain),  DLR (Germany), AVIOSPACE (Italy) and ONERA (France).

The multi-phase nature of the return flight makes morphing an attractive solution for a hypersonic escape system. The abort scenarios cover a wide range of flight conditions and the integration within the mother spacecraft requires compact solutions in terms of shape. Thus,  a single shape cannot provide adequate performance and can be challenging with regard to the wellness of the ordinary passengers expected in the cabin. An increase of the lifting capability after ejection of an escape capsule and the increase of aerodynamic control surfaces is considered a strong requirement in order to safely return the passengers and crew.

A large cabin escape system able to change its shape and automatically reconfigure during an abort event after ejection will balance the compromise between the constraints for integration within the mother aircraft (compactness), the adaptability to the unpredicted environment in case of abort and the required flight performance to ensure safe landing.

The HYPMOCES project will address key technological areas to enable the use of morphing in hypersonic escape systems, namely:

  1. Control and Reconfiguration during morphing.
  2. System integration within the escape system and within the mother aircraft.
  3. Structures, materials, actuators and mechanism of the deployed elements.
  4. Aerothermodynamics of the changing external shape after ejection.

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Artist's impression of "Blue Wolf"


The range of underwater vehicles is limited by the amount of energy available for propulsion and the power required for a given underwater speed. Underwater propulsive power varies roughly with the cube of speed, and energy sources are practically limited by safety and certification requirements.


Currently, this means that for a given speed and range (endurance) envelope and a minimum volume for payloads and electronics, vehicle size is proportional to the energy needed for a given mission.  Designers can modify this envelope by improving the vehicle’s energy efficiency – by reducing hydrodynamic drag, improving lift-to-drag performance, or by improving the volumetric energy density of the energy sources. However, in a fixed-size vehicle, the volume and weight needed for systems to reduce drag or improve lift-to-drag generally reduces the volume and weight available for energy.


DARPA’s Blue Wolf program focuses on development of novel energy and hydrodynamic lift and drag reduction technologies, which will then be tested at sea. Dynamic lift and drag reduction include such possible design techniques as dynamic lift from winglets, body shaping and coatings. Hybrid energy systems are expected to be explored as well, including thermal and/or electrochemical, and energy-harvesting with multiple energy sources--all to improve energy efficiency measured in Watt hours per mile. DARPA researchers further plan to explore thermal and electric sources like fuel cells and batteries that can fit in an undersea vehicle system module.


Officials of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Keyport, Wash., recently announced they have awarded Blue Wolf contracts to the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.  NUWC officials awarded a $2.5 million DARPA Blue Wolf contract to the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in Huntington Beach, Calif., and a $2.5 million DARPA Blue Wolf contract to the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training segment in Riviera Beach, Fla.


Boeing and Lockheed Martin thus join the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., which won a $3.7 million Blue Wolf contract in August, and Applied Physical Sciences (APS) Corp. in Groton, Conn., which won a $3.1 million Blue Wolf contract last July.


The Blue Wolf program will use a “reference architecture” to achieve rapid system integration and certification for at-sea demonstrations. The reference architecture defines the hardware and software relationships between functional modules within the Blue Wolf platform, and will evolve throughout the program. DARPA’s Blue Wolf reference design consists of a 21-inch-diameter right circular cylinder vehicle with volume and weight set aside for guidance, control, electronic systems, and a payload section. Each module section will have a vehicle DC power bus, a vehicle network bus (Controller Area Network [CAN] and FlexRay), and instrumentation / testing bus (Ethernet). The vehicle will use an electric drive and conventional fin control.

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By announcing its HY4 four-seater aircraft, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is taking a big step towards making zero-emission commercial flying a reality.  Powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system the HY4 is aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of this technology for passenger aircraft. First fight is expected in the summer of 2016.


Researchers at the Stuttgart-based DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics have developed a special hybrid system: the main power source is a low-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. This converts the hydrogen and oxygen in the tank into water and electrical energy. During cruise flight, the fuel cell continuously supplies the electric motor with usable power. A high-performance lithium battery covers peak power loads during take-off and when climbing to a higher altitude.


The HY4's electric motor has an output of 80 kW and allows for a maximum speed of approximately 200 kilometers per hour and a cruising speed of 145 kilometers per hour. Depending on velocity, altitude and load, a range of between 750 and 1500 kilometers is possible. The most striking feature of the HY4 is its two fuselages, which are firmly connected to each other by the wing. This twin fuselage design allows an optimal distribution of the drive components and a higher total loading capacity. Each one can seat two occupants. The maximum weight of the HY4 is 1500 kilograms.

