Bio-Inspired Flight — Who Is Air Force Basic Research


Technological advances are constantly increasing human potential for developing very small things. For the US Air Force this means revolutionary designs in future air vehicles providing war fighters with tools that enhance situational awareness and the capacity to engage rapidly, precisely and with minimal collateral damage. When it comes to improving flight mechanics in these vehicles what better place to look for inspiration than bats, birds or bugs? These natural flyers have been perfecting their flight techniques for millions of years.

In this video, meet the researchers AFOSR is funding to develop designs for flight vehicles that will have revolutionary impacts on the future Air Force.

Basic Research at AFOSR: Ensuring Our National Security & Making Our Lives Easier


What is Basic Research?
Basic research is the foundation of all scientific and engineering discovery and progress.  It is what leads to new inventions and concepts—many of which are revolutionary.  And the great thing about basic research is the mystery of it: while basic research investigators may start off trying to prove a particular theory, many times they end up going off in an entirely new direction, or their results are ultimately employed in a dramatically different way than they initially envisioned.

Where We Came From & Why Basic Research is Important
Dr. Vannevar Bush, the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, was the first to formally address the issue of post-war defense research. His July 1945 report, Science, the Endless Frontier, clearly made the case for a civilian-based, and civilian controlled, research program. The leadership of the soon to be independent United States Air Force was also committed to a civilian, or extramural program, but one under their control, and followed through by establishing its own research arm in February 1948. The U.S. Army and Navy established their research organizations as well.  The Air Force, recognizing the importance of basic research, established AFOSR in 1951, dedicated specifically to mining the basic research talent in U.S. universities and industry laboratories.  Overseas offices were subsequently established to identify promising foreign research accomplishments.

How Basic Research Impacts You
One of the primary investigators whom we fund recently characterized the long term successful results of what we do as “the stealth utility of innovation.”  An example to make the point: as a laser expert, he noted that it was military basic research that funded the invention of the laser, beginning in 1951.  And he pointed out, that if all the lasers in the world stop working, the world would come to a stop as well. Lasers are at the heart of our time keeping, our transportation network (the Global Positioning System), our energy system, and in entertainment, finances and electronics applications. This singular “stealth utility,” that regulates much of our state-of-the-art technology, is the result of defense-funded basic research and is taken for granted by everyone.  It exists because AFOSR and our sister service organizations made the research possible—not only for our mutual defense but a wide variety of beneficial applications for society in general. In future posts we will discuss the reach and application of many of these “stealthy” discoveries that not only ensure our security, but work invisibly in the background of our society, making our lives a lot easier: from lasers to computers, from nanotechnology to aerospace, from bio-inspired devices to holographic displays, and what’s in store for the future as well. What technology could you not live without?

An Interview with Dr. John Luginsland: The Plasma & Electro-Energetic Physics Program Manager


We had a chance to sit down with Dr. Luginsland recently to learn about his program and the cool physics research he’s funding. As the manager for the Plasma & Electro- Energetic Physics Program, he oversees a diverse portfolio of AFOSR funded programs and finds the best of the best to fund.

Dr. John Luginsland, AFOSR Program Manager for Plasma & Electro Energetic Physics Position: AFOSR Program Manager
Program: Plasma & Electro-Energetic Physics
Years with AFOSR:  2 years, 7 Months
Society Memberships: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – Nuclear and Plasma Science Society, American Physical Society  (APS) – Division of Plasma Physics, Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Favorite Websites: Slashdot, MITs Technology Review, APS – Physics 
Presentations: Video of Dr. Luginsland’s Spring Review presentation.

What brought you to AFOSR?
I’ve been with AFOSR since December of 2009 but I like to say, “I’ve always worked for AFOSR.” Because actually my graduate work at the University of Michigan was funded by AFOSR. Then AFOSR funded my post doc through the National Research Council (NRC) post doc program at the Air Force Research Laboratory based at Kirtland Air Force Base. After that, I transitioned to a staff member of the Directed Energy Directorate of AFRL and worked in a lab that received basic research funding for a number of years from AFOSR. Later I went to industry for a number of years and in 2009 when my predecessor at AFOSR retired, the AFOSR Director at that time, Dr. Brendan Godfrey suggested I apply for the job and here I am.

