The US and China are in a Quantum Arms Race that will Transform Future Warfare


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Radar that can spot stealth aircraft and other quantum innovations could give their militaries a strategic edge

In the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, American military planners began to worry about the threat to US warplanes posed by new, radar-guided missile defenses in the USSR and other nations. In response, engineers at places like US defense giant Lockheed Martin’s famous “Skunk Works” stepped up work on stealth technology that could shield aircraft from the prying eyes of enemy radar.

The innovations that resulted include unusual shapes that deflect radar waves—like the US B-2 bomber’s “flying wing” design (above)—as well as carbon-based materials and novel paints. Stealth technology isn’t yet a Harry Potter–like invisibility cloak: even today’s most advanced warplanes still reflect some radar waves. But these signals are so small and faint they get lost in background noise, allowing the aircraft to pass unnoticed.

China and Russia have since gotten stealth aircraft of their own, but America’s are still better. They have given the US the advantage in launching surprise attacks in campaigns like the war in Iraq that began in 2003.

This advantage is now under threat. In November 2018, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), China’s biggest defense electronics company, unveiled a prototype radar that it claims can detect stealth aircraft in flight. The radar uses some of the exotic phenomena of quantum physics to help reveal planes’ locations.

It’s just one of several quantum-inspired technologies that could change the face of warfare. As well as unstealthing aircraft, they could bolster the security of battlefield communications and affect the ability of submarines to navigate the oceans undetected. The pursuit of these technologies is triggering a new arms race between the US and China, which sees the emerging quantum era as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain the edge over its rival in military tech.

Stealth spotter

How quickly quantum advances will influence military power will depend on the work of researchers like Jonathan Baugh. A professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Baugh is working on a device that’s part of a bigger project to develop quantum radar. Its intended users: stations in the Arctic run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint US-Canadian organization.

Baugh’s machine generates pairs of photons that are “entangled”—a phenomenon that means the particles of light share a single quantum state. A change in one photon immediately influences the state of the other, even if they are separated by vast distances.

Quantum radar operates by taking one photon from every pair generated and firing it out in a microwave beam. The other photon from each pair is held back inside the radar system.

Equipment from a prototype quantum radar system made by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation IMAGINECHINA VIA AP IMAGES

Only a few of the photons sent out will be reflected back if they hit a stealth aircraft. A conventional radar wouldn’t be able to distinguish these returning photons from the mass of other incoming ones created by natural phenomena—or by radar-jamming devices. But a quantum radar can check for evidence that incoming photons are entangled with the ones held back. Any that are must have originated at the radar station. This enables it to detect even the faintest of return signals in a mass of background noise.

Baugh cautions that there are still big engineering challenges. These include developing highly reliable streams of entangled photons and building extremely sensitive detectors. It’s hard to know if CETC, which already claimed in 2016 that its radar could detect objects up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, has solved these challenges; it’s keeping the technical details of its prototype a secret.

Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor who developed the theory underpinning quantum radar, says that in the absence of hard evidence, he’s skeptical of the Chinese company’s claims. But, he adds, the potential of quantum radar isn’t in doubt. When a fully functioning device is finally deployed, it will mark the beginning of the end of the stealth era.

China’s ambitions

CETC’s work is part of a long-term effort by China to turn itself into a world leader in quantum technology. The country is providing generous funding for new quantum research centers at universities and building a national research center for quantum science that’s slated to open in 2020. It’s (China) already leaped ahead of the US in registering patents in quantum communications and cryptography.

A study of China’s quantum strategy published in September 2018 by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a US think tank, noted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is recruiting quantum specialists, and that big defense companies like China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) are setting up joint quantum labs at universities. Working out exactly which projects have a military element to them is hard, though. “There’s a degree of opacity and ambiguity here, and some of that may be deliberate,” says Elsa Kania, a coauthor of the CNAS study.

China’s efforts are ramping up just as fears are growing that the US military is losing its competitive edge. A commission tasked by Congress to review the Trump administration’s defense strategy issued a report in November 2018 warning that the US margin of superiority “is profoundly diminished in key areas” and called for more investment in new battlefield technologies.

