The ‘nano-enhanced super soldier’

Nanotechnology promises to revolutionize many aspects of our everyday lives. Molecular manufacturing will miniaturize the battlefield, transforming the way future wars are fought.

The U.S., of course, aims to be the first nation to develop nanoweaponry and has been in the process of developing such technologies for at least 4 years. MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) was established in 2002 with $50 million of funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It aims to “create a 21st century battlesuit that combines high-tech capabilities with light weight and comfort…that monitors health, eases injuries, communicates automatically, and maybe even lends superhuman abilities.”

The ISN is a multidisciplinary facility with 7 research teams, each of which is working on different aspects of the battlesuit of the future.The objectives of one of the teams are to “demonstrate new organizational principles between polymers…develop nanotruss polymeric structures…design and synthesize segmented copolymers that mimic spider silk…[and] design and optimize lightweight material assemblies” for the development of “energy-absorbing nanomaterials…[to] provide protection against ballistics and directed energy”.

Another team is developing mechanically active materials and devices, such as “block polymers [for] self-assembling nanostructures with enhanced switching speeds…[to] achieve control of a material’s properties…allow[ing] a transformation from a flexible and compliant material to a non-compliant material that becomes armor…[and which] can also be transformed into a reconfigurable cast that stabilizes an injury such as a broken leg…apply pressure to a wound, function as a tourniquet, or even perform CPR when needed”.

There is a focus “on using nanotechnology to improve the way we detect and treat life-threatening injuries”. For example, “biomedical monitoring will be able to use ultrasound to detect a hemorrhage…and cauterize vessels to staunch the bleeding…nanomaterials [will] instantaneously change their properties…thereby controlling the delivery and release of life-saving medications.” The future battlesuit might also contain “mechanical actuators…as exo-muscles for augmentation of a soldier’s physical strength…electronic polymers [as] ultrasensitive sensors for detecting explosives, nerve gas, nitric oxide and the DNA of specific biological agents…[and] responsive fabric coatings [to] neutralize…bacterial contaminants”.

MIT researchers are collaborating on some of these projects with several large companies, including DuPont and Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors. DARPA, whose “mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S military…by sponsoring revolutionary, high pay-off research,” has other projects in the pipeline.

One of these planned projects is the development of remote-controlled cyber-insects. Pentagon scientists are aiming to make microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) which can be placed into pupa-stage insects, and have asked for innovative bids from interested parties.

“Through each metamorphic stage, the insect body goes through a renewal process that can heal wounds and reposition internal organs around foreign objects,” states the research proposal document.

The MEMS would be integrated into the nervous sytem of the developing insect, allowing the mature organism to detect chemicals such as explosives, or transmit data about its surroundings. DARPA believes that there could eventually be “assembly-line fabrication of hybrid insect-MEMS interfaces”. Some experts think the idea is feasible, while others say it is “ludicrous”. In the past, DARPA researchers tried using bees and wasps to detect explosives, but the “instinctive behaviours for feeding and mating [of the insects]…prevented them from performing reliably”.

A few of the technologies mentioned above are already available. DARPA has recently funded the successful development of neural implants that can control the movements of dogfish, and MIT materials scientists have developed a morphing material which changes shape when an electric current is passed through it.

The ISN’s vision of the future soldier and DAPRA’s plans for remote-controlled cyber-insects are but two aspects of the wider transformation of the U.S. military into a lighter and more agile force. The U.S. is now the world’s sole hyperpower, with unprecedented military strength and global reach. If a rival power, such as China, for example, were to develop sophisticated nano-weaponry, it would undoubtedly gain military superiority over the U.S. or any other nation-state. There will, therefore, be a new arms race. It will be a race to develop an army equipped with nano-weapons, nano-enabled biotechnology and nano-computing. Given the current political climate, it seems unlikely that there will be any regulation of these new technologies.


18 thoughts on “The ‘nano-enhanced super soldier’

  1. Pingback: Bugs & Gas Gal

  2. Hmm…me too. I think it would be the perfect job. i mean if they develop it they could use an average human to test it. Not an expertly trained U.S. marine…right??? Lol! I would accept it even if the pay is lousy! :)) I would!!!

  3. if they do succesfully create a super solider the army could use them to destory other nations which would start another world war. The only nation that can defeat the US would be japan. They got the tech and enough people.They are the true remaining superpower nation.

  4. I agree, the only nation that could beat the U.S. if super spldiers were involved would be Japan, but China would also pose a seriouse threat just with there shear numbers and Technology. But I do belive the U.S. would come out of that war victories. But we wouldn’t really win because the earth would be war-tourn and any country that had them would fire off there Nukes to try and stop us.

    Come chat war with me.

  5. it would not matter in the least how super human the US was if they picked a fight with any one of a number of different nations. I don’t think even a nano suit could save you from a nuke….. Also any powerful EMP would probably cause the suits to become a tomb…. (electronics even vary small ones don’t like that type of thing)

  6. the super soldier is still a long way off. but we do even now have the ability to make humans stronger and faster. the most important thing is the armor systems. nano tech is a very valuable study. it could help save lives and change the way we live.

  7. how can japan pose a threat, they dont even have a military, if anything china is the biggest threat. Of course America has many new sources of weaponry, but china is catching up and it has people willing to die for its country.

  8. o yeah i forgot to say, well i had this idea that if we had a suit with like a sort of reverse magnet that stops bullets, then that would be really kewl. Well you MIT nerds get to work. I’m gonna try to get into that college someday and help you guys out.

  9. The Military quotes that you are “The Best Of The Best” As a new recruit I would be honored to subject myself to any science that could make my life as a soldier a lot better.

  10. Creating a super suit is not the only key to being a super soldier, it is also the human muscle too. To be a super soldier, we needed to be stronger and better thatn what we are to day. We needed to think of ways for us without any type of suit to become stronger and faster. That is what we should focus on and then the suit. We should focus on being like super -man or even the hulk as a super human.

  11. It has been debated in comments preceding my own the country whose threat to the US is most prevalent. Some say China for its sheer population and citizens’ willingness to die for their country. Japan was also suggested due to their technological prowess. But in truth, it is Russia who poses the biggest threat to the States – even to the world!! The total number of intact nuclear warheads in the USA at the end of 2002 was 10,729. Russia, on the other hand had 18,000 intact nuclear warheads at the end of 2002. (May I point out that that’s nearly twice the number that America owns?) The worst thing about this is that the Russians are just itching for a war. They are looking to return to their position as a world-power just like in the times of the USSR. We have recently seen their unacceptable military actions in Georgia. Surely it is Russia who we must be wary of.

    The intact nuclear warhead figures were viewed at: (US)
    and: (Russia)

  12. Hmm…me too. I think it would be the perfect job. i mean if they develop it they could use an average human to test it. Not an expertly trained U.S. marine…right??? Lol! I would accept it even if the pay is lousy! :)) I would!!!.

    thats so funny,they would not use an average person because he has no training what so ever,so how in the fuck are they suppose to know how to kill,when they think the suit is going to do all the work,that would be fucking halirous to see some average guy wearing the suit

  13. Creating weapons to destroy only secure the future need of the weapons.

    this technology has so many possibilities and we are only focused on the destructive capabilities. Wow, man I am willing to be a test subject for this project too but I really have always wanted to be superhuman, as I was already a solider maybe I can be considered.

  14. I want to become a super soldier so I can prove just how destructive my potential can be…my parent always want me to make them a reputation, so being the ultimate killing machine will surely make them regret it.

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