10 February 2022

Reflections on Russian Science

Why is Russian science still not effective enough by many indicators

Valery Polovinkin, Independent Newspaper

The Day of Russian Science, which is celebrated on February 8, was held for the 23rd time this year. In the Russian Federation there are more than 3.5 thousand organizations engaged in scientific research and development, including research institutes, universities, enterprises.

To make it to the sixth way

Today there is a rapid reassessment of the role of science in the development of mankind. The role of science in modern society is changing dramatically. This factor has a significant impact on all aspects of life: politics, economics, social sphere, education, culture, etc. Moreover, in modern conditions, science and practice are rapidly converging like never before.

Modern science covers a huge area of knowledge. It includes about 15 thousand disciplines that interact more closely and influence each other. Almost all the phenomena studied today are interdisciplinary in nature. Modern nanotechnology generally blurs the line between living and inanimate nature.

In recent years, budget expenditures on Russian science have been constantly growing, but by many indicators it still remains insufficiently effective. Thus, in terms of the number of patent applications, Russia is almost 16 times inferior to the United States, and 38 times to China. Domestic financing in this area also continues to lag behind the level of developed countries. In terms of relative expenditures on science (1.1% of GDP) Russia is in 34th place, according to the indicator of internal research and development costs per researcher, the position is even more critical - 47th place (93 thousand dollars).

Further caring arguments of the honored shipbuilder can not be read: with such financing, Russia will never get up from sleep - VM.

Today, experts say that a new, sixth technological order has already come, based on the use of cyberphysical and biomechanical systems. The main directions were biotechnologies based on the achievements of molecular biology and genetic engineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence systems, global information networks and integrated high-speed transport systems.

Notable contributions have been made to the mathematical foundations of quantum theory, quantum statistics, quantum mechanics and quantum information theory.

Against this background, experts name a number of problems for the further development of domestic science: financial difficulties; incorrect motivation prompted by false ideas and goals; lack of demand and non-reproducibility of the results of both fundamental and applied research.

The Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin approved the program of domestic fundamental scientific research until 2030. The new program will be funded, among other things, through the state programs "Scientific and Technological development of Russia" and "Development of Healthcare". The total amount of financing exceeds 2.1 trillion rubles. The program of fundamental scientific research was developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences with the participation of ministries and leading scientific organizations of the country.

The main objectives of the program are the development of the intellectual potential of Russian science, the creation of an effective management system for scientific research to increase their importance and relevance for the economy. First of all, we are talking about analytical and predictive research, which should improve the strategic planning system, ensure the competitiveness and scientific leadership of the Russian Federation. In addition, the program is focused on projects related to large scientific installations and facilities, the development of computer and nanotechnology, clinical and preventive medicine, etc.

Among the promising ones are studies aimed at implementing multi-element structures based on coherent systems (superconducting quantum bits-qubits) to create connected chains and arrays of qubits that simulate molecular structures, spin dynamics, and other dynamic processes in highly correlated electronic systems. These works will be carried out in relation to quantum macrophysics, mesoscopy, nanostructure physics, spintronics, photonics, plasmonics, superconductivity (high temperature and low temperature), acousto-electronics, relativistic microwave electronics of high power, physics of high-power beams of charged particles, X-ray optics for synchrotron radiation sources, free electron lasers and neutron optics.

Fundamental research is urgently required in the field of architecture, system solutions, software, standardization and information security of information and computing complexes and networks of new generations, system programming to create new principles of next-generation software tools and computer-aided design methodology for a promising element base, including quantum computing, elements with optical information transmission.

Fundamental, search and applied research in the field of automated control systems will continue to be relevant, in particular, the development of artificial intelligence systems, text extraction and analysis, the development of methods and information technologies of system analysis, methods for the study of complex control systems and processes in conditions of uncertainty and risk.

New will be the development of methods for finding areas with chaotic dynamics, methods of analysis, stabilization and control for families of systems described by both continuous and discrete equations, the creation and development of a new analytical computer technology for the study, analysis and control of chaotic dynamics of solutions to complex nonlinear systems of differential equations describing numerous natural-scientific and socio-economic processes and phenomena. Today, the world is on the verge of developing a single conceptual apparatus of living and inanimate nature.

The most important tasks of modern science include research in the field of computer, information sciences and bioinformatics from the creation of theoretical and methodological foundations, methods, model tools and information technologies of system analysis for the study and evaluation of prerequisites to the development of real high-performance, safe production technologies.

