Inequality, Economic Growth, and Technological Change: New Aspects in an Old Debate

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Biotechnology research will focus on developing bio-weapons and munitions for operational use and battle possibilities some time around Bio-engineered tracking agents and tablets soldiers would swallow before entering the battlefields.

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This would help Army commanders to monitor troop movements. It will help commanders and specially equipped army snipers to distinguish between friend and foe. It will help in the concentration of infantry forces at the point of attack.

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Stealth aircraft have already been developed. Already tank designs have incorporated the advanced technologies employed in the manufacture of fighter and bomber aircraft. The non-illuminating paints use on armour will make it almost invisible to the present day battlefield radars.

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To develop wrist-top biosensors to guard against germ warfare. The US army has been told to focus research on five high priority areas. Robert Love staff director for the panel said the US Army had no choice but to explore new ways to support troops more effectively in future battlefields. Biosensors ingested by soldiers, represent a very important idea for tracking troops heading into harms way.

Biotechnology: Combining Engineering with the Biological Sciences |

Biosensors and biologically inspired materials could protect ground troops from threats, seen and unseen, on the battlefield, while the latter also could reduce the sizable loads that battalions of soldiers must carry with them. In addition, biocomputers could provide robust data storage capabilities and biomedical developments could be especially important in treating wounds and speeding the recovery process for casualties in combat.

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The report examines current directions in biotech research and applications, and identifies opportunities most relevant to the Army, which requested the study to help plan its science and technology program for the next 25 years. Future applications considered by the committee that wrote the report include: Biosensors. Sensors are needed to signal the presence of pathogens, toxic chemicals, or other environmental threats to unsuspecting troops.

Biosensors could detect threats directly in air or water or be used to monitor individual soldiers for symptoms of exposure to a harmful substance. Currently, "biochips" as small as postage stamps are capable of performing sophisticated chemical analyses.

What is Biotechnology?

In the future, a network of biosensors, some perhaps worn as wristwatch-like devices, might be used to augment other intelligence sources, such as infrared sensors, to give commanders a more complete picture of the battlefield. Biosensor systems also might trigger the release of an antidote or activate a protective mask upon detecting a harmful substance. Biomaterials and biologically inspired materials.

Biomaterials are organic or synthetic materials that are compatible with the human body. Because of the nature of the injuries that soldiers incur, one of the overriding goals in this area is to produce materials that can heal wounds, repair bones, and self-replicate. Innovations in tissue engineering, such as cartilage repair and replacement, and the use of stem cells to replace dead or damaged tissue, could help advance this goal.

Some materials in nature are so intricate in their design -- and so effective in their performance -- that they can serve as models for highly functional materials. Biologically inspired materials mimic complex biological structures, whereas hybrid materials contain biological elements that enhance their properties.

Such materials could provide soldiers with armor as hard as an abalone shell or with coatings that absorb radiation to avoid detection by an enemy. Molecular electronics. Advances in genomics and DNA analysis are leading to new developments in molecular electronics and biocomputing. Devices that incorporate the protein bacteriorhodopsin utilize its unique abilities to convert light into other forms of energy for optical and electronic applications such as artificial retinas and computer memories.

In addition, because biomolecular electronics components and devices exhibit a high resistance to electromagnetic radiation, they could reduce the vulnerability of critical military computer and communications systems in rugged combat environments. Biological energy sources.

Biologically derived fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, already provide alternative renewable energy sources.

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In addition, solar-cell energy converters designed to imitate plants or photosynthetic bacteria may substantially increase the efficiency at which solar energy is converted into electricity. What's more, if the solar cell were a thin coating on a piece of military equipment, it could provide a renewable form of energy with virtually no increase to a soldier's load. From the infinitesimally complex queries into the structure of DNA and proteins to the broad ethical questions concerning how genetic information is put to use, the report acknowledges that many obstacles need to be addressed before biotechnology can become part of the Army's mode of operation.

Biosensor systems need to be made more versatile, and small molecules that flag the presence of biohazards need to be identified.