Editor’s Note: This is the third and
final article in a three-part series on future advanced technologies.
The first article, published in the July–August 2005
issue of Army Logistician, introduced the “Revolution
in Atoms, Molecules, and Photons” (RAMP) and explored
the possibilities offered by RAMP for energy production and
delivery. The second article, appearing in the September–October
2005 issue, introduced the extraordinary “designer” materials
that RAMP research is bringing us and explored the implications
of those materials for equipment readiness, demands on the
supply chain, and distribution processes. This third article
revisits several of the technological advances mentioned in
our first two articles, but it focuses on the potential of
RAMP research and development to produce new means of providing
the Army logistician with what the authors call “Knowledge
band gap materials in integrated microchips could
be revolutionized components of radio frequency
identification (RFID) tags.
In today’s military, we hear a lot of discussion about
network-centric warfare. While the term might sound new,
the basic concept underlying network-centric warfare—the
robust networking of forces to improve information sharing
and collaboration, which in turn enhances shared situational
awareness—has been around since the beginning of warfare.
With the advent of highly advanced sensors, which can detect
enemy actions across the entire electromagnetic spectrum
and which possess the ability and computing power to store,
analyze, and disseminate incredible volumes of data, the
U.S. military has been able to adjust its operational tactics
and respond before an enemy can act. These capabilities were
clearly demonstrated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert
Storm and in the initial battles and drive to Baghdad in
Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, those operations involved
warfare against the nation-state of Iraq, and our military
actions proceeded from a clear understanding of how nation-states
organize for and plan military operations.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, we are faced with
an enemy that does not represent a nation-state, that fights
by no civilized rules, and that has shown itself to be extremely
adaptive. In order to counter this type of enemy, our Nation
must sustain its technological superiority if it is to maintain
its dominance on the battlefield—a battlefield that,
in the Global War on Terrorism, now includes the territory
of the United States itself. The overriding, essential element
in winning this type of warfare is having actionable knowledge,
in lieu of actionable information (knowledge being considered
broader, or of a higher order, than information), on such
• Planned enemy activity.
• Current battles engaged.
• Equipment readiness status.
• Consumption of fuel, ammunition, energy (fuel and batteries), and water
supplies (location, condition, and quantities on hand).
• Availability of other essential supplies for military operations.
Attaining this actionable knowledge is as important as having the capability
to communicate such knowledge to others in a timely manner so that decisive
actions can be taken. We are calling this capability “Knowledge on Demand.”
Knowledge on Demand
Research at the atomic, molecular, and photonic levels is producing revolutionary
means to gather, store, assess, and disseminate data, information, and, ultimately,
actionable knowledge. So what can we expect RAMP research to produce that potentially
could revolutionize the logistician’s ability to attain and disseminate
actionable knowledge in combat-relevant time? What follows are several possibilities.
One product of RAMP research is nanoelectronics. The term “nanoelectronics” refers
to electronics at the nanoscale. It is an area that potentially offers technological
advances such as—
• Pervasive computing devices. These would be tiny, even invisible to the
unaided eye, devices that are either mobile or embedded in almost any type of
object imaginable, including vehicles, tools, and clothing.
• Intelligent equipment.
• Supercomputing, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence.
• Better screen displays and the replacement of paper.
• Improved inputs for computers and information technology systems.
• Quantum encryption, which involves sending data by way of photons (the
smallest unit of light).
• High-speed networking.
The list of nanotechnologies in various stages of conception, development, and
even commercialization already is large and growing. If present trends in nanoscience
(the study of matter at atomic and molecular scales) and nanotechnology continue,
most aspects of everyday life will be subject to change. For example, consider
• By patterning recording media in nanoscale layers and dots, the information
on a thousand compact discs could be packed into a space the size of a wrist-watch.
Besides the thousand-fold to million-fold increase in storage capacity, computer
processing speeds will make even the best computers that we have today seem slow.
• Devices that transmit electromagnetic signals, including radio and laser
signals, will shrink in size while becoming inexpensive and more powerful. Everyone
and everything could conceivably be linked everywhere and all the time to a future
World Wide Web that feels more like an all-encompassing information environment
than just a computer network.
