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Here’s how ‘invisible armor’ could defeat bullets and blades

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The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Ever wonder if there was such a thing as transparent armor? It sounds like something straight out of a comic book, but it’s something the Navy has actually created.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists have created a remarkable transparent armor that is lightweight and still provides excellent protection.

Nearly as transparent as glass, the armor is essentially invisible protection from bullets. And if the armor surface is damaged, warfighters could fix it on the fly with something as simple as a hot plate and the armor will meld itself back together.

Think about how “bulletproof glass” (a misnomer since it is often only bullet resistant) works – you can see through it and it stops bullets.

Now what if you could do that for body armor and helmets? That’s the idea here.

This next-generation armor advance could also amp up transparent bulletproof walls to protect tourist attractions from the attacks we’ve seen in Paris and most recently, in London.

What’s the armor made of?

The transparent polymer armor gets its transparency from something known as tiny crystalline domains. The armor itself is made up of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer combined with a harder material substrate.

NRL scientists conducted tests using polymeric materials as a coating to try to enhance impact resistance.

By applying layers of the special materials to body armor and helmets, the result was better protection for warriors against bullets.

The armor also helped reduce the impact of blast waves caused by something like an IED explosion, which could potentially help prevent brain trauma.

When a bullet hits the armor

If you picture a windshield that has been struck by a rock kicked up while driving, the rock’s impact may cause damage that makes it difficult to see through the windshield.

One of the amazing things about this see-through armor is that when it’s struck by a projectile, such as a bullet, it still retains its lucid nature. There’s virtually no impact on visibility and the damage is limited only to the spot where the bullet connected with the armor.

Repair vs. replace 

The possibility exists that this futuristic body armor could be ironed back into shape after it sustained some hits, because of the material used to create it.

The material needs to be heated to around 100 degrees Celsius, which then causes it to become hot enough to melt the tiny crystallites. By heating the material, any impact from the bullet can be melded back together and returned to its normal state. Scientists believe that this sort of repair will not impact how the armor performs.

Easy, fast repairs can be a great advantage for warfighters operating in remote locations and it can save money by repairing rather than replacing.

Implications for protecting against global terror attacks

In a scenario like the recent London attack, lightweight body armor approaches like the aforementioned can be very useful to protect armed officers from bladed weapons, bullets and other threats while the reduced weight can improve their speed, agility and flexibility of response.

Like the Capitol building in the US, armed officers protect the building and those working in and visiting the building. Based on the information provided publicly thus far, the terrorist wielded a bladed weapon and attacked British officers. One officer was tragically killed.

Guns and explosive devices are not the only methods of attack used by Islamic extremist terrorists. In Europe, terrorist plots and attacks have increasingly involved bladed weapons on foot as well the weaponization of vehicles.

Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State group have been actively promoting these sorts of attack methods.

Just last month in Paris, a terrorist tried to launch an attack with machetes at the popular tourist site of the Louvre museum. A French soldier stopped him before there were any casualties.

In 2013, two terrorists drove at British Army soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was walking a street in England. The terrorists then exited the vehicle, attacked him with blades and murdered him by hacking him to death.

Invisible Walls?

Ultimately, advances like NRLs in transparent armor could play a vital role in amping up “invisible” walls could be used to stop both people and vehicles from storming sites and areas. By enhancing protection, it could help prevent attacks and casualties.

Paris recently announced they are building an eight-foot bulletproof glass wall around the Eiffel Tower. Why? Tourist sites are attractive targets for terrorists. The goal is to stop not just bullets but prevent vehicles loaded with bombs from gaining access.

Transparent armor-ed up walls mean tourists can still enjoy an uninterrupted view while benefiting from enhanced protection.

Advanced armor like this can also become a deterrent to future attacks.

 

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

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Futuristic warship design takes shape

What will warships look like in three decades? Meet the next-generation HMS Dreadnought.

The British Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy challenged young scientists and engineers to design a future warship and the results may surprise you. Defense procurement specialist Startpoint has released stunning images of what the futuristic ship could look like.

This cutting-edge ship concept has been dubbed Dreadnought 2050 in honor of the 1906 HMS Dreadnought, a Royal Naval battleship that eclipsed all other warships at the time.

