Science and Technology News

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Army Innovation Could Improve Function of Helmets, Facial Protection & More

Army and MIT researchers advanced a unique experimental device to better test the durability of high performance and robust polymeric materials that appear to strengthen themselves under attack by rapid impact.

The Army Research Laboratory’s Dr. Alex Hsieh, along with Prof. Keith A. Nelson, Dr. David Veysset and Dr. Steven Kooi, from the Army’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology at MIT, discovered that when targets made of poly(urethane urea) elastomers, or PUUs, are impacted at very high speed by micro-particles made of silica, the PUU target shows hyperelastic behavior. That is, they become extremely stiff when deformed at strain rates on the order of 108/s, which means roughly that the material of the target deforms to half of its original thickness in an extremely short time equal to one second divided by hundred millions. PUUs also bounce back after the impact, Hsieh said.

The test device uses a pulsed laser to shoot micrometer-sized bullets at targets made of PUUs. Researchers found, for the first time, “behaviors that contrast greatly to the impact response observed in a cross-linked polydimethylsiloxane elastomer where micro-particles penetrated the target and the target material did not bounce back or completely recover.”

Scientists say their discovery on bulk elastomers can help design matrix materials for composites for the future generation of U.S. Army combat helmets. The Army’s enhanced combat helmet uses high performance ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, fibers based composites. These fibers have high breaking strength, per unit cross section area, about fifteen times stronger than steel but are flexible like fabrics.

Traditional armor material designs include ceramics, metals and lightweight fiber reinforced composites for both soldier and vehicle protection, which are typically based on stiffness, the resistance of a material against deformation, toughness, the ability to absorb energy and plastically deform prior to fracture.

Hsieh said the team focused on polymers, which are made up of a very large number of small molecular units that are strung together to form very long chains, which can be well organized or randomly packed. Specifically, polymeric materials that are strong like impact-resistant safety glasses or flexible like rubbers. Elastomers are a class of manmade rubbers, which can be synthesized from a broad range of polymer chemistries.

“They generally have low Young’s modulus which means low resistance to elastic deformation under loading at ambient conditions, and higher failure strain — the capability to sustain significantly greater amount of strain before failure — than most of the plastic materials,” he explained.

To further validate the molecular influence, the team has conducted comprehensive studies on PUUs along with a glassy polycarbonate. While polycarbonate is known for its high fracture toughness and ballistic strength, these PUUs, regardless of their respective composition, exhibited greater dynamic stiffening during impact at strain rates on the order of 108/s. Furthermore, the resistance against penetration of the micro-particle can be optimized, i.e. a ~ 50 percent reduction in the average maximum depth of penetration was achieved by simply varying the molecular composition of PUUs.

“This is very exciting,” Hsieh said. “Seeing is believing. New understanding from these research discoveries — the essence of hyperelastic phenomenon in bulk elastomers, particularly at the moment of target/impulse interaction, strongly points out to be a plausible pathway key to manipulating failure physics and towards a new design paradigm for robust materials.”

In addition to combat helmets, other potential applications of robust high performance elastomers for soldier protection include but are not limited to transparent face shields, mandible face shields, ballistic vests, extremity protective gear, and blast-resistant combat boots.

DoD Just One Piece of Cyberdefense Puzzle, Official Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2017 — Defense of America’s interests in cyberspace took center stage on Capitol Hill today as the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony about protecting the nation from cyberattacks.

Kenneth P. Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, stressed that the department is just one part of the whole-of-government approach to cyberdefense.

The main mission for DoD is ensuring its own cyberdefense and ensuring communications among its worldwide assets, Rapuano said in prepared testimony. But if called upon, he added, the department would be part of any interagency response to a significant cyberattack.

Cyber Threats

Rapuano said cyberdefense is a timely topic, as “the threats and level of malicious activity we face in cyberspace are real and growing. This diverse and persistent set of threats comes from state and non-state actors who probe and scan U.S. networks for vulnerabilities. The states we watch most closely in cyberspace include China, Iran, North Korea and especially Russia.”

DoD cyber forces look to defend DoD networks, systems, and information to ensure that DoD can accomplish its core missions, Rapuano said. The department also looks to provide integrated cyber capabilities in support of operational and contingency plans.

Rapuano said the Cyber Mission Force is DoD’s principal capability to carry out DoD’s cyber mission. The force, under U.S. Cyber Command, has more than 6,000 service members and civilians and achieved initial operational capacity just over a year ago. It is projected to reach full operational capacity by the end of this new fiscal year.