Contribution of techies

At the same time, it should be understood that it is impossible to create high-tech technical means like nuclear reactors, lasers, computers, robots, developing scientific disciplines only empirically. A prerequisite for their creation is a deep study and knowledge of the physical, chemical and other phenomena and processes underlying the principle of their operation, the creation of mathematical models of these devices, the study of their interaction with humans.

Currently, the technical level of machine-building or other industries is determined by the degree of use of science and ultimately determines the readiness of the technical base of production to implement new breakthrough scientific and technological ideas and technologies. At the same time, the material and technical base of production also creates the material base of promising scientific research itself, has a decisive influence on the qualitative level of scientific experiments, on the degree of industrialization of science.

The principle of interdisciplinary research primarily defines technical sciences as a "consumer" of research results from other branches of science (mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science). But the technical sciences are also able to initiate new fundamental tasks for these sciences. The results of the research of techies can often be used in the physical and mathematical sciences, chemistry, agricultural sciences, medical sciences, Earth sciences. This contribution consists in the creation of promising machines, devices and systems that can be used in research conducted in these fields of sciences.

There is a need and a real opportunity to create an innovative, self-developing scientific system in Russia, so that the transformation of knowledge into innovation becomes the norm. It is important not to miss the moment of such a transformation. Historically, scientific discoveries were the basis of new innovative technologies, which subsequently radically changed industry, the economy and society as a whole.

The most important problem that will have to be solved when performing this task is the introduction of fundamentally new scientific views, theories and results in various fields of activity of modern civilization.

Smart Energy

Fundamental scientific research has played and continues to play a key role in the development of energy technologies. Global energy challenges against the background of the technological revolution require a revision of the strategy of actions of the players of the world energy system. The need for an energy transition is dictated by a number of reasons, the most important of which is the problem of environmental pollution. Thus, one of the ways to develop energy systems is the use of ultra–high voltage transmission lines, which will meet the growing demand for electricity and solve the problem of energy hunger in remote regions.

The superconducting materials proposed by scientists today can and can change the entire electrical infrastructure. The creation of affordable superconductors will increase the power and reliability of power grids, reduce losses and the cost of electricity transmission, effectively integrate renewable energy sources into existing networks, as well as increase the efficiency of almost all electrical equipment.

In order to make a global transition to sustainable energy, new scientific discoveries are needed that could contribute to solving technological problems in the production, storage and use of clean energy.

According to experts, for example, lithium-metal batteries developed in recent years as a means of storing energy can change the balance of power in the energy market. Their energy density is almost twice that of traditional lithium-ion batteries. Scientists claim a breakthrough in the creation of a metal lithium anode for lithium-oxygen batteries and this is able to increase the electrical capacity of the battery up to three times.

Progress has been made in creating batteries with built-in artificial intelligence systems. The market for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries is expected to exceed $23 billion by 2026 due to their low cost, high energy density, high efficiency and safety. The lithium-air batteries being introduced can store up to five times more energy than lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

The plans include commercialization of a new type of supercapacitors based on a special polymer. It provides an increase in capacity by several orders of magnitude at a specific energy density exceeding that of many lithium-ion batteries.

The portfolio of promising energy technologies includes a hybrid energy storage device, which takes tens of seconds to charge. Graphene is used as the material for the energy storage. Its unique structure significantly increases the working surface of the drive and, accordingly, its capacity, and the material itself is absolutely harmless to the environment and to humans. The breakthrough was provided by the developed innovative technology of combining metal-dielectric nanocathodes and polymer chains on the graphene surface. In fact, a new capacious nanohybrid battery is being created.

With the advent of low–dimensional (nanoscale) carbon structures, it became objectively possible to store energy directly in mechanical systems, for example, in carbon nanotubes. Compared to lithium-ion batteries, a nanotube-based mechanical battery has a high charging rate and is generally much more stable.

Researchers from the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have for the first time described a biohybrid material with good conductivity that can be used to produce "microbial electricity". What is important, the flow of electrons in the proposed biobattery can be controlled. According to scientists, the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis belongs to the so-called exoelectrogenic bacteria. They are able to generate electrons during metabolism and transport them to the cell surface. According to the statements of German scientists, the attempt to make this electricity usable has always been limited to the difficult interaction of organisms with the electrode. Unlike conventional batteries, the material in the "biobattery" should not only conduct electrons to the electrode, but at the same time optimally bind as many bacteria as possible to the electrode.

