Army Conference Highlights Indian-American Contributions  
by: Francis C. Assisi

Boston, 09 December -- The just concluded 24th Army Research Conference ( Dec 2, 2004) is proof once again that Indian scientists are a key component of America’s defense effort – accounting for as much as 20% of the DoD effort, according to a recent survey.

Just consider what is euphemistically referred to as The runs, The trots, The quick step, and Montezuma´s revenge. Whatever it´s called, diarrhea can debilitate deployed soldiers. In fact, during Operations Desert Shield and Storm 57 percent of troops had at least one bout with diarrhea; 20 percent reported they were temporarily incapacitated by it.

Less-than-sanitary living conditions and foreign diets, teamed with few opportunities to wash after using the bathroom, let diarrhea-causing bacteria with names like Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei, Shigella dysenteriae and Escherichia coli flourish in the field, quickly disabling thousands and upending readiness.

To combat the ailment, researchers in the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research´s Department of Enteric Infections are developing new vaccines to help deployed warfighters fight bacteria that cause diarrhea.

So far, the institute has four vaccines in the works to combat diarrhea. Drs. Malabi Venkatesan and Antoinette Hartman from WRAIR developed an oral vaccine, called WRSS1, that is currently in clinical trials in conjunction with the University of Maryland Medical School and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

FOCUS NANOTECHNOLOGY

One of the areas the Indian American researchers are focusing on is Nanotechnology. They believe that it will provide the technological seeds for change in the way the military – specifically the U.S. Army – functions in terms of logistics, operations, strategy and tactics.

But, in order to fully exploit the benefits of nanotechnology, a rigorous understanding of its behavior in realistic engineering environments is needed. Here classical techniques won’t do.

That’s why Raju R. Namburu of the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD), U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is developing new computational and theoretical tools in nanomechanics. The emphasis is on methods that tie engineering to the basic sciences in fundamentally rigorous and consistent ways. “We highlight three methods with successful results for studying the mechanical deformation behavior of nanoscale and nanostructured graphitic materials. The focus is on developing equations that can be solved using traditional engineering methods yet accurately captures the complex atomistic physics they are meant to model“ says Namburu.

SENSORS

Wireless sensor network is an emerging information technology that promises great potential for both military and civilian applications. Such a network can be used to monitor environment, detect, classify, and locate objects and then track them over a specified region. For military applications these low-cost, integrated wireless sensor networks can be rapidly deployed by air over remote regions to monitor vehicles and personnel movements, and to relay the findings back to the command center on a real-time basis.

SensIT is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored research programs on sensor networks with the goal of developing system and application level software for potential military applications [1]. Under this program the University of Wisconsin, Madison research team is developing a collaborative signal processing (CSP) application for detecting, locating, and tracking ground vehicles traversing a sensor network. Parameswaran Ramanathan, Kewal K. Saluja and Yu Hen Hu of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a preliminary implementation of the above target tracking application at 29 Palms Marine Base in California.

FUTURE COMBAT SYSTEMS

The U. S. Army has embarked on a revolutionary path of change to ensure that the best Army in the world today remains fully prepared for the strategic challenges and operational demands of tomorrow. Army transformation plan is the watchword for this path, and the objective force is the description for the Army of the future. Transformation to the Objective Force is conceptually about a revolution in the way the Army fights. It requires a strong science and technology base. The watchwords are strategic deployability and operational mobility.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) - "System-of-Systems" that comprise the foundation of the Objective Force-have started developing such technologies. Over the next 6 years, the Army will demonstrate and validate FCS functions and exploit core technologies, including composite armor.

For example FCS ground vehicles must weigh less than 20 tons, and must be 50 percent smaller than 70 tons Abrams tank so each unit can fit on C-130 size intertheatre transport aircraft. To meet the requirement for a 33 to 50 percent reduction in logistic support, FCS ground vehicles will likely feature a common, light armored, wheeled chassis that can be configured to perform each of the primary functions. One of the FCS requirements, the ability to survive a first round hit through the use of composite armor satisfies the Army Transformation Plan. Typical materials used in the composite armored vehicles are S-glass toughened epoxy supported layer, ceramic armor tiles, rubber layers for multi-hit performance, and top and bottom protective layers. The total thickness of multi-functional armor will be around 50 mm.

