On March 29,
2006, the Heritage Foundation held an event titled
"Nanotechnology: Changing the Face of National Security." The
event, part of the 2006 Competitive Technology for National
Security Policy series, brought together researchers and members of
government to discuss nanotechnology and its role in national
different scale sizes among different technologies.
Nano-structures measure from one Angstrom (1x10-10m) to 100
nanometers (1 nanometer=1x10-9m), and many larger
devices, such as nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are in the
several hundred nanometer range.
Parmentola, Director for Research and Laboratory Management, Office
of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and
Technology) discussed transformational nanotechnologies for the
Army. The Army wants to use the advantages of nanotechnology
to create improved networks, more precise strikes, better signature
management of equipment, and faster "Identify Friend or Foe"
The Army is
currently using nanotechnology to create better energy-absorbing
and armor materials. Limbs are the most vulnerable part of a
soldier's body, but the weight and bulk of armor for extremities
makes it impracticable. However, Kevlar treated with
shear-thickening liquids shows promise in a proposed uniform that
would not only protect the wearer, but provide medical telemetry
and possibly even treat wounds.
Dr. Ravi Athale,
principal communications engineer for the Center for Innovative
Computing at the MITRE Corporation, discussed photonics and
nanophotonics. Photonics is the science and technology of
controlling photons for the purpose of carrying, processing,
storing, or displaying information. Well-known applications
of photonics include fiber optic cable, television screens,
computer displays, and laser and imaging systems. Military
applications of photonics include night vision/thermal imaging
devices, fiber optically-guided missiles, laser range
finders/designators, and optical links between satellites.
uses control of the structure of materials to create devices and
effects that were previously impossible. Nanophotonics is not
simply the scaling-down of existing systems; rather it utilizes
different physics, different functionalities, and different design
strategies than regular photonics. It forms a platform for
new technologies that can deal with challenges such as the
shrinking size of sensor platforms, the shortening of
information-processing timelines, and hard-to-detect threats-such
as chemical or biological weapons-by creating compact, low-power,
adaptive sensors, and integrating
sense-process-control-communications systems into a single
Research Laboratory's Dr. James Murday, who also serves as
executive secretary of the Nanoscale Science and Technology
Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council,
discussed the public policy and nanotechnology.
nanotechnology within the U.S. government has increased over
four-fold in the five years since the establishment of the National
Nanotechnology Initiative. Also, government agencies with no
science and technology research budgets are becoming increasingly
involved in the nanotechnology arena., especially in matters of
policy, commerce, health, safety, and even workforce and
Department of Defense, the amount of money for "applied research"
in nanotechnology is growing. Congress has been adding to the
Department of Defense's budget for nanotechnology to help get these
technologies out of the lab and into industries and the hands of
Dr. Murday warned
that U.S. expenditures only amount to one-quarter of the money
spent worldwide on nanotechnology, and so the U.S. cannot expect to
dominate the field. The U.S. government will need to make
decisions on research policies, clarify the health and
environmental issues associated with nanotechnology, and encourage
and develop domestic science education if the country is to remain
competitive on both a technology and national security level.
James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for Defense and
Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute
for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Andrew Gudgel
is a freelance writer currently residing in Maryland.