With a nod toward building more powerful communications technology, advanced devices that covert heat into electricity and efficient electric motors, researchers at DARPA will this month detail new program that focuses on advancing transduction or the conversion of energy from one form into another.
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Transduction is common in many military and commercial areas, such as communications antennas (radio waves to electrical signals), thermoelectric generators (heat to electricity) and electric motors (electromagnetic to kinetic energy).
The new program, called Materials for Transduction (MATRIX), aims to “develop transductional devices with significantly higher conversion efficiencies and other performance attributes such as: lower loss, lower noise, higher sensitivity, and smaller size, weight and power…Extending the gains made at the materials level to the device level will require integrating diverse modeling, design and fabrication communities together in a unified research and development effort addressing applications that bridge the material and the device domains.
DARPA says the MATRIX program will develop a suite of multiscale, multimodal design and engineering tools that apply to a broad spectrum of transductional materials, devices, and applications.
DARPA says potential applications include:
- Thermoelectrics – Energy transfer, thermal management, and refrigeration
- Multiferroics – Enhanced sensors, actuation, micro-power generation, tunable RF and microwave field engineering
- Phase-Change Materials – Fast switching and sensor applications
“Advances in materials have been key to achieving a wide range of critical, defense-related capabilities, but the development of novel, energy-transducing materials has been challenging, particularly in translating materials advances to the device and systems level,” said Jim Gimlett, DARPA program manager in a statement. “We aim to develop new classes of transductional materials that can be demonstrated directly in applications, and to advance innovative modeling and simulation tools that engineers can use to design systems that take advantage of these new materials. The goal is not just to design materials for use in devices; we envision developing materials that, because of their energy-transforming properties, are effectively devices themselves.”
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