Nanoscale electrical components like these could
lead to such technological advances as
even invisible devices that could be embedded
in objects such
as vehicles, tools,
Communications and Computing
Nanomemories and nanodisk drives, which may become commercialized this year,
will offer quantum leaps in gigabytes (GBs) of storage per dollar of storage
cost and in speed of access. (A gigabyte is a unit of computer memory or data
storage capacity equal to 1,024 megabytes.) In fact, emerging technologies
ultimately could transform the economics of computer memory storage so that
a penny could
buy a petabyte (one quadrillion bytes) of storage.
We also should expect to see improvements in screen display technology. Nanotechnology
advances may well provide clearer pictures than even the best plasma screens
can provide today. But much more importantly, nanotechnology advances can offer
clearer and thinner displays for common electronic devices such as the cell phone
and personal data assistant.
Enterprise networking at 8 GBs per second and above is already a reality. At
this time, that level of networking is much too expensive for common use in networks.
However, new semiconductor processes operating below the 100-nanometer level
promise radical improvements in the economics of high-speed networking that can
make it affordable.
The University of California at Los Angeles has built a high-speed, digital
memory device using commodity plastics transformed by nanotechnology. The device
made from a polystyrene film containing gold nanoparticles and holds promise
for low-cost and high-density memory storage.
Terahertz (THz) radiation falls in the gap between infrared radiation and the
high-frequency radio waves currently used for mobile phones and other wireless
communications systems. In fact, researchers in Germany recently transmitted
audio signals via THz waves. This development could lead to a new type of high-speed,
short-range wireless communication network. It is predicted that wireless THz
networks could one day replace wireless local area networks or Bluetooth, which
is a short-range cable replacement.
Apart from a few applications in biological imaging and spectroscopy, THz
communications technology has been relatively unexplored. However, as the
demand for high-data-rate
wireless communication continues to grow, researchers are turning to higher
frequencies and are starting to explore the THz region. Two significant THz
research initiatives are ongoing. One initiative, by the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency, is called Tera-Hertz Operational Reachback (THOR). The second
initiative, by the National Synchrotron Light Source facility at Brookhaven
National Laboratory, is called Terahertz Lightbeams.
The emerging fields of nanoscience and nanoengineering are leading to an unprecedented
understanding of and control over the fundamental building blocks of all physical
things. This emerging technology is likely to change the way computers, and
other devices and equipment not yet imagined, are designed and manufactured.
One group of these “designer” materials is called “metamaterials.” Metamaterials
are artificially constructed materials with properties and responses that do
not occur in nature. One meta-material that is of particular interest to logisticians
band gap material because it could significantly advance knowledge-on-demand
capabilities for logisticians.
band gap materials use light to transmit information.
These materials are similar to semiconductors, except
that electrons are replaced by photons of light.
Photonic Band Gap Materials
The use of photonic band gap (PBG) materials can simplify and improve the efficiency
of microchips. Recent advances in microstructuring technology have allowed
the controlled engineering of three-dimensional PBG structures that are capable
of controlling electromagnetic radiation in the near-infrared as well as the
visible frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. Light in certain engineered
can flow in a way similar to electrical currents in semiconductor chips. These
microstructures provide a foundation for developing novel microphotonic devices
and the integration of such devices into an optical microchip.
The current state of PBG research suggests that this field is at a stage comparable
to the early years of semiconductor technology, shortly before the invention
of the solid-state electronic transistor. If this analogy continues to hold,
one may find PBG materials at the heart of a 21st century revolution in optical
information technology similar to the revolution in electronics we witnessed
over the last half of the 20th century.
A PBG material that is helping to revolutionize the production of electronic
chips and radio frequency identification tags is silicon on sapphire (SOS),
which uses light as a transmission medium. Using light beams instead of wires,
a team of engineers at Johns Hopkins University devised a means of significantly
increasing the speed at which signals move at the electronic chip level. Their
method involves a hybrid integration approach that uses layers of silicon on
a synthetic sapphire substrate. SOS is an integrated circuit manufacturing
technology used to make radiation-hardened chips for aerospace and military
applications. Typically, high-purity, artificially grown sapphire crystals
are used. The advantage of sapphire is that it is an excellent electrical insulator
that prevents stray currents caused by radiation from spreading to nearby circuit
on sapphire (SOS) is a photonic band gap material
that is revolutionizing the production of electronic
chips for RFID tags. The size of this microchip is
With SOS technology, incoming signals are converted
into laser light, which is sent through the transparent sapphire
substrate and then collected and
routed, via integrated microlenses and optical components in the chip structure,
to other portions of the chip or to adjacent chips via an optical fiber.
