Daily Updates

Friday, 21 April 2006

New Display Technologies Close Out the Week at Defense and Security in Orlando

"With so many interesting people to network with as well as the range of technical content on offer, I left the conference with many ideas to pursue in my new company, and also I hope, opportunities to collaborate. I shall certainly be back!"

-Mike Kemp, Iconal Technology Ltd (UK)

SPIE Defense and Security 2006 in Orlando wrapped up this afternoon. Over 6,000 delegates were in attendance, a 15% increase over last year. The exhibition, which closed Thursday, was a resounding success, with many vendors doing last minute business even as the decorators were rolling up the carpet on the exhibition floor. Bellevue Washinton-based eMagin Corporation, a company that develops personal display systems and OLED technology, was on hand to demonstrate the latest innovations of power-efficient OLED microdisplays. "Unlike legacy technologies, OLED materials and device designs hold the prospect of even more power-efficient displays that feature higher brightness, broader color gamuts, superior contrast, more compact packaging, and higher resolution," said Susan Jones, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, eMagin Corporation.

In an invited paper on Friday morning in the Future Display Technolgies II conference, Pete Smith of Honeywell Specialty Materials outlined the potential for flexible displays and what he sees as the hurdles to realizing it. As displays sizes have increased, costs have diminished, but the display industry's corollary to Moore's Law is losing steam as the incremental savings are smaller with each generation. Currently, Smith said, the consumer market for flexible displays is "absent," although there are potential niche applications such as military use. But new materials made useful by solution processing will enable cost savings in the achievement of higher resolution (for small handheld displays such as cellphones) and even bigger sizes (for home displays). "Material innovation will lead to the realization of flexible displays," Smith said.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Defense for Commercial Airliners highlighted

"Defense, Security and Cockpit Displays" chairs James C. Byrd (left) and Dan D. Desjardins, U.S. Air Force, present the Conference Best Paper Award at SPIE Defense and Security 2006 to principal author Lisong Zhou, The Pennsylvania State Univ., for his paper titled "All-organic active matrix OLED flexible display" (6225A-13). Alfred Wanga, Jie Sun, Sheng-Chu Wu, Sung kyu Park, and Thomas Jackson, The Pennsylvania State Univ., also contributed to this paper.

"Future Display Technologies" chairs Eric W. Forsythe, Army Research Lab. (left), and Henry J. Girolamo, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Ctr. (right), present the Conference Best Paper Award to Asad Khan, Kent Displays, Inc., for his paper titled "Recent advances in flexible low-power cholesteric LCDs" (6225B-42). Irina Shiyanovskaya, Erica N. Montbach, Tod Schneider, Forrest Nicholson, Nick Miller, Duane Marhefka, Todd Ernst, and Joseph Doane, Kent Displays, contributed to this paper.

The Optics and Photonics in Global Homeland Security II conference, chaired by Theodore T. Saito, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., and Daniel Lehrfeld, Photonic Products Group, Inc., continued today.

The session on Air Transportation Security: Counter MANPADS offered some interesting updates on approaches to defense against rocket attacks on commercial airliners.

Of note was the paper Commercial aircraft protection: Northrop Grumman Guardian system for Counter-MANPADS, J. D. Stanfill, L. Danielides, Northrop Grumman Corp. [paper 6203-10]. Manpad stands for man portable air defense system and it consists of a shoulder-fired rocket that can be used to bring down aircraft for the defense of the troops in the field. But in the hands of a terrorist it means a man-fired weapon that can be used against civilian aircraft. The C-Manpad program is the counter-Manpad approach to negate this threat.

Northrup Gruman spoke about their aircraft-mounted system. A removable pod is located on the belly of the aircraft that contains all of the counter-Manpad systems elements. The system consists of missile detection and warning system and a laser transmitter that will track and jam the rocket's guidance system. The detection systems identifies the firing of the rocket from its launch tube and then proceeds to track it from its engine signature. The warning system informs the crew and sends a message to a control center to indicate an attach has taken place. The tracking system then informs the laser transmitter to begin to target the incoming item. If iy is determined that it is a false alarm, the laser transmitter can be turned off. However, the procedure is to "shoot first and ask questions later." The rocket's guidance systems are not that robust and its tracking of the airplane is like looking through a soda straw, so if it can be made to blink for just an instant it will lose track of the aircraft. The purpose of the laser transmitter is only to distract the incoming missile, not destroy it. Northrup has worked closely with Northwest airlines and FedEx to design and experiment with this system. The removable pod weighs 436 lbs and requires about 1.8 kW of power, about as much as a strong hair dryer.

