Soldiers Benefiting From ARL Collaborative Efforts With University of Maryland

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Collaborative efforts have created some of the most successful and beneficial commodities that exist in our world today, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is witnessing that same trend.

A recent cooperative agreement between the University of Maryland and ARL allows researchers at both institutions to join forces with the purpose of further developing their projects into marketable products.

The cooperative agreement is managed by the School of Public Policy’s Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise and supported by ARL, the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute Progr

am, and the university’s Special Assistant Vice Chancellor for Technology and Development.

Through two federal appropriations, the first round of research projects awarded in March 2010 included seven projects that ranged from flexible thin-film batteries to fiber-optic microphone arrays and technology for biofuel production.

After one year of sponsorship, on June 28, 2011, the first round of awardees gathered at the Adelphi Laboratory Center in Maryland at a meeting hosted by ARL’s Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate to exhibit the results of their developments.

One of the breakthrough research projects presented at the June meeting was an ultra-miniature fiber-optic microphone array system.

This research project was led by Dr. Miao Yu and four students from the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering, and was supported by Steve Tenney, ARL collaborator from the Acoustic and EM Sensing Branch.

The overall objective of this project, as stated by Yu and the students, was to "develop [an] ultra-miniaturized fiber optic microphone array system, including a miniature microphone array and a smart sensor interrogation subsystem," with a performance that is "comparable to a high end B&K microphone, but with much less material and fabrication cost."

This high-performance miniature system comes with many benefits.

Researchers believe that the microphone system can be used commercially in terms of electronic, medical, law enforcement, and security and industrial devices such as cell phones, computers, hearing aids, magnetic resonance images (MRIs), and acoustic area monitoring systems.

U.S. soldiers could also benefit from this microphone system by being able to lighten their load with smaller and lighter battlefield communication devices.

The microphone array system is also expendable, small, and quiet; has wireless communication capabilities and high resolution; and is undetectable by electromagnetic means, making it a device that could highly benefit soldiers in the field.

Tenney believes in the potential of the ultra-miniature fiber-optic microphone array system, stating that with the fabrication of this system, researchers are "moving into a new realm of microphones and making new discoveries in acoustics as they are able to test and further understand the true capabilities of the fiber-optic microphone system."

Research on the microphone system is currently being and will continue to be conducted for further development, as well as packaging of the system.

With companies already interested in the microphone system, it was expected that numerous University of Maryland invention disclosures and U.S. patents would be initiated during the summer, with a business plan set to be started this fall.

Through this cooperative agreement, the awarded research projects have the potential to create new businesses, as well as jobs for highly trained students who are aiding in the production of new technology to meet the Army’s current and future needs.