Dreadnought 2050, made of futuristic material, features state of the art weapons, command center and more. The ship’s structure is made of ultra-strong acrylic composites that can be turned translucent so that crew can see through it.

This means that from the Ops Room, commanders could see through the hull and watch close-in battles play out.

Weapons

The new Dreadnought would be equipped with a range of state-of-the art weapons like high-velocity torpedoes, speed-of-light weapons and drones constructed on the ship using 3D printers.

The graphene coated acrylic hull would be super strong.

At the bow, Dreadnought 2050 has an electromagnetic railgun that can fire projectiles as far as long-range cruise missiles can go today.

Along the sides of the ship there are missile tubes. These tubes can launch missiles faster than Mach 5 – a hypersonic speed. The futuristic vessel is also equipped with directed energy weapons to thwart incoming threats.

Related: CTruk taps THOR for new military workboats

In the outrigger hulls, there are torpedo tubes that fire supercavitating torpedoes that travel at more than 300 knots.  Supercavitating torpedoes can travel at such whopping speeds because they move through water in a sort of air bubble that reduces drag and friction.

Instead of a standard mast, Dreadnought 2050 has a tethered quadcopter that flies above the ship.

The quadcopter is equipped with multi-spectral sensors that provide critical data. But it is also armed with a laser to take out threats like enemy aircraft, missiles and more.

To provide the significant power these capabilities require, the quadcopter’s tether is made of carbon nanotubes that are cryogenically cooled.

Assault

A floodable dock, or “moon pool,” is incorporated into the design so that amphibious teams like SEALs or Royal Marines can rapidly deploy. The moon pool could also be used to deploy unmanned underwater vehicles on missions such as searching for explosive devices.

Above the dock there is an extendable flight deck and hangar that can be used for a fleet of weaponized drones.

A similarly-sized warship operating today would require about 200 crew, but the innovative warship would require less than half as many personnel. A current Ops Room, for example, could require 25 sailors to run it. Dreadnought 2050’s Ops Room could be run by as few as five Sailors.

Command Table

Dreadnought 2050 features an Ops Room with a 3-D holographic command table. The holographic image can be rotated and commanders can zoom in on specific parts of the battlefield.

From the Ops Room, five or six people can control all operations from the deepest parts of the ocean through to outer space. From underwater and sea surface through to land and air, all areas of operation can be displayed and reviewed. Crew can use smaller holographic pods to manage specific areas of operation.

Real time data can be transmitted including secure voice, video or data to wherever it is needed.

Power

The Dreadnought 2050 warship is powered by a fusion reactor or highly efficient turbines. The turbines drive silent electric motors to water jets.

The graphene coating on the hull helps reduce drag and enhance speed. And the Dreadnought will have a low profile to ensure it is stealthy and hard to detect.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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World’s first pocket spectrometer lets you measure the molecular makeup of nearly anything

 

SCiO is a new gadget that instantly measures the molecular fingerprint of just about anything you see, and it fits in your pocket. Want to know the alcohol content of that beer you’re about to slurp down or how many grams of sugar are in your apple? This mini spectrometer will tell you. Equipped with some of the capabilities of large, heavy laboratory spectrometers, but built around the kind of optics used in cell phone cameras, the SCiO measures the light reflected off any given object, breaks down its spectrum, and then sends that information to the cloud. Consumer Physics‘ unique algorithms immediately interpret the resulting data and the results show up on your cell phone within 5 seconds on a 3G connection. Designed to empower you with knowledge of your environment, medicine, food, and a near-infinite number of things, the SCiO will also allow you to participate in building the world’s first database of matter.

spectrometer, mini spectrometer, pocket-sized spectrometer, world's first pocket sized molecular sensor, world's first pocket sized spectrometer, world's first database of matter, science, disruptive technology, design for health, algorithms, the cloud, green design, clean tech, sustainable design,  chemical sensor

“SCiO is based on the proven near-IR spectroscopy method,” writes Consumer Physics. “The physical basis for this material analysis method is that each type of molecule vibrates in its own unique way, and these vibrations interact with light to create a unique optical signature.”