In particular, the goal of the DLR researchers is to use aircraft such as the HY4 as an Electric Air Taxi to connect destinations more flexibly and offer faster alternatives to existing routes and means of transport. Electric drives are well suited for shorter distances due to their low noise and emission levels, as well as their capability to take off and land on short runways thanks to their high torque. With more than 60 regional and international airports, Germany has a well-developed, extensively distributed network and already possesses the appropriate infrastructure for the implementation of this approach.


DLR is responsible for the overall integration of the power train, and it is joined in this project by fuel cell supplier Hydrogenics, the aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel, the University of Ulm as well as Stuttgart Airport as the home airport for the HY4.

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Powered by the Tobii EyeChip, an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) developed specifically for eye tracking, the new Tobii IS4 eye tracking module provides OEMs and integrators with a lightweight platform featuring near-infrared sensors, illuminators, EyeCore algorithms, Tobii’s proprietary middleware engine and a software development kit (SDK).  The sixth generation Tobii eye-tracking platform, IS4 is said to be the first to meet integration requirements for consumer devices, such as low power consumption and the flexibility to integrate with multiple system design configurations. The platform can provide a foundation for a variety of third-party, multi-modality applications to be built with IS4, including facial identification, head tracking and facial feature tracking,


Offering both hardware acceleration and vectorized processing, the EyeChip performs the on-chip processing of EyeCore algorithms and has integrated sensor and illumination control. In addition to its tracking performance the chip is said to significantly reduce CPU load, bus load and power consumption compared to other eye tracking solutions, bringing the possibility of  eye tracking within range of  consumer devices, including PC peripherals, all-in-one PCs, desktop monitors, notebooks and tablets as well as VR and AR headsets.


With regard to VR applications and devices, Tobii has announced a collaboration with the gaming and content studio Starbreeze  to combine both companies’ expertise in eye tracking and VR to integrate Tobii's technology into the StarVR head-mounted display (HMD). Eye tracking is expected to help solve some of the current barriers that remain regarding widespread aoption of VR. For instance, it can help enhance graphics performance, save power and reduce CPU load through gaze-prioritized graphics ,also known as foveated rendering. Foveated imaging is a digital image processing technique in which the image resolution, or amount of detail, varies across the image according to one or more "fixation points." A fixation point indicates the highest resolution region of the image and corresponds to the center of the eye's retina, the fovea. Ideally a graphics card would render at full display resolution where the gaze is centered and continuously decrease resolution outward from there. VR graphics can be improved and optimized by, for instance, rendering graphics with higher resolution in the region where the user is looking.


In creating a laser weapon for military use the biggest challenges for researchers are: 1) creating a laser that can reach high enough power to partially destroy or disable a target; 2) tracking numerous target objects simultaneously and 3) propagating the laser efficiently and staying focused on the target even in difficult atmospheric conditions, such as that caused by dust or humidity.


Two different approaches are in contention in the race to develop working high-energy lasers for military weapons systems: solid state lasers and fiber lasers. Generally, the active medium of a solid-state laser consists of a glass or crystalline host material to which is added a dopant such as neodymium, chromium, erbium, or ytterbium. The fiber laser is a variation of the standard solid-state laser, with the medium being a clad fiber rather than a rod, disk or slab. Laser light is emitted by a dopant in the central core of the fiber. The laser cavity in fiber lasers is constructed by fusion splicing different types of fiber.

100 kW is considered the industry benchmark and the military’s goal for high-energy laser weapons and this level has been achieved in demonstrations of solid-state laser systems. But fiber lasers typically require less power to maintain high beam quality and are more compact than other designs. In 2017 the U .S. Army plans to demonstrate a 60kW fiber-laser system developed by Lockheed Martin.  After the 2017 demo, the Army plans to upgrade the system to 100kW by adding modules.

Production of the fiber modules laser is now taking place at Lockheed Martin's Bothell, Washington facility. The modular laser design allows the laser power to be varied across a wide range. The company has incorporated commercial fiber laser components in these modules to reduce production cost.  The Army has the option to add more modules and increase power from 60kW to 120kW as a result of the laser's modularity.


Lockheed Martin recently used a 30kW laser weapon, known as ATHENA (for Advanced Test High Energy Asset) to disable a truck (see photo above).  The ground-based prototype system burned through the engine manifold in a matter of seconds from more than a mile away. The truck was mounted on a test platform with its engine and drive train running to simulate an operationally-relevant test scenario.



Raytheon has successfully fired its new Excalibur N5 projectile during a recent live guided flight test at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.  It was fired from a 5-inch naval gun during testing (shown, top photo). Excalibur N5 (bottom photo) is a 5-inch/127 mm naval variant of the projectile used by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps and several international armies--Sweden, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands have selected Excalibur for their military services. The projectile uses a built-in ruggedized GPS receiver and satellite signals to help guide itself to its intended target. It is expected to more than triple the maximum effective range of conventional naval gun munitions and deliver the same accuracy of the Excalibur Ib, which is in production today.