A later talk in the same session, Raytheon Vigilant Eagle counter-MANPADS system, J. L. Vollin, Raytheon Missile Systems [6203-14], spoke about the Raytheon ground-mounted system called Vigilant Eagle. This system operates with detection and tracking towers on the ground placed around the airport. These tracking stations identify a rocket firing, track the missile and also send a warning to the command center at the airport. Information from the initial detection alerts the other tracking stations to confirm the launch. Once this is confirmed a separate phased antenna array is used to guide a microwave signal to the rocket and begin to jam its tracking mechanism. The microwave signal is used only to deflect the rocket from its target. The warning sent to the command center also alerts ground security to the attack, and they are dispatched to apprehend the terrorist.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Dr. Kumar Patel receives SPIE Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Kumar Patel receives his SPIE Lifetime Achievement Award from SPIE President Paul McManamon as Symposium Chair John C. Carrano looks on.

During an illustrious career, spanning more than forty years, Dr. Kumar Patel has achieved many great accomplishments, including the invention of the now-ubiquitous Carbon Dioxide Laser, and dozens of other patents, impacting virtually every facet of science, technology, and industry.

As a research scientist, academician, and businessman, Kumar Patel has contributed immeasurably to the fields of lasers, optics, and photonics over several decades, earning him the respect and admiration of his colleagues. In recognition of these contributions, and his dedication to excellence, the leadership of SPIE bestowed upon Dr. Kumar Patel a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Awards Banquet on Wednesday evening.

Dr. Kumar Patel then gave a speech he called "Confessions of a Laser Jock." He had just the right mix of humor, technical content, and general information to keep an audience engaged at 8:30 in the evening. Dr. Patel was a true statesman for the technology, and it was an honor for all to hear from a true pioneer.

Defense & Security 2006 Goes Micro

Weighing in at 4,300 pounds, powered by a 4-cylinder Honda Civic motor, and able to scale 3 foot boulders in the Nevada desert there is nothing "micro" about the NaviGator. This self propelled vehicle was designed and built by faculty and students at the University of Florida Center for Intelligent Machines and Robots. The project was funded by DARPA to compete in the Los Angeles to Los Vegas DARPA Grand Challenge, a desert race for robotic vehicles.

The Micro (MEMS) and Nanotechnologies for Space Applications Conference, chaired by Thomas George, ViaLogy Corp., and Zhongyang Cheng, Auburn Univ., began this morning. The second session featured an interesting presentation by Richard Cernosek, Sandia National Labs., on micro-analytical systems for national security applications. Cernosek outlined the development of a number of analytical techniques on the micro scale with security- and defense-related applications. The work Cernosek and his colleagues at Sandia are conducting is aimed at developing complete lab on a chip capabilities to provide the analytical techniques of mass spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and caloritmetry on the micro scale for the purpose of chemical and biological agent detection.

The devices, all produced using the micromachining capabilities developed for both MEMS and LIGA technologies, incorporate chemical preconcentrators, gas chromatography columns, detector arrays, and MEMS valves and heaters. A sample chemical micro analysis system might consist of a series of tubes placed on a MEMS hotplate that would act as a preconcentrator for the gas, which would then be pumped into separation columns by MEMS valve arrangement pumps. The gas then flows through a long spiral channel where it is separated by mass.

The output of this channel is directed to a series of MEMS pivot plate resonators that are driven by an applied alternating magnetic field. The resonance of the pivot plates varies with the mass deposited on the plates, so mass analysis over time can be computed. In essence, the system is a miniature mass spectrometer. The MEMS heater can also be used to raise the temperature of a known mass sample to 200 to 500 degree C. The temperature is controlled by feedback from integrated thermocouples, and entropy of conversion is measured by the same controlling thermocouples.

Nanotechnology and ultrafast imaging figured prominently in the Special Industry Perspectives Session, which kicked off in the morning with a very well attended overview by John Zolper, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Microcystems Technology Office (MTO). The popularity of the Industry Perspectives Session highlights the pressure researchers and scientists who receive research funds from the Departments of Defense and Energy are under to get their discoveries to market-and into the hands of warfighters and first responders.

