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Vol. 57, No. 2                January 21, 2005
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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Electromagnetic Launcher at Sandia

  Anup Singh
Sandia, Lockheed Martin develop electromagnetic missile launcher for naval shipboard operations   Researchers develop portable device that can detect disease  

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Sandia, Lockheed Martin develop electromagnetic missile launcher for naval shipboard operations

By Michael Padilla

Researchers at Sandia and Lockheed Martin have created an electromagnetic missile launcher for naval applications that will tap into the abundant electric power available on ships that are now on the drawing board.

The launcher will result in less deck heating on ships, help eliminate visual and radar obscuration, and be scalable to larger missiles, says Tom Lockner (15335), Sandia’s primary investigator for the project. In addition, the launcher will help reduce the infrared signature after missile launch.

The launcher is a highly efficient electromagnetic propulsion system based on pulsed power systems technology.

The project, sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Shared Vision Program, brings together Sandia expertise with electromagnetic launchers and Lockheed expertise in systems designs and engineering for naval launcher platforms.

Sandia and Lockheed Martin’s Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) began the concept development process by building and testing a mini-model, and then designing intermediate and full-scale systems to identify potential difficulties.

“Sandia has proven expertise in magnetic launcher technology, including the design and construction of coilguns and other electromagnetic acceleration devices,” Tom says.

MS2 is responsible for a naval vertical launch system currently in use, and that expertise is used to design the EM system that will meet the needs of the US Navy.
Les Basak is principal investigator for Lockheed Martin.

“An electromagnetic missile launcher provides significant benefits over conventional launch methods, including the reduction of host platform susceptibility and potential reduction of missile propulsion requirements,” says Basak. “Our collaboration, experimentation, and testing to date have provided crucial data for establishing the electromagnetic missile launcher as a viable method to eject missiles from launch platforms.”

Lockheed Martin supplied input on design parameters and mechanical engineering that guaranteed relevance of the concept to current launch systems.

Inductive launcher technology

The electromagnetic launcher concept uses basic physics principals seen in a high-school physics lab demonstration:

First take an electromagnet that is connected to a battery and switch (the motor component of the launcher), and an aluminum ring located at the edge of the electromagnet (the launcher armature).

Now close the switch, pulsing the electromagnet with a fast-rising current. The rising magnetic field induces current in the armature, generating an opposing force, sending the ring (armature) flying away from the electromagnet.

This principle is repeated with multiple stages, each timed for an optimal force profile. The electromagnets are built into the launcher structure, and the armature is located on the launcher centerline.

The missile is attached to the armature, and is separated from the armature when it reaches the top of the structure.

Project concept

One objective of the project was to develop a tabletop model and technical conceptual designs for an electromagnetic launch system. Another was to design and conduct some limited experiments to better understand the electromagnetic missile launcher design and its electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic compatibility effects on missile components.

The tabletop model provided confirmation of simulations, as well as an effective visual demonstration of the basic magnetic launch process, in a convenient office/conference room environment.

Sandia researchers performed simulations to predict the performance of the mini-launcher demonstration model fabricated by Lockheed Martin. Researchers tested the demonstration model, analyzed the data, and compared the results with predicted performance. Based on the simulation validation gained from the mini-launcher, the project then proceeded to design and fabrication of full-scale components and launcher.

The second phase of the project was to design a full-scale demonstrator. A launcher prototype was first designed, using test coils, power systems, and a launcher structure at full-stress parameters. This task generated an intermediate system design, which could be implemented with as many available parts as possible while still testing critical design parameters.

Full-scale launch demo

Sandia and Lockheed Martin have extended the sub-scale launcher concept to a full-scale design capable of meeting the requirements for a shipboard missile launch system. The final results of two years of development was recently demonstrated to an audience of Navy, Lockheed Martin, and Sandia personnel.

On Dec. 14, the first electromagnetic missile launcher, with a full-scale mass and missile replica shape, was launched outside Bldg. 970 in Area 4.
“The demonstration met all objectives of the program and was praised by Navy and Lockheed program managers as a clear view of the future of electric-powered weaponry for the Department of Defense,” says Tom.

Basak says the success of the December demonstration proved the feasibility of employing electromagnetic propulsion for missile boost and eject.
“Furthermore, we have demonstrated the successful melding of Sandia science and technology with Lockheed Martin naval weapon system integration expertise,” says Basak.

The electromagnetic missile launch development work continues with a third year of Shared Vision funding, leading to transition to the Navy for full-scale weapons engineering on future electric-powered naval platforms. -- Michael Padilla

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Researchers develop portable device that can detect disease

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By Chris Burroughs

Someday in the not too distant future patients may visit a doctor’s office, provide a sample of saliva or blood, and know in minutes if they are prone to heart disease, gum disease, or cancer. There would be no sending samples to off-site labs for analysis and waiting days to obtain the vital information.

A hand-held medical diagnostic device being developed at Sandia promises to be this ticket to better health for millions of Americans.

“We have taken technology that we’ve worked on for several years — the lab-on-a-chip devices — and are adapting them for use in medical diagnostics,” says Anup Singh (8321), project lead. “We’ve tested saliva samples from healthy patients for gum disease, and within the next few months we will begin using the diagnostic to test diseased samples.”

