The High-Tech War On Terror

Spot the American products advertised at this Berlin intersection near Checkpoint Charlie. CBS / Christine Lagorio

Well behind Afghanistan's frontlines, America's military is now recruiting a new special forces unit — the best and brightest scientists working in the research labs of college campuses.

A remote-control gadget the Pentagon wants most for Christmas is the MAVE, or micro-aerial vehicle.

The MAVE can carry explosives, but a mini-camera on board makes its main purpose reconnaissance.

"Down and around trees, perched on buildings, and look inside things where all of our other airborne recon would look from above," explained Dr. Ron Barrett, an aerospace engineer at Auburn University.

Soon the MAVE could make the hunt for al-Qaida much safer.

"That's the ultimate advantage. You get U.S. armed forces and personnel out of harm's way," said Barrett.

On American college campuses and in science labs, military technology has new prestige, urgency, and funding, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. For instance, hidden at Clemson University is the making of some dramatic new stealth technology.


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Nano-technology — a blend of physics, chemistry and material science — built a new material that can mask reflecting light and confuse enemy radar.

The Pentagon wants to wrap its older planes in this material. Eventually, retrofitting any active B-52, now 40 years old, with stealth capability.

"It would disappear, or at least it would become very, very small. Or small enough that you couldn't distinguish it from a bird or something of that nature," said Clemson University physicist Dr. Dave Carroll.

Other new science reaches to the battlefield's wounded.

Georgia Tech's new bio-gel could become instant triage — it's very tough, it's elastic, and it will move with you.

On a wound, it keeps out dirt and infection but allows the skin to breathe.

"We're only trying to keep people alive until we can get them to a surgeon," said Professor Joseph Schork a chemical engineer at Georgia Tech.

On a so-called "smart shirt," sensors, and interwoven fiber optics monitor a soldier's vital signs and any rips caused during battle.

"Has he been hurt, how badly has he been hurt and what are the chances of going and saving him on a battlefield," said Georgia Tech textile engineer Dr. Sundaresan Jayaraman.

The shirt becomes an information beacon. Its Global Positioning System can relay a soldier's location — and condition — to anywhere in the world.

It's now clear America's global war on terrorism will be fought, not only on the battlefield, but on the front-line of science.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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