One of those technologies is likely to be quantum communication networks. Chinese researchers have already built a satellite that can send quantum-encrypted messages between distant locations, as well as a terrestrial network that stretches between Beijing and Shanghai. Both projects were developed by scientific researchers, but the know-how and infrastructure could easily be adapted for military use.

The networks rely on an approach known as quantum key distribution (QKD). Messages are encoded in the form of classical bits, and the cryptographic keys needed to decode them are sent as quantum bits, or qubits. These qubits are typically photons that can travel easily across fiber-optic networks or through the atmosphere. If an enemy tries to intercept and read the qubits, this immediately destroys their delicate quantum state, wiping out the information they carry and leaving a telltale sign of an intrusion.

QKD technology isn’t totally secure yet. Long ground networks require way stations  similar to the repeaters that boost signals along an ordinary data cable. At these stations, the keys are decoded into classical form before being re-encoded in a quantum form and sent to the next station. While the keys are in classical form, an enemy could hack in and copy them undetected.

To overcome this issue, a team of researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, is working on an approach called quantum teleportation. This involves using entanglement to transfer data between a qubit held by a sender and another held by a receiver, using what amounts to a kind of virtual, one-time-only quantum data cable. (There’s a more detailed description here.)

Michael Brodsky, one of the researchers, says he and his colleagues have been working on a number of technical challenges, including finding ways to ensure that the qubits’ delicate quantum state isn’t disrupted during transmission through fiber-optic networks. The technology is still confined to a lab, but the team says it’s now robust enough to be tested outside. “The racks can be put on trucks, and the trucks can be moved to the field,” explains Brodsky. china teleport 2014-10-22_quantum

It may not be long before China is testing its own quantum teleportation system. Researchers are already building the fiber-optic network for one that will stretch from the city of Zhuhai, near Macau, to some islands in Hong Kong.

Quantum compass

Researchers are also exploring using quantum approaches to deliver more accurate and foolproof navigation tools to the military. US aircraft and naval vessels already rely on precise atomic clocks to help keep track of where they are. But they also count on signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS), a network of satellites orbiting Earth. This poses a risk because an enemy could falsify, or “spoof,” GPS signals—or jam them altogether.

Lockheed Martin thinks American sailors could use a quantum compass based on microscopic synthetic diamonds with atomic flaws known as nitrogen-vacancy centers, or NV centers. These quantum defects in the diamond lattice can be harnessed to form an extremely accurate magnetometer. Shining a laser on diamonds with NV centers makes them emit light at an intensity that varies according to the surrounding magnetic field.

Ned Allen, Lockheed’s chief scientist, says the magnetometer is great at detecting magnetic anomalies—distinctive variations in Earth’s magnetic field caused by magnetic deposits or rock formations. There are already detailed maps of these anomalies made by satellite and terrestrial surveys. By comparing anomalies detected using the magnetometer against these maps, navigators can determine where they are. Because the magnetometer also indicates the orientation of magnetic fields, ships and submarines can use them to work out which direction they are heading.

China’s military is clearly worried about threats to its own version of GPS, known as BeiDou. Research into quantum navigation and sensing technology is under way at various institutes across the country, according to the CNAS report.

As well as being used for navigation, magnetometers can also detect and track the movement of large metallic objects, like submarines, by fluctuations they cause in local magnetic fields. Because they are very sensitive, the magnetometers are easily disrupted by background noise, so for now they are used for detection only at very short distances. But last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences let slip that some Chinese researchers had found a way to compensate for this using quantum technology. That might mean the devices could be used in the future to spot submarines at much longer ranges.

A tight race

It’s still early days for militaries’ use of quantum technologies. There’s no guarantee they will work well at scale, or in conflict situations where absolute reliability is essential. But if they do succeed, quantum encryption and quantum radar could make a particularly big impact. Code-breaking and radar helped change the course of World War II. Quantum communications could make stealing secret messages much harder, or impossible. Quantum radar would render stealth planes as visible as ordinary ones. Both things would be game-changing.