Humanity has already come to understand that the only solution to the energy problem is the creation of nature–like artificial systems that generate molecular hydrogen as a unique source of energy from the components that make up water due to the energy of solar radiation.

Atom, AI, fabber technologies

Modern nuclear science is focused on the development of next-generation nuclear energy technologies. It involves large-scale changes in design methods, the design of fuel assemblies, the selection of materials and the configuration of systems.

Experts in the field of nuclear energy offer six concepts of promising reactor technologies: a fast neutron reactor with a gas coolant; a fast neutron reactor with a lead coolant; a liquid-salt reactor; a supercritical water-cooled reactor; a fast neutron reactor with a sodium coolant and an ultrahigh-temperature reactor.

Compared to conventional reactors, fast neutron reactors generate up to 70 times more energy from the fuel loaded into them. Such reactors significantly increase the stability of nuclear power. In addition, they contribute to a significant reduction in the volume, toxicity and lifetime of the resulting radioactive waste.

Research into the use of innovative reactors for hydrogen production and the implementation of other steps, in particular on the integration of innovative nuclear power systems and other low-carbon energy sources, also have a good prospect.

The most important event in recent years has occurred in thermonuclear fusion. For the first time, a thermonuclear reactor produced more energy than was spent on its operation. This result, according to many experts, is a historical result in the research of thermonuclear fusion.

Of course, the problems of artificial intelligence (AI) should also be included among the advanced developments. The key factor determining the development of AI technologies is the growth rate of computing power of computers. Neural networks, evolutionary computing, and fuzzy logic are considered promising AI technologies.

Russia has approved a strategy for the development of artificial intelligence until 2030. AI technologies include computer vision, natural language processing, speech recognition and synthesis, and intelligent decision support. Related fields include robotics and the management of unmanned vehicles.

Revolutionary changes are taking place today in the field of industrial technologies. For example, promising industrial heat treatment technologies include laser processing, electron beam welding, cutting and stitching, and electron beam melting. Laser and electron beams are used to influence the workpiece, which provide an energy density several orders of magnitude higher than other sources.

Additive technologies, that is, layer-by-layer build-up and synthesis of objects, are currently receiving special development. Widely used for the so-called fabber technology – a group of technological methods for the production of products and prototypes based on the gradual formation of the product by adding material to the base. This is a global industrial trend.

Additive technologies make it possible to produce products of the most complex shapes. In addition, three-dimensional printing makes it possible to significantly reduce the mass of products and the production time of prototypes. Modern 3D printers also have the ability to quickly reconfigure printing parameters for the manufacture of products of various purposes or sizes, single or mass production. Products printed on three–dimensional printers are used in a variety of fields - from nuclear and space technologies to medicine.

Digital Ship Theory

An even more discussed global industrial trend is digitalization. It involves a global rethinking of the approach to business, increasing the efficiency of the company by optimizing and automating business processes, as well as organizing the coordinated work of IT systems.

It is not only and not so much about the installation of additional equipment and software, but about the fundamental restructuring of all processes taking place in production. Digitalization changes approaches to management, develops additional ways of communication (both within the organization and with the outside world), forms a new corporate culture.

The emergence of the concept of digital twins is precisely connected with the growth of digitalization of production processes, when physical or analog resources were replaced by informational, digital ones. A digital Twin is a copy of a physical object or process that provides optimization of business efficiency. The concept of a "digital twin" is part of the fourth industrial Revolution. It is designed to detect physical problems, more accurately predict the results of the functioning of an object or process and produce better products.

The analysis made it possible to determine the possibilities and rational relations when using computational and experimental methods. A striking example is hydrodynamic studies in the seaworthiness of ships. This made it possible to identify limitations and requirements for calculation methods, the implementation of which makes it possible to achieve the accuracy of calculations necessary for practice. As a rule, mathematical models based on experimental coefficients are still mainly used to solve problems of controllability and seaworthiness.

Effective and reliable use of calculation methods is possible only if proven calculation methods are available. At the same time, in the conditions of rapidly changing software and hardware, an important aspect of computational fluid dynamics is the constant updating of methods.

Experts consider the current stage as a period of development in the theory of the ship of hybrid technologies combining the possibilities of experimental and computer hydrodynamics. The key to the sustainable development and existence of scientific centers with experimental pools is physical experiment and numerical modeling.

Among the problems of computational fluid dynamics, the problems of modeling the flows of a viscous incompressible fluid with movable boundaries are of particular complexity and practical interest. Such forms of flow are very common both in natural phenomena and in various technological processes.

