DARPA is and has been spending about$70-80 million per year on nano, quantum and material technology. DARPA is looking at the development and assembly of advanced nanoscale and bio-molecular materials, devices, and electronics for DoD applications that greatly enhance soldier awareness, capability, security, and survivability, such as materials with increased strength-to-weight ratio and ultra-low size, devices with ultra-low energy dissipation and power, novel spectroscopic sources, and electronics with persistent intelligence and improved surveillance capabilities.
1. Nanoscale/Bio-inspired and MetaMaterials
The research in this thrust area exploits advances in nano/micro-scale and bio-inspired materials, including computationally based materials science, in order to develop unique microstructures, material properties, and functionalities. This area also includes efforts to develop the underlying science for the behavior of materials whose properties have been engineered at the nano/micro-scale level, including metamaterials, bio-inspired materials for sensing and actuation, and materials that are designed to mimic biological materials from molecular to macroscopic function. Specific examples of areas of interest include materials that can self-repair, adapt, and respond for soldier protection against chemical and biological threats and optical based metamaterial imaging systems capable of detecting objects in cluttered environments and around or through structural obscurants.
FY 2014 Accomplishments:
– Designed materials with decoupled property combinations (e.g., strength/density, stiffness/thermal expansion) using architecture-to-property trade space capability.
– Demonstrated fabrication methods amenable to scaling and that permit architectural control capable of maintaining decoupled properties.
– Demonstrated targeted enhancement to material properties (e.g., tailored coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE)/energy dissipation and load bearing stiffness).
– Established manufacturability and amenability to scale up and provided fabrication and characterization data package.
– Initiated development of synthetic methods for preparing large sequence controlled polymer libraries.
FY 2015 Plans:
– Develop a method for screening non-natural polymer libraries for designed properties such as binding to target molecules. – Develop a method for sequencing non-natural polymers at low concentrations.
– Explore and develop modeling tools for the physics of scattering in metamaterials and the application of using ultra-short laser pulses to see and detect objects through various obscurants.
FY 2016 Plans:
– Use non-natural polymer synthesis and screening system to create affinity reagents against DARPA defined targets.
– Develop strategy to adapt the non-natural polymer synthesis and screening system to generate catalysts.
– Investigate engineered optical metamaterials for manipulating optical fields in spatial, spectral and temporal domains to enable a single optical device to simultaneously perform multiple functions in different domains.
– Investigate linear refraction metamaterials for minimizing optical aberrations and improving performance of imaging and non- imaging optics over wide angles of light incidence, while minimizing optics size and weight.
2. Fundamentals of Nanoscale and Emergent Effects and Engineered Devices
The Fundamentals of Nanoscale and Emergent Effects and Engineered Devices program seeks to understand and exploit a broad range of physical properties and new physics that emerge as a result of material and/or device structure and organization at nano-scale dimensions and/or at extreme temperature and pressure. There are a wide variety of material properties that currently exist only at the nanoscale including quantized current-voltage behavior, very low melting points, high specific heats, large surface to volume ratio, high efficiency catalysis, enhanced radiative heat transfer, and correlated electron effects that arise in low dimensional systems. In addition, extreme high pressure conditions can lead to new material polymorphs or phases with dramatically enhanced physical, mechanical and functional properties. The focus of this thrust is to further characterize these emergent properties and to identify new synthesis approaches to enable access to these properties in stable, bulk material systems suitable for a wide range of DoD applications. The insights gained from research performed under this thrust will enable new, more efficient, and powerful material and device architectures that will benefit many DoD applications including controllable photonic devices that operate over multiple wavelengths, ultra-high sensitivity magnetic sensors, high- throughput biochemical sensors for known and unknown (engineered) molecules, advanced armor, ultra-precision air and water purification systems, and advanced armor protection.
FY 2014 Accomplishments:
– Validated computational tools against known high-pressure materials and developed multistep pathways to selected extended solids.
– Applied synthesis techniques to, and initiated synthesis of, intermediates projected to lead to selected extended solids.
– Initiated development of methods to stabilize extended solids at ambient temperatures and pressures.
FY 2015 Plans:
– Continue synthesis of suites of intermediates to lead to selected extended solids.
– Characterize the physical, structural, and chemical properties of intermediates synthesized.
– Further the development of methods to stabilize extended solids at ambient temperatures and pressures.
– Based on computational analysis and experimental results, initiate design retrosynthetic pathways that are synthetically achievable for multistep reaction schemes to fabricate extended solids at reduced pressures.