This method promises to increase transmission speeds up to 100 times over
methods. The technology also allows the chip to operate with less power since
the sapphire substrate is an insulator, not a semiconductor, thus avoiding
power dissipation through parasitic capacitance (an impeding of transmission).
This SOS technology is an improvement over the current bulk SOS processes
and also allows issues of packaging and interoperability interface to
be addressed at the wafer fabrication level.
According to the market research firm NanoMarkets, a new generation of platforms
and applications will be enabled by “nanochips.” Nanochips are
integrated circuits so small that individual particles of matter play major
roles. NanoMarkets predicts that within the next few years we may see advances
• Pervasive computing machines. These are a new class of computers that
will make information access and processing available to anyone from any location
at any time. Pervasive computing has been talked about for some time, but new
types of processors, made viable by nanotechnology, promise that it will at
last become a reality.
• Electronic paper. This technology will realize the decades-old dream
of an effective digital replacement for dead trees.
• Nanointelligent equipment. Nanotechnology promises a dramatic leap forward
in the price-to-performance ratio of processors and will produce a new generation
of truly artificially intelligent equipment that will efficiently process voice,
image, and sensory
inputs fed to them by nanosensors.
• Nano-enabled security, control, and monitoring. Nanosensors will deliver
information about product types, personal identity, environmental conditions,
and more to a new generation of inventory control, security, environmental, and
health control monitoring systems.
microgenerator (gray rectangular pieces) powers a
simple processor (blue square) and a photodiode (smaller
as a chip, the device works as a
sensor for optical communications.
Piezoelectric materials are materials that change their shape when an electric
voltage is applied and produce a charge when pressure is applied. Piezo-electric
nuclear microgenerators have direct applications in shipping and receiving
of cargo and pre-positioning of commodities at remote sites. These microgenerators
could supply energy to operate embedded microchips that monitor, record, and
transmit information on—
• Environmental conditions experienced by cargo, such as vibration, shock,
temperature, humidity, and tampering.
• Layered in-transit visibility, such as the visibility of individual pieces
inside a carton, cartons in a pallet or container, or pallets or containers
in a transportation platform.
• Extreme-duration power sources used for asset monitoring at pre-positioned
force, equipment, or supply sites.
Rare Earth Aluminum Oxide Materials
By melting and cooling levitated material, scientists can understand not just
its formation but also its inherent physical properties. (“Levitated
produced by an electromagnetic field.) The process allows researchers to saturate
a levitated glass they make with a number of attractive properties, such as
chemical stability, infrared transmission, and laser activity; other glasses
have just one of these properties. The resulting rare earth aluminum oxide
materials could serve as the centerpiece for new medical and industrial lasers.
have broad-band Internet applications.
Replacing Transistors in Computing
Challenging a basic tenet of the semiconductor industry, researchers at Hewlett-Packard
Company have demonstrated a technology that could replace the transistor as
the fundamental building block of all computers. The device, called a crossbar
latch, can be made so small that thousands of them can fit across the diameter
of a human hair, enabling the high-tech industry to continue to build ever-smaller
computing devices that are less expensive than their predecessors. These crossbar
latches are purported to be more reliable than today’s transistors and
therefore would increase the mean time between failures in electrical components
that use them.
materials like this are produced by new techniques
of controlling the behavior of tiny liquid droplets.
Nanograss is a new class of structure resulting from researchers
nano-engineering the surface of a material. Nanograss is
produced by an entirely new method
of controlling the behavior of tiny liquid droplets by applying electrical
charges to specially engineered silicon surfaces that resemble blades of
grass. This new technique of manipulating fluids has many
including thermal cooling of integrated circuits for powerful computers,
creating novel photonic components for optical communications,
and producing small,
low-cost “lab on a chip” sensor modules.
Other possibilities include altering the properties of nanograss by applying
ultrasound or a small voltage of electricity to change its temperature. Applying
ultrasound or voltage causes a buildup of an electrical field at the tips
of the nanograss, which changes its wettability through an effect called “electrowetting.” (“Wettability” is
the ability of any solid surface to be wetted when in contact with a liquid;
that is, the surface tension of the liquid is reduced so that the liquid
spreads over the solid surface. “Electrowetting” describes how
a water droplet in contact with a water-repellent surface will begin to spread
in the presence of an electric field.)
Electrowetting could allow the electrodes and electrolytes in a battery to
remain separated until the battery is needed, thus extending the battery’s
shelf life—something that would certainly benefit the logistics community.