It’s also too early to tell whether it will be China or the US that comes out on top in the quantum arms race—or whether it will lead to a Cold War–style stalemate. But the money China is pouring into quantum research is a sign of how determined it is to take the lead.

China has also managed to cultivate close working relationships between government research institutes, universities, and companies like CSIC and CETC. The US, by comparison, has only just passed legislation to create a national plan for coordinating public and private efforts. The delay in adopting such an approach has led to a lot of siloed projects and could slow the development of useful military applications. “We’re trying to get the research community to take more of a systems approach,” says Brodsky, the US army quantum expert.

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U.S. Leads World in Quantum Computing Patent Filings with IBM Leading the Charge

Still, the US military does have some distinct advantages over the PLA. The Department of Defense has been investing in quantum research for a very long time, as have US spy agencies. The knowledge generated helps explains why US companies lead in areas like the development of powerful quantum computers, which harness entangled qubits to generate immense amounts of processing power.

The American military can also tap into work being done by its allies and by a vibrant academic research community at home. Baugh’s radar research, for instance, is funded by the Canadian government, and the US is planning a joint research initiative with its closest military partners—Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand—in areas like quantum navigation.

All this has given the US has a head start in the quantum arms race. But China’s impressive effort to turbocharge quantum research means the gap between them is closing fast.

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How Lockheed Martin’s and Elcora Advanced Materials (Graphene) Partnership may Revolutionize Military “driverless vehicles” and Lithium-Ion Batteries


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Maintaining a global supply chain is one of the most secretive and understated keys to the success of a military campaign. As described by the U.S. Army, the quick and efficient transport of goods like water, food, fuel, and ammunition has been essential in winning wars for thousands of years. Supply chain and logistics management has evolved to include, “storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption”. In essence, that means the movement of vehicles bringing precious cargo from the home base to the soldiers fighting on the front lines.

Security and strategic operations are critical elements in the fulfillment of this potentially hazardous supply chain. Enemy forces hiding in the bushes can open fire to try to slow down the troops’ movement. With mines littered all over the war zone, all it would take is one wrong step, and the truck and the people in them, would be blown to smithereens.

One ingenious solution is the deployment of an automated military convoy run by a military commander, which can reduce risks and their accompanying vulnerabilities. In line with this, advanced defense contractor Lockheed Martin Canada (NYSE:LMT) has successfully tested “driverless trucks” on two active U.S. military bases.

Call it the soldier’s equivalent of a smart fleet of cars that would take the currently popular concept of self-driving vehicles to a whole new, safer level. Human operators would still be needed to guide the vehicles towards their destinations. However, because this could be accomplished remotely, very little time would be lost to the exchange of hostilities, as these smart military vehicles would be impervious to the enemy’s usual attempts at distraction. And in case firepower does break out, the loss of life, as well as injury to the troops, would be minimal.

The memorandum of agreement signed between Elcora and Lockheed Martin, is not the usual corporate alliance but bears important long-term repercussions for sectors such as transport, security, and the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin is a leviathan in the aerospace, defense, weaponry, and other technologies that have been instrumental in keeping many of the nations of the world safe. elcora-advanced-materials 3

The Lithium-ion (or Li-ion) batteries that it uses to store energy in many of its technologies and processes are critical to upholding the operations being conducted in many of its devices, plants, and facilities. The more energy that these batteries can store, the longer the systems and machines can function, without interruption, and in compliance with the highest standards of safety.

This is where Elcora comes in. The future of military supply chain and logistics management is accelerating thanks to Lockheed’s recently signed partnership with end-to-end graphene producer Elcora Advanced Materials (TXSV:ERAOTC:ECORF).

Elcora graphene-uses 1One element that can ensure the consistent and reliable powering up for the Li-ion batteries is graphene, an element derived from graphite minerals. Elcora is one of the few companies that produce and distribute graphene in one dynamic end-to-end operation, from the time that the first rocks are mined in Sri Lanka, to the time that they are refined, developed, and purified in the company’s facilities in Canada. The quality of the graphene that comes out of Elcora’s pipeline is higher than those usually found in the market. This pristine quality can help the Li-ion batteries increase their storage of power without adding further cost.