How do you think AFOSR is different from other basic research organizations?
What I really like about AFOSR is that there’s actually a real tension between two missions. First and foremost, we’re a basic science organization so we find the best science we can and fund it. At the same time, we’re a mission research organization because we work for the Air Force so we have to simultaneously look for the very best science we can fund and also answer the mail, if you will, for the Air Force in terms of technology that will help the Air Force going forward. And I think that actually having to answer both of those questions simultaneously gives a degree of focus that the other funding agencies don’t have.

You’re the Plasma and Electro-Energetic Program Manager. What is plasma?
Plasma is the fourth state of matter: if you heat a solid you get a liquid, if you heat a liquid you get a gas, if you heat a gas you get plasma. Actually plasma is the most ubiquitous state of matter in the entire universe – 99% of the universe is in the plasma state, just not the part we live in here on earth.

How does electro-energetics fit in?
It takes energy to get into the plasma state, so often times we do that with electrical energy to go from the solid, to the liquid, to the gas, to the plasma.

My program is fundamentally looking at how do we make plasmas, how do we make them in energy efficient ways and then once you got something in the plasma state what can you uniquely do in that state that you can’t do in other areas.

Could you give us examples of how your program is benefiting the Air Force?
One major area that we fund is called directed energy technology. Plasma will let you access or make electromagnetic waves. So one big thing that we do is plasma physics that leads to radar sources and other sources of coherent radiation. Really high-powered electromagnetic sources actually create a plasma and then draws energy out of that plasma to make electromagnetic waves for radar – picking up airplanes, for doing electronic warfare, doing high-powered, long-range communications. All of that is based to some degree on plasma physics.

The other big exciting thing that we’re working on right now is trying to find good ways to decontaminate water. So as it turns out Fairfax County [VA] has two facilities that produce ozone and they do it through a chemical means. They do this at a city-block-sized facility and it actually is what purifies the water that we drink in Fairfax County. What we’re trying to do is actually shrink that block-sized facility into something that’s basically truck-sized and we’re using a plasma to do that. And this plasma, which is energetic in a way that chemicals aren’t, lets you make ozone much more efficiently and thereby use that ozone to clean up water and things like that. So you can imagine this is portable and could go into a forward operating base scenario, whereas the block-sized monstrosity can’t.

What direction do you see your program going in in the future?
The really exciting area that I think is starting to happen is that we’re starting to look at very small plasmas and what happens then is we start adding not just classical physics that we’re used to in the plasma physics community but start really pulling in quantum mechanics. That changes the physics associated with the plasmas and actually makes them quite a bit easier to make. So it takes less energy to make but we’re still getting all the benefits of plasma but it’s not requiring a block-sized thing to do it. We’re starting to do it in very small packages.

What is your process and timeline for choosing proposals?
So I always think it’s good for people to email me and have a quick email discussion sort of at the beginning of the calendar year after they look at the Broad Agency Announcement for details about what we’re looking to fund.

I look to get white papers in the late spring early summer say the May/June time period. You can submit them online.

White papers should be three to five pages long. I’d like there to be at least an estimate of the level of effort but for the most part what I’m looking for is what the unique science is you’re trying to do. What’s unique? What are you bringing to the portfolio that hasn’t been there before?

And then after that, I typically try and give feedback within a month.

I like to receive full proposals in the late summer – August/September – to try to get them in before the fiscal year rolls over in October.

I make funding decisions very early in the fiscal year – October/November.

Have a question for Dr. Luginsland? Please leave it in the comments below.

Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking


The recently published National Geographic special issue titled “100 Scientific Discoveries That Changed the World,” leads off with a research program that began in 1997 when we funded a Northwestern University researcher by the name of Chad Mirkin. AFOSR took a chance on a process called Dip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN), and what Dr. Mirkin himself noted, was “a far out idea and a paradigm shift in scanning probe microscopy,” but indeed, proved to be an idea that changed the world.

