Thursday, 25 February 2016

Developments in Nano Technology Influencing the Defence Sector

Nanotechnology is the understanding, control and manufacturing of matter at dimensions of roughly 1-100nm. A nanometer is one billionth (10 to-the-power minus nine). Nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring and modelling and manipulating matter in this length scale. It is seen as a technology of national importance in the USA.

A few advances in the field of nanotechnology that have far reaching effects in the domain of defence are being put to light.

Property of having negative refractive index:

An object with the property of negative refractive index transports the radiation along its surface rather than being reflected back. By getting transported along the surface of the material the radiation is allowed to travel beyond the object and the object does not get detected as no reflections are received back by the emitter. There are a few developments in nanotechnology techniques by which RADAR detections can be nullified.

1. Radar absorption with carbon nanotubes: Iron ball paint is a radar absorbing material (RAM) which contains tiny materials coated with carbonyl iron or ferrite.

Radar waves used in military which ranges from 8 to 12 GHz induce molecular oscillations from the alternating magnetic field in this paint as a result of which the RADAR waves hitting the surface gets transformed into heat which is then transferred to the aircraft and dissipated. This type of RAM typically consists of neoprene polymer sheets with ferrite grains, carbon black or carbon nanotube particles embedded in th polymer matrix. The electromagnetic properties and the thickness of the layer are such that the initial reflected wave and the sum of the emergent rays resulting from the multiple reflections within the material are equal to magnitude and opposite in phase thus nullifying the reflection destined back to the emitter.

2. Radar absorption with ionic liquids: This method of microwave absorption involves the use of polyionic liquid which contains separate cations and anions having very strong microwave absorption properties. Researchers have synthesized such liquids by polymerizing monomers containing ionic liquid moieties with techniques like free radical polymerization and or atom transfer radical polymerization or other techniques of polymerization. These polymers were found to be extremely stable.

These have high microwave absorption properties due to the presence of high concentration of cations and anions. These polymers can be fabricated into various shapes such as films, formulations into coatings, painting and other applications. The very capability of absorption of microwaves makes this technology a candidate for creation of RAM.

Quantum Cryptography:

Digital cryptographic systems use mathematical algorithms for generating a hash key which is transferred over the wire over the network. This key is used to decode an encoded information received over the network from the intended senders. An expert hacker can snoop the network by adding his computer to the network and use software and devices to interpret the hash key and thereby interpret the encrypted information transferred over the network. In digital transmission intruder is able to make identical copies of the transmitted messages and perform extensive computer analysis offline.

Quantum cryptography is a new approach to the key distribution. Instead of transmitting the prepared keys, the keys are generated dynamically using quantum physics phenomena. The sender transmits the string of signals to the receiver whose values are carried by single photons. If an intruder in the network tries to intercept the transmission, then their state will be irreparably changed resulting in the change in the sequence and quantum of photonic signals without revealing the original transmission to the eavesdropper and sender & receiver will detect eavesdropping. In quantum cryptography any disturbance to the photons being carried on the optical link will lead into immediate disturbance in the transmission of the optical waves thereby damaging the transmission and immediately altering the pattern in the transmission of the optical signal which will result in changed signals both in value and quantum resulting into totally wrong number of bit patterns getting registered by the intruder and the eavesdropping is also detected at the receiver's end by receipt of the wrong pattern (count of number of bits received in the bit patterns). 

Adaptive Camouflage:

Adaptive camouflage is technique of mimicking the vicinity in response to the changes in the vicinity. Basically two types of technologies are used.

a. Active lighting technique based on micronized solid state LEDs as well as flexible polymer LED systems:

LEDs of square milimeters or less in size can be integrated into fabric. Luminiscent fiber created by weaving super bright fiber optics into fabric can be controlled by microchips powered by small cells of batteries. An optical sensor is infused with the fabric and is connected to the microchip which detects the changes in the vicinity and sends signals of correct wavelength to the micronized LEDs. This results in the dynamic changes in the fabric effecting the camouflage. Luminex is known to be developing such products.

b. Usage of tunable photonic crystals: 

By applying a correct quantum of magnetic field to nano sized particles of iron oxide (photonic crystals) their colouration can be controlled. This discovery has potential to enable manufacturing of products like erasable and rewritable electronic surface thereby substituting paper. This technology has potential to camouflage objects and can be applied for camouflaging defence assets on war front. Nanotechnologists of University of California, Riverside have succeeded in developing this technology.

With the advancement in research in the field of nanotechnology the future defence systems will be ultra smart resulting into ultra smart soldiers and defence assets and warfare will be totally secretive with very high precision in nature. With the induction of ultra stealth and precision by means of nanotechnology the need of mass destruction will be greatly reduced and collateral damage will get minimized and destruction of civilian properties in large scale will be avoided.

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