Li-ion batteries are already being sought after for prolonging the lifespan of power charged in a wide range of devices, from the ubiquitous smartphones, to the electric cars that innovators like Elon Musk are pushing to become more mainstream in our roads and highways. Lockheed Martin will also be using them in the military vehicles that will be guided by their Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), or the ‘driverless military convoy’, as described above. The tests have shown that these near-smart vehicles have already clocked in 55,000 miles. Lockheed is looking forward to completing the tests and fast-forwarding to deploying them for actual use in military campaigns.

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The importance of long-lasting Li-ion batteries in the kind of combat arena that Lockheed Martin is expert in cannot be overestimated. With electric storage given a lengthier lifespan by the graphene anode in the batteries, the military commanders guiding the smart convoys do not have to fear any anticipated technical breakdown. They can also count on the batteries to sustain the vehicles’ power and carry them through to the completion of their mission if something unexpected happens. The juice in those Li-ion batteries will last longer, which is critical in crises such as the sudden appearance of combatants.

Sometimes, the winner in war turns out to be the force that is the more resilient and sustaining power. As the ancient Chinese master of war Sun Tzu had warned eons ago, sometimes “the line between order and disorder”—or victory or defeat—“lies in logistics.” Through its graphene-constituted Li-ion batteries, The Lockheed Martin-Elcora alliance can certainly enhance any military force’s capacity in that area.

* Article from Technology.org

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Graphene/ Nanotube Hybrid Benefits Flexible Solar Cells


1-Graphene Nanotubes 141117154728-largeDate: November 17, 2014 Source: Rice University
Summary:
Scientists have created a graphene/nanotube cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells more practical.

Rice University scientists have invented a novel cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells practical.

The Rice lab of materials scientist Jun Lou created the new cathode, one of the two electrodes in batteries, from nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded to graphene and replaces the expensive and brittle platinum-based materials often used in earlier versions.

The discovery was reported online in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Dye-sensitized solar cells have been in development since 1988 and have been the subject of countless high school chemistry class experiments. They employ cheap organic dyes, drawn from the likes of raspberries, which cover conductive titanium dioxide particles. The dyes absorb photons and produce electrons that flow out of the cell for use; a return line completes the circuit to the cathode that combines with an iodine-based electrolyte to refresh the dye.

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The graphene/nanotube hybrid known as “James’ bond” for Rice University chemist James Tour is key to an efficient and flexible cathode for dye-sensitized solar cells. The nanotubes are grown with seamless bonds to the graphene base.
Credit: Tour Group/Rice University

 While they are not nearly as efficient as silicon-based solar cells in collecting sunlight and transforming it into electricity, dye-sensitized solar cells have advantages for many applications, according to co-lead author Pei Dong, a postdoctoral researcher in Lou’s lab.

“The first is that they’re low-cost, because they can be fabricated in a normal area,” Dong said. “There’s no need for a clean room. They’re semi-transparent, so they can be applied to glass, and they can be used in dim light; they will even work on a cloudy day.

“Or indoors,” Lou said. “One company commercializing dye-sensitized cells is embedding them in computer keyboards and mice so you never have to install batteries. Normal room light is sufficient to keep them alive.”

The breakthrough extends a stream of nanotechnology research at Rice that began with chemist Robert Hauge’s 2009 invention of a “flying carpet” technique to grow very long bundles of aligned carbon nanotubes. In his process, the nanotubes remained attached to the surface substrate but pushed the catalyst up as they grew.

The graphene/nanotube hybrid came along two years ago. Dubbed “James’ bond” in honor of its inventor, Rice chemist James Tour, the hybrid features a seamless transition from graphene to nanotube. The graphene base is grown via chemical vapor deposition and a catalyst is arranged in a pattern on top. When heated again, carbon atoms in an aerosol feedstock attach themselves to the graphene at the catalyst, which lifts off and allows the new nanotubes to grow. When the nanotubes stop growing, the remaining catalyst (the “carpet”) acts as a cap and keeps the nanotubes from tangling.