Highlighted in the Journal of Science, January 1999, DPN is a technology that builds nanoscale structures and patterns by drawing molecules directly onto a substrate. This process was achieved by employing an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), the tip of which has the innate capability to precisely place items and draw lines at the nanoscale level. The AFM was basically an extremely small paint brush. Mirkin’s fundamental contribution was recognizing that it could be used to print structures on a surface through materials, rather than through an energy delivery process–the latter being the approach taken by all previous researchers.

DPN has led to the development of powerful new nanofabrication tools, ways of miniaturizing gene chips and pharmaceutical screening devices, methods for making and repairing photomasks used in the microelectronics industry, and high-throughput methods for discovering structures important in biology, medicine, and catalysis. Since 1997 Dr. Mirkin has authored over 480 manuscripts, holds over 440 patents and applications, and is the founder of four companies, which specialize in commercializing nanotechnology applications.

Professor Chad Mirkin recently spoke at two AFOSR events on the following topics A Chemist’s Approach to Nanofabrication: Towards a “Desktop Fab” and Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking.

A Chemist’s Approach to Nanofabrication: Towards a “Desktop Fab”

Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking

Risk and reward: How AFOSR supported a young scientist at the University of Naples and impacted years of science, technology and diplomacy

4/25/2018 – ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), a directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), is responsible for the basic research investment for the Air Force. It is an endeavor laden with risk and reward; challenge and discovery; ideas and innovation, all in support of the warfighter. One approach AFOSR takes in shaping the future of the Air Force and pushing innovative technologies forward is to strategically invest in diverse areas of research that can lead to new spheres of science. Equally important to supporting advances in basic science, but often underappreciated, is the chrysalis of the strong relationships forged over decades of cooperation in pursuit of discovery.

Early Support for Professor Luigi Nicolais

“The project supported by AFOSR in 1977 has a remarkable meaning: a seed for science and knowledge generation in the field of Materials Science and Engineering on composite materials.”

-Prof. Luigi Nicolais

One such relationship began with an investment in 1977 by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. John Halpin, who funded a young Italian materials scientist in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Naples. Professor Luigi Nicolais submitted a proposal that was accepted by AFOSR entitled, “Effect of Applied Stress, Thermal Environmental and Water in Epoxy Resins.” Nicolais was interested in composite materials and his team conducted a series of absorption experiments that included the study of the physicochemical behaviors of epoxy resins containing absorbed water. The results of Nicolais’s research were published in a paper entitled, “Environmental Aging of Epoxy Resins: Synergistic Effect of Sorbed Moisture, Temperature, and Applied Stress.”

AFOSR’s early support was significant to Nicolais’s research and led to extensive collaboration between the University of Naples and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Furthermore, these efforts substantially contributed to more intensive collaboration with Boeing, where Nicolais developed rheological and thermo-kinetic models from the cure of epoxy based composite laminates by using the heat transfer and heat generating characteristics of polymerizable systems. The results of this research were published in a paper entitled, “Dielectric characterization of water sorption in epoxy resin matrices.”

Now considered one of the early pioneers of research in composite polymer materials, Nicolais made breakthrough contributions to greater understanding of the properties, interfaces, design and technology of advanced structures, with a concentration in aeronautic applications. As he reflects on his career, Nicolais acknowledges, “The project supported by AFOSR in 1977 has a remarkable meaning: a seed for science and knowledge generation in the field of Materials Science and Engineering on composite materials.” For example, in 1989, Nicolais and his team developed a model for predicting chemorheological behavior of thermoset composites that eventually led to the development of an intelligent autoclave, also supported jointly by Boeing and Alenia. His scientific contributions have also benefited society as a whole, leading to improvements in the reduction of fuel consumption, recycling, and biodegradation.

The pioneering research activities performed by Nicolais, and his team, with the support of AFOSR allowed for the establishment of a Materials Science and Engineering school on composite materials, that provides specific competences in the aeronautic sector. These competences have set a series of activities that have led to develop a successful integrated system for aerospace R&D in Campania Region with proficient Universities and Public Research Centers. Moreover, this know-how has contributed to the realization of different technological solutions for Boeing 787 design process and optimal material identification for specific applications in the airframe.

