ADELPHI, Md. -- As one of the four fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetism offers a truly broad range of scientific and technological applications that support Soldiers at virtually every step of their mission.
Electromagnetism refers to a branch of physics that describes how electric and magnetic fields interact with electrically charged particles. Depending on the frequency of the transverse electromagnetic waves emitted from these free-space interactions, electromagnetic radiation demonstrates very different properties.
“There are eight types of electromagnetic waves that comprise what we more commonly refer to as the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Dr. Mark Govoni. the Army’s senior research scientist for electromagnetics. “In ascending order according to their frequencies, at the low end they are: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, light, ultraviolet, X, gamma and cosmic-rays.”
Govoni directs both domestic and international Army programs that further develops the service’s basic and applied research in electromagnetic structures and processes.
In a world where satellite and radar technology facilitate the Army's ability to sense at long ranges, the study of electromagnetic waves significantly influences the landscape of future battlefields, where the electromagnetic spectrum will be contested.
According to Govoni, advancements in electromagnetism research at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory help ensure that the Army remains one step ahead of their near-peer adversaries.
“The electromagnetic spectrum is the backbone upon which all warfighting functions depend on,” Govoni said. “It’s extremely important to the Army that the lab focuses on research that can enable an end state that involves electromagnetic spectrum dominance in near-peer conflict.”
While the U.S. Department of Defense manages research programs that study electromagnetic wavelengths of all frequencies, Govoni specializes in the low frequency portion of the spectrum known as the radio frequencies.
Basic research on electromagnetic radiation at these frequencies largely contributes to the steady improvement of essential RF structures, components and processing such as antennas, transmitters, receivers and other wireless technologies. In addition, RF frequencies also have the ability to penetrate line-of-sight obstructions and allow Soldiers to perceive objects through walls, beyond dense foliage, underneath the ground and even beyond the earth's horizon.
Furthermore, Govoni illustrated that research into electromagnetism—along with quantum-based technologies, photonics and advancements in metamaterials currently being pursued at ARL—enable the development of more sophisticated electromagnetic sensors that may very well decide the outcome of conflicts against competing adversaries.
“In order to maintain and extend our technology over theirs, it’s imperative that we not only invest in these fundamental enablers but in specific electromagnetic applications as well,” Govoni said. “Some examples of those that we’ve been applying include distributive and passive sensing, reconfigurable systems, dynamic electromagnetic spectrum access, multi-function RF systems and even GPS alternatives.”
Govoni is a guest on the laboratory’s What We Learned Today podcast Sept. 17, 2020. He details the importance of basic and applied research to build the Army of the future.
Listen to Electromagnetics for the Future Army on the What We Learned Today podcast
For now, Govoni sees promise in the progress made by the laboratory, both in terms of research and guidance.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish in terms of informing science and technology investments within the Army’s air and missile defense community has been significant,” Govoni said. “Historically, the laboratory has served in a supporting role, whereas now we’re leading and starting to educate the community on alternatives to conducting air and missile defense.”
CCDC Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL is operationalizing science to achieve transformational overmatch. 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 successful at winning the nation’s wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.