“In terms of readiness, as well as operational activities in support of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, DoD is already seeing the results of those investments,” he said.

Working With Other Agencies

The force works with other entities in government, Rapuano said. “The Cyber National Mission Force through its integrated operations plays a key role,” he said. “This force combines the capabilities of National Mission Teams that pursue adversaries into red space; National Support Teams that provide additional capacity in analysis, linguists, reporting, capability development and targeting; and national Cyber Protection Teams that hunt adversaries in friendly terrain.”

This integration allows cyber defense experts to learn the tactics, techniques, and procedures of adversaries and to detect malicious cyber activity, Rapuano said. “These teams develop and, if directed, undertake operations to deter, delay, disrupt, and defeat an imminent or ongoing cyberattack or malicious cyber activity,” he said. “The combined efforts of these teams give the CMF the capacity to operate on a global scale against the broad spectrum of adversaries and growing threats.”

DoD works with allies and partners worldwide to identify threats and mitigate attacks, the official said. “In addition to these external partnerships, the department is leveraging its own mission assurance risk-management processes to identify, prioritize and mitigate the most impactful vulnerabilities to the critical infrastructure that is fundamental to DoD’s ability to project power and protect the U.S. homeland, our people, and our allies and partners,” Rapuano said.

Addressing Challenges

Rapuano said his highest priority is to address the challenges that still face the department in cyberspace and its role in the broader interagency response effort.

“Specifically, I am working to reinvigorate the role of the Principal Cyber Advisor; to clarify the department’s internal lines of accountability and authority in cyber; and to integrate and communicate more effectively DoD cyberspace strategy, plans, and train and equip functions in cyber,” he said. “It is also time to revise our cyber strategy, update policy on such key cyber issued as deterrence and translate this and other guidance into capabilities, forces, and operations that will maintain our superiority in this domain.”

Criminal Justice Technology in the News

Law Enforcement News

Let There Be Blue Light
New Haven Independent, (10/12/2017), Allan Appel
New Haven, Conn., is moving forward with plans to purchase and install "Blue Light" phones in heavily trafficked public areas. Calls made from these phones, which usually have a blue light on top for night visibility, go directly to a 911 dispatcher and identify the precise location of the caller.
Link to Article

Tweeting Kansas Trooper a Finalist in International Contest
Wichita Eagle, (10/12/2017), Kaitlyn Alanis
Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner began tweeting in 2014, and three years later, he has collected more than 30,000 followers. His efforts have earned him a space as one of three finalists for the Best International Account in the Police Twitter awards, which are based out of the United Kingdom. Finalists were determined by specific feedback about each account, Twitter analytic data, the number of nominations received and the account's value to the public.
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APNewsBreak: Border Patrol Tests Camera-toting Balloon
The Republic, (10/12/2017), Elliott Spagat
U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas recently completed a 30-day trial of a camera-toting, helium-filled balloon that can move from location to location. The Border Patrol has been using six larger tethered balloons since 2012, and has recently experimented with using small drones as well. The Winch Aerostat Small Platform (WASP) costs $800,000 plus an additional $350,000 a year in annual operating expenses, while the existing balloon fleet costs $33 million a year to operate.
Link to Article

Calhoun County Dispatch Upgrades to Smart 911 System, (10/13/2017), Jason Puhr
Calhoun County has joined others in Michigan in participating in the state's Smart 911 program, which not only allows dispatch to send text alerts to all citizens, it also includes the capability to text back-and-forth with individuals. Recently, a domestic violence victim initiated a request for help by sending a text to 911, and because the individual felt comfortable texting with dispatchers, officers were able to provide assistance. The victim stated in her text messages that it was not possible to make a telephone call without arousing the suspicions of her abuser.
Link to Article

Newark SWAT Officer Shot In Bulletproof Vest During Search
CBS New York, (10/14/2017)
A member of a Newark (N.J.) Police Department SWAT team sustained only minor injuries thanks to his ballistic-resistant vest when he was shot while serving a warrant on Oct. 14. The suspect fired at the officer after the SWAT team knocked and announced themselves; the officer who was shot was treated and released after suffering only minor bruising.
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Courts News