Excalibur’s  advantages include a major reduction in the time, cost and logistical burden associated with using conventional artillery munitions. It is being developed to support several critical naval mission areas including Naval Surface Fire Support, Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and countering Fast Attack Craft (FAC). It is said to have what is known as “a radial miss distance” of less than two meters from the target, greatly reducing the possibility of collateral damage; the munition has been employed within 75 meters of supported troops. Nearly 770 Excalibur rounds have been fired in combat, according to its manufacturer.


The main challenge to GPS guided munitions comes from GPS jammers and spoofing equipment. This is not a theoretical threat: in 2011, North Korea blocked South Korean GPS signals, reportedly using Russian-made jamming equipment capable of disrupting the guided weapons. Also in 2011 Iran downed and captured an RQ-170 Sentinel drone, claiming it had spoofed GPS data and redirected the drone to land inside Iranian borders. In response to this counter-measure Raytheon is developing a laser-guided version of the projectile, to be called the Excalibur S. This variant incorporates a digital semi-active laser seeker, allowing it to hit moving targets and engage and strike targets without GPS-based location information. In this way it reduces the risk associated with GPS jamming.


Testing is continuing at Raytheon.


Silicon transistors have been made smaller year after year, but they are approaching a point of physical limitation. Continuing to shrink the size of the transistor – including the channels and contacts – without compromising performance has become a major technology hurdle..


Researchers have known that carbon nanotube (CNT) chips could provide an answer, greatly improving the capabilities of high performance computers and other devices, The carbon nanotubes form the core of a transistor device whose superior electrical properties promise several generations of technology scaling beyond the physical limits of silicon. The promise of CNTs centers on the fact that electrons in carbon transistors can move more easily than in silicon-based devices, and the ultra-thin body of carbon nanotubes provide additional advantages at the atomic scale


The trouble is as devices become smaller, increased contact resistance for carbon nanotubes has hindered performance gains. Inside a chip, the contacts are the valves that control the flow of electrons from metal into the channels of a semiconductor. As transistors shrink in size, electrical resistance increases within the contacts, which impedes performance


But now IBM researchers say they have found a way to forego traditional contact schemes and have invented a metallurgical process akin to microscopic welding that chemically binds the metal atoms to the carbon atoms at the ends of nanotubes. This ‘end-bonded contact scheme’ is said to allow the contacts to be shrunken down to below 10 nanometers without deteriorating performance of the carbon nanotube devices.


IBM, which had previously shown that carbon nanotube transistors can operate as excellent switches at channel dimensions of less than ten nanometers, says that the new development can overcome contact resistance challenges all the way to the 1.8 nanometer node – four technology generations away, Dario Gil, IBM vice president of Science and Technology characterized the breakthrough as bringing us “a step closer to the goal of a carbon nanotube technology within the decade.”.


Dark, narrow streaks on Martian slopes such as these at Hale Crater are believed to be formed by seasonal flow of water.  The streaks are roughly the length of a football field. Photo courtesy of: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

Scientists reported this morning that there is compelling evidence that liquid water exists on the surface of present-day Mars. The announcement was made based on new findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) .Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where streaks are seen on the planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time, darkening and appearing to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fading in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Dr.Alfred S. McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of images from a high-resolution camera on NASA’s MRO, and his colleagues identified salts of a type known as perchlorates in readings from orbit. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius).

NASA’s approach to searching for life in the universe has been to "follow the water". In the past when water on Mars has been discussed it was usually in the context of ancient water or frozen water. Today’s announcement shows there is more to the story as some sort of briny water appears to be flowing on the surface of the Red Planet.



If you wait around long enough sometimes reality gets closer to science fiction. In the 1982 film “Firefox” Clint Eastwood plays an American pilot assigned to steal a highly advanced Soviet fighter aircraft which, among other things, uses a helmet that allows the pilot to control weapons launch through thought. Recently, Rockwell Collins introduced the Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35 aircraft that allows pilots in aircraft equipped with the system to simply look at a target within the 360 degree heads up display helmet to aim and fire their weapons. The pilot also receives target verification when receiving steering cues from onboard sensors or via datalink.

The helmet allows pilots to maintain spatial orientation of their surroundings and continually monitor critical flight information. For night missions, the HMDS projects the night vision scene directly onto the visor, eliminating the need for separate night vision goggles. All the information that pilots need to complete their missions through all weather, day or night is projected on the helmet’s visor, including sensor video. Additionally, the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS), made by Northrop Grumman, streams real-time imagery from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft to the helmet, allowing pilots to “look through” the airframe.

