DARPA is expanding the technological frontier by harnessing quantum physics and new chemistry

DARPA today released Breakthrough Technologies for National Security DARPA described how they are expanding the technological frontier.

DARPA’s core work has involved overcoming seemingly insurmountable physics and engineering barriers and, once showing those daunting problems to be tractable after all, applying new capabilities made possible by these breakthroughs directly to national security needs. That tradition holds true today. Maintaining momentum in this core component of the agency, DARPA is working to achieve new capabilities relating to the following opportunities:

Applying Deep Mathematics

From cyber defense to big data analysis to predictive modeling of complex phenomena, many practical technological challenges are short of solutions because the relevant mathematics remain incomplete. Among other initiatives aimed to address such shortcomings, DARPA is constructing and applying new mathematical approaches for representing, designing, and testing complex systems and, separately, is developing new mathematical tools for modeling extremely complex systems quickly without sacrificing resolution.

• Inventing New Chemistries, Processes and Materials

Military systems are fundamentally limited by the materials from which they are made. Only rarely, however, do any of the many new materials developed in laboratories make the transition into operational systems. To facilitate the assessment and adoption of novel materials in practical settings, DARPA is pursuing new modeling and measurement tools for evaluating and predicting functional reliability and is developing low-cost fabrication methods to allow customized and small-volume production. DARPA is also creating the technologies needed to assemble systems directly from atomic-scale feedstock.

DARPA’s Intense and Compact Neutron Sources (ICONS) program seeks to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of X-ray and neutron radiography to enable highly detailed scanning in field settings. Neutron scanning provides the capability to see through many otherwise visually impenetrable objects; Asiatic lilies in a lead cask (left) are invisible to x-ray imaging but clearly visible in high resolution via neutron imaging (right).

Harnessing Quantum Physics

Recent advances in the precision engineering of light and matter systems, together with a deeper understanding of their collective quantum behaviors, offer unprecedented control over new classes of materials and devices. DARPA is advancing quantum technologies—including precision engineering of nanoscale and quantum opto-electro-mechanical structures and precision control of cold atoms through optical cooling techniques—to bring about new capabilities in navigation and timing, chem-bio detection, communication and information processing, and metrology, and unprecedented degrees of control over the electromagnetic spectrum, critical for electronic warfare and other applications.