Networks and smart materials

The most revolutionary results, serious technological breakthroughs that can give a new impetus to the development of the armament system of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, should be expected in such areas as laser and microwave weapons, military robotics, hypersound, microsystem engineering, biotechnology, computer science and nanotechnology. In particular, such developments include radar and navigation systems and means, new high-energy gunpowder and fuel, promising combat units for use in ground, marine and aviation equipment, experimental samples of laser, ultra-high frequency, hypersonic weapons and much more.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation makes a lot of efforts for innovative development, support of scientific, technical and promising programs and projects, and creation of conditions for their implementation. This will increase the efficiency of applied scientific research, create a base of new technologies, and ensure the advanced development of military systems.

In re–equipping the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation with samples of weapons, military and special equipment (VVST), the primary task is to develop a scientifically based program for the development of basic military technologies. The main objectives of such a program include:

– development of new principles for the creation of weapons and technologies, materials with fundamentally new properties, new chemical compounds, methods of analysis, synthesis and modeling;

– search and implementation of non-traditional ways and means of solving existing and prospective military tasks;

– creation, testing, evaluation of effectiveness and demonstration of experimental (mock-up) samples of advanced weapons across the entire spectrum of critical military technologies;

– creation of structures based on new materials, high-energy compositions, standard technical solutions, assemblies, aggregates and modules for fundamentally new samples of VVST;

– creation of experimental and experimental samples of unconventional weapons, conducting their demonstration tests.

At the beginning of the XXI century, several types of weapons based on new physical principles are in various degrees of development and testing. Among them are the following:

– directed energy weapons (laser, accelerator, ultra-high frequency, infrasound);

– electromagnetic weapons (ultra-high frequency, types of laser);

– non-lethal weapon (non-lethal);

– geophysical weapons (seismic, climatic, ozone, environmental);

– radiological;

– genetic weapons, etc.

Military analysts have recognized the need to develop and implement the technologies necessary to create new hypersonic weapons systems, high-power lasers, and robotic complexes that will be able to effectively counter potential military threats.

One of the leading approaches in the construction of modern aircraft is the intensive development and application of military network technologies for the development of new generation weapons systems and complexes with support for network–centric warfare.

The specificity of such approaches is a comprehensive correlation of military network or network–oriented (networking, networked-enabled, or networked-focused) technologies and concepts of network-centric wars of the future. The peculiarity of the relationship between these technologies and the above concepts is the creation of a global military information infrastructure with the formation of a universal digital information space (cyberspace, cyberspace).

Taking into account all the above, certain efforts are being made to saturate the battlefield with digital technologies, as well as the development and universalization of the production of unmanned aerial vehicles and the simultaneous development of the theory of "remote control of war".

The creation of nonlinear optics contributes to the realization of these ideas to a certain extent, which led to revolutionary changes in the field of optoelectronic devices.

The accelerated pace of technological development is changing the nature of warfare, while more and more forces and resources are being directed to research and development, the purpose of which is to create new advanced materials and their use in the defense sector. Today, the era of monometals and metal materials in general is coming to an end.

Scientists of the world associate the special development of military and special equipment with new methods of information transmission, transformational optics and nonlinear effects. In the near future, so-called metamaterials ("smart" materials) will be widely introduced into practice, for example, in military shipbuilding. A distinctive feature of metamaterials is their ability to realize a negative refractive index.

The development and implementation of this theory will allow hiding objects from radars/sensors in a certain frequency range. Unlike most conventional materials, metamaterials can physically control electromagnetic radiation by changing the geometry of the components of the material and the product. Structures made of metamaterials are used in a wide range of applications and in a wide range of frequencies from radio frequencies to microwaves, infrared spectrum and almost to visible wavelengths.

Metamaterials make military objects, such as combat surface ships and submarines, virtually invisible.

Examples of "smart" materials include promising self-healing materials, functional ceramics, electrochromic materials, "cyber-protective" materials that respond to electromagnetic interference, transparent polymer protection (has a layered microstructure similar to the chitinous shell of crustaceans).

They are expected to become the basis of breakthrough technologies that will irrevocably change the battlefield and the nature of future military operations. 

About the author: Valery Nikolaevich Polovinkin – Scientific Director of the Krylov State Research Center, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Expert Council of the Higher Attestation Commission on Fleet and Shipbuilding, expert of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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