Conventional batteries, on average, will discharge at the rate of 3 to 5
percent a month, even when not in use. According to research predictions,
batteries will cost less and have far higher power-to-weight ratios than
conventional batteries. Within the next 3 to 5 years, nanograss technology
also might be
used in switches, power splitters, filters, multiplexers, and other devices
in order to manipulate light in ways that currently are too difficult to
achieve using conventional means.
Holographic storage drives able to record up to 10 times more data than the
next generation of direct video drives are set to become commercially available
this year. These holographic drives will have a storage capacity of 200 GBs
of data—the equivalent of 98 million printed pages, or roughly 200,000
one-megabyte photos. This technology could lead to the production of a 1.6-terabyte
drive by 2010. (A terabyte is one trillion bytes. All of the books held by
the Library of Congress contain about 20 terabytes of text.)
The attraction of holographic storage is that hundreds of separate holograms,
known as pages, can be recorded through the full depth of the storage medium.
Unlike related technologies, which record one data bit at a time onto the
surface of a disc, holography allows 1 million bits of data to be written
out in a single flash of light. This means that a postage stamp-sized piece
of media could be used to store 2 GBs of data and have a transfer rate in
excess of 20 megabytes per second. The cost of this media is expected to
be as low
as 25 cents per GB with an architecture that is anticipated to produce terabyte-capable
drives. An added bonus to storing data through this medium is that its contents
would be difficult for unauthorized personnel to access.
programming (symbolized by this
figure of a DNA molecule working at a
computer work station) is an automated method of
creating a working computer
program. It does this by borrowing from
biological principles of natural selection
and analogs of various naturally occurring operations
to “evolve” programs that solve very
Genetic programming (GP) is an automated method for creating
a working computer program. GP starts with a high-level statement
of “what needs to be done” and
automatically creates a computer program to solve the problem. Evolutionary
methods, such as GP, have the advantage of not being encumbered by the
preconceptions that tend to limit human problem-solving to
well-explored paths. GP is one
of the techniques in the field of genetic and evolutionary computation,
which in turn includes techniques such as genetic algorithms,
evolutionary programming, grammatical evolution, and machine code (linear
genome) genetic programming.
GP starts with a primordial (a basic principle) ooze of thousands of randomly
created computer programs. These programs progressively evolve over a series
of generations. The evolutionary search uses the Darwinian principle of
natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) and analogs of
various, naturally occurring operations. There are numerous GP applications,
• Black art problems, such as the automated synthesis of analog electrical
circuits, controllers, antennas, networks of chemical reactions, and other
areas of design.
• Programming the unprogrammable, which involves the automatic creation
of computer programs for unconventional computing devices such as cellular
automata, multiagent systems, parallel systems, field-programmable gate arrays,
analog arrays, ant colonies, swarm intelligence, and distributed systems.
• Commercially usable new inventions, which involve the use of GP as an
automated “invention machine.”
• Human-competitive machine intelligence, which is an evolving area for
Teleportation is the transfer of a quantum mechanical state
between two particles. Because the transfer takes place without
an exchange of matter, it is reminiscent of the well-known
command, “Beam me up,” from the StarTrek television
series. Teleportation of isolated particles was invented
10 years ago and demonstrated for photons in free space.
Since then, researchers have found a way to teleport an
electrical charge in a solid state. This discovery could
be used to transfer quantum mechanical bits (“qubits”)
in a quantum computer. (A qubit is the smallest unit of information
in quantum computing and holds an exponentially larger amount
of information than a traditional “bit.”)
Modern computers all operate on the same basic principle:
they perform calculations by manipulating individual transistors
that represent a single bit of information (either a “0” or
a “1”). Quantum computing takes an entirely different
approach, using qubits that, through the magic of quantum physics,
can be “0” and “1” at the same time.
Thus, a single qubit can store and process twice the amount
of information as a bit. Combining qubits delivers exponential
improvement. For example, 2 qubits are four times more powerful
than 2 bits, which means a 64-qubit computer theoretically
would be 18 billion trillion times more powerful than the latest
64-bit computer—an impact on computing power that is
Researchers recently have produced the first usable quantum
processors. These initial prototypes are of little commercial
use, but the achievement is significant because it represents
a major milestone in the quest for virtually limitless computing
power. Ubiquitous knowledge on demand for logistics on a global
scale is thus one step closer to reality.
