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Lab News -- November 11, 2005

November 11, 2005

LabNews 11/11/2005PDF (650KB)

Sandia demonstrates Athena tag for preventing tragic battlefield ‘friendly fire’ incidents

By Michael Padilla

Designed to help the military avoid “friendly fire” incidents, the Sandia-created Athena Radar-Responsive Tag was recently tested during Exercise Urgent Quest in the UK.

Sandia, along with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. and Sierra Monolithics, demonstrated Athena during the exercise. Athena was developed with sponsorship from the US Army CERDEC I2WD Division and the US Air Force Air Warfare Battlelab.

During the demonstration, Athena tags were placed on military vehicles participating in the exercises. The tag device, tracked via aircraft radar, can be used to identify both US and coalition forces during combat to avoid fratricide. During war, fratricide is the act of killing one’s own soldiers.

Aircraft radar ‘sees’ friends on ground

Aircraft on bombing runs used their on-board radar systems to ensure there were no friendly troops in their sights. If an Athena-tagged vehicle was present, a unique identifier appeared on the pilot’s screen alerting him to a friendly force in his target area, thereby avoiding a potential friendly fire incident.

“It was very gratifying for the project team to listen in to the combat radio link in real time and hear the pilots describe seeing the Athena tag on their radar screens,” says program manager Lars Wells (5354).

The exercise was a Military Utility Assessment, associated with the Coalition Combat Identification Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, organized to demonstrate the effectiveness of new technologies in preventing friendly fire, or fratricide.

In preparation for the exercises, the Athena tag had been demonstrated with several US and European aircraft. In addition to combat identification, the tag can be used for “blue force tracking,” a similar but not identical mission.

Sandia project administrator Darick Lewis (5053) says the exercises were intended to evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies in preventing friendly fire.

“Ideally, worthy candidate technologies can be transitioned into final development programs and produced for warfighter use,” he says. “Athena is effective because it uses a fighter aircraft’s existing radar for detection. It is simple, rugged, small, and inexpensive to integrate.”

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., an affiliate of privately held General Atomics, provides comprehensive solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide.

Sierra Monolithics, Inc. is a leading supplier of high-frequency mixed signal integrated circuits and modules for the wireless and telecommunication industries. -- Michael Padilla

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Sandia to conduct three workshops to gauge nation’s energy and water concerns

By Chris Burroughs

Sandia will conduct three national workshops over the next few months to gauge future energy and water concerns of water and electric utilities, environmental organizations, policy and regulatory groups, tribal groups, economic development organizations, government agencies, universities, research institutions, and others.

The information compiled at the meetings will be used in the development of a national science and technology roadmap looking 25 years into the future to help address major energy- and water-related issues facing the country. The roadmap will help identify both national and regional needs, issues, and gaps in technology, policy, and regulations related to the interdependency of energy and water that can be addressed through improved science and technology initiatives.

“People don't realize that energy and water are interdependent,” says Mike Hightower, one of the Sandia researchers leading the roadmap effort. “Much of energy production is done with water, and water pumping and treatment require a lot of energy. Currently, electric power generation in the US accounts for almost 40 percent of all fresh water withdrawals, equivalent to the amount of water withdrawn for agriculture. While the water consumed by electric power generation is not as great as in agriculture, as fresh water resources become more scarce, we are seeing an increasing number of power plant applications across the country being denied because of a lack of available water resources.”

Mike adds that a major concern is the upward trend for electrical power use. Electricity use in the US is projected to increase 20 to 30 percent over the next 25 years. That will involve a greater demand for water, which is in limited supply in many regions, including the Southeast, Southwest, and the Pacific Coast.

Water ‘tapped out’ in some areas

“Water is already tapped out in these areas,” Mike says. “For the next 25 years US demand for electrical power will grow at a projected 30 percent rate, while the Southeast, Southwest, and the Pacific Coast are doubling their power needs. We are growing fastest in areas with limited water resources. To address the growing shortage of fresh water, we are turning to the use of impaired waters, like desalination and wastewater reuse, which are much more energy-intensive. This spiral of energy and water relationships is impacting the long-term energy security of the country.”