Over the course of the next thirty years Nicolais not only became one of the leading world-renowned experts in his field, he was also elected as President of Sciences & Technologies for University of Naples and founded the School of Materials Engineering. His many achievements included seminal contributions to materials science and Nicolais was recognized with the Award of Order of Merit by the President of the Republic of Italy. Later, Nicolais was appointed as the Minister of Public Innovation and eventually was selected to serve as the President of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), the nation’s largest public research organization, from February 2012 to February 2016. As the President of CNR, Nicolais strengthened Italy’s national and international science and technology cooperation strategy.

International meeting and site visit at the CNR-Bologna Research Area led by Dr. Roberto Zamboni (President of the CNR-Bologna Research Area and Director of the Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity). Representation included Dr. Valeria Bandini (Department Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region Innovation and Technology Transfer Agency), Dr. Morena Diazzi (General Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region), Dr. Silvano Bertini (Head of the Economic Development Policies Unit of the Emilia-Romagna Region) and Prof. Beatrice Fraboni (Rector's Delegate for International Relations at the University of Bologna).

International meeting and site visit at the CNR-Bologna Research Area led by Dr. Roberto Zamboni (President of the CNR-Bologna Research Area and Director of the Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity). Representation included Dr. Valeria Bandini (Department Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region Innovation and Technology Transfer Agency), Dr. Morena Diazzi (General Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region), Dr. Silvano Bertini (Head of the Economic Development Policies Unit of the Emilia-Romagna Region) and Prof. Beatrice Fraboni (Rector’s Delegate for International Relations at the University of Bologna).

The work of Nicolais and Professor Luigi Ambrosio

Throughout his successful career, Nicolais continued to teach at the University of Naples and maintained many important academic relationships, including one with former graduate student, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio. As Nicolais’s student in the 1970’s, Ambrosio had a keen interest in how composite materials could be used for artificial tendons and ligaments. Under Nicolais’s mentorship, Ambrosio researched concepts that combined knowledge of composite materials with human body applications and this biomimetic approach helped advance the use of biomaterials for health applications. After his graduate studies, and in collaboration with Nicolais, Ambrosio designed the first composite hip joint prostheses, implemented 3D printing for customized musco-skeletal tissue substrates, and developed novel biomaterials that enabled less invasive surgical techniques for improved hospital care. Over time, Ambrosio coordinated several major European Commission projects and was recognized by the Commission’s leadership as Member of the High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies that included the Vice-President of the Commission. His service was highlighted through nominations to prestigious scientific societies such as European Society for Biomaterials, the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering; and others. Ambrosio also served as the Director of CNR’s Department of Chemical and Materials S&T from 2011 to early 2017.

In 2013, the prominent careers of Nicolais and Ambrosio mutually intersected with AFOSR through an ambitious effort led by the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC, that aimed to bridge Italian researchers with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) basic research enterprise. The activity was led by the Embassy’s Scientific Attaché, Mr. Giulio Busulini, and the Assistant Defense Attaché, Colonel (Carabinieri) Giuseppe Battaglia. With the support of Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI) and Ministry of Defence (MOD), Busulini and Battaglia launched a cooperation roadmap that coincided with the AFOSR North American International Office (ION) strategy to build international basic science opportunities through U.S. interagency partnerships. The interagency initiative was led by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon. Beginning with the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting spearheaded by AFOSR and the Embassy; Nicolais and Ambrosio engaged AFOSR to significantly impact the basic research relationship between the United States and Italy. With Nicolais’s support as the President of CNR, Ambrosio and Busulini would help build the foundation of an Italian national effort to open new collaborative avenues with AFOSR and its partners.

“It was an honor working with Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon and AFOSR in such a challenging discovery and visionary mission.”