The hybrid material solves two issues that have held back commercial application of dye-sensitized solar cells, Lou said. First, the graphene and nanotubes are grown directly onto the nickel substrate that serves as an electrode, eliminating adhesion issues that plagued the transfer of platinum catalysts to common electrodes like transparent conducting oxide.

Second, the hybrid also has less contact resistance with the electrolyte, allowing electrons to flow more freely. The new cathode’s charge-transfer resistance, which determines how well electrons cross from the electrode to the electrolyte, was found to be 20 times smaller than for platinum-based cathodes, Lou said.

The key appears to be the hybrid’s huge surface area, estimated at more than 2,000 square meters per gram. With no interruption in the atomic bonds between nanotubes and graphene, the material’s entire area, inside and out, becomes one large surface. This gives the electrolyte plenty of opportunity to make contact and provides a highly conductive path for electrons.

Lou’s lab built and tested solar cells with nanotube forests of varying lengths. The shortest, which measured between 20-25 microns, were grown in 4 minutes. Other nanotube samples were grown for an hour and measured about 100-150 microns. When combined with an iodide salt-based electrolyte and an anode of flexible indium tin oxide, titanium dioxide and light-capturing organic dye particles, the largest cells were only 350 microns thick — the equivalent of about two sheets of paper — and could be flexed easily and repeatedly.

Tests found that solar cells made from the longest nanotubes produced the best results and topped out at nearly 18 milliamps of current per square centimeter, compared with nearly 14 milliamps for platinum-based control cells. The new dye-sensitized solar cells were as much as 20 percent better at converting sunlight into power, with an efficiency of up to 8.2 percent, compared with 6.8 for the platinum-based cells.

Based on recent work on flexible, graphene-based anode materials by the Lou and Tour labs and synthesized high-performance dyes by other researchers, Lou expects dye-sensitized cells to find many uses. “We’re demonstrating all these carbon nanostructures can be used in real applications,” he said.

Yu Zhu, a Rice alumnus and now an assistant professor at the University of Akron, Ohio, is co-lead author of the paper. Co-authors include postdoctoral researcher Jingjie Wu and graduate students Jing Zhang and Sidong Lei, all of Rice; and Feng Hao, a postdoctoral researcher, and Professor Hong Lin of Tsinghua University, China. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of computer science. Hauge is a distinguished faculty fellow in chemistry and in materials science and nanoengineering with the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Lou is an associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering.

The research was supported by the Welch Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI), the Department of Energy, the Lockheed Martin LANCER IV program, Sandia National Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research MURI.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. The original article was written by Mike Williams. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Partnership to Help Build a New Era of Electronics


Robert Wolkow

U of Alberta physicist Robert Wolkow’s nanotechnology research program got a boost thanks to a $2.7M collaboration with Lockheed Martin and the Alberta government to commercialize the world’s first atomic-scale computing technology.

U of Alberta’s world-leading nanotech research attracts support from an industry giant to usher in atomic-scale computing technology.

U of Alberta 140618-emerald-awards-ualberta-sign-teaser(Edmonton) Support for groundbreaking nanotechnology research led by University of Alberta physics professor Robert Wolkow is the first to be unveiled under an agreement signed earlier this year with the Government of Alberta. Wolkow’s advances in nanomaterials—now part of the U of A spinoff company Quantum Silicon Inc.—is one of three projects to benefit from ties with technology giant Lockheed Martin, made possible through a memorandum of understanding signed with the Alberta government in May 2014. 1-lockheed 1376916720944

This support for the advanced nanotechnologies that have come from Wolkow’s research in the Faculty of Science is the first to be announced Oct. 28 under the MOU. The research program, considered a front-runner in nano-electronics, is pioneering new pathways for atomic-scale technologies that go far beyond the roadmap for ultra-low-power computing devices. “Alberta’s innovation system is helping Alberta companies grow and diversify our economy on the leading edges of technology.