“With every scan, SCiO learns more about the world around us, so we can all get smarter,” the Israel-based developers continue. “Our development team has taught SCiO some exciting things, like to tell how much fat is in any salad dressing, how much sugar is in a particular piece of fruit, how pure an oil is and lots more.”

In addition to non-invasively harvesting, computing and storing the data about every bit of matter recorded to contribute to the first database of its kind, the SCiO would allow consumers to be more informed about the energetic quantity and quality of everything they consume. This will make it difficult, for example, for big agricultural companies to pass off unhealthy lettuce at the grocery story. By illuminating that lettuce and breaking down its spectrum, the SCiO is able to extract a great deal of information. In other words, light, combined with cutting-edge technology, may expose everything from nefarious ingredients woven into our food, environment and medicine to the calorie content of our favorite chocolate, which we might not want to know.

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Computer Physics is careful to note, however, the device can’t detect the presence or absence of everything.

“SCiO is NOT a medical device and should NOT be relied on to protect you from allergens under any circumstances,” the company explains. “Since SCiO is designed to measure small portions of a sample or food at a time, it cannot guarantee the absence of specific molecules on your plate, or in a serving. SCiO can tell you major components of foods (i.e. with typical concentration of 1% or more), while some allergens can be hazardous even in lower concentrations.”

The product’s genius is (partially) in its built-in perpetuity. As more consumers use it, so does its efficacy grow. The more information stored in the company’s database, the more information it has to share. Compatible with several models of iPhones and Androids and retailing for $249, the SCiO also comes with a developer kit. Which means even a dunce like me can learn how to build a a new molecular sensor model, and that’s nothing short of unreal.

+ SCiO

Images via Consumer Physics

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World’s thinnest light bulb created from graphene

graphene-light-bulb

When a current was run through strips of graphene that were placed across a trench of silicon, the result was light emission. (Young Duck Kim/Columbia Engineering)

Graphene, a form of carbon famous for being stronger than steel and more conductive than copper, can add another wonder to the list: making light.

Researchers have developed a light-emitting graphene transistor that works in the same way as the filament in a light bulb.

“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,” study co-author James Hone, a mechanical engineer at Columbia University in New York, said in a statement.

Scientists have long wanted to create a teensy “light bulb” to place on a chip, enabling what is called photonic circuits, which run on light rather than electric current. The problem has been one of size and temperature — incandescent filaments must get extremely hot before they can produce visible light. This new graphene device, however, is so efficient and tiny, the resulting technology could offer new ways to make displays or study high-temperature phenomena at small scales, the researchers said.

Making light

When electric current is passed through an incandescent light bulb’s filament — usually made of tungsten — the filament heats up and glows. Electrons moving through the material knock against electrons in the filament’s atoms, giving them energy. Those electrons return to their former energy levels and emit photons (light) in the process. Crank up the current and voltage enough and the filament in the light bulb hits temperatures of about 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit for an incandescent. This is one reason light bulbs either have no air in them or are filled with an inert gas like argon: At those temperatures tungsten would react with the oxygen in air and simply burn.

In the new study, the scientists used strips of graphene a few microns across and from 6.5 to 14 microns in length, each spanning a trench of silicon like a bridge. (A micron is one-millionth of a meter, where a hair is about 90 microns thick.) An electrode was attached to the ends of each graphene strip. Just like tungsten, run a current through graphene and the material will light up. But there is an added twist, as graphene conducts heat less efficiently as temperature increases, which means the heat stays in a spot in the center, rather than being relatively evenly distributed as in a tungsten filament.

Myung-Ho Bae, one of the study’s authors, told Live Science trapping the heat in one region makes the lighting more efficient. “The temperature of hot electrons at the center of the graphene is about 3,000 K [4,940 F], while the graphene lattice temperature is still about 2,000 K [3,140 F],” he said. “It results in a hotspot at the center and the light emission region is focused at the center of the graphene, which also makes for better efficiency.” It’s also the reason the electrodes at either end of the graphene don’t melt.

As for why this is the first time light has been made from graphene, study co-leader Yun Daniel Park, a professor of physics at Seoul National University, noted that graphene is usually embedded in or in contact with a substrate.

“Physically suspending graphene essentially eliminates pathways in which heat can escape,” Park said. “If the graphene is on a substrate, much of the heat will be dissipated to the substrate. Before us, other groups had only reported inefficient radiation emission in the infrared from graphene.”

