Why Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology for the Soldier

Nanotechnology can enable cutting-edge technologies that provide potentially transformational capabilities by harnessing the size dependence of physical, optical, electrical, and chemical phenomena that occur at tiny length scales. The result can be new materials, processes, devices, and systems that provide unprecedented advances in technologies to provide protection and other capabilities to the warfighter and the warfighter’s platforms.

The nanoscale range is truly minute — the diameter of a single human hair is roughly 80,000 nm — and size-related behavior opens up potentially paradigm shifting opportunities. Nanoscale materials and devices, either directly or as components of larger products, allow for multiple capabilities in tiny, lightweight building blocks. Therefore, nanotechnology is ideally suited to enhance functionality at reduced weight, a key driver of the ISN Mission. ISN researchers have demonstrated that a wide variety of nanomaterials can be synthesized and integrated into prototype devices and fabrics.

Theoretical and computational efforts at the ISN complement experimental research programs in order to understand and optimize material properties. Moreover, nanotechnology is inherently interdisciplinary, bringing together areas of science that are historically very different, allowing innovators to capitalize on the unique features of each. For example, ISN scientists are combining the traditionally low cost and high production volumes of textiles manufacturing with the exquisitely customized electronic properties typically achieved via the expensive processing of semi-conductors. The potential impact is unique optoelectronic fibers for full-body coverage of the Soldier, buildings, and vehicles to detect heat, light and sound,  made possible by the ability to produce these fibers at the speeds, costs, and quantities expected from mass production of textiles.