Friday, February 17, 2012

Senior Scientist Advises NATO Panel on Sensing, Builds International Collaboration Opportunities

Augustus W. Fountain, III, Ph.D., second row, second from the left, poses with other NATO RTO members at the Cardiff, Wales meeting.
Augustus W. Fountain, III, Ph.D., the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) senior research scientist (ST) for chemistry, is garnering international recognition for ECBC while helping to advance defense science and technology.

Fountain was appointed in 2009 by Thomas Killion, Ph.D., then the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, to serve a three-year term as the U.S. representative at large to the NATO Research and Technology Organization (RTO) Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel. One of just five U.S. representatives to the panel, Fountain advises NATO countries – as well as members of the Partnership for Peace – on technical approaches to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) sensing.

“Participating on the Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel provides a great forum for us to identify international opportunities for collaboration and cooperation,” said Fountain.

Fountain serves as the panel mentor for a biological background study that is being led primarily by Norway. “The United States, Canada, Germany and Turkey are participating, and Australia is also involved,” said Fountain. “We’re about a year into the study, and the group is putting together a report to provide NATO with guidance on future of biological aerosol sensing.” ECBC’s Dottie Paterno is the U.S. representative on the study.

“Loosely defined, sensing is an augmented or instrumented ability to detect the presence of a material of interest that is either undetectable by the unaided senses or is in an enhanced form that could be detected by sensors,” said Fountain. A material of interest may be enhanced to make it more clearly stand out from the background, allowing people to observe it from a distance for safety reasons.

Service on the Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel involves semiannual meetings accompanied by frequent virtual communication throughout the year. The meetings focus on a theme, such as autonomous sensing and multi-sensor integration, and involve a technical conference, RTO business, and collaboration discussions. Discussions focus on technology needs.

“At the fall 2011 meeting, I was asked to write a technology watch paper on graphene-based sensors for chemical sensing,” Fountain said. “Technology watch papers focus on topics of interest that help advise NATO on what technology areas they should be monitoring – whether for defensive reasons, their own advantages or new capabilities that a nation is trying to propose.”

The meetings usually occur in Europe. “We traveled to Cardiff, Wales, for our fall 2011 meeting,” Fountain said. “I was very interested to learn that, because of their new limited autonomy, there’s been a resurgence in the Welsh language. In fact, 26 percent of the population – mostly the younger generations – speaks Welsh as their primary language. It’s an ancient, very difficult language, very different than anything I’ve ever heard.” Fountain noted that everyone speaks English, so communication was not a problem.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 30 – May 4, 2012, in Quebec City.

“This effort is an excellent opportunity for ECBC to be better known as a trusted expert internationally,” said Joseph L. Corriveau, Ph.D., director of Research and Technology at ECBC. “I’m very happy that Dr. Fountain is such an integral member of the panel and is building international collaboration.”

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