The light emitted from the graphene also reflected off the silicon that each piece was suspended in front of. The reflected light interferes with the emitted light, producing a pattern of emission with peaks at different wavelengths. That opened up another possibility: tuning the light by varying the distance to the silicon.

The principle of the graphene is simple, Park said, but it took a long time to discover.

“It took us nearly five years to figure out the exact mechanism but everything (all the physics) fit. And, the project has turned out to be some kind of a Columbus’ Egg,” he said, referring to a legend in which Christopher Columbus challenged a group of men to make an egg stand on its end; they all failed and Columbus solved the problem by just cracking the shell at one end so that it had a flat bottom.

The research is detailed in the June 15 issue of Nature Nantechnology.

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Ten photos of 3D printed bridges, buildings and other supersized structures

By , June 22, 2015, 6:20 AM PST // @nickjheath

If you thought 3D printers were only good for building tiny plastic toys then you’re mostly right, especially when it comes to desktop models.

However, there are people using the technology to realize grander designs, to create bridges and even buildings. Here are 10 projects promising to make 3D printing bigger and better.

bridge1

Bridges

A Dutch start-up, MX3D, plans to use robotic arms to weld layer upon layer of molten steel together into a steel bridge across a canal in Amsterdam. MX3D hopes to begin work on building the bridge, using the process seen in an artist’s impression above, in September.

Image: MX3D

3dbuilding

​Buildings

This five-storey building was built using a 150-meter long 3D printer, using “ink” made from recycled construction waste. When it was built earlier this year, the structure in Suzhou Industrial Park, Shanghai, China, was claimed to be the “world’s tallest 3D-printed building”.

Image: WinSun Decoration Design Engineering

moonbase

​Moonbases

This concept for a 3D-printed lunar base was devised by the European Space Agency with architects Foster+Partners. Their vision is for two robot 3D printers to mix lunar soil with other materials and layer it over an inflatable dome to form a protective shell over a moonbase, which could house four people.

Image: ESA

strati

Cars

The Strati is an electric car with a 3D printed body and chassis made of just 40 parts, compared to more than 20,000 in a typical vehicle. The vehicle is built from a single block of ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fiber and takes 44 hours to print. Manufacturer, Arizona-based Local Motors, says the car, due for release in 2016, will have a top speed of 50mph and range of about 62 miles.

Image: Local Motors

berkeley-bloom

Pavilions

This nine-feet high pavillion measures 12 by 12 feet across and is made up of 840 3D-printed bricks. The structure was made by researchers at UC Berkeley, who developed a new type of iron oxide-free Portland cement polymer formulation, which allowed for faster and lower cost construction than alternate materials for 3D-printing structures.

Image: UC Berkeley

room

Rooms

Even though it’s described as a house, this is at best a 3D-printed room, and a rather cosy one at that. The pod, created by students in the US and England, packs a toilet, kitchenette, and furniture into a compact structure. It took 60 hours for the voxeljet VX4000 printer to make and cost about €60,000.

Image: voxeljet

plane

Planes

This plane is full of 3D printed parts. This Airbus A350 XWB plane has more than 1,000 flight components made using high-end additive manufacturing 3D printers. The A350 XWB is Airbus’ extra wide body plane that seats about 315 passengers and has a range of 7,750 nautical miles. The parts were made out of ULTEM 9085 resin using an FDM 3D Production Systems machine.

Image: Airbus

rocket

Rockets

Satellite company Rocket Lab says its Rutherford rocket engine is the first of its type to use 3D printing for its primary components. All its parts – the regeneratively cooled thrust chamber, the injector, the pumps and the main propellant valves – can be printed from titanium alloys within about three days using a 3D printing technique called electron beam melting. Traditionally manufacturing the parts would take months, according to Rocket Lab.

Image: Rocket Lab

sculpture

Sizable sculptures

Resembling a Minecraft creation made real, this 3D-printed head by artist Miguel Chevalier depicts the Roman God Janus, who legend claimed could gaze into the past and the future at the same time. Printed in 40 hours as a single block using a voxeljet VX4000 printer, it weighs 120kg and measures 1000 x 1000 x 820 mm.

