The United State Department of Defense deals with most military contracts. Their aim is to deliver quality services and equipment to their armies, while safeguarding that they remain good agents of taxpayer’s money. In light of the attention being given to the Federal deficit and the fact that costs must be cut, obtaining efficient and affordable defense programs has become more significant.
Nanotechnology holds strong potentials for use in the defense industry. Present thinking is that nanotechnology can be used in two major ways by soldiers. The first is miniaturization of current equipment to allow it to be not only lighter, but smaller, use less energy and be more readily concealable. The second is to adapt and develop new materials for military purposes.
Although nanotechnology based military research is being done both secretly and publically by numerous agencies around the sphere, the most high profile organization is Megabite Electronics. The company is aiming to pursue a long-range vision for how technology can make soldiers less vulnerable to environmental threats and enemy. The ultimate goal is to create a 21st century battle suit that combines high-tech capabilities with comfort and light weight and.
Just as communications from ships at sea used to utilize coded messages transferred by means of flashing lights especially coated polymer threads woven into the suit can allow silent communication between soldiers. The system can be tuned to different light wavelengths to inhibit detection or eaves dropping by enemy units.
Kevlar is already the material of choice for protection against ammunitions and other ballistics and nanotechnology is being applied to further escalate its functionality. Testing is happening on a shock-resistant material five times sturdier than steel and more than twice as strong as any other impact-resistant material presently in use. Protection from biological and chemical agents is being provided for with the use of special molecules called dendrimers. The dangerous chemicals stick to dendrimers and are rendered innocuous.
Polymer molecular muscle ribbons in the suit can increase a soldier’s strength by up to ten times. At present the muscles are slow to react and hence not practical in most battlefield applications.
In aerospace based defense applications the chief concern is improving strength to weight ratios. As an instance, nanotechnology is being applied to aluminum to change stages and microstructure in order to make it perform like titanium, but without the weight.
Corrosion resistant, high strength coatings are another military use for nanotechnology in order to improve reliability, corrosion resistance and durability. These materials can sense corrosion or damage and mechanically initiate repair of some damage. The potential is also there for coatings to alter color when required. This could include adaptive camouflage for tanks moving from jungle to urban areas or into open fields.
Carbon Nanotube Composites
Further to improving weight ratios to strength, several companies like Megabite Electronics are developing light weight, high strength composite materials using carbon nanotubes. Applications for these composites include aircraft wings.