Our innovators and collaborative system attract companies like Lockheed Martin to work with us and move groundbreaking ideas into markets here and worldwide,” said Don Scott, minister of innovation and advanced education. Lorne Babiuk, vice-president (research) at the U of A, notes, “This announcement is an excellent example of what strong partnerships can accomplish. Industry, government and academia are collaborating to advance our province’s innovation agenda.

The work of Professor Wolkow and his team illustrates how basic research and discovery can lead to innovations that benefit society.” Bringing together an international company and a research leader like the U of A creates possibilities for developing new technology and giving students dual literacy in science and in industry, Wolkow says. “I’ve been working in this field for almost 30 years, and today marks the accomplishment of several of my biggest goals as a professor and scientist, including driving new technologies into application and bringing my students into industrial collaborations like this,” notes Wolkow, who is also the chief technology officer of QSi.

Where innovation meets the market In terms of meeting the market, Ken Gordon, CEO of QSi, points out that “taking new solutions to market is deeply complex and requires highly visionary industry leaders to step up, which is what Lockheed Martin has done. Lockheed will provide invaluable insights into the market that will be critical to our success.” Gordon explains, “In order to navigate the complex move from the lab to the market, we convened industry leaders from across North America where the science was exposed to an intense industry review. At the end of that session, the group concluded that the advances Wolkow has made stand to transform the semiconductor industry.”

“Lockheed Martin has been investing in nanomaterial and quantum computing technologies for years. This research on atomic-scale quantum processing with QSi, a Canadian company, has the potential to bring significant new capabilities to Lockheed Martin Canada’s customers, and those of Lockheed Martin globally,” added Charles Bouchard, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Canada.

The $2.7-million collaborative project was created to commercialize the world’s first atomic-scale computing technology. Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education and Lockheed Martin Canada have contributed to the project and secured matching funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada, Quantum Silicon Inc., the National Research Council, the National Institute for Nanotechnology and the U of A. Wolkow also holds a Tier 1 Nanoscale ICT Chair from Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.

The MOU supports technology commercialization projects in priority areas for Alberta, such as clean technology, advanced materials and nano-structures, advanced water and membrane solutions, environmental sensors and geospatial engineering applications. The agreement also facilitates collaboration between Lockheed Martin, the Alberta Innovates system, Campus Alberta institutions and local companies to pursue solution-oriented technology development and commercialization.

Lockheed Martin Claims Fusion Power in 10 Years. Should We Believe Them?


1-lockheed-fusion-1014-mdnIn a press release on Wednesday, defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced that its in-house fusion reactor program could produce a working prototype in as few as five years—and a practical, working system that could take the place of a conventional power plant on the grid within ten years.

It’s a bold claim by a single company—one that not even people behind the multinational, multibillion-dollar ITER fusion power research effort in France is making. If it holds true, it could overturn the energy industry with essentially limitless clean energy that could serve humanity for thousands of years, Columbia University physicist Mike Mauel tells PM.

Yes, we know, you’ve heard this one before. But the Lockheed Martin team says it can get to economically viable fusion power faster and more affordably than ITER by reducing the size of the system from something that takes up an entire building to something that could fit on a tractor trailer. The key is in the containment system needed to hold the 150-million-degree plasma that must be generated to start controlled fusion and harvest the energy created.

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ITER and most of the other most promising designs use a torus-shaped configuration of superconducting magnets called a tokamak to contain the super-hot high-pressure plasma. Although intense research has focused on these since they were invented in the 1950s in the Soviet Union, no one has yet managed to get a tokamak design to drive a practical fusion power plant. ITER, using the biggest, most powerful magnets in the world, seeks to address the challenges that a future commercial system would face.

“The basic science of how to make a fusion plasma is not quite done yet,” Mauel says. “We’re still learning.”

Lockheed’s approach would use a new configuration of magnets that would allow the entire system to be ten times smaller than a tokamak. That would greatly reduce the cost. This video from Lockheed Martin gives a little more detail on how it would work.

A Lockheed Martin spokesperson tells us the company has been spending its own money on the project, and is coming out about it now to attract development and funding partners. She wouldn’t say how much the company has spent so far.