Image: voxeljet

minibuilder

Building bots

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia claim their Minibuilder robots can construct large structures of many different proportions. The bots use robotic arms, rollers and vacuum suction cups to build layer by layer, as seen above.

Image: Institute for Advanced Architecture

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

 

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Navy tests flying/undersea drone

FlyingWANDA.jpg

 (Naval Research Laboratory)

The U.S. Navy is working on a submarine-fighting drone that can operate both in the air and underwater.

The Flimmer (Flying Swimmer) is the brainchild of the Naval Research Laboratory. The drone, it says, can reach operational areas more quickly by flying over the surface of the water.

After successfully examining the performance of a “Test Sub” that combined a traditional submarine shape with a traditional aircraft shape, scientists  applied their findings to a flying version of the  NRL’s WANDA (Wrasse-inspired Agile Near-shore Deformable-fin Automaton ) drone.

According to the NRL’s Spectra magazine,  “Flying WANDA” has four fins and a wing, with the two aft fins mounted on the tips of the wing. Test flights confirmed Flying WANDA’s stability and control, and scientists have started testing the most effective “landing mode,” or splashdown, to protect the fin mechanisms.

“Experimentation with the Flying WANDA configuration continues,” wrote Dan Edwards of the NRL’s Electronic Warfare Division, who is leading the Flimmer project. “Future flights will explore the performance envelope using the fins as active control surfaces in the air and will continue the landing work.”

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Futuristic cargo vessel looks to revolutionize shipping

  • Vindskip2.jpg

     (Copyright Lade AS)

Norwegian ship designer Lade AS has unveiled a futuristic new design for cargo vessels, which uses the ships’ hulls as a sail.

Inspired by sailboats and aerospace, the ‘Vindskip,’ with its hull shaped like a symmetrical air foil, is designed to use the wind for propulsion.  Lade AS says that the ship’s hull will generate aerodynamic lift, giving a pull in the ship’s direction.

The hybrid merchant vessel will also use a Liquid Natural Gas electric propulsion system, which takes the ship to the necessary speed to generate aerodynamic lift on its hull. Additionally, the Vindskip will employ a specialized computer program to analyze meteorological data and calculate the best sailing route based on available wind energy.

Terje Lade, manager of Lade AS, told FoxNews.com that the Vindskip concept is being tested using wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics. Testing of a model in a water tank is scheduled to begin in April, he explained in an email. Lade AS plans to eventually license the Vindskip concept to shipping companies, ship consultants, and shipyards.

The Alesund-based company has already been awarded two patents for the hull’s ability to generate aerodynamic lift, which it describes as its Wind Power System.

Lade told FoxNews.com that the Vindskip development project will be finished by the fourth quarter of 2015, and estimates that engineering and construction will take approximately 2 to 3 years. “Our estimate is that it should be sailing in 2019,” he added.

The project has already attracted the attention of at least one shipping industry heavyweight. A spokesman for Wilhelmsen, one of Norway’s largest shipowners, told FoxNews.com that the company’s technical department has been involved in brainstorming related to the Vindskip, although there has been no formal involvement or investment in the project. “Some years back, our technical team developed our concept vessel (Orcelle) — and based on this we were invited into the Vindskip project,” he explained in an email.”Our vision is ‘shaping the maritime industry,’ and we value sharing some ‘futuristic’ thoughts and ideas on how shipping can develop some years ahead.”

LadeVindskip

Lade AS estimates that the Vindskip design could generate fuel savings of 60% and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% compared to a traditional ship. The designer says that the design is particularly well suited to a number of passenger and container vessels.

However, Chris Cheetham, founder of Soter Advisors, a fuel and energy risk management consultancy specializing in the shipping industry, said that a number of factors could impact potential savings. “What these designs will come down to is ‘how much does it really cost?'” he told FoxNews.com. “You have to relate that to the cost of building and charter rates for shipping.”

Cheetham cited the huge pullback in oil prices and the “inventory” of traditional ships that are already scheduled to be built as factors that companies will need to consider before licensing a revolutionary design such as the Vindskip.

Story updated from Jan. 19 with comments from Lade AS, Wilhelmsen, and Soter Advisors.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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