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The US Army research laboratory is funding research into how nanotech can improve defense systems.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for those who like their "sci" with less "fi", this won't mean teeny robots swarming our enemies. Not immediately anyway.

The goal of the project, funded for the first year to the tune of $2.4m, is to "gain control of structures and devices at atomic and molecular levels and to learn to efficiently manufacture and use these devices", according to Jimmy Davidson, the principal investigator of the program at Vanderbilt Engineering.

Initially, the researchers will focus on developing diamond/carbon nanostructures for biological and chemical sensors; developing a new energy-conversion device,; and developing electron emission devices for advanced electronics.

"Using carbon as a building block in this promising new area of science is a potentially boundless resource not sufficiently explored in today's research endeavors," Davidson said.

Vanderbilt will coordinate the research, headed up by Davidson. Other parties joining the efforts include the University of Kentucky, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the International Technology Center. ®

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