Mauel, for one, is cautiously optimistic about Lockheed Martin’s fusion project.

“When we have struggled with the challenges with making fusion work, and then someone comes up and says, ‘Well, I’m going to have something going in five years,’ and they haven’t even built a prototype yet, maybe they’re premature in their announcement,” he says. “On the other hand, I think that discoveries can be made…. By looking broadly like Lockheed Martin is doing, and coming up with something that hasn’t been tried before, there’s a potential that you can make a discovery that may make it easier, and I haven’t ruled that out.”

Rebecca Schwartz: Nanotechnology for the troops


Rising Stars

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Much of Rebecca Schwartz’s cutting-edge nanotechnology research at Lockheed Martin is classified, but her work is generally geared toward developing technical solutions to reduce the physical burden of troops in combat. It is part of a larger vision she holds of increasing situational awareness for warfighters while making their equipment smaller, lighter and less power-hungry.

She manages the funding of her research and development projects and has provisional patents for solutions based on her ideas. In short order, Schwartz took her division’s first nanotechnology pursuit from concept to a potential real-world application. As she works to support the Defense Department, she is also helping grow nanotechnology as a business at Lockheed Martin.

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“Not only are we looking to advance technology solutions to reduce the burden for warfighters — one of the biggest problems for them today — but we’re looking at strategies…and interfacing with customers to get feedback and really understand what their challenges are,” Schwartz said. “I’m proud seeing a lot of innovations we’re coming up with that are truly things that will help our customers and keep them safe. We’re all about the soldiers, and we’re there to provide technology they need to do their missions.”

Schwartz has been at Lockheed Martin for two years, and the projects she leads often have turnaround times about that long, though some extend for five and even 10 years.

So although she can’t talk about it in detail now, American warfighters might well display and use some of her finest work in the near future.

Lockheed Martin Achieves Patent for Perforene™ Filtration Solution, Moves Closer to Affordable Water Desalination


id29945BALTIMORE, March 18, 2013 – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has been awarded a patent for Perforene™ material, a molecular filtration solution designed to meet the growing global demand for potable water.

The Perforene material works by removing sodium, chlorine and other ions from sea water and other sources.

“Access to clean drinking water is going to become more critical as the global population continues to grow, and we believe that this simple and affordable solution will be a game-changer for the industry,” said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. “The Perforene filtration solution is just one example of Lockheed Martin’s efforts to apply some of the advanced materials that we have developed for our core markets, including aircraft and spacecraft, to global environmental and economic challenges.”

The Perforene membrane was developed by placing holes that are one nanometer or less in a graphene membrane. These holes are small enough to trap the ions while dramatically improving the flow-through of water molecules, reducing clogging and pressure on the membrane.

At only one atom thick, graphene is both strong and durable, making it more effective at sea water desalination at a fraction of the cost of industry-standard reverse osmosis systems.

In addition to desalination, the Perforene membrane can be tailored to other applications, including capturing minerals, through the selection of the size of hole placed in the material to filter or capture a specific size particle of interest. Lockheed Martin has also been developing processes that will allow the material to be produced at scale.

The company is currently seeking commercialization partners.

The patent was awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.  The Corporation’s net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion.

Lockheed Martin moves beyond weapons to clean water with graphene


 

Lockheed Martin moves beyond weapons to clean water with graphene

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/GettyImages

Visitors look at the Lockheed Martin’s stand at the Eurosatory 2012 defence and security exhibition in Villepinte near Paris on June 11, 2012.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has discovered a way to make desalination 100 times more efficient. And that could have a big impact on bringing clean drinking water to the developing world.

The process is called reverse osmosis, and the material used is graphene — a lot like the stuff you smudge across paper with your pencil.

“This stuff is so thin and so strong, it’s a remarkable compound, it is one atom thick,” says Lockheed Martin senior engineer John Stetson. “If you have a piece of paper that represents the thickness of graphene, the closest similar membrane is about the height of a room.”

