Engineers at 3M, St. Paul, MN, recently announced they will be applying a
$27.4 million contract to demonstrate basic lithium polymer batteries (LPBs) at
the modular battery level. The battery design consists of cells made from a
flexible, multi-layered film laminate 100 microns (0.004 inches) thick. It has
five layers consisting of a current-collecting metal foil, cathode, electrolyte,
lithium foil anode, and insulator. The solid-state design is tough and can be
wound and formed into almost any shape, claims 3M. The firm estimates that a
lithium polymer battery pack for an average-sized car will require several miles
of film. During the next phase of development, several cells will be connected
in series to form a battery pack, which, when bundled together, will lead to an
electric-vehicle battery pack. The funding comes from the U.S. Advanced Battery
Consortium (USABC). The goal is to create a power source by the late 1990s that
would permit an electric vehicle to match the performance of a conventional,
gasoline-powered car. For more information, e-mail 3M's Warren Vollmar at email@example.com or FAX him at (612)
Consortium to build tunable lidar system
A consortium has agreed to design, build, and test a ruggedized, tunable, ultraviolet "lidar" system that will detect emissions from petroleum refineries and chemical plants. Engineers at Los Alamos Science, Inc., Los Alamos, NM, and Litton Industries' Amecom division, College Park, MD, will develop the light detection and ranging equipment with partial government funding. The titanium-sapphire system is remotely operable and is eye safe, say developers. Planned future applications for the lidar include aerial pipeline surveys for leak detection. Says Amecom Vice President and General Manager Michael Gering, "Department of Defense applications in nuclear, biological, and chemical defense will fill a current need." For details, FAX Litton at (818) 598-3340.
Software may yield better bullet-proof vests
Although police and military personnel have worn
protective nylon and Kevlar® vests for decades, new weapons technology means
that the vests must be continually improved. With the help of software created
by David Roylance, vest designs are keeping pace. Roylance is a materials and
science engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge. The FABRIC software program lets engineers identify the best designs
before expensive field tests begin. Engineers at research sponsor DuPont use the
program to predict the effects of an impact on various armor designs by
providing accurate models of the blunt deformation caused by a bullet or other
projectile. The software takes into account such things as the bullet's velocity
and how far it will penetrate the material. Roylance has periodically changed
FABRIC to meet the deadly challenge of new weapons such as Teflon®-coated
"cop-killer" bullets that slide between Kevlar fibers. For details, e-mail MIT's
Elizabeth Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Lithium-based system could delay cataracts
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have
developed a system that may allow eye doctors to see more clearly who will
develop cataracts--and take steps to delay the blinding process. Studies of
photoluminescence induced in the lens of the eye by visible light have helped
physicist John Schroeder and psychologist Gillray Kandel measure cataract
precursors in the lens. Earlier, Schroeder had identified substances that help
repair submicroscopic defects similar to those that lead to cataracts. This led
him and Kandel to theorize--and later prove--that lithium can delay the
formation of cataracts. Although they still have a number of questions to
answer, they are now using the system to establish baselines related to age.
Because lithium is used to treat a psychiatric disorder, they can identify and
take measurements on the eyes of people who have had long-term exposure to it.
They estimate that if the treatment delays cataract formation for 10 years, it
could reduce the number of cataract operations in the U.S. by up to half a
million per year. For more information, e-mail Kandel at email@example.com or Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Synthetic aperture radar, computers advance mine-detection research
Discovering the location of buried mines is a delicate task, and the United Nations estimates that there are over 100 million mines in 64 countries. Now, engineers at Mercury Computer Systems, Inc., Chelmsford, MA, are applying their RACE® computers to a system of ground-penetrating radar. A recent demonstration at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma, AZ, detected objects buried in the ground. Researchers at the Army Research Laboratory have developed mathematical algorithms that show promise for detecting buried targets, even those that are surrounded by "clutter," within foliage, or underground. The system uses ultra-wide band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for real-time data collection, and advanced analog-to-digital converter technology to feed the data to Mercury computers for storage and analysis. For more information, FAX Mercury at (508) 256-3599.