ORNL technologies are proving a good match for America's defense and homeland security requirements.
"ORNL is a treasure trove of technology," says Rich
Stouder, director of the new Technology Development
and Deployment Programs Division in ORNL's National
Security Directorate. "The first priority for our technologies is
supporting the missions of the Office of Science and other offices
in the Department of Energy.
When Stouder first came to ORNL, he focused on developing personal relationships with principal investigators in the Laboratory's Chemical Sciences Division and the Metals and Ceramics Division. Through these relationships and his military experience, he was able to identify several ORNL technologies that seemed potentially valuable for agencies other than DOE.
Frank Akers, ORNL's associate laboratory director for National Security, decided to inject more rigor into the directorate's business and program development. He charged Stouder with the task of providing a more structured plan for cataloging ORNL's suite of technologies and aligning those technologies with mission needs in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. As Stouder surveyed ORNL technologies, he also cultivated contacts in the Department of Defense and the commercial sector.
During this process, Stouder helped researchers write proposals for seed money through ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program and decide whether to collaborate with a commercial partner. Stouder is credited with invigorating several ORNL programs and with obtaining DOD funding for other innovative ORNL technologies.
A Success Story
In 2001, the manager and principal developers of ORNL's Block II Chemical Biological Mass Spectrometer (CBMS II) met with Stouder and expressed concern about funding trends for their Army-sponsored research.
Stouder says the request came at a time when all chembio programs in the U.S. military were being united under the Department of Defense. "After a series of meetings and presentations we were able to get CBMS accepted by the joint military programs. Through more work we succeeded in getting CBMS II adopted by the Joint Program Executive for CB Defense," Stouder adds. CBMS II, now being run by the Joint Program Manager, Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) Contamination Avoidance, is included in DOD's five-year budget.
Recent Army tests of CBMS II have validated its ability to identify chemical warfare agents. In 2006 the Army will complete tests of CBMS's capability to detect biological warfare agents. If the tests prove successful, CBMS II units will be fielded on all the U.S. military's NBC ground reconnaissance vehicles. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment is the fact that ORNL's CBMS II program has enjoyed a steady funding stream for the past three years.
Stouder also helped an ORNL team secure internal funding for a project that investigated whether the electrospray technique developed at ORNL for mass spectrometry could be used for next-generation biological detection. The project led to the development of a new hybrid mass analyzer and the filing of a patent application. ORNL's faster, more specific, more selective mass spectrometer system shows promise as a detector of both known and unknown microorganisms.
Stouder says that DOD, including its Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is impressed by ORNL's ability to assemble and lead talented teams of national lab, industry, and university researchers that deliver results such as the CBMS project. DOD's chem-bio experts also like ORNL's "system-of-systems" approach, exemplified by the hybrid mass analyzer's integration with other technologies in the difficult effort to detect biological agents.
"This research might someday lead to a box that enables you to sneeze and learn immediately if you have allergies, the common cold, or the flu," Stouder says.
In a June 2005 forum that included ORNL's director, Jeff Wadsworth, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee suggested that a 21st-century effort similar to the Manhattan Project might be required to solve the complex problem of identifying and combating disease agents, such as the smallpox virus, that a terrorist group or enemy nation might inflict on the United States. Just as with the original Manhattan Project in the 1940s, ORNL would likely play an important research role in such a massive undertaking.
Cool and Quiet
In 2003 a major general in charge of Army ground vehicles visited ORNL for a briefing on combat-vehicle technologies. The general explained that the next-generation Army ground vehicle being designed for 2018 has a potential problem. Each of the hybrid-electric vehicles would have a fan running as loud as a jet engine to cool the lithium ion battery that powers the vehicle's electric motor. Current infrared detectors would sense vehicle heat and emerging acoustic targeting technology would enable the enemy to "hear" the vehicles from a distance.
James Klett briefed the general about the carbon foam that conducts heat unusually well, a discovery made by the ORNL researcher in 1996. Using an ice cube, Klett demonstrated to the general the phenomenal heat flow properties of the lightweight graphite foam. As an added benefit, the foam has been shown to muffle sounds. Klett's demonstration convinced the general that carbon foam has the potential to make the operation of Army ground vehicles cooler and quieter.
The general asked ORNL to test carbon foam on an Army vehicle by teaming with United Defense, the manufacturer of the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Water Sentry™ based on ORNL's AquaSentinel technology (see article 8, "Technologies for the Troops"). United Defense (later bought by BAE Systems) paid for a test of a carbon foam muffler bolted on the fan of an operating prototype vehicle.
"Testing of the foam was extremely successful," Stouder says. "We proved that the foam significantly reduced the fan's noise levels by 16 decibels and the engine exhaust temperature by more than 220°F. The results amazed the military folks."
Klett and Stouder recorded the test results in a white paper and briefed the general who had requested the experiments. The general arranged in August 2005 for Klett to brief the Army's chief scientist,Tom Killion, in an attempt to integrate the carbon foam muffler technology into the Army's Future Combat Systems program. ORNL and BAE Systems teamed with Georgia Tech Research Institute, one of the nation's leading research centers for acoustic science, on the development of a graphite foam muffler for Army vehicles. As a result of these efforts, the Army is now seeking funding options for further development of military applications of graphite foam.
