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We read with considerable interest the story in the September 2022 issue of The Institute titled “IEEE’s Plan to Help Combat Climate Change.” As IEEE members and as co-principal investigators of the U.S. National Science Foundation initiative, the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, we agree that engineers, scientists, and technical professionals have a critical role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change and that the role of engineering has not been as prominent as we believe it should be. We hope you agree that it’s time to take action and pursue solutions.

In both approach and key priorities, there is significant alignment between the technology areas identified by the IEEE ad hoc committee on climate change and the engineering research priorities identified at ERVA’s inaugural visioning event and the resulting report, The Role of Engineering to Address Climate Change, published in August. The ERVA report highlights specific research directions through which engineering can take the lead and have impact in energy storage and transmission; greenhouse gas capture and elimination; resilient, energy efficient infrastructure; and water, ecosystem, and geoengineering assessment. It’s important to note that ERVA convened academic researchers and engineers in industry to develop the priorities identified in the report. We believe it’s critical to bring all stakeholders to the table to collaboratively envision engineering solutions to address societal challenges such as climate change.

ERVA is pleased to count IEEE as an affiliate partner in this important work. We strive to unite the voices of engineering to identify and develop bold and transformative new engineering research directions and to catalyze the engineering community's pursuit of innovative, high-impact research that benefits society. We welcome further conversation with IEEE’s ad hoc committee on climate change and urge The Institute readers to download the report and act on its findings.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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