AFOSR – The importance of basic science in science diplomacy


by Erin Crawley
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

11/23/2015 – ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has a rich history of global engagement, building international partnerships and funding world class basic research scientists to support the science and technology aspects of the Air Force mission.

It seems now more than ever in this globalized era, that if the United States wants to hold its place as the world leader in technological advances and cutting-edge science, continued international engagement is a strategic must. Combining diplomatic efforts with U.S science and technology goals can be a wise approach to achieve that objective.

Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS), and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), would agree. A strong advocate of science diplomacy, he has worked with AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, on international collaborations with South Africa, Italy and Australia over the past three years. The relationship between AFOSR and Dr. Colglazier rested on a single overarching principle – mutual trust. From that foundation, AFOSR and STAS set forth on an interagency strategy that opened unique pathways to build international partnerships.

“What I found is that AFOSR is one of those institutions that learned very early on the importance of what globalization is in terms of maintaining U.S. excellence in science and technology. I certainly want the U.S to be the world leader. If the U.S. is going to stay in the forefront, we’ve got to find out who the very good people are in other places doing interesting work and go out and engage with them,” Colglazier said.

Colglazier continued, “So the fact that AFOSR is engaged around the world, it has offices overseas, plus it can fund basic unclassified fundamental research, is surely the crown jewel of American science.”

link graphic A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Over the past three years, Dr. E. William Colglazier, a strong advocate of science diplomacy, collaborated with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to build partnerships with leading scientists and engineers of South Africa, Italy and Australia to strengthen and advance international engagement through science. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Colglazier’s first engagement with AFOSR was when he was invited to collaborate on the 2011 South Africa Joint Services & Technology Workshop, held in South Africa. “I think AFOSR found it useful to go with someone from the State Department in a joint effort with the Department of Defense (DoD) to help emphasize why it is in the interest of the South African researchers as well as in the interest of the U.S. to develop these relationships,” Colglazier said.

At the time, AFOSR was scouting the best universities, research laboratories, and companies performing unique fundamental science in South Africa, Italy and Australia that might be relevant to AFOSR’s mission. Since then the joint efforts of Dr. Colglazier and Dr. Bin-Salamon led to an unprecedented DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa by building linkages with S&T organizations such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); the African Laser Centre, the Minerals Technology Laboratory, and many others. These relationships created partnership opportunities not just for AFOSR, but also for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Army Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, Army Corp of Engineers, and Unite States Africa Command. In addition, AFOSR has gone on to fund and build relationships with top African scientists in the areas of materials science, physics, sensors and electronics and hosted the 2014 Joint Services & OSD Africa Technical Exchange, Arlington, VA.

Colglazier sees this new DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa as a great example of what he calls science diplomacy. He says using diplomacy to help advance our relations with other countries and advance the global scientific enterprise is essential.

“While historically, the U.S. has engaged in science and diplomacy efforts both in times of peace and war, it is especially important now for there to be universal acceptance by the U.S. government of the importance of international science and cooperation and its impact on protecting the United States,” Colglazier said.

To further support the efforts in Africa during this time, Dr. Bin-Salamon reached out to Professor Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair in Science, Professor of Chemistry at University of Oregon, National Academy of Science member, and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to join forces with AFOSR to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa in hopes of expanding research activities in Africa.

Richmond is a passionate advocate for women in science and is also the Director and co-founder of COACh, a grass-roots organization based at the University of Oregon, assisting in the advancement of women scientists and engineers in both the U.S. and in developing countries. “At that time I accompanied Sofi and a team from AFOSR along with other agencies, to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa, I was very interested in helping to increase research collaborations between scientists in the U.S. and in Africa, especially women scientists who often get overlooked in international collaborations,” Richmond said.

Richmond says the importance of basic science often comes up in discussions at the outset of these joint efforts, in both developing and developed countries. She says this is where AFOSR can assist in international collaborative ventures.

“In many less developed countries, in Africa and Asia, basic science, what I call ‘discovery science’, is a luxury that many believe they cannot afford.   With limited resources I often see the strategy of these countries to instead want to invest in development or applications science rather than discovery science, relying on the more scientifically advanced countries to provide that fundamental knowledge. While I believe that this is a wise choice it is short term oriented. Many of the scientists in those countries still have an interest in doing fundamental science but they generally know that they will likely need international collaborations to do that, or funding from outside of their country. AFOSR can play a role in both assisting in collaborations between U.S. scientists and those in less developed countries and also help to fund discovery science in those countries,” Richmond explained.

“I believe that we have a lot to learn from such joint ventures. In many parts of the world, problems that they face today often foreshadow what we in the U.S. will face in the future. Climate change is a good example of that.   Learning and working with scientists in these countries not only helps them cope with those problems but also helps us prepare for the future. AFOSR can help to bring scientists from different countries together to solve common problems, creating international networks that are necessary for solving global problems that do not have boundaries. This is where AFOSR can have a huge impact,” Richmond said.

That same year Bin-Salamon and Colglazier worked together to build strategic basic research and diplomatic collaborations between the U.S. and Australia by working with the Australian government and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). This eventually led AFOSR to leverage the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) that resulted in many successful partnerships with the Australian research landscape involving the Australian Department of Education and Training; the Department of Industry and Science; Australian Academy of Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; and Australian universities.

Over the past four years the extensive collaborative efforts between AFOSR and the Australian Government resulted in three successful major engagements, with the most recent one, the US-Australia Enabling Technologies Technical Exchange Meeting, taking place in May 2015 in Arlington, Va.

