Smart-armor vehicles may one day tell soldiers when they've been damaged and need repairs. Scientists at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive, Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), Warren, Mich., have been awarded military funding to develop the technology needed to support this warning system. TARDEC scientist Dr. Thomas Meitzler and computer engineer Dr. Elena Bankowski were awarded a 2010 Pilot Independent Lab In-House Research (ILIR) Grant and a 2010 Innovation Grant from the Army to pursue basic research and development of an experimental spin-torque nano-oscillator — a spintronic sensor — that will detect radar and changes in microwave radiation waves when vehicle armor is penetrated and damaged. When embedded in vehicle armor, the sensor would help soldiers quickly and accurately analyze the condition of the plates.

Although spintronic sensor technology has been used by the Army in production of low-output antennas, Meitzler and Bankowski began exploring the theory that a synchronized series of sensors or antennas would amplify the power enough for use in radar and microwave radiation generation and detection. The team's findings were presented at the 2008 Army Science Conference; the team was awarded a first Pilot ILIR grant to pursue the theory in 2009, and the 2010 awards will allow further research and the building of a prototype. TARDEC will collaborate with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and Army Research Lab (ARL) on basic spintronic sensor research and development.