NNSA joins Smithsonian for Military Invention Day

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Dr. Steve Azevedo explaining Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s technologies to museumgoers during Military Invention Day.

Micropower Impulse Radar

Have you ever been in a car with parking assist or backup warnings, used a stud finder for home improvement, or been in a building with perimeter surveillance motion sensors? Then you have directly benefitted from technology developed in the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

Micropower Impulse Radar (MIR) technology is a revolutionary pocket-size radar that can operate for several years on AA batteries and only costs a few dollars. Initially developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), it was one of the many NNSA technologies recently displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The museum hosted a one-day showcase event about the transformative role of invention and innovation for the U.S. Armed Forces and for the American economy. Military Invention Day was a free, family-friendly opportunity to speak with national security experts. Thousands of visitors came to interact with technologies from not only NNSA, but also from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

Dr. Willy Moss of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory explaining his lab’s technologies to museumgoers.

“There are so many impressive examples of strategic partnerships and technology transfer successes that not only support the warfighter and NNSA’s vital nuclear deterrence mission, but also improve the lives of people everywhere,” said Lee Finewood of Strategic Partnership Programs, who led NNSA’s participation in the Smithsonian event. “This work is not something many people know about, even though it impacts all of us. There are devices that literally go from our National Laboratories into the backpack of a warfighter and onward to our everyday lives.”

Finewood was joined by LLNL scientists Dr. Andy Anderson, Dr. Steve Azevedo, and Dr. William Moss, who flew in for the event and charismatically explained to museum visitors how, for example, MIR was used by first responders in the wake of the September 11 attacks to search for the beating of human hearts beneath the debris. LLNL staff also discussed the unique features of an innovative “virtual baffle” suppressor made for U.S. Special Operations Command.

The Virtual Baffle System Suppressor exhibit.

“This suppressor improves upon hundred-year-old technology by simultaneously reducing back pressure, noise, flash, and heat buildup thanks to NNSA’s computational capabilities, advanced materials, and manufacturing methods,” said Moss.

Military Invention Day included keynote remarks from Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations for the U. S. Navy; a STEM Demonstration by the “Science Squad,” an interactive quiz show; and a “Shark Tank”-style program where military technology entrepreneurs pitched and received feedback from industry experts and venture capital funders. 

Other innovations featured at the event included: Y-12 National Security Complex’s rapid deployment shelter system – a portable, sterile environment for emergency surgeries; Sandia National Laboratories’ flash-bang diversionary grenades; and Nevada National Security Site’s “Gamma Eyes” – an augmented reality tool for visualizing radiation measurements.

Visit our website to learn more about NNSA’s technology transfer program.

From left: Dr. Andy Anderson and Dr. Willy Moss of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Arthur Daemmrich of the Smithsonian Institution, Lee Finewood of NNSA; and Dr. Steve Azevedo of Livermore Lab.

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