Sandia received $2 million from DOE to develop the roadmap. It must be completed by the end of fiscal year 2006. Coordinating the roadmap activity are a team of researchers from Centers 6100 and 6200 with additional technical support from representatives of all other DOE national laboratories.

Among concerns likely to be discussed and considered at the regional meetings are general lack of fresh water and impact on energy production and generation, cost of adhering to regulations, and policy issues.

Identifying, ranking solutions

Following the three regional meetings and subsequent data and gap analysis, a national Energy-Water Technology Innovations and Solutions Workshop will be held next spring to begin to identify and rank potential solutions and identify future science and technology directions, which will become the basis for the final roadmap. The final energy-water roadmap will summarize the identified needs, major gaps, innovative technical approaches and research needs, research and development priorities and strategies, and associated science-based policy evaluations.

Sandia is working collaboratively with several entities to develop the roadmap. These include an executive committee of national water and energy experts representing federal and state agencies and water and energy associations from around the country, and an advisory panel of DOE national laboratory representatives. -- Chris Burroughs

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Clean energy, gnarly waves, and redundant cell phone nodes: Sandia Student Science Symposium attendees brainstorm tough science issues

By Jim Murphy

Surrounded by relics of the past, New Mexico’s students faced the issues of tomorrow.

On Nov. 2 at the National Atomic Museum, some 50 Albuquerque high school science students met with Sandia volunteers from the Advanced Concepts Group (ACG) to discuss and brainstorm solutions to the world’s problems.

A tall order for a group of people without high school diplomas? Perhaps. But there is no question that students walked away from the Sandia Student Science Symposium knowing more about the issues their generation will face and feeling more prepared to face them.

Two opening talks got the students thinking not only about the literal problems of engineering in the real world but also about the changing face of science and science education.

According to Sandia Vice President, Principal Scientist, and ACG leader Gerry Yonas, aspiring scientists currently in high school will face a life of education consisting of periodic updating of skills and theories in order to keep up with rapidly developing scientific fields.

While the prospect of a life of still more school elicited groans from some in the audience, most seemed eager and ready to pursue their interests to the greatest possible degree. A discussion session after Gerry’s talk raised questions about the ethics, economic feasibility, and politics accompanying the burgeoning fields of biotechnology, nano-technology, and information technology. A consensus emerged that today’s students will be tomorrow’s stewards and that many of the most difficult decisions in science will fall to those currently in high school science classes.

After the initial session, students joined smaller group discussions on such topics as homeland security, epidemiology, technology for emergencies, and global warming.

Discussion in the global warming brainstorming group was diverse and far-ranging. Presenter Karl Braithwaite (7000) opened the discussion with a series of clips from the eco-thriller film The Day After Tomorrow. Students discussed the feasibility of the events depicted in the movie and, from there, began discussing what could prevent even non-blockbuster climate change.

The participants agreed that moving away from the current fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure is necessary and that international participation should be encouraged. Students concurred that national incentive programs should be in place to encourage a society based on a cleaner energy infrastructure.

While some students discussed measures to avoid global warming, others brainstormed new ideas concerning emergency technology. Of note was the concept of a networked wireless communication device that would enable redundancy and reduce the chance of disabled cellular nodes in an emergency situation.

Other brainstormed ideas included methods of avoiding disease spread both in schools and in the world at large. Students suggested disease prevention through the use of disinfectant materials in the school and disease tracking through infrared-equipped satellites. Also, students were called upon to analyze contemporary culture from the perspective of future anthropologists and archaeologists. The design features in common objects such as clothing and handbags were interpreted to provide insight into the nature of modern life.

Closing on a light note were the students who suggested that surfing would, in fact, be

possible in New Mexico if water were allowed to flow down the mountainsides and into pools that would generate some gnarly waves, dude!

While the Sandia ACG brainstormers moderated and contributed to the discussions, the event was truly for the students. How did the students like it? According to Brian Ehrhart, a senior at Sandia High School, “The symposium was an incredibly worthwhile event, in which we were able to discuss future problems facing our own generation’s policymakers.” Another student added, “It was really a lot of fun.”

Jim Murphy is a senior at Sandia High School. He attended the Sandia Student Science Symposium as part of a contingent of Sandia students who participated in the event along with students from across the city. he can be reached at

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