In 2003 ORNL's Jim Kulesz testified before the Homeland
Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the
topic of SensorNet, a new early-warning system concept that
can provide critical real-time information to federal, state, and
local emergency response decision makers.
The SensorNet node standards and technology developed at ORNL were contracted to Applied Innovations, Sentel, and 3ETI for prototypes. Other SensorNet applications include ORNL's Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability and Landscan population models. As a result, SensorNet can provide—in real time—a plume model that identifies the chemical nature of the event, the number and location of people affected, and a proposed response for the communities at risk.
"The goal of SensorNet is detection, not detectors," says Frank DeNap, who heads the SensorNet program. "SensorNet is an Office of Naval Research program but we leverage funding from the Transportation Security Administration at the Port of Memphis, where SensorNet is deployed for continuous chemical detection at a chemical transportation and storage port on the Mississippi River. Fort Bragg, an Army installation in North Carolina, paid for a test of an interface among SensorNet and 911 functions, video cameras, and perimeter security, to screen for chemical, biological, and nuclear hazards. SensorNet has also been tested during special political events in Washington, D.C., National Football League games, NASCAR races, and the San Diego Mardi Gras celebration."
SensorNet is based on the principle that information can be collected, processed, and disseminated in real time in response to emergency conditions. The SensorNet node incorporates advances in the size, cost, and adaptability of sensor integration technologies. The node has a modular, open architecture that enables upgrades as new sensor technologies are developed. This mobile technology can be located at strategic sites—from national parks and sports arenas to truck weigh stations and airports—considered at risk of experiencing an attack or allowing the passage of the ingredients for a terrorist weapon.
"My role in SensorNet has been to figure out our strategic goals," Rich Stouder says. "I spend almost half my time determining with whom we should partner, which test beds we should use to evaluate SensorNet, and how we can expand the program and fund initiatives."
Safe to Drink
Soldiers on the battlefield go to a lot of trouble to
make the water they find safe to drink. The military laboriously
moves cumbersome trailers housing a combination of
water-purifying chemicals and filters. ORNL has a solution to the Army's Herculean water purification chore: inorganic
membranes developed by the Inorganic Membrane Technology
Laboratory (IMTL) at ORNL.
A team at ORNL has developed metal tubes with nanopores so small and specific in shape that only water molecule constituents are allowed through the tube walls. NSD and ORNL researchers have given several briefings that promote the idea of replacing the Army's logistically intensive trailer system with water production units that fit on the back of a five-ton truck operated by two men.
The ORNL team has made a similar pitch to the Navy. "We have been working with Aqua-Chem, a company in Knoxville, Tennessee, that produces water purification systems on 90% of the Navy's ships," Stouder says. "Currently Aqua-Chem uses fiber-bound filters that must be replaced periodically based on particulate level in the water. The water system must be shut down to replace the plugged-up filters. Replacement filters kept in storage take up valuable space on ships."
Because of these drawbacks, Aqua-Chem conducted tests on a bench-scale water purification system in which ORNL's inorganic membranes were used. "Inorganic membranes might someday be used for shipboard water filtration," Stouder says. "Discussions are ongoing among ORNL, Aqua Chem, and Pall Corporation. This approach to water filtration would respond to an enormous military need."
Imagine that biological warfare agents have been dispersed at a port of debarkation where troops are about to be offloaded. The scenario must take into account the time and effort required to bring in military decontamination units and large amounts of water and chemicals to decontaminate a wide area or one vehicle at a time. The scenario must also accommodate the psychological impact as the troops' operations are stopped.
Ted Huxford of ORNL's Metals and Ceramics Division has an idea how to speed up decontamination of wide areas and vehicles. According to Stouder, Huxford has observed that the Vortek plasma arc lamp at ORNL has an ultraviolet spectrum that is "in the sweet spot of what it takes to neutralize biological and chemical warfare agents." Stouder speculates that the lamp, mounted on the back of a Humvee, could be used for "wide-area decontamination of slimed ports and airfields and of contaminated combat vehicles." With a robotic arm and reflector around the lamp, the focal point of the lamp can be projected out to 17 meters.
"The goal is to get the slimed ground vehicle back into combat as soon as possible," Stouder says. "This technology may also work for decontamination of aircraft, although the environment can take care of bacteria in the nooks and crannies of a plane."
In 2004 Huxford and his colleagues received $23,000 in seed money to do proof-of-principle tests. One test showed that the plasma arc lamp could remove better than 99.99% of the anthrax simulant spores present on a wide test area. "We got four generations of kill with DMMP, a nerve agent simulant," Stouder says. "We used only nine percent of the lamp's power and left the slimed area better than 99.99% clean."
When an American soldier returns home from Iraq or
Afghanistan, the U.S. military mandates a complete physical to
determine whether the soldier exhibits evidence of exposure to
diseases such as tuberculosis or smallpox.
Stouder says he loves working with ORNL's principal investigators. "I've never had a researcher say no to a request for information or a chance to host a visitor. Our researchers are great patriots. Even those who have not obtained their citizenship want to be a part of helping solve America's security challenges. They invest their time and their talents to develop programs that will make a real difference for this country. They believe in our mission, and they believe we can accomplish that mission. They make every day exciting for me."
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