"MTO is pioneering research in Integrated Microsystems as a "platform on a chip" to enable revolutionary performance and functionality for future DoD systems. The core of an Integrated Microsystem is the ability to sense, process, and act on data in the battlespace to give the US warfighter an asymmetric advantage. Sensing modalities extend across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, truly DC-to-light and in addition include biological and chemical sensing. Processing is addressed at the sensor front end and at the backend in the analog, digital, and mixed signal circuits. MTO also has projects developing new power sources and conversion technologies matched to the sensor requirements."
Source: Microsystems Technology Office/DARPA

The afternoon industry session began with a panel discussing the future of fiber lasers and included Andrew Brown (Aculight), Omur Sezerman (OZ Optics), Dennis Gapontsev (IPG Photonics), Bryce Samson (Nufern), and Len Marabella (JDS Uinphase). While the panelists often poked fun at the dominance of IPG Photonics, and did air some stark disagreements, they did agree on the great advantages of fiber lasers: their small size, high efficiency, high reliability, low power requirements, excellent beam quality, and their ability to lase in multiple wavelengths at very high repetition rates. As for applications, Andrew Brown pointed out that the low power requirements and high efficiency make fiber lasers very attractive for military vehicles. They are also useful, of course, in telecommunications at 1 and 1.5 microns and useful for medical applications at the 2 micron mark. Len Marabella touted the fact that fiber lases have huge manufacturing advantages over previous lasers, and that once the tight tolerances required can be built into the manufacturing process, fiber lasers will eventually change the laser industry landscape.

The Defense, Security, and Cockpit Displays conference, chaired by James Byrd and Daniel Desjardin, both of the U.S. Air Force, kicked off Wednesday afternoon with an invited overview on flexible displays and electronics technology by Robert Pinnel, U.S. Displays Consortium (USDC). His talk focused on the "why," "what," and "when" of displays, and in particular flexible displays. Pinnel noted that serious work has been done over the last 5 years to accommodate the US Army's interest in advancing flexible display technology, as well as to secure DARPA funding. Flexible displays possess several advantages over their more conventional counterparts in that they are lighter, flexible, more compact, and require much less power.

Given evolution of flexible display research, engineering and production, these devices should be:

conformal and flexible by 2008,
roll-able by 2012, and
possess paper-like properties by 2015.

Pinnel went on to describe the manufacturing challenges inherent in ramping up volume production of flexible displays, given current production processes. He noted a particular problem with using plastics as a material for flexible displays in that they are inherently unstable. However, he described new materials being developed by Dupont, using organic transistors that may help with stability issues, though at present these materials are prohibitively expensive.

At the opening of Wednesday's Optics & Photonics in Global Homeland Security conference, co-chair Ted Saito, Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (3rd from left) presented the 2nd annual Lehrfeld Award to recipient John Carrano (2nd from left), for his project management work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Microcystems Technology Office (MTO). The award is named after Eric Lehrfeld who perished in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11 2001. Dan Lehrfeld (right) has worked closely with SPIE and Dr. Saito to put the SPIE's Global Homeland Security program on firm footing. Dan's wife, Lynn Lehrfeld, stands to the left.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Accurate Hurricane Forecasting Gets Lift from Better Sensors, More Powerful Computers

Defense and Security attendee (left) in conversation with "PatrolBot" from New Hampshire-based MobileRobots. The device is billed by company officials as the first intelligent mobile enterprise robot ready for any 24X7 autonomous applications.

The location of SPIE Defense and Security in South Central Florida, at the onset of what promises to be a very active hurricane season, gave particular relevance to the special session, chaired by Paul E. Lewis, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, on the increasing role of weather satellites in tropical cyclone analysis and forecasting.

The first presentation by Robert Atlas, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab, began the session with a well-attended invited talk on the use of remotely sensed data and innovative modeling to improve hurricane prediction. Hurricanes in the past have led to huge loss of life because of the inability of weather forecasters to predict the track and intensity of the storms. Current technology, however, has given forecasters the ability to predict the landfall of the most recent hurricanes to within a few kilometers.

Much of this improved forecasting is due to better sensors, more efficient data collection, and better modeling of those data. The sensors Atlas focused on in his presentation are located on Geostatic satellites and polar orbiting satellites. A NASA satellite called QuickScat has an active microwave imaging system that provides surface wind data from storms at sea. Another system, called TRMM, uses both active and passive microwave systems to gather precipitation and temperature data from clouds associated with hurricanes. This information, when processed, appears as a CAT scan of the hurricane and reveals a 3D image of the moisture content of the storm. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) system on NASA's Aqua spacecraft is an important new source of information about weather and climate processes, Atlas pointed out. The AIRS instrument is a 2378 channel grating spectrometer. The AIRS retrieval generates estimates of surface temperature, cloud properties and profiles of temperature and water vapor.