At the U. S. Army Tank Automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, MI., Basavaraju B. Raju has developed a technique that is capable of penetrating through the different layers of thick section multi-functional armor to detect the presence of primary defects. This technique is based on a theoretical model that describes the propagation of guided waves in multilayered composite plates. It was validated experimentally using multifunctional composite armor plates with defects. The system includes a uniquely designed Multi-Sensor Probe (MSP) mounted on a high-resolution computer-controlled scanning bridge that allows inspection of the combat vehicle from outside.

SMART COATINGS

Ashok Kumar and L.D. Stephenson of the U.S. Army Engineer Research Development Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)in Champaign, IL have come up with smart coatings for the US Army.

Conventional coatings used for Army equipment and facilities are "dumb" in the sense that they have no capability to quickly respond to changes in the service environment, i.e., to autonomously compensate for environmental stresses. Also, they have no ability to indicate to the user any degradation in coating integrity or to signal any emerging problems, such as coating damaged by impact, abrasions, or corrosion of the substrate.

“Smart coating” system prototypes have been developed by ERDC/CERL that incorporate microcapsules, mixed into paint in the form of dry powder at the time of application. These microcapsules imbue the coating with specific characteristics, such that they are self-healing, corrosion resistant, contain passive sensors (such as an indicator dye), and have the ability to alert personnel to potential coating deficiencies. Moreover, these coatings are able to modify their physical characteristics on command, for example, by the formation of a calcium carbonate “healing” film via chemical reaction with carbon dioxide in the air when the coating is damaged.

In the future, these concepts may be extended to develop smart coatings to signal the presence of a chemical or biological threat by incorporation of specific chemicals in the microcapsules that can react with the chemical or biological agent and provide a visible indication (such as a color change), or release neutralizing chemicals when these chemical/biological agents are detected. Smart coatings, have the potential for use in future combat systems to mitigate atmospheric as well as other forms of corrosion and ensure long-term service life for vehicles and armored personnel carriers, and artillery, etc. Other possibilities include smart coatings that would provide the proper camouflage in varying optical settings, or provide radar invisibility by using microcapsules that have radar-absorbing capabilities.

MOLECULAR ELECTRONIC DEVICES

Objective Force Warrior (OFW) and Future Combat System (FCS) concepts require revolutionary technological capabilities in terms of gathering (sensing), processing, and communicating information between the soldier and a wide area network. Additionally, OFW and FCS require substantial reduction in the weight of the soldier’s uniform and other systems that are expected to be be integrated into the sensing-processing-communicating units. The current and the near-future Si-technologies cannot fulfill the OFW and FCS requirements in terms of performance and weight.

The OFW and FCS concepts require orders of magnitude enhancements in device power, density and performance, and ultra-low weight of the systems. These requirements can be met using molecular-scale electronics due to their nanometer-scale dimension and desirable chemical and physical properties.

Shashi P. Karna, US Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, and Ranjit Pati, Department of Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY have devised a Simple Mechanism for Current Switching in Molecular Devices for Applications in Future Combat System. They are proposing electron devices consisting of sub-nanometer to nanometer sized organic molecules as active elements that will play a significant role in the next technological revolution.

BIOLOGICAL THREATS

The U.S. Army has a Master Plan in place for chemical and biological decontamination. Decontamination is defined as the process of removing or neutralizing a surface hazard resulting from a CB agent attack. Its purpose is to quickly restore battlefield opera-tional tempo and logistics after a CB attack has occurred.

