Editorial Feature

Applications and Markets in the Defence Sector of Nanotechnology

Nanoscale informatics, pharmaceuticals, and medicine remain the most high-profile areas of near-term market applications. However, Gsponer contends that the most significant near-term applications of nanotechnology will be in the military domain.

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This is because micromechanical and MEMS engineering is historically connected to nuclear weapons laboratories: it was within this domain that the field of nanotechnology was born a few decades ago.

Today, it is not difficult to understand why nanotechnology might appeal to military planners. Indeed, new technologies, notably IT, are playing an increasingly important part in modern warfare-as reflected by recent investments in the US Department of Defense. The DOD is amongst the top 5 agencies receiving funding from the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, along with the Department of Energy (DOE) National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST.)

Table 1. Breakdown of spending on the US’s National Nanotechnology Initiative from 2018–2020 (US $ million).

Agency

2018 Actual

2019 Estimated

2020 Proposed

DOD

145.9

135.9

129.7

DOE

338.4

343.1

334.7

NASA

9.4

9.8

9.8

CPSC

1.0

0.9

0.9

DOC/NIST

75.1

74.5

66.7

EPA

10.6

9.6

3.5

DHS

0.2

0.3

0.0

DOI (total)

0.1

0.2

0.0

USBR

0.0

0.2

0.0

USGS

0.1

0.0

0.0

DOJ/NIJ

2.2

2.1

2.1

DOT/FHWA

0.3

1.5

0.5

HHS (total)

565.6

580.4

507.3

FDA

15.2

11.2

10.6

NCEH

0.0

0.1

0.0

NIH

540.3

559.0

486.6

NIOH

10.1

10.1

10.1

NSF

568.0

390.6

389.4

USDA (total)

24.1

23.1

24.1

ARS

3.3

3.3

3.3

FS

5.3

3.7

3.7

NIFA

15.5

16.1

17.1

TOTALS

1740.9

1572.1

1468.7

Co

The DOD’s Role and Focus in Nanotechnology Research

The Department of Defense (DoD) is tasked with providing military forces that are needed to deter war and protect the security of the US. They consider nanotechnology to be a vital technology, improving warfighting capabilities, corporate coordination and attention. Therefore, it needs the highest focus, due to its broad and interdisciplinary nature.

Oversight and advocacy of research and engineering projects are carried out by the office of the Director, Research and Engineering. The Director serves as the DoD’s Chief Technology Officer. Responsibilities include Science and Technology programs and Advanced Component Development and Prototypes programs.

Many organizations within the DoD are concerned with research including nanotechnology. These include:

  • Army Engineering R&D Center
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)
  • Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
  • Office of Naval Research (ONR)

The DoD focuses on many applications of nanotechnology to provide solutions to an ever-changing battlefield. These include:

  • Ammunition and nano weaponry
  • Information dominance through advanced nanoelectronics
  • More sophisticated virtual reality systems
  • Increased use of enhanced automation and robotics
  • Required improvements in chemical/biological/nuclear sensing
  • Design improvements in systems used for nuclear non-proliferation monitoring and management
  •    Advanced energetic materials
  • Combined nanomechanical and micromechanical devices for control of nuclear defense systems.
  • Communication and surveillance systems
  • More accurate surveillance of potential nuclear aggressors
  • Nanotechnologically enhanced conventional missiles and explosives

Also, such nanotechnologies might be ‘cleaner’ and ‘safer’ and less likely to cause collateral damage than the technologies they replace, making them especially appealing to military planners.

In Conclusion

Within the defense industry, there exist a plethora of applications that nanotechnology is being applied to. The role of research into nanomaterials and nanomachinery is multi-disciplinary and broad, which is why the military is working in conjunction with the private sector to deliver these solutions to the modern battlefield and other theaters of operation that the military finds themselves operating in. Increased military spending over the last 10-15 years has reflected this trend. Who knows what the future may bring?

 

Sources

NNI Budget – Nano.gov

https://www.nano.gov/about-nni/what/funding

Department of Defense (DOD) overview at Nano.gov

https://www.nano.gov/DOD

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Reginald Davey

Written by

Reginald Davey

Reg Davey is a freelance copywriter and editor based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Writing for News Medical represents the coming together of various interests and fields he has been interested and involved in over the years, including Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, and Environmental Science.

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