The new material essentially acts as a sieve, allowing water to pass though while salts remain behind. Graphene could make for smaller, cheaper plants that turn salt water into drinking water, but it could also have uses in war zones as a portable water desalinator.

Lockheed really is concerned with the broadest aspects of global security [and] maintaining safe environments and that includes water,” says Stetson.

 

Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center Develops Revolutionary Nanotechnology Copper Solder


PALO ALTO, Calif., October 24, 2012 – Scientists in the Advanced Materials and Nanosystems directorate at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto have developed a revolutionary nanotechnology copper-based electrical interconnect material, or solder, that can be processed around 200 °C. Once fully optimized, the CuantumFuse™ solder material is expected to produce joints with up to 10 times the electrical and thermal conductivity compared to tin-based materials currently in use. Applications in military and commercial systems are currently under consideration.

“We are enormously excited about our CuantumFuse™ breakthrough, and are very pleased with the progress we’re making to bring it to full maturity,” said Dr. Kenneth Washington, vice president of the ATC. “We pride ourselves on providing innovations like CuantumFuse™ for space and defense applications, but in this case we are excited about the enormous potential of CuantumFuse™ in defense and commercial manufacturing applications.”

In the past, nearly all solders contained lead, but there is now an urgent need for lead-free solder because of a worldwide effort to phase out hazardous materials in electronics. The European Union implemented lead-free solder in 2006. The State of California did so on January 1, 2007, followed soon thereafter by New Jersey and New York City.

The principal lead-free replacement – a combination of tin, silver and copper (Sn/Ag/Cu) – has proven acceptable to the consumer electronics industry that deals mostly with short product life cycles and relatively benign operating environments. However, multiple issues have arisen: high processing temperatures drive higher cost, the high tin content can lead to tin whiskers that can cause short circuits, and fractures are common in challenging environments, making it difficult to quantify reliability. These reliability concerns are particularly acute in systems for the military, aerospace, medical, oil and gas, and automotive industries. In such applications, long service life and robustness of components are critical, where vibration, shock, thermal cycling, humidity, and extreme temperature use can be common.

“To address these concerns, we realized a fundamentally new approach was needed to solve the lead-free solder challenge,” said Dr. Alfred Zinn, materials scientist at the ATC and inventor of CuantumFuse™ solder. “Rather than finding another multi-component alloy, our team devised a solution based on the well-known melting point depression of materials in nanoparticle form. Given this nanoscale phenomenon, we’ve produced a solder paste based on pure copper.”

A number of requirements were addressed in the development of the CuantumFuse™ solder paste including, but not limited to: 1) sufficiently small nanoparticle size, 2) a reasonable size distribution, 3) reaction scalability, 4) low cost synthesis, 5) oxidation and growth resistance at ambient conditions, and 6) robust particle fusion when subjected to elevated temperature. Copper was chosen because it is already used throughout the electronics industry as a trace, interconnect, and pad material, minimizing compatibility issues. It is cheap (1/4th the cost of tin; 1/100th the cost of silver, and 1/10,000th that of gold), abundant, and has 10 times the electrical and thermal conductivity compared to commercial tin-based solder.

The ATC has demonstrated CuantumFuse™ with the assembly of a small test camera board. “These accomplishments are extremely exciting and promising, but we still have to solve a number of technical challenges before CuantumFuse™ will be ready for routine use in military and commercial applications,” said Mike Beck, director of the Advanced Materials and Nanosystems group at the ATC. Solving these challenges, such as improving bond strength, is the focus on the group’s ongoing research and development.

The ATC is the research and development organization of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC) and is engaged in the research, development, and transition of technologies in phenomenology & sensors, optics & electro-optics, laser radar, RF & photonics, guidance & navigation, space science & instrumentation, advanced materials & nanosystems, thermal sciences & cryogenics, and modeling, simulation & information science.

LMSSC, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs and develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of advanced-technology systems for national security and military, civil government and commercial customers. Chief products include human space flight systems; a full range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and communications satellites and instruments; space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; ballistic missiles; missile defense systems; and nanotechnology research and development.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation’s net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.