NEWS | Jan. 6, 2012

The Naval Research Laboratory's Most Popular Stories of 2011

By John Ohab

The Naval Research Laboratory published nearly 100 news stories in 2011, covering topics ranging from robotics to climate change to bio-molecular science and engineering. The stories represent NRL's commitment to exploring today's unknowns of science to create tomorrow's new capabilities, some of which may prove to have a revolutionary impact on the future of the Navy and even the world.

Here are the 11 most viewed NRL news stories from 2011, listed by date of publication.

NRL Scientists Develop 3D Model of the Ionosphere F-region. Occurring from the pre- to post-midnight hours, equatorial spread F (ESF) generates electron irregularities in the equatorial ionosphere that can degrade navigation systems and disrupt radio communication. Understanding and modeling this phenomenon is an important tool to space weather forecasting and predicting radio scintillation anomalies.

NRL Researchers View the Sun in 3-D. NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft were launched on October 25, 2006, and have been gathering spectacular images of solar activity, especially solar storms, since the mission began. Beginning on February 6, 2011, the two STEREO spacecraft are 180 degrees apart providing NRL scientists with a 360-degree view of the Sun.

NRL Scientists Elevate Warfighter Readiness Against Invisible Threats. In asymmetric warfare, early detection and identification of trace level chemical and biological agents and explosive compounds is critical to rapid reaction, response, and survivability.

NRL Scientists Demonstrate Novel Ionic Liquid Batteries. Scientists at NRL's Materials Science and Technology Division are providing solid evidence that there is a new route towards developing novel, lightweight energy storage devices. By moving away from centuries of caustic, hazardous aqueous-based battery cells and instead using non-volatile, thermally-stable ionic liquids, scientists predict multiple new types of batteries.

NRL Scientists Focus on Light Ions for Fast Ignition of Fusion Fuels. Scientists at NRL's Plasma Physics Division demonstrate significant progress in the efficiency and cost effectiveness of light ions in the fast ignition of fusion targets. Light ions such as lithium or carbon are easier to produce technologically and the ion beam properties can be manipulated and tailored best to suit the necessary requirements for fast ignition.

NRL Scientists Achieve High Temperature Milestone in Silicon Spintronics. Researchers at NRL's Materials Science and Technology Division demonstrate that spin accumulation in silicon, known as semiconductor spintronics, is viable as a basis for practical devices which rely on electron spin rather than electron charge to provide devices with higher performance, lower power consumption and less heat dissipation.

Herschel Space Observatory Discovers the Clearing Out of Star-Forming Gas in Mergers of Gas-Rich Galaxies. The Herschel Space Observatory, home to the largest single mirror telescope in space, has detected massive amounts of molecular gas gusting at high velocities - in some cases in excess of 1000 kilometers per second - from the centers of a sample of merging galaxies.

Navy, Marine Corps Tests Autonomous Zero-Power Bathythermograph Sensors. The Zero Power Ballast Control, developed by NRL's Bioenergy and Biofabrication Section in the Chemistry Division and the Physical Acoustics Branch of the Acoustic Division, is a technology that relies on microbial energy, enabling unsupervised underwater sensing and subsequent surfacing and reporting capabilities.

NRL TacSat-4 Spacecraft Encapsulated. NRL's TacSat-4 was encapsulated inside the fairing (nose cone) of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur-IV+ launch vehicle in preparation for a September 27, 2011, launch from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex. TacSat-4 will provide multiple combatant commanders around the globe an additional outlet for data transmission and communications on the move.

NRL TacSat-4 Launches to Augment Communications Needs. NRL's Tactical Satellite IV (TacSat-4) successfully launched September 27, 2011, aboard an Orbital Sciences Minotaur-IV+ launch vehicle from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex, Kodiak Island, Alaska. A less expensive, small-sat class system satellite with newer and more flexible technologies, TacSat-4's highly elliptical orbit augments existing geosynchronous satellites by providing near continuous communications to forward deployed forces in the high latitudes.

Navy's Electromagnetic Railgun Reaches Testing Milestone. NRL's Materials Testing Facility demonstrated, October 31, 2011, the one-thousandth successful firing of its Electromagnetic Railgun, reaching a materials testing milestone in the weapon's technological development and future implementation aboard U.S. Navy warships.