It controls the entire Air Force science and technology research budget which was $2.4 billion in 2006.
The Laboratory was formed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on 31 October 1997 as a consolidation of four Air Force laboratory facilities (Wright, Phillips, Rome, and Armstrong) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under a unified command. The Laboratory is composed of seven technical directorates, one wing, and the Office of Scientific Research. Each technical directorate emphasizes a particular area of research within the AFRL mission which it specializes in performing experiments in conjunction with universities and contractors.
Since the Laboratory’s formation in 1997, it has conducted numerous experiments and technical demonstrations in conjunction with NASA, Department of Energy National Laboratories, DARPA, and other research organizations within the Department of Defense. Notable projects include the X-37, X-40, X-53, HTV-3X, YAL-1A, Advanced Tactical Laser, and the Tactical Satellite Program.
The Laboratory may face problems in the future as 40 percent of its workers are slated to retire over the next two decades while since 1980 the United States has not produced enough science and engineering degrees to keep up with demand.
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Hypersonic missiles could be operational in 2020s – February 27, 2016
- New nanomaterial maintains conductivity in three dimensions – September 5, 2015
- A thin ribbon of flexible electronics can monitor health, infrastructure – August 23, 2015
- Ballistic Transport in Graphene Suggests New Type of Electronic Device
- Snap to attention: Polymers that react and move to light
- Butterfly wings inspire new technologies: from fabrics and cosmetics to sensors
- Polymer Nanoreactors Create Uniform Nanocrystals
- Novel sensor provides bigger picture
- New nanotech fiber: Robust handling, shocking performance
- Carnegie Mellon, Concurrent Technologies To Develop Robotic Laser System That Strips Paint From Aircraft
- Printed Photonic Crystal Mirrors Shrink On-Chip Lasers Down to Size
- U.S. Air Force’s Plug-and-Play Satellites
- Self-Adapting Computer Network That Defends Itself Against Hackers?
- US draws up plans for nuclear drones
- Exotic Material Boosts Electromagnetism Safely
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Dayton Air Force Research Laboratory and China have developed a new dry adhesive that bonds in extreme temperatures—a quality that could make the product ideal for space exploration and beyond.
The gecko-inspired adhesive loses no traction in temperatures as cold as liquid nitrogen or as hot as molten silver, and actually gets stickier as heat increases, the researchers report.
The research, which builds on earlier development of a single-sided dry adhesive tape based on vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, is published in the journal Nature Communications. As far as the researchers know, no other dry adhesive is capable of working at such temperature extremes.
Liming Dai, professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and an author of the study teamed with Ming Xu, a senior research associate at Case School of Engineering and visiting scholar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology; Feng Du, senior research associate in Case Western Reserve’s Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering; and Sabyasachi Ganguli and Ajit Roy, of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory.
Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes with tops bundled into nodes replicate the microscopic hairs on the foot of the wall-walking reptile and remain stable from -320 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,832 degrees, the scientists say.
“When you have aligned nanotubes with bundled tops penetrating into the cavities of the surface, you generate sufficient van der Waal’s forces to hold,” Xu said. “The dry adhesive doesn’t lose adhesion as it cools because the surface doesn’t change. But when you heat the surface, the surface becomes rougher, physically locking the nanotubes in place, leading to stronger adhesion as temperatures increase.”
Because the adhesive remains useful over such a wide range of temperatures, the inventors say it is ideally suited for use in space, where the shade can be frigid and exposure to the sun blazing hot.
In addition to range, the bonding agent offers properties that could add to its utility. The adhesive conducts heat and electricity, and these properties also increase with temperature. “When applied as a double-sided sticky tape, the adhesive can be used to link electrical components together and also for electrical and thermal management,” Roy said.
“This adhesive can thus be used as connecting materials to enhance the performance of electronics at high temperatures,” Dai said. “At room temperature, the double-sided carbon nanotube tape held as strongly as commercial tape on various rough surfaces, including paper, wood, plastic films and painted walls, showing potential use as conducting adhesives in home appliances and wall-climbing robots.”
In testing, a double-sided tape made with the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) applied between two layers of copper foil had an adhesive strength of about 37 newtons per cm-2 at room temperature, about the same as a commercial double-sided sticky tape.
Unlike the commercial tape, which loses adhesion as it freezes or is heated, the CNT adhesive maintained its strength down to -320 degrees Fahrenheit. The adhesive strength more than doubled at 785 degrees Fahrenheit and was about six times as strong at 1891 degrees.
Surprised by the increasing adhesive strength, the researchers used a scanning electron microscope to search for the cause. They found that, as the bundled nodes penetrate the surface cavities, the flexible nanotubes no longer remain vertically aligned but collapse into web-like structures. The action appears to enhance the van der Waal’s forces due to an increased contact surface area with the collapsed nanotubes.
Looking further, the researchers found that as the temperature increased above 392 degrees Fahrenheit, the surface of the copper foil became increasingly rough. The bundled ends and collapsed nanotubes appear to penetrate deeper into the heat-induced irregularities in the surface, increasing adhesion. The researchers dub this adhesion mechanism “nano-interlocking.”