– Identify novel approaches for enabling 3 dimensional (3D) assemblies of nanoscale material constructs into micron-scale structures while preserving desirable nanoscale material properties.
– Select candidate nanoscale material systems with superior material properties that are amenable to 3D assembly processes. – Identify promising “pick and place” technologies for assembling 3D micron-scale constructs into cm-scale structures.
FY 2016 Plans:
– Continue development of methods to stabilize extended solids at ambient temperatures and pressures.
– Demonstrate synthesis and stability to ambient temperature and pressure of high density extended carbon based materials (e.g., clathrates, allotropes, and oxides) at the multimilligram scale.
– Demonstrate methods to synthesize bulk cubic boron nitride at reduced pressure with purities of >50%.
– Refine and implement development of retrosynthetic pathways that are synthetically achievable for multistep reaction schemes to fabricate extended solids at reduced pressures based on computational analysis and stabilization results.
– Demonstrate the ability to assemble micron-scale, 3D, multiple material structures from nanoscale material constructs while preserving desirable nanoscale material properties.
– Demonstrate pick and place assembly of cm-scale materials from micron-scale constructs while preserving desirable nanoscale material properties.
Basic Photon Science
The Basic Photon Science thrust is examining the fundamental science of photons, and their interactions in integrated devices, from their inherent information-carrying capability (both quantum mechanically and classically), to novel modulation techniques using not only amplitude and phase, but also orbital angular momentum. The new capabilities driven by this science will impact DoD through novel approaches to communications, signal processing, spectroscopic sensing, and imaging applications. For example, fully exploiting the computational imaging paradigm and associated emerging technologies will ultimately yield ultra-low size, weight, and power persistent/multi-functional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems that greatly enhance soldier awareness, capability, security, and survivability. One focus of this thrust is to explore approaches for optical frequency division and harmonic generation for applications such as time distribution from ultrastable optical clocks, ultra-low phase noise microwaves, frequency references, and table-top sources of coherent X-rays, isolated attosecond pulses, and intense neutron sources for medical and non-medical applications. In addition, this thrust will pursue novel, chip-scale optical frequency comb sources and associated technologies throughout the electromagnetic spectrum for spectroscopic sensing and demonstrate their performance with proof-of-concept studies in targeted applications. These sources will enable and spawn entirely new fields in simultaneous remote sensing, identification, and quantification of multiple trace materials in spectrally cluttered backgrounds.
FY 2014 Accomplishments:
– Demonstrated quantum mechanically secure communications at a secure key information rate greater than 50 Mb/s and 5 bits per received photon.
– Demonstrated a 30 gigahertz (GHz) oscillator using optical frequency division with a micro-frequency comb.
– Demonstrated continuous wave operation of a monolithic solid-state laser with milliwatt average output power for integration into a rack mountable ultra-low noise microwave source.
– Fabricated silicon nitride microresonators and bulk electro-optically generated frequency comb sources with multiple comb lines for pulse shaping applications including RF photonic filtering.
– Designed pump and seed lasers for optical parametric chirped pulse amplification for improved X-ray generation efficiency in the water window spectral region.
– Demonstrated pump lasers with pulse energies of 2 joules at 800 nanometers and 1 millijoule at 1.8 micron wavelengths for efficient extreme ultraviolet and soft X-ray attosecond pulse generation.
FY 2015 Plans:
– Demonstrate 30 (GHz) microwave output from a silica disk microresonator-based optical frequency comb and high power photodiodes for chip-based, ultra-low phase noise microwave generation.
– Demonstrate on-chip frequency comb and pulse shaping components utilizing indium phosphide based photonic integrated circuit technology and evaluate with bulk scale reference combs.
– Demonstrate high flux soft X-ray production in the biologically critical water window spectral region and use this source for preliminary X-ray imaging demonstrations on the nanometer scale in the water window.
– Demonstrate high efficiency-per-shot laser driven neutron production and construct increased repetition rate sample target inserter and laser amplifiers to improve overall neutron flux for radiography applications.
– Demonstrate and control ultra-high intensity, long wavelength lasers, which can be used to generate high average power, high energy isolated attosecond (the timescale of electron dynamics in atoms and molecules) optical pulses.
– Develop and control micro-resonator based frequency comb sources in the visible and mid-infrared spectral region.
– Demonstrate proof-of-concept studies of coherent control concepts for frequency comb based spectroscopic sensing.
