Obtaining Unobtainium at DARPAtech 2004
Engineers are not usually happy about using the term "unobtainium" - a reference to a material that outperforms anything known (and is therefore unobtainable).
But at DARPA, obtaining unobtainium is an everyday goal - and they are succeeding:
In his declassified talk available on the DARPAtech 2004 website, Dr. John Main talks about The Pursuit of Unobtainium.
- In the Stealth program DARPA developed materials that do, in fact, make aircraft invisible to radar.
- Amorphous metals - metals without grain boundaries - promise to make ship hulls that are corrosion resistant and nonmagnetic.
- Inexpensive titanium - new processes that may result
in low cost titanium, perhaps as low as $2 per pound
Here's a taste of projects under development:
- A naturally-inspired multifunctional UAV skeleton has already been developed that combines a load-bearing structure with electrical energy storage (a micro air vehicle fuselage that is also a battery).
- "Soft" actuation is a truly challenging problem - to gently grasp and lift heavy objects has never been reproduced in a synthetic system. DARPA's multifunctional materials program has already successfully demonstrated
compliant actuators based on electro-elastomers designed to act as both extensor and flexor muscles.
Read more about Materials Science Engineering Careers and DARPA Defense Sciences Office - Ultra-Lightweight Materials.
Science fiction is, of course, replete with examples of unobtainium. Consider smart material, a wall covering that eats any graffiti written upon it. Or inexpensive talking tape short lengths of which contain wireless networking capability and speakers allowing buildings to almost build themselves (with some help from willing humans.
Can you think of other examples of "unobtainium" from sf?
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/10/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )
Related News Stories -
Tiny LEDs Developed For Dust-Sized Computers
'They use sparkles to talk to each other...' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.' - HG Winters, 1939.
Project Soli Radar Gesture Chip Now FCC Approved
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.
Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...' - Isaac Asimov, 1965.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Michelin Self-Sealing Tires On Ford's Explorer
'...a seal of compressed plastifoam to save the air.'
Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!
Juggalo Face Paint Disrupts Facial Recognition
'... designed to foil facial recognition systems.'
Mojipic Smart Voice Vehicle Emojis
KITT, what's your response?
Unusual Twist On Woman Dates Robot
'My hearing, vision and awareness went along with that excellent imitation of a young Adonis...'
BrainNet Triple Telepathic Gaming Threat
'In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling.'
AVAS Noisemakers Required For EVs By EU
'...a sound tape to supply the noise of a soi-disant "[internal combustion]" engine...'
Pun Generation Via Neural Nets
'You said you wanted him to be able to distinguish between laugh-power in different gags...'
Blood Battery Robotic Fish
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'
Lightyear One Solar-Powered Electric Car (Design By Heinlein)
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
'Agression Detectors' Don't Work When Spying On Students
'The professional agitators had also learned how to modulate their voices below the danger level...'
Mining Of Golden Asteroid Foretold In 1898 Science Fiction
'This must be a golden planet—this little asteroid.'
Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
'The borers had been dismantled and packed away.'
Bee+ Robobee Now With Four Wings
'It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length...'
CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder
'We could certainly spin a web right through the Solar System, if we can think of a good use for one.'
Starshade Will Help Space Telescope To Search For Exoplanets
'When it found planetary systems in its field, automatically shifted upon them a higher powered telespectroscope ...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories