Chapter V. Basic Research
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)


3. Physics

a. Strategy

Based upon a strategy developed by the Physics Coordinating Group with representatives from participating RDECs, ARO, ARL Directorates, and the Topographic Engineering Center, a broad based research program in physics has been organized into five subject areas:

(1) Nanotechnology
(2) Photonics
(3) Obscured Visibility/Novel Sensing
(4) Optical Warfare
(5) Image Analysis Enhancement Technology

b. Major Reference Areas

Nanotechnology--The objective of nanotechnology is to develop the capability to manipulate atoms and molecules individually, to assemble small numbers of them into nano-meter size devices, and to exploit the unique physical mechanisms that operate in these devices. This program emphasizes ultra fast phenomena, near-field microscopy, nanoscale manipulation, quantum processes for noise reduction and new radiation sources, and pho-tonic band engineering, and quantum computing in concert with the National Security Agency.

Photonics--Photonics seeks to develop optical subsystems for military applications such as information storage, displays, optical switching, signal processing, and optical interconnections of microelectronic systems. Research opportunities exist in diffractive optics, hybrid signal processing, unconventional imaging, and sensors using optics.

Obscured Visibility/Novel Sensing--Obscured visibility/novel sensing seeks to provide the Army the ability to operate on the ground, over relatively short ranges in conditions of poor visibility. Control of physical signatures is now within our capability with the discovery of new materials and of enhanced backscatter.

Optical Warfare--The use of optical sensors and sources is analogous to the use of radio frequency detectors and sources. In the future we expect to see optical warfare become as important as electronic warfare. Nonlinear optical processes, tunable sources, and materials with special reflective, absorptive, and polarization properties and the ability to perform remote sensing of chemical and biological agents are research themes of current and future interest.

Image Analysis Enhancement Technology --The objectives of image analysis are to develop the fundamental limits and theoretical underpinnings of object recognition and image analysis. Specific areas of emphasis include image and algorithm metrics, image science and target acquisition theory, experimental verification, and model development.

c. Other Research Areas

Scientific metrics are needed to quantify image content and complexity and performance of image recognition and classification techniques. The metrics should relate the performance to measurable parameters based upon underlying principles. Image science and target acquisition theory draws upon computer and analytic models of targets and synthetic image generation technology. Contextual information from the scene as well as propagation effects are used. This activity will develop the theoretical underpinning of Automatic Target Recognition.

d. Benefits of Research

These programs support advanced technology development to provide increased signal proc-essing, signal display, sensors protection and countermeasures, and target acquisition. Novel and improved radiation sources and detectors will continue to provide new capabilities for the Army as illustrated in Figure V-8 for uncooled thermal imaging, especially with the utilization of coherent systems and of multi-spectral imaging. In addition, atom optics are expected to provide new ultra-sensitive detectors and clocks with applications that include Global Positioning System and inertial navigation.

Figure V-8. Sensitivity Improvements of Uncooled Thermal Imaging Sensors.The photo insert is an infrared image from an uncooled thermal imaging array, taken at night. The uncooled arrays now have sensitivities approaching those of cooled photon detectors operating at video rates and resolutions. This competitive sensitivity is possible because of the long integration time allowed by the full two-dimensional array sensors. The uncooled arrays provide reduced size, weight, and power consumption, and they are much less expensive to produce because they are based on silicon IC manufacturing processes. They are extremely attractive for applications requiring a large number of units such as driver's night aids, thermal rifle night-sights, and individual soldier thermal vision aids.