Quantum cryptography uses a stream of single photons to transfer
a secret key between a transmitter and a receiver. Each transmitted
bit of the cryptographic key is encoded on a single photon.
Any attempt to intercept the key changes the quantum state
of the photons, which reveals the presence of a hacker.
A team of scientists at NEC Corporation in Japan claims to
have smashed the transmission distance record for quantum
cryptography. The team says it successfully sent a single photon
over a 150 kilometer-long fiber-optic link. This significantly
exceeds the previous record of 100 kilometers, which was recorded
in June 2003. The NEC’s record-breaking system relies
on planar light-wave circuit technology and a low-noise photon
receiver. The system was developed by a collaboration of researchers
from NEC, the Telecommunications Advancement Organization of
Japan, and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
According to NEC, its system has two distinct benefits—
• Stable, one-way photon transmission, which reduces the noise of backscattered
photons from the optical fiber to less than one-tenth that of conventional round-trip
• An alleged 10-fold increase in signal-to-noise ratio compared with current
systems, thanks to the receiver’s increased sensitivity to photons that
have been broadened by dispersion in the long fiber-optic link.
The first computer network in which communication is secured with quantum cryptography
is up and running in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is a Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency-funded project in which the data flow through ordinary fiber
optic cables that stretch 10 kilometers. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory
in New Mexico have built a portable system that will allow electronic messages
to be transmitted to and from satellites 300 kilometers above the Earth in absolute
secrecy. At the moment, computers capable of quantum cryptography are large
and expensive because they are custom-made prototypes. However, as this technology
matures, the size and cost of its components will decrease.
According to NEC, future systems can produce quantum cryptography transmissions
in an optical network in metropolitan areas and are expected to contribute to
the realization of an optical-fiber network system providing advanced safety
levels that prevent code-breaking.
The United States is experiencing an unprecedented period of adjustment as it
transforms its combat forces for the future while executing the Global War on
Terrorism. As Army and joint combat forces alter their concepts of deployment
and employment, modernization of the logistics systems that support them must
continue. Achieving dominance across the entire range of combat operations, particularly
operations dealing with asymmetric threats, poses considerable logistics challenges.
As logisticians, we need to continue to transform the way we model, design, deploy,
and sustain our forces. We, as logisticians, must stay abreast of significant
discoveries in new technologies and applications that will benefit Army and
joint logistics operations. We should stand ready to incorporate these technological
advances into our systems and business processes to maximize the benefits those
advances offer through reductions in cost, time, and manpower and increases
in equipment readiness.
This series of articles has sought to provide insights into the future potential
for Army and joint logistics of research and development at the atomic, molecular,
and photonic levels—the Revolution in Atoms, Molecules, and Photons. RAMP
research significantly affects three scientific areas of utmost importance to
Army and joint logisticians: energy, materials, and communication (in the broadest
sense). Now, and to an even greater extent in the future, resupply of energy
on the battlefield is a pervasive issue that must be addressed. Material research
is another crosscutting scientific area that first and foremost affects system,
component, and part reliability. And the drive toward a global, joint network-centric
capability requires advances in communication technologies such as data source
collection and data collation, storage and analysis, knowledge management and
decision support, and information dissemination.
The Army’s scientists and engineers are expanding the limits of paradigm
shifts through transformational technology applications that will give our Soldiers
unprecedented capabilities to achieve decisive victories. RAMP is the key that
will lead to those victories. It is pervasive in all areas of research today.
The Federal sector, private enterprise, academia, and international organizations
are increasing funding for developmental applications. The products of these
technologies can and will provide significant benefits to Army and joint logistics
in the months and years to come. The Army’s logisticians must be deeply
involved and ready to apply the tremendous benefits gained from RAMP research
as we move forward in the 21st century. ALOG
David E. Scharett is a senior research scientist with the
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on assignment from the
Department of Energy to the Army Logistics Transformation
Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. A command pilot with experience
in both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, he has over 37 years
of Government service. He has a bachelor’s degree in
engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University and a master’s degree from Golden Gate University
and is a graduate of the Air War College.
Robert E. Garrison is a logistics management
specialist with the Army Logistics Transformation Agency at
Virginia. A retired chief warrant officer (W–5) with
over 32 years of active service in the Army, he has an associate’s
degree in general studies from the University of Maryland,
a bachelor’s degree in vocational education from Southern
Illinois University, and a master’s degree in general
administration from Central Michigan University.