Delegates dine at the Defense and Security 2006 Women in Optics Luncheon. The SPIE Women in Optics Technical Community promotes personal and professional growth for women through community building, networking opportunities and encouraging young women to choose optics as a career option. Membership in WiO is open to all and is free for SPIE Student Members.

The Women in Optics luncheon also took place this afternoon, drawing nearly 30 conference attendees. These luncheons, held at most of SPIE's larger events, give woman in optics- and photonics- related disciplines the opportunity to network and share their common concerns. SPIE President Paul McManamon, Air Force Research Laboratory (left) stopped by for an impromptu visit. Women from 6 different countries were on hand, which made for lively and invigorating discussion. Topics ranged from landmine detection, to displays to night-vision goggles and their uses. The range of topics, ideas, and multi-disciplinarian discussion proved that women are making their mark in the field, be it in industry, government or academics.

The Space Technologies and Operations track reconvened on Tuesday morning with a philosophical plenary presentation by Shahid Habib, Assistant Director of the Earth Science Directorate, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His talk posed the sensitive question of what is needed most for security-should we concentrate on enhancing current sensor technologies, or should we be improving coordination among the many operating agencies?

When asked by chair Richard Howard, NASA Marshal Space Flight Center, to provide the talk in September of last year, the Katrina disaster was foremost in Dr. Habib's mind, and the obvious need to better mitigate future hurricanes inspired his philosophical discussion. After the subsequent massive earthquake in Northern Pakistan that killed over 100,000 and cost more than $100 billion in damage, he came to the conclusion that it is the responsibility of the scientific community, NGOs, and government agencies to coordinate their efforts more effectively.

Unfortunately, most U.S. agencies are vertically aligned, and so having a common understanding of a situation is never as simple as one may think. This is a detriment because communication and coordination are the most crucial elements in situation response. And while sensor technologies and networks can only assist in that coordination, Dr. Habib stressed the need for better coordination among scientists, researchers, engineers, and disaster relief officials to take into account social, environmental, and economic factors when crafting and executing any disaster response. As an example, he pointed out that any understanding of Earth's environment must take into account the sensing of earth-sun interaction, weather, surface temperatures, water cycles, and carbon cycles because they all contribute to what Dr. Habib called "anthropogenic disaster phenomena".

Dr. Habib proposed that the basic attributes of disaster mitigation would include increasing observations, developing better algorithms to increase predictions, but also building a capacity to mitigate disasters by coordinating with many resources. However, we already have petabytes of data from the many sensors we've already deployed with the intent to increase temporal, spatial, and spectral resolution. This is far more data than we are currently equipped to handle, and Dr. Habib suggested that we may look to an economic model-the Laffer condition-as an analogy of what an overload of information will do to disaster prediction. He suggested that as the number of sensors increases, so does the amount of data, creating data-processing bottlenecks precicely when time is of the essence. So, sensors must be need- and user-driven to insure that the data is not discarded or overlooked. The fact that we already have too much data at our disposal begs the question: should we consider using available sensors to deal with cost issues, especially in space applications where technology becomes particularly costly?

Dr. Habib thinks so. He asserted that we must capitalize on existing sensors to solve these critical prediction and response problems, and that no single entity is currently equipped with the resources necessary to accomplish this effectively. This will necessitate pooling of resources across many agencies to enable additional observations as well as the assimilation of the additional resulting data.

Monday, 17 April 2006

Tactical Imaging and Biometric Technologies Featured at SPIE Defense and Security

Greg Olsen, Sensors Unlimited, Goodrich Corp., talks about his experiences on the International Space Station at SPIE Defense & Security in Orlando, Florida. In October 2005 Olsen became the third private fare-paying space traveler, blasting off on a Russian Soyuz rocket and docking with the International Space Station. He spent eight days there, living with Russian cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts and helping to carry out experiments.

"SPIE Defense & Security is the most comprehensive millimetre wave and terahertz forum existing today."
-Elliot Brown, University of California/Santa Barbara

The Technical Program of the SPIE Defense and Security Symposium began today in Orlando. Leveraging the recent increase of defense- and homeland security-related outlays, organizers have established Defense and Security as one of SPIE's most successful events. The Technical Program is made up of 49 conferences, which focus primarily on sensors, imaging systems, signal, and data processing, as well as networked systems-all for use in defense-related systems and services.