Mr. Giulio Busulini


Opening remarks to the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting

Opening remarks to the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting. The delegation from Italy was led by Maj. General (AF) Enzo Vecciarelli (Director, MOD Armaments Program Department) and delegation members included Maj. General (AF) Giovanni Fantuzzi (Defense and Defense Cooperation Attaché, Italian Embassy), Captain (N) Leonardo Bianchi (Deputy Director, MOD Armaments Program Department), Captain (N) Francesco Scialla (Head of the Research Office, MOD Armament Programs Department), Colonel (AF) Luca de Martinis (Head of the Air Program Department, MOD Armaments Program Department), Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (Director of the Department of Chemical and Materials Technology, Italian National Research Council), Ing. Giovanni Bertolone (Chairman, Italian Aerospace Technological Cluster), and Ing. Remo Pertica (Chairman, Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security).

Bourgeoning science diplomacy

“A raindrop can ripple to affect great things. The associations we nurture often flow to unforeseen and surprising consequences. By building the relationships, the rest follows.”

Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon

Over time, Nicolais, Ambrosio and Busulini worked with Bin-Salamon to achieve multiple significant activities that included technical meetings, site visits, and other collaborative efforts. A major accomplishment was the planning of an international researcher exchange effort in 2015 coordinated by ION in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Australian Academy of Science, Australian National Fabrication Facility and the respective governments of Australia and Italy. The exchange of Australian and Italian researchers to laboratories in the United States was successfully executed in 2015 under the auspices of the respective U.S.-Australia and U.S.-Italy Joint Commission Meetings on S&T (JCM).

The National Research Council of Italy participated in the exchanges with a young researcher from the laboratory of Dr. Diletta Sciti at CNR’s Institute of S&T for Ceramics (ISTEC). Sciti was previously supported by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Ali Sayir. The basic science project directed by Sciti focused on studying the fracture toughness of ultra-high temperature ceramic materials for aerospace applications and involved the collaboration of the Italian Aerospace Research Centre (CIRA). As part of the JCM activities under the bilateral U.S.-Italy Science & Technology Agreement signed biennially between the U.S. Department of State and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; MAECI funded a multi-year collaboration between Sciti’s group and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition, AFOSR’s support of Sciti’s scientific investigations and researcher exchange with the U.S. provided the necessary fundamental science groundwork for Sciti to successfully compete for a prestigious European Union (EU) consortium award titled, “Next Generation Ceramic Composite for Combustion Harsh Environments and Space” (C3HARME). The substantial multi-year consortium led by Sciti transitions the basic science supported by AFOSR to applied research with significant EU investment comprised of prominent research institutions and industrial partners in Italy, United Kingdom, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, and Spain for the design, manufacture, test and validation of a new class of out-performing ultra-high temperature ceramics toward use in severe aerospace environments.

U.S. Delegation Visit to the CNR Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics in 2016

International meeting at the CNR Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics (ISTEC) led by Dr. Anna Tampieri (Director of ISTEC). Dr. Diletta Sciti showcased the success of the C3HARME consortium funded by the European Research Commission.

Due to the collaboration between AFOSR, CNR and MAECI; the ISTEC-led European consortium has strong partnership to the U.S. S&T enterprise and provides a critical research infrastructure that U.S. principal investigators can leverage in pursuit of ground-breaking research. “Working with AFOSR Program Managers has been a great opportunity for the Italian researchers to open productive Science collaboration, but also a chance to build a fruitful programmatic government-to-government dialogue among Italy and the U.S.” says Busulini

Members of the Italian delegation and AFOSR (from left to right): Mr. Giuio Busulini, Dr. Vincenzo Guarino, Dr. Anna Tampieri, Dr. Annalisa Convertino, Dr. Valentina Benfenati, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio, Prof. Francesco Zerbetto, and Dr. Felice Simeone.

Members of the Italian delegation and AFOSR (from left to right): Mr. Giulio Busulini, Dr. Vincenzo Guarino, Dr. Anna Tampieri, Dr. Annalisa Convertino, Dr. Valentina Benfenati, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio, Prof. Francesco Zerbetto, and Dr. Felice Simeone.

