Scientists Turn Handheld JCAD into Dual-Use Chemical, Explosives Detector

Scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center recently gave the Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) the ability to detect explosive materials. The original JCAD was developed and fielded to U.S. Forces nearly 25 years ago, to serve as a portable, automatic chemical warfare agent detector. Currently there are approximately 56,000 chemical warfare agent detecting JCADs in service within the Department of Defense. However, recent needs have required scientists to find ways to create a similar portable technology to detect explosive materials. According to the Army, "Future Army forces require the capability to provide support to unified land operations by detecting, locating, identifying, diagnosing, rendering safe, exploiting, and disposing of all explosive ordnance, improvised explosive devices, improvised/homemade explosives, and weapons of mass destruction." Funded through an Army Technology Objective (ATO) program starting in 2010, under the requirement to assess which existing detectors could also detect explosives, ECBC's Point Detection Branch began to research different options. Since so many JCADs are already in the hands of warfighters across all four services, the team explored the possibilities with that technology. ECBC Point Detection Branch handled the technical evaluation of the unit in collaboration with Smiths Detection, who is building the parts for the new capability. While working to make the JCAD an explosives detector, the team had to overcome several challenges. On a programmatic level, the ATO requirement had restrictions against modifying the existing JCAD hardware. Also, the JCAD needed to maintain its original chemical warfare agent detector purpose. Aside from the ATO requirements, making a chemical warfare agent detector into an explosives detector had some scientific challenges. The original JCAD is designed to detect vapors. However, explosive materials are usually low vapor pressure solids. ECBC scientists had to figure out how the JCAD could detect solid explosive materials, without changing the hardware or original intent of the detector. Given these parameters the scientists sought to determine how to modify this detector while essentially keeping it the same. "Many of the emerging chemical threats and explosives share the challenge of presenting little to no detectable vapor for sampling. By conducting research into the detection of solid explosive residues, we have learned valuable lessons that are equally important for detecting nonvolatile solid and liquid chemical agent residues as well," said Dr. Augustus W. Fountain III, senior research scientist for chemistry. The add-on pieces are a new JCAD Rain Cap with a Probe Swab and an inlet. Within the JCAD itself, scientists added two on-demand vapor generators: a calibrant and a dopant. The dopant changes the chemistry of the detector so that it can detect explosives easier. To convert an ordinary JCAD into a JCAD Chemical Explosive Detector (JCAD CED), the existing rain cap is replaced with one that has a new inlet. Once in place, scientists wipe any surface using the probe swab, which then retracts back into the inlet. With a simple button push, the probe swab tip with the explosives sample heats up to a certain temperature, vaporizing the explosive residue. These additional features allow an ordinary JCAD to now have the role of a portable, automated explosives detector. The swab allows users to pick up often-invisible residue from any surface and analyze it. The explosive residue can be transferred and easily detected using the instrument. The JCAD CED can already detect roughly a dozen compounds including TNT, RDX and EGN. Future efforts could increase the number of detectable compounds. Scientists plan to determine the amount of explosives that can be detected and develop a concept of operations. Other goals include developing a methodology for detecting homemade explosives, and reaching a technology readiness level 6. JCAD CED will be demonstrated in a fiscal year 2015 military utility assessment. Source:

Posted in: News, Defense, Detectors, Sensors


Adaptive Zoom Riflescope Prototype Has Push-Button Magnification

When an Army Special Forces officer‑turned engineer puts his mind to designing a military riflescope, he doesn’t forget the importance of creating something for the soldiers who will carry it that is easy to use, extremely accurate, light‑weight and has long‑lasting battery power. The result is the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) prototype, developed by Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell. At the push of a button, RAZAR can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles.

Posted in: News, Defense, Optics, Photonics


Killer Robots - Army Studies Challenges of Remote Lethality

The military has used and experimented with robots that perform functions such as scouting and surveillance, carrying supplies and detecting and disposing of improvised homemade bombs. However, when it comes to integrating lethality, such as a weapon capable of firing 10 rounds per second onto an unmanned ground vehicle, issues arise such as safety, effectiveness and reliability, as well as military doctrine on how much human involvement is required.

Posted in: News, Communications, Defense, Machinery & Automation, Robotics


Technique Generates Electricity from Mechanical Vibrations

Research scientists at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have demonstrated a new technique for generating electrical energy. The method can be used in harvesting energy from mechanical vibrations of the environment and converting it into electricity. Energy harvesters are needed in wireless self-powered sensors and medical implants, where they could ultimately replace batteries. The technology could be introduced on an industrial scale within three to six years.

Posted in: News, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Energy, Energy Harvesting, Semiconductors & ICs


Researchers Measure Stress in 3D-Printed Metal Parts

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed an efficient method to measure residual stress in metal parts produced by powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing (AM).The 3D-printing process produces metal parts layer by layer using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles. When each layer is complete, the build platform moves downward by the thickness of one layer, and a new powder layer is spread on the previous layer.While the method produces quality parts and components, residual stress is a major problem during the fabrication process. Large temperature changes near the last melt spot, and the repetition of this process, result in localized expansion and contraction.An LLNL research team, led by engineer Amanda Wu, has developed an accurate residual stress measurement method that combines traditional stress-relieving methods (destructive analysis) with modern technology: digital image correlation (DIC). The process provides fast and accurate measurements of surface-level residual stresses in AM parts.The team used DIC to produce a set of quantified residual stress data for AM, exploring laser parameters. DIC is a cost-effective, image analysis method in which a dual camera setup is used to photograph an AM part once before it’s removed from the build plate for analysis and once after. The part is imaged, removed, and then re-imaged to measure the external residual stress.SourceAlso: Learn about Design and Analysis of Metal-to-Composite Nozzle Extension Joints.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Metals, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement


NASA Computer Model Reveals Carbon Dioxide Levels

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres, and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.Scientists have made ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide for decades and in July NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to make global, space-based carbon observations. But the simulation — the product of a new computer model that is among the highest-resolution ever created — is the first to show in such fine detail how carbon dioxide actually moves through the atmosphere.In addition to providing a striking visual description of the movements of an invisible gas like carbon dioxide, as it is blown by the winds, this kind of high-resolution simulation will help scientists better project future climate. Engineers can also use this model to test new satellite instrument concepts to gauge their usefulness. The model allows engineers to build and operate a “virtual” instrument inside a computer.SourceAlso: Learn about the NASA Data Acquisition System (NDAS).

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Electronics & Computers, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gases, Software, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement


3D Audio Research Helps Make Cockpit Safer

Imagine yourself in a cockpit, flying a mission, listening to a multitude of critical voices delivering vital messages, all at the same time and from the same direction. Now imagine the same environment, except that the voices are now distinct and separate. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has developed 3D sound technology that creates a sound environment that mimics the way the human body receives aural cues, much like 3D movies create the perception that the viewer is part of the movie.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Communications, RF & Microwave Electronics


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