"Enhanced and Synthetic Vision Conference" chairs Jacques G. Verly (left) , Univ. de Liège (Belgium) and Jeff J. Guell, Boeing, (right) present the Conference Best Paper Award at SPIE Defense and Security 2006 to principal author J. Jarvis "Trey" Arthur, NASA Langley Research Ctr., for his paper titled "Synthetic vision enhanced surface operations and flight procedure rehearsal" (6226-18). Lawrence J. Prinzel and S.P. Williams, NASA Ames Research Ctr., also contributed to this paper.

Reflecting the increasing importance of tactical imagers and sensors in both defense and homeland security, many of the papers presented as part of the "Terahertz for Military and Security Applications," chaired by Dwight L. Woolard, Army Research Lab, and R. Jennifer Hwu, Innosys, Inc. were particularly well-attended. Michael Stroscio, Univ. of Illinois., began the conference with an invited paper the outlining some of the research being conducted by he and his colleagues on the conductive biomolecules and their THz vibrational interactions, research that has interesting implications for the design, development and application of biosensors and bioelectronics.

The particular molecules Stroscio discussed in his presentation are DNA strands bound to TiO2 (titanium dioxide) Quantum dots in a liquid solution. TiO2 quantum dots have indirect band gaps, and therefore generate electron hole pairs that do not rapidly recombine. The terahertz optical conductivity of these particular nanochystalline structures elicits a charge transfer in the DNA that could, in theory, be harnessed to make amperometric biosensors based on conducting nanotubes.

There were several interesting talks in the Non-Intrusive Inspection Techniques conference chaired by George Vourvopoulos, Science Applications International Corp., and Patrick Doty, Sandia National Labs.

Harold Martz, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, presented an overview of methods for using neutron radiation detection techniques for the examination of shipping containers. Neutron radiation interacts with materials through a number of method, Martz pointed out. Neutrons can be scattered back and fort, generating gamma rays. By detecting the time of flight and angular distribution of these resultant particles, items inside a shipping container can be located in space, and then identified through energy spectrum measurements of the gamma ray particles.

Presentations in the Enhanced and Synthetic Vision Conference chaired by Jacques G. Verly, Univ. de Liège (Belgium), and Jeff J. Guell, Boeing, covered technology developments, real time implementation of test systems, and ideas for future synthetic vision applications. While data fusion is a "hot" topic in many of the conferences this year at SPIE Defense and Security, this particular conference covers its use in real time vision applications, reflecting the focus of many presentation on applications for the end-user. Many of the presentations also cover distributed aperture systems and augmented vision systems. Distributed aperture systems are made up of multiple cameras or sensors observing a target so that users can extract the most information from the combination of the images in real time. Augmented vision systems project simulated images onto actual visual images to improve the situation awareness of users of the equipment.

The afternoon began with a panel discussion about the barriers to biometrics. Patrick Flynn, University of Notre Dame, chaired the session and asked the panel to address a wide range of subjects. Among them was the issue of having multiple markets but different needs for biometric technologies, the lack of a vendor base, the relative immaturity of the science, lack of standardization, issues of privacy, cost, the difficulty of determining ROI, and the current regulatory environment, among others.

Nearly each panelist approached the subject in a similar way, citing many of the difficulties outlined by the chair. Aran Ross, West Virginia University, for example, focused on the many ways a biometric system could be compromised, such as the creation of a fake biometric, the replay of old data, the overriding of a feature extractor, interception of the channel, and other potential weak spots.

Marios Savvides, Carnegie Mellon University, then raised the question - How do we insure biometric recognition in non-cooperative situations? Most image captures of suspects are not ideal. Many will be in poor illumination, at odd angles, and may incorporate some blur. Dr. Savvides went on to explain that one of our greatest challenges is the acquisition of good probe data, and that even a simple iris verification can be hindered by something as benign as eye-lid occlusion or too much iris dilation.

This subject of biometric challenges in current techniques was then taken up by Eliza Du, Purdue Univ., who examined each biometric and listed the advantages and challenges of each. After listing all of the shortcomings of fingerprint, iris, 2D face, and 3D face technologies, Prof. Du came to the common conclusion that only multimodal biometrics would prove reliable.

However, Salil Prabhaker, Digital Persona Inc., took a different approach and looked at biometric challenges in terms of customer needs. In his opinion, the true constraints are convenience, security, cost, size, computational resources, and biometric individuality; fundamental barriers will apply if any system is specified to operate at the extremes of its capability. Prabhaker also differed with his colleagues by asserting that biometrics is, in itself, not immature, havin been deployed in many different applications.