Italy’s Ministry of Defence crucially helped secure the accomplishments that bolstered the Italian initiative to engage AFOSR and its interagency partners. The Embassy of Italy’s Defence Attaché staff enabled the necessary landscape that favored success beginning with the 2013 U.S.-Italy Defense S&T Dialogue and the AFOSR-Italy Technical Exchange. Furthermore, the MOD supported the continued basic science exchanges between AFOSR, CNR and MAECI that yielded the 2016 International Basic Research Infrastructure Meeting co-organized by AFOSR, Busulini and Assistant Defence Attaché, Lt. Colonel (AF) Alessio Grasso. Under the auspices of the U.S.-Italy, U.S.-Australia, and U.S.-Republic of South Africa (RSA) working groups of their respective JCMs on S&T, the infrastructure meeting brought together representatives from the participating countries to explore the possibilities of leveraging their respective research infrastructure investments to encourage cutting-edge basic science discoveries beneficial to the participating members. The meeting was attended and closed by Maj. General (AF) Luca Goretti (Defense Attaché, Embassy of Italy). Texas A & M University and Virginia Polytechnic and State University proactively initiated and effectively led technical meetings that included the robust participation of CNR, MAECI, CIRA, the Australian National Fabrication Facility, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; the MINTEK National Science Council of South Africa, as well as U.S. universities. The National Research Council of Italy, in collaboration with AFOSR, followed the technical exchanges with an interagency discussion in Italy that achieved a consensus Smart Sensing and Structures platform. With a common platform in hand, AFOSR with its domestic and international partners achieved significant milestones.

Following the success of the AFOSR-led international researcher exchange between the U.S., Australia and Italy, the AFOSR North American International Office under the leadership of Dr. Mark Maurice initiated the creation of the USAF international student research exchange program. Maurice’s effort directly resulted in the launch of the DOD’s sole basic science international student research exchange program in 2016 that supports AFOSR principal investigators by promoting international collaborations enabling vital scientific advances for the USAF. Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Research Council endorsed the formation of a Smart Sensing and Structures dialogue under the U.S. and Italy JCM. This exchange of ideas helped achieve a multilateral synergy on quantum sensing that directly benefits AFOSR. “The Platform on Smart Sensing and Structures enable not only bilateral engagement but it works to leverage a common research portfolio and funding scheme to better perform and accelerate the result and the multidisciplinary impact of the desirable outcome. This initiative has also been considered as a best practice in the European framework of bilateral S&T cooperation in the transatlantic 2017 review,” says Busulini.

2016 U.S. Interagency Meeting at the National Research Council of Italy

2016 International meeting at the National Research Council of Italy. The discussion was led by Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (Director, CNR Department of Chemical Sciences and Materials Technology) and included Dr. Corrado Spinella (Director, CNR Department of Physical Sciences and Technologies of Matter), Dr. Marco Conti (Director, CNR Department of Engineering, ICT, Energy and Transportation), Prof. Tullio Pozzan (Director, CNR Department of Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Mario Cosmo (General Director, Italian Aerospace Research Center), Prof. Teodoro Valente (Deputy Rector for Research, Innovation and Technology Transfer at the University of Rome -Sapienza), Dr. Stefania Cantoni (Space Division Deputy Manager, Italian Aerospace Research Centre), Dr. John Sankovic (Chief Technologist, NASA Glenn Research Center), Dr. Larry Nagahara (Associate Dean for Research, Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Ozden Ochoa (Tees Research Professor, Texas A&M University), Dr. Shashank Priya (Robert E. Hord Professor and Turner Fellow, Virginia Tech University), Ms. Rosie Hicks (Chief Executive Officer, Australian National Fabrication Facility), and Dr. Makhapa Makhafola (General Manager for R&D, Mintek National Science Council of South Africa).