Lab-on-a-chip technologies

Lab-on-a-chip technologies were developed in the mid-1990s for detecting biotoxins and chemical agents. In new incarnations they are used in the analysis of bodily fluids, such as saliva and blood, for detecting certain diseases. Expanding on established microchip-based separation technologies, the research team adapted a method known as an immunoassay to a chip. The combination of the lab-on-a-chip technology and the immunoassay technique allows for fast and sensitive analysis of biomarkers specific to certain diseases.

As part of the immunoassay process, antibodies specific for biomarkers of interest, such as gum or heart disease, are tagged with a fluorescent dye and then mixed with a patient’s saliva or blood. Biomarkers present in the sample attach themselves to the fluorescent antibody. The mixture is injected into a microchip using a syringe. An applied electric field forces the sample to flow through a microchannel that is two to five centimeters long, tens of microns deep, and a few hundred microns wide

As the sample moves through the channel, cast-in-place porous polymers in the microchannel sort molecules based on their size and electrical charge. If biomarkers for the disease are present in the patient’s sample, the lab-on-a-chip analysis will separate fluorescent antibodies bound to the biomarker from unbound antibodies.

A photomultiplier tube then detects the fluorescence emission with extreme sensitivity. After quantifying the relative fluorescence of the two species — bound and unbound antibodies — researchers can determine the amount of biomarker present in the patient’s sample. If the sample contains significant fluorescence emission from a bound antibody, indicating that biomarkers are present above a certain level, a doctor could conclude that the patient has or will eventually get the disease for which he/she is being tested. At the conclusion of the test, still in the doctor’s office, preventive or therapeutic care could begin.

Five-pound package

The entire device, including the channeled glass chips, photomultiplier, and electronics, will fit into a hand-held package that weighs less than five pounds.

“The beauty of this device is that it has everything required to make it useful — sensitivity, portability, and the ability to run tests quickly,” Anup says. “It is small and can be carried with ease almost everywhere. It’s also is very sensitive and works fast. Within a few minutes you can tell if you have a diseased sample.”

Using Sandia’s lab-on-a-chip technologies for medical diagnostic purposes grew out of a conversation Terry Michalske, newly named Director of Sandia’s Physical Chemical Biomolecular Science Center 8300, had with a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program director in 2001. The program director told Terry of a National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) call for proposals to develop a new way of approaching oral diagnostics. Terry shared the information with Len Napolitano, Deputy Director of Biological and Microfluidic Sciences Center 8320, who told Anup and Victoria VanderNoot (8321), two researchers working on microfluidic projects. Anup and Victoria immediately saw how advantages inherent to lab-on-a-chip devices could be harnessed for medical purposes.

Having never worked with saliva samples, the Sandia researchers identified the need to partner with a dental researcher. With the help of Charlie Hasselbrink, an ex-Sandian and an engineering professor at the University of Michigan, a collaboration was established with Will Giannobile, an expert in gum disease and an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. The team also included Harold Craighead, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Applied and Engineering Physics, and Mark Burns, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering.

The team, led by Sandia, sent a letter of intent to NIDCR, wrote the proposal, and obtained the funding in August 2001.

Pretty exciting stuff

“It was pretty exciting,” Anup says. “This was the first time Sandia was the lead institution on an NIH grant. I learned about being awarded the funding at 4 p.m. that August day in 2001, and by 5 p.m. our director, manager, and team members were in my office celebrating.”

The current research team at Sandia also includes Amy Herr and Anson Hatch (both hired in 8321 to work on the project), Dan Throckmorton (8321), and Ron Renzi (8755). Amy and Dan lead the immunoassay development; Anson is working on preconcentration and multiplexing; and Ron is responsible for all aspects related to device engineering.

Much of the research is centered on detection of gum disease from a patient’s saliva and gingival crevicular fluid, the fluid between the tooth and gum. Early detection of gum disease is of significant interest to the medical community. Some 20-45 million Americans suffer from gum disease and more than $2 billion a year is spent to diagnose and treat it.

Working with saliva

“Saliva is a mirror of blood,” Anup says. “Everything in saliva exists in blood but at concentrations a hundred to a thousand times lower than blood.”

Saliva is already being used for detecting HIV and drugs-of-abuse in commercial instruments. Saliva makes sense as a patient sample; obtaining saliva is a noninvasive process that requires no needles and is much more tolerable than traditional blood taking. Anup anticipates that in the future saliva will be used to detect everything from gum disease to heart disease to cancer.

In addition to biomarkers for gum disease, Amy and Dan are also developing assays for cardiovascular disease markers such as C-Reactive protein.

Anup says that although the primary goal is to analyze saliva, “we have shown that our device can work with blood as well.” Having the ability to analyze multiple bodily fluids makes the device useful for a wide variety of clinical applications.

Having already studied saliva samples from healthy people, the Sandia researchers will begin studying samples from 50 to 100 diseased patients in January. The patients are being recruited by Giannobile at the University of Michigan.

“Working with samples from actual patients will give us the opportunity to see how accurate our immunoassay method is,” Anup says. -- Chris Burroughs

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Last modified: January 21, 2005

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