News Feature | January 19, 2022

Bright Ideas — Army Stryker Vehicles With 50kW Lasers Coming This Fall, Nanoscale Semiconductors Could Help Develop Drugs Sooner

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By Abby Proch, Editor

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Rising to the challenge of strengthening directed energy (DE) warfare efforts, the U.S. Army has announced its first round of Stryker vehicles mounted with 50kW lasers will be delivered at the end of September. DefenseNews reported the “Guardian” vehicles, as known as the Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense system, will undergo further testing but have already deftly defeated a variety of UAS, rockets, artillery, and mortars. Raytheon bested Northrop Grumman in supplying the DE weapons, earning itself a $123 million contract.

Using ghost imaging, researchers with Bar Ilan University in Israel are speeding up X-ray fluorescence chemical mapping in hopes of improving chemical analysis across a range of applications, including medical imaging. EurekAlert! reports the approach does not a require a lens, reduces the scanning time needed to record measurements, and is adept at excluding human tissue, when necessary. Researchers say the approach will work for higher photon energies currently undetectable with current methods.

Determining whether life can exist on an exoplanet has often been considered relative to the presence of water and its proximity to its star. But researchers with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are coming at the question from a different angle — whether a particular exoplanet has a core that produces a magnetic field capable of protecting it (and its inhabitants?) from solar radiation. Popular Science reports that researchers have used large lasers to blast a sample of iron to simulate the pressures and temperatures of an exoplanet’s core. They found larger exoplanets likely have cores that stay hotter for longer. And if a molten core exists, life could exist as well. Next up for researchers: studying the flow of heat and electricity through a core, another factor in whether a magnetic field, or magnetosphere, can form.  

Scientists with the universities of Bath and Michigan say twisted nanoscale semiconductors and the way they generate blue light from red light may make drug analysis quicker and cheaper. Using the new photonic effect could enable medical researchers to use much smaller samples of expensive drugs – a big money saver – and measure molecule twists, or chirality, with greater precision despite the lower sample volume. According to an article by Phys.org, the separation of the two colors light reduces noise, false positives, and false negatives in testing of complex samples.

A European consortium called SPOTLIGHT is taking a novel approach to mitigating greenhouse gasses by combining a chemical process and photonic technology to convert carbon dioxide and green hydrogen into methane gas and components for methanol liquid fuel. According to Photonics 21, the consortium’s photonic device “will comprise a transparent flow reactor, optimized for light incoupling in the catalyst bed” and be powered by sunlight and LEDs. Creators hope the tech will offset the CO2 emissions of small and medium “point sources,” those that create less than 1 megaton of carbon dioxide a year.

Finally, awarded with another round of DARPA funding, one University of Central Florida nanoscientist and his team are working to develop a commercially available IR imaging system that’s more sensitive and less costly than existing technologies. Debashis Chanda and his team earned $1.5 million in DARPA Direct Phase-II funding to explore how graphene, when engineered with nano-scale features, can enhance light 30 times greater than a traditional graphene sheet.