Behind the Scenes at DARPA: How Minerals Drive Breakthroughs in National Defense

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Minerals Make Life

Minerals are essential to our national security. They are the raw materials used to produce combat equipment used by soldiers. And now, thanks to groundbreaking innovations, minerals will help bring healing and mobility to wounded veterans.

Under a program called the Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in partnership with the University of Melbourne, has developed a device called the stentrode  to revolutionize the way wounded and paralyzed patients live.

What is the Stentrode?

Approximately one centimeter long and three millimeters in diameter, the stentrode is made of nickel and titanium. It is inserted non-surgically into a blood vessel and travels to the brain. There, it reads and transmits neurological signals that allow the patient to control a prosthetic limb or exoskeleton.

Forging New Ground in Technology

In addition to the stentrode technology, DARPA is developing the world’s first prosthetic hand that can give the wearer a nearly natural sense of touch. Prosthetic devices contain muscle-like fibers made of metals like nickel and titanium. This cutting-edge prosthetic hand could greatly improve the lives of veterans who have lost limbs.

Although the technology is still emerging, it’s expected to have wide application. In the future, innovations in sensors and robotics could improve U.S. military efforts in hard-to-access or high-risk environments.

The U.S. government has committed $95 million to military technology and the Department of Defense uses nearly one million tons of minerals every year in the design and manufacture of military gear, weaponry, transportation vehicles and intelligence technology. Without reliable access to mineral resources, these innovations would not be possible.

The U.S. is home to $6.2 trillion in mineral reserves that could be used for the development of life-saving technology, but these resources are currently underutilized due to a cumbersome mine permitting process. Let’s commit to unlocking our nation’s mineral resources so that technological advances like DARPA’s can provide for those who have made the ultimate commitment to our nation.

Learn more about the essential role minerals play in innovative technologies here.

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