FY 2016 Plans:
– Design a rack mounted package for mode-locked laser based optical frequency division microwave source.
– Demonstrate RF photonic bandpass filtering with micro-resonator optical frequency combs.
– Demonstrate a remotely operating quartz microwave oscillator slaved via optical frequency comb based free-space (wireless) time and frequency transfer.
– Demonstrate femtosecond time-resolved imaging at the nanometer scale with soft X-rays generated via high harmonic generation (tabletop scale X-ray source).
– Finalize laser design and optimize neutron generation source for laser-driven neutron generation.
– Demonstrate stability and characterization capabilities of EUV/Soft X-ray attosecond end-station by measuring and characterizing isolated attosecond (10^-18 seconds) pulses.
– Demonstrate proof-of-concept for micro-resonator based comb sources in the ultraviolet spectral region.
– Demonstrate proof-of-concept for micro-resonator based comb sources in the far-infrared and THz spectral regions.
– Demonstrate massively parallel spectroscopy for the detection of multiple trace species using micro-resonator based optical frequency combs in multiple spectral regions in a lab setting.
4. Enabling Quantum Technologies
This thrust emphasizes a quantum focus on technology capabilities including significantly improved single photon sources, detectors, and associated devices useful for quantum metrology, communications, and imaging applications. It will also exploit novel optical nonlinearities that can be used to combine quantum systems with classical coherent pulses to enable secure quantum communications over conventional fiber at rates compatible with commercial telecommunications. In addition, this thrust will examine other novel classes of materials and phenomena such as plasmons or Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) that have the potential to provide novel capabilities in the quantum regime, such as GPS-independent navigation via atom interferometry and communications, and ultrafast laser technologies.
FY 2014 Accomplishments:
– Demonstrated a single diamond nitrogen vacancy magnetometer with less than 10 nm resolution that is compatible with imaging biological systems.
– Validated the performance of a compact (less than 10 liters) portable optical clock with a timing accuracy 10 times better than satellite GPS clocks.
– Demonstrated prototypes for macroscopic quantum communications systems at secure long haul communications distances. – Derived optimal decoupling between secure bit rate and loss in long-haul quantum communications.
– Implemented macroscopic quantum communications testbed capable of simulating realistic conditions (loss, noise, and decoherence) through the modern fiber-optic telecommunications grid.
FY 2015 Plans:
– Develop compact optomechanical gyroscopes.
– Demonstrate 50 nm resolution for magnetic imaging of living cells.
– Sense functional changes of electronic spin labels in biomolecules (e.g., proteins, lipids) with high spatial and temporal resolution.
– Validate optimized performance of slow-beam-optical-clock.
– Integrate prototype macroscopic quantum communications system into quantum communications testbed.
– Quantify performance of prototype macroscopic quantum communications system under realistic conditions (loss, noise, decoherence) and over secure long haul communications distances.
– Develop an initial mathematical modeling framework for predicting the emergence of quantum behavior in complex systems.
FY 2016 Plans:
– Explore analytical techniques for characterizing the emergence of quantum effects in complex systems across scales of time and space.
– Design an open source, agent based hardware/software platform for evaluating algorithms for modeling quantum effects in complex systems across multiple scales.
Nature Nanotechnology – Nanoscale NMR spectroscopy and imaging of multiple nuclear species
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provide non-invasive information about multiple nuclear species in bulk matter, with wide ranging applications from basic physics and chemistry to biomedical imaging . However, the spatial resolution of conventional NMR and MRI is limited2 to several micrometres even at large magnetic fields (over 1 T), which is inadequate for many frontier scientific applications such as single-molecule NMR spectroscopy and in vivo MRI of individual biological cells. A promising approach for nanoscale NMR and MRI exploits optical measurements of nitrogen–vacancy (NV) colour centres in diamond, which provide a combination of magnetic field sensitivity and nanoscale spatial resolution unmatched by any existing echnology, while operating under ambient conditions in a robust, solid-state system. Recently, single, shallow NV centres were used to demonstrate NMR of nanoscale ensembles of proton spins, consisting of a statistical polarization equivalent to ∼100–1,000 spins in uniform samples covering the surface of a bulk diamond chip. Here, we realize nanoscale NMR spectroscopy and MRI of multiple nuclear species (1 H, 19F, 31P) in non-uniform (spatially structured) samples under ambient conditions and at moderate magnetic fields (∼20 mT) using two complementary sensor modalities.
SOURCES – DARPA, Nature Nanotechnology
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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