NATICK, Mass. -- By fueling significant advances in science and technology, collaboration can make a world of difference. With this idea in mind, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, is seeking to increase collaboration with scientists and engineers throughout the world.
CCDC SC’s Ramanathan Nagarajan, Ph.D., ST – Senior Research Scientist Soldier Nanomaterials, believes there are many benefits to pursuing new research and development efforts with international partners. By doing so, CCDC SC will have access to unique science and technology expertise and will be able to develop a knowledge base of S&T environments and activities outside the United States.
International collaborations may also provide CCDC SC with increased opportunities to conduct testing and evaluation of prototypes in unique environments. Partnering with the defense organizations of other nations could also contribute to the interoperability of capabilities.
Nagarajan explained that CCDC has a global technology network with three International Technology Centers (ITCs) – Atlantic, Pacific, and Americas – spanning the entire globe. Each ITC has a headquarters location as well as multiple sub-regional centers. A global technology office is located at CCDC headquarters.
“The scientific staff at the ITCs scout the S&T activities relevant to the Army in their areas and also have some limited funds to support research and development efforts internationally,” said Nagarajan. “We have connected with the directors and deputy directors of the three regional headquarters, as well as with the scientific staff at the ITCs and have their support to help initiate the Soldier Center’s global engagement.”
Nagarajan has received strong support from Douglas Tamilio, Director of the CCDC Soldier Center, to develop these global collaborative interactions, as well as a long-term commitment to sustain and even expand them. Nagarajan said that this support from the leadership of the Soldier Center is critical to developing any collaborative efforts.
“International outreach serves to boost the S&T enterprise of the Soldier Center by leveraging academic expertise abroad and is similar to what is being achieved through interactions that the Soldier Center is pursuing with domestic academic institutions in the form of co-labs and individual academic partnerships,” said Nagarajan.
In the last few months, despite COVID-19 affecting the functioning of all institutions globally, collaborations have been established with universities in several countries, including Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Through the collaborations, researchers are exploring a wide range of technologies, including developing an ion-sensing platform for water quality monitoring, investigating visible light-driven photocatalytic degradation of organic pollutants based on metal-organic frameworks, developing "All-MXene" wearable wires as heaters for cold-weather military operations, extending the applicability of the ecological dynamics framework to measuring and understanding team performance in a military setting, using synthetic biology tools to build Aptamer-based stress sensors as novel diagnostics, developing 3D-printed wearable biosensors based on genetic engineering for noninvasive sweat-based health and activity monitoring, and engineering a textile-based hybrid energy storage system(TexHESS) to provide power solutions to the dismounted Soldier.
Working with international partners will help advance CCDC SC’s substantial research efforts to ensure the nation’s warfighters are protected, optimized and lethal. International partnerships could also benefit CCDC SC’s ongoing efforts to better understand individual Soldier performance and how Soldiers perform in squads.
"Military teams are more than the sum of their individual parts,” said Job Fransen, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. “While optimizing military performance of individual Soldiers is crucial, there is also a need to optimize the performance of Soldiers within their military teams. We will work closely with the CCDC Soldier Center to measure and understand collective behavior in the context of military operations, and how collective performance of military teams can be optimized.”
While the benefits of international collaboration for CCDC SC are substantial, such partnerships greatly benefit the international organizations as well. Baojun Wang, Ph.D., FRSC (principal investigator), Reader in Synthetic Biology and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is collaborating with CCDC SC on 3D-printed wearable biosensors for noninvasive sweat-based health monitoring.
"The project will benefit from the extensive insights and experience of experts at U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center regarding the needs and challenges for monitoring and assessing the physiological status and readiness of Soldiers,” said Wang. “In the long term, it may also provide an excellent test field for the new sweat-based health monitoring sensors we are developing."
Tae Hee Han, Ph.D., of the Department of Organic and Nano Engineering at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, pointed out that support “provided by the U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center is a great foundation for researchers like us, who are aiming to apply cutting-edge science into areas of practical military technology."
Dr. Steve Beeby, of the School of Electronics and Computer Science University of Southampton in Southampton, England, is working with CCDC SC on the evaluation of TexHESS. He believes that collaboration may lead to real-world solutions.
"We are delighted to be working with the CCDC Soldier Center,” said Beeby. “This project provides us with a valuable opportunity to appreciate the operational requirements for our e-textile based energy storage technology. We will demonstrate how electrical energy can be stored within otherwise normal textiles and, together with the Soldier Center, we will work towards making this a practical solution."
Seon-Jin Choi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Materials Science and Engineering, NanoBioSensor Lab at Hanyang University in Seoul, South. Korea, is also looking forward to collaborating with the Soldier Center. This particular collaboration focuses on an Ion-Sensing Platform for Water Quality Monitoring. The important research is focused on developing a real-time platform for monitoring water quality to provide rapid detection to protect Soldiers from exposure to toxic and hazardous ions in water.
“I look forward to the successful collaboration of this project,” said Choi.
Prof. Tran Thuong Quang, Ph.D., School of Chemical Engineering, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, in Hanoi, Vietnam, views the university’s work with CCDC SC as having many benefits for both organizations.
“The inherently collaborative nature of scientific discovery enables greater accessibility and transparency and facilitates large-scale work and consequently leads to breakthroughs which benefit all of us,” said Quang. “For us, our collaboration is a step towards the larger goal of being able to strengthen the relationship between two countries, and we are looking forward to understanding more about the center’s Soldier-related research, as well as visiting and working in person with the U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center.”
Nagarajan said success in initiating these collaborative projects stemmed from the active search for Army relevant research abroad by the scientific staff at the ITCs, who maintained frequent contacts with the Soldier Center to assess the importance and timeliness of the research. Many researchers from the Soldier Center took part in reviewing research proposals in order to select the partners for collaboration. The ITCs are co-funding the global research projects with the Soldier Center and some projects are also jointly supported by the ONR Global (ONRG).
To foster stronger interactions among the international academics, Soldier Center researchers, ITC scientists and partners like ONRG, Nagarajan is planning annual technical symposia at the Soldier Center where all the international collaborators can present their work and directly engage in discussions. Nagarajan is also anticipating that Soldier Center researchers will visit the collaborating laboratories abroad for short-term scientific exchanges. Nagarajan hopes these activities will become possible and the future norm in the post-COVID world.
Anyone interested in finding out more about CCDC SC’s international collaboration efforts may contact Dr. Ramanathan Nagarajan (NAGU), ST Soldier Nanomaterials at firstname.lastname@example.org
About CCDC SC: CCDC SC is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that 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.
CCDC SC is part of CCDC. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.