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Nanotech to Replace Cumbersome Military Batteries

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  • RemyC
    From: http://washingtontimes.com/business/20050209-113142-9504r.htm via: http://www.ourmolecularfuture.com The Washington Times Teeny, tiny tech By Drew Wilson
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2005
      via: http://www.ourmolecularfuture.com

      The Washington Times

      Teeny, tiny tech
      By Drew Wilson
      Published February 10, 2005

      Developments are under way that could wipe batteries off the face of the
      Earth. Researchers at the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute
      (ONAMI), a consortium of Oregon educational institutions, say they have made
      significant breakthroughs in a power source that essentially turns 20 pounds
      of batteries into 8 ounces of fuel the size of a cigarette lighter.


      The immediate aim is to use nanotechnology -- science on the tiniest
      scale -- to replace cumbersome military batteries and eventually power
      everything "from cell phones up to systems that run a tank," said Kevin
      Drost, ONAMI's co-director of research.

      A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. By comparison, a human DNA
      molecule is 2.5 nanometers wide and a cold virus is about 20 nanometers.
      Scientists have found that matter this small behaves differently than larger
      particles, meaning perhaps monumental changes ahead.

      So far, spill-resistant jeans and stronger tennis rackets have been
      trotted out as nanotech wonders. Now defense-related projects are beginning
      to bear fruit.

      ONAMI's pocket-power source is good news for soldiers who carry
      equipment such as night-vision technology, communications and a Global
      Positioning System unit and burn through batteries daily. Batteries are not
      only heavy, but they present a supply-chain challenge because soldiers need
      frequent shipments for replenishment in remote locations.

      ONAMI researchers say they have bypassed that problem by developing
      nanotechnology liquid-fuel cells.

      Their first working prototype for the fuel cells is in conjunction with
      a portable air-conditioning system that will keep a soldier cool in hot
      climates. The unit runs on hydrocarbon fuel and will be the size of a
      paperback book weighing about 3.5 pounds.

      Mr. Drost said the system is not pie in the sky; a usable unit will be
      ready in three to five years.

      Nanotechnology-structured products are attractive to the military
      because they can shrink equipment while boosting its performance, according
      to Mihail Roco, the National Science Foundation's senior adviser on

      "Nanotechnology offers advantages of smallness, speed and complexity
      that was not possible before," he said.

      Nanotech-based sensors that detect anthrax molecules before they become
      a threat are already being used in Iraq, Mr. Roco said, though he wouldn't
      give details.

      "As these products move into production, they become classified."

      ONAMI's nano-based battery alternative is one result of $24 million in
      nanotech funding won in 2003 from sources such as the Defense Advanced
      Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Office of
      Naval Research. The consortium is part of Oregon's "Silicon Forest," a
      cluster of high-tech research and development institutions that represents
      the state's ambition to join leaders California, Massachusetts, Illinois and

      ONAMI has a $21 million annual budget from the Oregon legislature and
      relies on the work of about 70 researchers. It hopes to win a chunk of the
      $3.7 billion 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act signed
      by President Bush in December 2003.

      Skip Rung, ONAMI's executive director, said engineers design and modify
      tiny fractal structures referred to as "microchannels," passages the width
      of a human hair or smaller. Once optimized in the required way, the
      microchannels greatly accelerate energy and chemical processes.

      Optimized microchannels also can convert vegetable oils into diesel
      fuel. Soon a field of soybeans or agricultural products could be converted
      to diesel fuel to run a tank, officials said.
      Nanotech also could mean big savings. James Murday, chief scientist at
      the Office of Naval Research, said a nanotech-based structural coating for
      naval vessels starting to be used could save $100 million per year because
      of improved friction wear.

      "Without question nanotech is very important for the military and most
      of the nanotech-based products in the defense area haven't arrived yet," Mr.
      Murday said.

      Nanotechnology is often viewed as a radical science that will bring
      monumental changes. Practical results, however, have been mainly new and
      improved consumer products, suggesting the technology has been hyped.

      Mr. Roco, nonetheless, has a sweeping vision of nanotechnology helping
      industries globally. The NSF has predicted that worldwide
      nanotechnology-based applications will be worth $1 trillion per year by

      "Nano is also entering, very fast, biology and medicine and we will
      start to have significant applications such as increasing human
      performance," he said.

      Creating organ replacements has been the goal of many nanotech
      researchers. ONAMI is within three years of completing a kidney dialysis
      machine small enough to carry, and officials believe it can eventually be
      reduced enough to replace a kidney entirely.

      At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School,
      scientists have made a tiny, functioning vascular system, which is
      considered a big step in making whole organs.

      Nanotechnology has been seen by some as a potentially dangerous
      development that could spin out of control.

      But Mr. Rung, said the potential danger is equivalent to a chemical

      Nanoscale particles generally have increased toxicity because they are
      highly reactive. To eliminate hazards, Oregon institutions are working on
      benign versions of nanoparticles that contain cellulose and biodegrade in
      six months. ONAMI is developing a portable factory where nanoparticles are
      made in microreactors exactly where they are needed.

      "It completely eliminates the dangers of making them in a factory in one
      place and shipping to the point of use," Mr. Drost said.

      Portable factories also have space applications. Mr. Drost said
      researchers in Oregon are designing a system to make rocket fuel on Mars so
      the fuel doesn't have to be brought. If successful, spacecraft would weigh
      less, have simpler design, reduced dangers and lower cost.

      Skip Rung
      ONAMI Executive Director and Industry Outreach
      skip@ onami.us


      Collaborating institutions:
      Oregon State University http://oregonstate.edu/research/techTransfer.html
      Portland State University contact Bill Feyerherm at 503-725-8211
      University of Oregon http://techtran.uoregon.edu 541.346.3176

      Becoming an ONAMI-affiliated researcher:

      Kevin Drost at OSU drost@ engr.orst.edu
      Mechanical Engineering,
      204 Rogers Hall Oregon State University.
      Corvallis, OR 97331

      Don McClave at PSU mcclaved@ pdx.edu

      Dave Johnson at UO davej@ darkwing.uoregon.edu
      Dr. David C. Johnson:
      davej@ oregon.uoregon.edu

      Dennis Stiles
      Pacific Northwest National Lab
      dr.b@ pnl.gov

      Professor Jim Hutchison
      hutch@ oregon.uoregon.edu
      541-346-4228 (office)
      541-346-4229 (lab)

      Richard E. Billo
      Department Head
      Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
      Oregon State University
      118 Covell Hall
      Corvallis, OR 97331-2702
      (541) 737-2875 Fax: (541) 737-5241
      Richard.Billo@ oregonstate.edu

      cgramer@ darkwing.uoregon.edu


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