Included in these efforts are the research investigations in Italy led by Dr. Valentina Benfenati at the CNR Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity to shed light in brain microdomains. The basic science thrust is co-supported by the AFOSR Biophysics program and the National Research Council of Italy and includes the CNR Institute of Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials and the CNR Institute of Microelectronics and Microsystems. Among the collaborative partners in the U.S. and Australia are the University of Vanderbilt, the University of Adelaide, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics, and the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

The partnership grows

“The collaboration with AFOSR led to a unique interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral and international research platform spanning from advanced materials to biophysics including infrastructure sharing among the United States, Italy, South Africa and Australia.”

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio

2018 Johns Hopkins University and National Research Council of Italy Meeting led by Dr. Larry Nagahara (Associate Dean of Research, Johns Hopkins University). The discussion included Prof. Sung Hoon Kang (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Anna Tampieri (National Research Council of Italy), Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Annalisa Convertino (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Vincenzo Guarino (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Roberto Zamboni (National Research Council of Italy), Prof. Maria Procopio (Johns Hopkins University), and others.

2018 Johns Hopkins University and National Research Council of Italy Meeting led by Dr. Larry Nagahara (Associate Dean of Research, Johns Hopkins University). The discussion included Prof. Sung Hoon Kang (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Anna Tampieri (National Research Council of Italy), Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Annalisa Convertino (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Vincenzo Guarino (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Roberto Zamboni (National Research Council of Italy), Prof. Maria Procopio (Johns Hopkins University), and others.

These synergistic efforts later led to even more U.S.-Italy science and technology collaborations with AFOSR. Ambrosio continued the relationship with AFOSR by serving as the co-chair of the Working Group on Advanced Materials with Bin-Salamon under the U.S.-Italy JCM on S&T. This served as a springboard under the U.S.-Italy Science and Technology Agreement where U.S. and international organizations directly benefited. Among the many activities, the NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC) created a robust collaboration with the Italian Aerospace Research Centre that leverage CIRA’s and GRC’s respective wind tunnels for aircraft icing research. The Australian National Fabrication Facility supported the researcher exchange between the National Research Council of Italy Institute of Nanostructured Materials and the University of Wollongong. Texas A & M University forged a strong collaboration with the MINTEK National Science Council of South Africa on high-temperature materials where South African National Science Council co-supported a research exchange with Texas A & M University. Virginia Polytechnic and State University leverages South African research infrastructure through a joint venture with the RSA National Science Council by using rare earth materials for wind turbine development.

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon (AFOSR), Dr. Katya Delak (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Prof. Luigi Nicolais (Italian Ministry of Research), Dr. Sonia Ortega (National Science Foundation).

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon (AFOSR), Dr. Katya Delak (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Prof. Luigi Nicolais (President, National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sonia Ortega (National Science Foundation).

Nicolais is currently serving as Chief Scientific Advisor of Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and is glad to see Ambrosio continuing the relationship with AFOSR. Through the decades of the relationship between AFOSR and the science and technology community of Italy, the importance of continuing to build these relationships has remained a priority. Building upon one another’s capabilities and finding ways to create shared competencies has led to several joint projects and co-funding opportunities with AFOSR and Italy; primarily in support of sensing and life sciences. Through collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Research Council of Italy, and the Italian Ministry of Defence; AFOSR and its partners effectively leverage Italy’s world-class researchers, the research investments of CNR’s €1 billion enterprise, and the €80 billion European Commission Horizon 2020 Program. Scientific opportunities for U.S. organizations range from applied mathematics, materials science, and physics; and includes research institutions at the CNR, universities, public-private partnerships, and government agencies. The AFOSR Biophysics program greatly benefits from the exceptional access to European research infrastructure provided by Italy for top researchers in academia and the Air Force Research Laboratory to discover leading-edge biophysical advances for human performance.

Nicolais never forgot and has appreciated that AFOSR took a chance on him over 30 years ago. He stressed the importance of AFOSR taking that calculated risk years ago to advance science and the mission, “The basic research is the prerequisite of any applied research. If a researcher is not aware of the most advanced knowledge in the field it is difficult that he can provide a breakthrough contribution to new technologies. Also often basic research can lead to advancement of knowledge in the field.”

It is clear that Halpin made a wise investment in Nicolais back in 1977, but more importantly, AFOSR has continued to develop and maintain solid relationships along the way that feed collaborative efforts in support of basic research for the Air Force and our nation.