The adhesive held strong during hundreds of temperature transition cycles between ambient temperature and -320 degrees then up to 1891 degrees and between the cold extreme and ambient temperature.
Copper foil, which was used for many of the tests to demonstrate the potential for thermal management, is not unique. The surface of many other materials, including polymer films and other metal foils, roughen when heat is applied, making them good targets for this kind of adhesive, the team suggests.
One of the impediments to developing miniaturized, “squishy” robots is the need for an internal power source that overcomes the power-to-weight ratio for efficient movement. An international group involving Inha University, University of Pittsburgh and the Air Force Research Laboratory has built upon their previous research and identified new materials that directly convert ultraviolet light into motion without the need for electronics or other traditional methods.
The group includes M. Ravi Shankar, co-author and professor of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Lead author is Jeong Jae Wie, assistant professor of polymer science and engineering at Inha University, South Korea. The experiments were conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Materials & Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, under the direction of Timothy J. White.
Other investigations have proposed the use of ambient energy resources such as magnetic fields, acoustics, heat and other temperature variations to avoid adding structures to induce locomotion. However, Dr. Shankar explains that light is more appealing because of its speed, temporal control and the ability to effectively target the mechanical response. For the material, the group zeroed in on monolithic polymer films prepared from a form of liquid crystalline polymer.
“Our initial research indicated that these flexible polymers could be triggered to move by different forms of light,” Dr. Shankar explained. “However, a robot or similar device isn’t effective unless you can tightly control its motions. Thanks to the work of Dr. White and his team at AFRL, we were able to demonstrate directional control, as well as climbing motions.”
According to Dr. Wie, the “photomotility” of these specific polymers is the result of their spontaneous formation into spirals when exposed to UV light. Controlling the exposure enables a corresponding motion without the use of external power sources attached directly to the polymer itself.
“Complex robotic designs result in additional weight in the form of batteries, limb-like structures or wheels, which are incompatible with the notion of a soft or squishy robot,” Dr. Wie said. “In our design, the material itself is the machine, without the need for any additional moving parts or mechanisms that would increase the weight and thereby limit motility and effectiveness.”
In addition to simple forward movement, Dr. White and the collaborative team were able to make the polymers climb a glass slide at a 15-degree angle. While the flat polymer strips are small – approximately 15mm long and 1.25mm wide – they can move at several millimeters per second propelled by light. The movement can be perpetual, as long as the material remains illuminated.
“The ability for these flexible polymers to move when exposed to light opens up a new ground game in the quest for soft robots,” Dr. Shankar said. “By eliminating the additional mass of batteries, moving parts and other cumbersome devices, we can potentially create a robot that would be beneficial where excess weight and size is a negative, such as in space exploration or other extreme environments.”
Hypersonic missiles could be here faster than you know it.
By 2020, the Air Force is likely to have operational prototypes ready for a program of record and testing to develop an operational unit, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
By the 2030s, the technology could have expanded beyond delivering warheads at speeds faster than sound to also include hypersonic intelligence and reconnaissance flights, he said.
The Air Force, Masiello said is focusing on “deliberate, incremental progress towards maturing this technology.”
“We’re looking for more singles, base hits, versus trying to go for a home run,” he said.
Speaking at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida., Masiello described the efforts the service is undertaking to develop engines that could travel at or above the widely accepted hypersonic range of Mach 5.
An international team of scientists has developed what may be the first one-step process for making seamless carbon-based nanomaterials that possess superior thermal, electrical and mechanical properties in three dimensions.
The research holds potential for increased energy storage in high efficiency batteries and supercapacitors, increasing the efficiency of energy conversion in solar cells, for lightweight thermal coatings and more. The study is published today (Sept. 4) in the online journal Science Advances.
In early testing, a three-dimensional (3D) fiber-like supercapacitor made with the uninterrupted fibers of carbon nanotubes and graphene matched or bettered–by a factor of four–the reported record-high capacities for this type of device.
Used as a counter electrode in a dye-sensitized solar cell, the material enabled the cell to convert power with up to 6.8 percent efficiency and more than doubled the performance of an identical cell that instead used an expensive platinum wire counter electrode.
A new world of flexible, bendable, even stretchable electronics is emerging from research labs to address a wide range of potentially game-changing uses. The common, rigid printed circuit board is slowly being replaced by a thin ribbon of resilient, high-performance electronics.
Over the last few years, one team of chemists and materials scientists has begun exploring military applications in harsh environments for aircraft, explosive devices and even combatants themselves.
Researchers will provide an update on the latest technologies, as well as future research plans, at the 250thNational Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS is the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting takes place here through Thursday.
“Basically, we are using a hybrid technology that mixes traditional electronics with flexible, high-performance electronics and new 3-D printing technologies,” says Benjamin J. Leever, Ph.D., who is at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “In some cases, we incorporate ‘inks,’ which are based on metals, polymers and organic materials, to tie the system together electronically. With our technology, we can take a razor-thin silicon integrated circuit, a few hundred nanometers thick, and place it on a flexible, bendable or even foldable, plastic-like substrate material,” he says.