The HMDS serves as the virtual head-up display, enabling the F-35 to become the first tactical fighter in 50 years without a traditional head-up display. The helmet provides a 360-degree field-of-view and the pilot’s vantage point entirely remains outside of the aircraft; if the pilot were to tilt his head downward, for example, he’d have a view of the earth rather than a view of his legs.

Each helmet weighs approximately five pounds and is custom built and adjusted for each pilot during a two-day process so as to account for variables such as horizontal and vertical alignment of the pupils and eye spacing, to eliminate the possibility of motion sickness that sometimes comes along with 3D virtual reality headsets. The Gen III helmet will be introduced to the fleet in 2016.


C-130 Hercules carrying a tactical laser

When three top Air Force officers speaking separately at the same conference all say they expect the service to demonstrate airborne laser weapons by the end of this decade it wouldn’t be wise to bet against it.


The general officers were Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, commander of ARFL, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, head of the Air Force Special Operations Command and General Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command. The event was the Air and Space Conference organized by the Air Force Association and held earlier this month near Washington, D.C.


Maj. Gen. Masiello outlined a three-pronged approach to airborne laser systems. First will be a defensive system with “tens of kilowatts” of power called SHIELD (for Self-protected HIgh-Energy Laser Demonstration).  It will be powerful enough to protect fighters from missiles and scalable for use as an offensive weapon on larger aircraft such as gunships. It will be demonstrated around 2020, he said. SHIELD will likely use a turret to direct the beam and is also likely to be a podded system rather than fully integrated inside the airframe. It could possibly be carried by an unmanned "wingman” that could help manned fighters operate successfully in highly contested environments.


The SHIELD demo will also look at engaging ground targets on behalf of Lt. Gen. Heithold’s Air Force Special Operations Command (the Air Force equivalent of the better known Navy Seals), using the AC-130 gunship platform, which provides much more space, weight, and power than is available on a fighter aircraft. Heithold noted that an AC-130, could easily accommodate the 5-10,000 pounds of weight that would be required by the laser system and characterized a gunship with a high-energy laser as being just “a couple of years out.” One AC-130W Stinger II gunship, which was earmarked for retirement is now being held aside to support development and testing.


In a presentation on what he called Fifth-Generation Warfare. Air Force General Hawk Carlisle echoed the sentiments of his fellow officers by noting that the era of airborne lasers was  “a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


General Masiello said that the initial defense system would be followed by a longer-range defensive system with at least 100 kilowatts of power, to be demonstrated in 2022. Lastly,he said, a 300-kilowatt offensive system capable of destroying enemy aircraft and ground targets at long range would be developed.


The low cost of digital imaging devices has allowed them to become popular consumer products.  This low cost is made possible by leveraging a mature processing infrastructure and the ability to fabricate complete focal plane arrays (FPAs) at the wafer scale.  A similar trend is occurring on a smaller scale with thermal imaging technologies.  Microbolometers that are sensitive in the long wave infrared (LWIR) spectrum and are used as a detector in a thermal camera are also manufactured at the wafer scale, and the resulting cost reduction is enabling thermal imagers at consumer‐grade price points.  In contrast, FPAs that respond in the short‐wave and mid‐wave infrared (SWIR and MWIR) spectral bands are currently manufactured using complex and time‐consuming methods that typically involve several manual fabrication steps, including single‐die processes.  Further contributing to high cost is the requirement that MWIR FPAs operate at temperatures < 200 degrees K to achieve good signal‐to‐noise ratios, which requires the use of a cryogenic cooler.


Through its Wafer Scale Infrared Detectors (WIRED) program, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is asking industry to develop infrared sensors and cameras for low-cost, large-format, and high-performance imaging in the SWIR, MWIR and long-wave infrared (LWIR) spectral bands. They are doing so via a broad-agency announcement, designated DARPA-BAA-15-57.


Specifically of interest are infrared detector materials that can be monolithically processed on traditional readout integrated circuit (ROIC) substrates at the wafer scale. To minimize cost, size, weight and power (SWaP), MWIR FPA detectors must be able to operate at temperatures above 230 degrees K.


DARPA anticipates that through use of current state-of-the-art technology substantial reductions in pixel pitch should be achieved for the same imager format. The program also seeks a better understanding of the fundamental properties, limitations, and benefits of wafer‐scale detector technology.  Finally, WIRED seeks to develop innovative detector technologies in the LWIR spectral band that will enable FPAs to operate without cooling. 


Proposals should have as a goal demonstrating prototype SWIR, MWIR, and LWIR cameras that can be field tested. The DARPA WIRED program is estimated to be worth as much as $40 million, with several contract awards expected. Interested organizations should submit abstracts no later than Oct. 9, 2015, and full proposals no later than Nov. 23, 2015 to the DARPA BAA website.

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