2018 AFOSR Biophysics Program Review that included the delegations from Italy, Australia and South Africa

2018 AFOSR Biophysics Program Review that included the delegations from Italy, Australia and South Africa

ABOUT AFOSR: The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, located in Arlington, Virginia, continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force’s basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force. Through its international enterprise AFOSR supports the Air Force science and technology community by identifying global technological capabilities and accomplishments that can be applied to Air Force needs.

To stay up-to-date on the latest AFOSR happenings, please join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Week in Review: 12/17/17 – 12/23/17


Nature’s Smallest Rainbows, Produced by Peacock Spiders, May Inspire New Optical Technologies
One species of peacock spider – the rainbow peacock spider (Maratus robinsoni) – is particularly impressive, because it showcases an intense rainbow iridescent signal in males’ courtship displays to females. This is the first known instance in nature of males using an entire rainbow of colors to entice females to mate. But how do males make their rainbows? A new study published in Nature Communications looked to answer that question.


Nanotubes go with the flow to penetrate brain tissue
Rice University researchers have invented a device that uses fast-moving fluids to insert flexible, conductive carbon nanotube fibers into the brain, where they can help record the actions of neurons. The Rice team’s microfluidics-based technique promises to improve therapies that rely on electrodes to sense neuronal signals and trigger actions in patients with epilepsy and other conditions.

Week in Review: 12/10/17 – 12/16/17


Electricity, eel-style: Soft power cells could run tomorrow’s implantables

Inspired by the electric eel, a flexible, transparent electrical device could lead to body-friendly power sources for implanted health monitors and medication dispensers, augmented-reality contact lenses and countless other applications.


Researchers Develop Test That Can Diagnose Two Cancer Types

A blood test using infrared spectroscopy can be used to diagnose two types of cancer, lymphoma and melanoma, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

Week in Review: 12/3/17 – 12/9/17


Group maps atomic shifts in charge-ordered manganite

Using a manganite crystal, a group led by Lena Kourkoutis, assistant professor of applied and engineering physics, has described a new approach to characterizing and understanding exotic charge-ordered phases in which electrons are ordered into periodic patterns. These phases are marked by ever-so-slight displacements (shifts) in the arrangement of a material’s atomic lattice and directly determine the properties of a material.


Seeing Through Walls of Unknown Materials

Researchers at Duke Engineering have developed a new way to see through walls using microwaves— without needing to know what the wall is made out of beforehand. According to the researchers, the new approach could lead to applications in security and devices to help locate conduits, pipes and wires.


Replicating peregrine attack strategies could help down rogue drones

Researchers at Oxford University have discovered that peregrine falcons steer their attacks using the same control strategies as guided missiles.


Professor Kentaro Hara receives grant from Air Force

Kentaro Hara, assistant aerospace engineering professor, recently received the 2018 Young Investigator Research Program Award from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, which entails a $450,000 grant over the next three years.

Week in Review: 11/26/17 – 12/2/17


Building the hardware for the next generation of artificial intelligence

Vivienne Sze and Joel Emer teach Hardware Architecture for Deep Learning, a class in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science that focuses on building specialized hardware for AI.

Vivienne Sze shares Engineering Emmy Award with colleagues

Vivienne Sze, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, was a member of the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC), which developed the acclaimed High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard. For its work, the team received an Engineering Emmy Award during the Television Academy’s recent 69th Engineering Emmy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.


Scientists demonstrate one of largest quantum simulators yet, with 51 atoms

Physicists at MIT and Harvard University have demonstrated a new way to manipulate quantum bits of matter. In a paper published today in the journal Nature, they report using a system of finely tuned lasers to first trap and then tweak the interactions of 51 individual atoms, or quantum bits.


Tufts University engineer wins Air Force grant for ultra-high-resolution bio-imaging

Xiaocheng Jiang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering at Tufts University, has been awarded an early-career award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) for his work developing graphene-based microfluidics for ultra-high-resolution, dynamic bio-imaging.