New Combined Courthouse Open to Public
The Journal, (10/12/2017), Jim Mimiaga
Montezuma County (Ariz.) has a new courthouse that combines district court, county court and probation in the same building. Considered to be the most modern facility in the state, it includes secure holding cells that lead directly to the courtrooms, an extensive camera surveillance system and a secure entrance monitored by an X-ray machine. The facility has been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
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Corrections News

Parole Violations, Not New Crimes, Help Drive Prison's Revolving Door
Berkeley News (10/03/2017), Yasmin Anwar
Recently published research from the University of California-Berkeley indicates that individuals who spend time in prison are more likely to reoffend compared to individuals sentenced to probation only. It also indicates the majority of persons return to prison due to parole violations rather than committing new crimes.
Link to Article

Arizona Prisons Grapple With Upsurge in Inmate ‘Self-Harm'
The Crime Report, (10/05/2017), Jimmy Jenkins
Recent data collected by the Arizona Department of Corrections indicates a 70-percent increase in rates of inmate self-harm during the past 12 months. More than 80 inmates tried to commit suicide by hanging in fiscal 2017, while the rates of self-inflicted blunt force trauma nearly tripled and almost 140 inmates overdosed on illegal drugs. ADC notes that the statistics reflect incidents reported; the same individual may have tried more than once to harm himself or herself.
Link to Article

Congress Calls on FCC to Silence Cellphones in Prisons
ABC News, (10/12/2017), Meg Kinnard for the Associated Press
In an Oct. 4 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, 48 members of the House of Representatives and four Senators call on the FCC to do something about the glut of contraband cell phones in correctional facilities. A number of states have petitioned the FCC to allow them to jam the airwaves near correctional facilities. Jamming would keep prisoners from making calls that allow them to continue criminal activity while incarcerated.
Link to Article

Texas Inmates Donated Nearly $54,000 for Hurricane Relief
New York Times, (10/14/2017), Matt Stevens
In Texas, 6,663 inmates donated $53,863 for Hurricane Harvey relief, drawing from commissary accounts that typically have balances of less than $5. The program had originally been launched after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when inmates told administrators they wanted to help with that recovery. Inmates asked the state to have the fundraising program revived after this summer's devastation.
Link to Article

Job Training in Prison Has Gone Way Beyond Stamping License Plates
Sacramento Bee, (10/16/2017), Cynthia Hubert
California's Prison Industry Authority recently opened a technology training center at Folsom Women's Facility where inmates can learn computer skills in architecture, engineering, construction and other fields. Autodesk, a software company, helps train the inmates and also helps them find jobs on release.
Link to Article

Prisons: MCO Takes Drone Concerns to Governor's Task Force
Ionia Sentinel-Standard, (10/13/2017)
The Michigan Corrections Organization has issued a position statement to the state's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force, laying out concerns about drones related to their being used to smuggle contraband into correctional facilities. The statement asks for equipment and training to deter the danger posed by the unmanned aircraft.
Link to Article

IDOC: 34 Percent Spike in Prisoner Assaults
Fox Illinois, (10/12/2017), Rachel Droze
Prisoner-on-officer assaults in Illinois correctional facilities have increased by 34 percent in the past two years, officials say, and they cite a need for more staff and more training. Administrators have repeatedly requested updated technology, but have not received it due to lack of funding.
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Former Juvenile Lifers Get Fresh Start With Re-Entry Workforce Program
CBS Philly, (10/16/2017), Cherri Gregg
Pennsylvania's Uplift Workforce Solutions allows "juvenile lifers" - individuals sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole when they were juveniles - to not only be released from prison, but also to learn skills necessary to gain employment on release. Other formerly incarcerated persons have earned early release and learned job skills as well.
Link to Article

New App Fighting Against Drunk Driving
KTHV11, (10/11/2017), Amanda Jaeger
A new app being used by the DWI Court in Faulkner County, Ark., not only randomly analyzes the breath of the person using it, it also monitors the individual's surroundings and emotional state. Individuals must have their breath analyzed via Bluetooth every three hours; they are subject to random checks as well. The app is used for repeat offenders only. The program allows them to avoid jail time if they use the app, perform community service and undergo treatment.
Link to Article

New Technology for Md. Prisons to be Unveiled in Somerset Co.
ABC47, (10/17/2017), Tahja Cropper
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has invested $1.8 million to purchase Cellsense portable scanners for its 24 correctional facilities. Correctional officers will use the portable scanners to locate contraband cell phones being used by inmates.
Link to Article