Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Fundamental Physical Science

Pushing the boundaries of knowledge of the physical sciences

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How do you take the temperature of a cell? The familiar thermometer from a doctor’s office is slightly too big considering the average human skin cell is only 30 millionths of a meter wide. But the capability is significant; developing the right technology to gauge and control the internal temperatures of cells and other nanospaces might open the door to a number of defense and medical applications: better thermal management of electronics, monitoring the structural integrity of high-performance materials, cell-specific treatment of disease and new tools for medical research.
Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with funding from DARPA’s Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) program, have built a pair of ytterbium atomic clocks that measure time with a precision that is approximately ten times better than the world’s previous best clocks, also developed under QuASAR. How good are they? The record-setting clocks are stable to within less than two parts per quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros). They measure time so precisely that their readout would be equivalent to specifying the Earth’s diameter to less than the width of a single atom or the age of the known universe to less than one second.
Constantly losing energy is something we deal with in everything we do. If you stop pedaling a bike, it gradually slows; if you let off the gas, your car also slows. As these vehicles move, they also generate heat from friction. Electronics encounter a similar effect as groups of electrons carry information from one point to another. As electrons move, they dissipate heat, reducing the distance a signal can travel. DARPA-sponsored researchers under the Mesodynamic Architectures (Meso) program, however, may have found a potential way around this fundamental problem.
Preserving and expanding the technological superiority of the U.S. military requires sustaining a pipeline of talented scientists, engineers and mathematicians who pursue high-risk, high-payoff fundamental research in disciplines that address critical Department of Defense (DoD) and national security needs. DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (YFA) program supports that goal by helping promising tenure-track faculty members better understand the federal research and development process generally and Department of Defense (DoD) and national security research needs in particular.
DARPA works to ensure the technological superiority of U.S. military forces, and the agency continually seeks new sources of talent to accomplish that goal. The nation’s three military Service academies are a promising source of that talent. These institutions immerse the next generation of military leaders in a unique environment that blends academic excellence and deep understanding of current and future military needs. To better cultivate the great potential of these young officers-to-be and encourage their career-long collaboration with DARPA, the agency last week hosted the first DARPA Service Academies Innovation Challenge.