That’s why Vipin K. Rastogi and colleagues at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD., are developing a dual-use enzyme-based decontaminant system (Advanced Catalytic Enzyme System – ACES). The ACES formulation will contain enzymes for nerve agents and related pesticides, sulfur mustard, bacteria and anthrax spores. Catalytic enzymes are highly efficient, detoxifying many times their own weight of agent in seconds or minutes. In addition, ACES will be non-corrosive, non-flammable and environmentally safe. They say that ACES has the potential to fulfill a dual role as both de-contaminant and fire extinguisher through the incorporation of environmentally benign fire-fighting materials.

ACES is intended to eventually replace Decontaminating Solution 2 (DS2), supertropical bleach (STB) and other current decontaminants as either an improvement to the Joint Service Family of Decon Systems (JSFDS) or as part of the Joint Service Superior Decon Solution (JSSDS) Program that was scheduled for production in FY07-08.

Botulinum toxin, is one of the most serious biological threats faced by the U. S. military. The challenges presented by the complexity of action demand exploring new approaches in an effort to develop strategies for effective prophylaxis and therapy of botulin poisoning. Prabhati Ray and colleagues at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Silver Spring, MD are developing pharmacological agents to combat this threat.

The U.S army faces the distinct possibility of deployment to dengue endemic areas. Hence dengue has the potential to negatively impact deployment, versatility and survival of American soldiers. A sensitive, early, rapidly deployable system to detect dengue virus can go a long way in increasing the efficient deployment, operational readiness and versatility of soldiers. Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research say that the immune system is the best available sensor that nature could have created since these cells respond quickly and specifically. Their hypothesis is that gene responses mounted by the immune system against pathogens are highly pathogen specific.

Preveen Ramamoorthy, Rina Das, Niranjan Kanesathasan, Robert Putnak, and Marti Jett of the Department of Molecular Pathology, WRAIR, Silver Spring, MD., have generated dengue virus specific diagnostic gene signatures by comparing it to a host of other viruses, bacteria and toxins. They say that host immune gene expression profiling is a revolutionary approach that has tremendous practical implications in the battlefield for the diagnosis of infections, biowarfare agent detection and can be used to detect impending illnesses among soldiers.

SIMULATING MUNITIONS

As part of a DOD High Performance Computing (HPC) grand challenge project, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has recently focused on the development and application of state-of-the art numerical algorithms for large-scale simulations to determine the aerodynamics of grenade launched infantry projectile.

The objective is to exploit computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques on HPC platforms for design and analysis of Micro Adaptive Flow Control (MAFC) systems for steering spinning projectiles for infantry operations. The ultimate objective is to determine if the synthetic jets can provide the desired control authority for course correction for munitions. This technology has great potential to reduce the actual testing and development costs by providing the aerodynamics and flight dynamics of all current and future low to medium caliber Army weapon systems and a new generation of lethal infantry weapons for the individual soldiers such as M203 and SCORPION (Self-Correcting Projectile for Infantry Operation.

A computational study has been undertaken by Jubaraj Sahu, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to consider the aerodynamic effect of tiny jets as a means to provide the control needed to maneuver a projectile at low subsonic speeds. These numerical results are being assessed to determine if tiny jets can be used to provide the control authority needed for maneuvering munitions.

ENERGETIC MATERIALS

Finally, energetic materials are of significant interest for practical reasons in the ordnance industries where such materials can be subjected to high, fluctuating, or sustained acceleration. The nature of the fracture process of such materials under high acceleration is of particular interest, especially in ordnance and propulsion applications.

For example, explosives in projectiles are subjected to setback forces as high as 50,000 g during the gun launch process. These high setback forces can cause fracture and premature ignition of explosives. Fundamental understanding of the behavior of energetic materials subjected to high acceleration is a key to better practical ordnance designs that solve the problems of abnormal propellant burning and premature ignition of explosives during gun launch. J. SHARMA, Physicist, with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, West Bethesda, MD is investigating the future development of energetic materials that are less sensitive to mechanical shock. He is also using Atomic Force Microscopy to study these Energetic Materials.

francisassisi@hotmail.com


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