Power Beaming: Natick's novel research may lead to new energy capabilities for Soldiers

By Ms. Jane Benson (CCDC SC)August 5, 2019

Dr. Richard Osgood III
Dr. Richard Osgood III (pictured here), a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, is investigating a novel approach to convert high frequencies to direct current, which could then be used for power, energy,... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Mass. -- Dr. Richard Osgood III, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, is investigating a novel approach to convert high frequencies to direct current, which could then be used for power, energy, detection, communications, and signaling.

Osgood explained that the novel approach involves optical rectification in a reconfigurable resistive switching filament, also known as a metal-insulator-metal (MIM diode) detector. This novel detection material is capable of converting high frequencies to direct current, but unlike conventional semiconductor detectors, it does not require cooling and it may not be bandgap-limited. Bandgap limits refer to the wavelength range over which the detector is able to detect infrared.

"This novel material would enable rectification of ultra-high infrared frequencies, enabling novel infrared detection and power beaming for the Army," said Osgood. "The U.S. Army has lately been focusing considerable attention on the infrared spectrum, and this novel non-semiconducting detection modality (rectification) may enable new advanced detectors, receivers, and communications for the Army and for DOD."

The CCDC Soldier Center is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC's chief areas of focus. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers' performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.

In the future, this research could benefit the warfighter by enabling power-beaming capabilities, including the ability to send power remotely to Soldiers so that they don't need to carry as many batteries -- thus lightening their load.

"The concept of beaming power to remote assets without directly making contact is gaining significant interest within DOD," said Osgood. "There is even a concept of beaming power, harvesting from the sun, from a satellite to Earth, although most likely in a different frequency range."

Through power beaming, which uses a transmitter and a receiver, power could also be sent over a long distance to remote outposts or be used to transfer power to/from an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. Since it is a wire-free power source, it is also reduces the logistical footprint. Since power beaming cannot be seen, Soldiers using it are also less likely to be detected.

In addition to power and energy, power beaming could also be used for communications in an underserved frequency range, increasing the Soldier's situational awareness.

Osgood recently had the honor of being published and having this all-important research highlighted in the prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journal, Applied Physics Letters. The article was chosen as an editor's favorite.

The article, entitled "Optical Rectification in a Reconfigurable Resistive Switching Filament," was co-authored by Osgood and his collaborators at Brown University, including Declan Oller, Dr. Jimmy Xu, and Dr. Gustavo E. Fernandes. (The article may be viewed at https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.5091562)

"It has been a great partnership," said Osgood. "It's a very complementary collaboration. We're delighted that we were published. We had to go through a rigorous review process, with several high hurdles to overcome. It is a prestigious honor. To be recognized and successfully reviewed by our peers means a lot."

"This recognition by the broader scientific community validates the quality of Dr. Osgood's work and its importance to the advancement of this scientific field," said Dr. Charlene Mello, CCDC SC's chief scientist.

"Working on novel ideas that could lead to a breakthrough technology that will benefit the Soldier is very exciting," said Osgood. "It involves a lot of creativity."

CCDC SC's research has potential beyond power and communications, and in the future may enable new computing technologies.

"The implications of this research, and our more recent research, do not just involve converting frequencies and communications and power, it is also about advanced computing such as neuromorphic computing, which the Army is interested in," said Osgood. "Researchers are trying to make computers more like the human brain. The idea is to make the computer 'remember' what it did previously as opposed to viewing it each time as something new. The idea is to make computers capable of doing the type of processing that Soldiers are going to need in the future. The reconfigurable rectifying materials platform investigated in this research will 'remember' when a voltage is applied to it, enabling history-dependent electrical functionality that may be reminiscent of plasticity in neuronal connections in the human brain."

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