Two key players from the Education, Science and Technology Branch of the Embassy of Australia, Mr. Michael Schwager, former Minister-Counsellor for Education, Science and Technology and Ms. Laura Rahn, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, along with Mrs. Rosie Hicks, ANFF CEO, collaborated with AFOSR to be inclusive of Australian researchers from all Australian universities and publically funded research agencies as part of the program agenda. Australian researchers were chosen to participate depending on possible new areas of collaboration between Australian and U.S. participants and the potential to enhance international cooperation in the development, operation and use of research infrastructure.

The result was an amazing gathering of more than 80 participants from the U.S. and Australia. Thirty-five researchers from 17 Australian universities and four publically funded research agencies were in attendance and presented to a range of U.S. research funding agencies and universities. This year’s workshop was the largest one thus far, attracting more candidates and participants than in previous years, creating a collaborative innovative environment for researchers to discuss their cutting edge research.

“In addition to the Enabling Technologies Workshop, the Australian Government also supported a pilot research placement program in 2014 which placed Australian researchers in AFOSR funded labs across the U.S.. This was a successful way to continue the ongoing linkages between Australian and AFOSR funded researchers by enabling them to interact face to face in the lab with their US counterpart,” said Schwager, Head of the Science & Commercialisation Division in the Australian Federal Department of Industry & Science.

Schwager continued, “It is through these activities that the Australian Government hopes to strengthen our connections with AFOSR further and to foster future innovations.”

Following engagements in continental Africa and Australia, the pattern of creating relationships between AFOSR and global civilian research organizations repeated in Italy in the following years.

In 2013 Colglazier introduced Bin-Salamon to Mr. Giulio Busulini, Scientific Attaché at the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C., to establish a science and technology dialogue with the Italian S&T community. Since then they have been coordinating together on several fronts, to include very successful collaborations with Italian science organizations.

In addition, Bin-Salamon and Busulini worked diligently with representatives from U.S. Department of State, Italian Ministry of Research, the Italian Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security; to organize the AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange as part of the US-Italy Defense S&T Dialogue. The effort established interagency engagements with the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) through the AFOSR/NIH/CNR Technical Exchange and the AFOSR/DARPA/NCI Strategic Workshop, and CIRA Italian Aerospace Research Centre that manages one of the top hypersonics testing facility in the world. In unprecedented fashion, CIRA has participated in AFOSR Program Reviews to engage the USAF basic research enterprise, and the Embassy of Italy worked in concert with AFOSR to support projects and researcher exchanges between Italian universities and AFOSR-funded academic laboratories. By opening new doors with CNR and CIRA, there are now opportunities to enable scientist from the U.S. to use the CIRA testing facilities for basic research purposes. Collaborators hope this will also create opportunities for more technology transfers for the DoD and aerospace industry.

“CIRA gave their first presentation to AFOSR at the US-Italy Joint Defense S&T Dialogue, held in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and showed to the U.S. Program managers how they might use the testing facilities for specific scientific areas. In addition, during this meeting, CIRA also communicated their interest in some joint research efforts,” Busulini said.

Appreciative of the newly established relationship with AFOSR, Busulini said, “This collaboration enabled us to bring CIRA in the conversation. Our relationship with AFOSR helped to accelerate the progress to start a more open dialogue in basic research”, Busulini said.

Another positive outcome resulting from the science and technology dialogue between AFOSR and the Italian Government is that the Ministry of Defense of Italy is moving toward more collaborative opportunities in basic science , according to Busulini.

“AFOSR has mechanisms in place that make it very simple to fund and co-fund opportunities while making more efficient and economically beneficial investments. Additionally, the AFOSR model encourages long-term science and technology strategies that enable international partners to better connect with new scientific frontiers,” Busulini said.

While the success of these collaborations with continental Africa, Australia and Italy are the result of a lot of hard work by very committed and dedicated governments, scientists, program officers, academic institutions and industry partners, some of these relationships never would have been established without Colglazier in the mix.

“Dr. Colglazier’s partnership was central in our initiative to create a new international basic research landscape for AFOSR,” said Dr. Bin-Salamon. “By working together in a way that complemented our resources, we achieved successes that would not have occurred otherwise.”

A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon.

Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon share a common view of partnering with scientists around the world to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise while enabling the international community to solve global problems. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Through science diplomacy we can increase our global reach and help to influence a better future. “For me, science diplomacy is not about using science as a tool to advance our diplomatic goals like influencing the behavior of other countries and their investments, but it is also about using diplomacy in international engagement to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise,” added Colglazier.

The efforts of the State Department and AFOSR working together have helped to strengthen that enterprise. Colglazier expressed his appreciation in working with AFOSR, “Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon has been a very valued colleague of mine and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been my partner in terms of engagement together, in Africa and in other countries. He’s an example of one of these bright young scientists who has come into the public policy sphere through these fellowship programs, originally through the AAAS, and who have become civil servants and very important components of the strategy of agencies like AFOSR for international engagement around the world.”

Dr. Colglazier is currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Find more information about Dr. Colglazier’s work in this area at: The United States Looks to the Global Science, Technology, and Innovation Horizon, and Platform of Enhancing Global Academic Strategic Collaboration in Science (PEGASCIS).


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 foreign 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+.

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

Week in Review: 11/15/15 – 11/21/15

November 20, 2015

New UTA research will automatically check for bugs in cyber-physical systems
Taylor Johnson, an assistant professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, and co-PI Christoph Csallner, an associate professor in that department, will investigate how to automate improvement of development environments for cyber-physical systems with a $498,437 grant from the National Science Foundation.

November 16, 2015

Bats use weighty wings to land upside down
In order to roost upside down on cave ceilings or tree limbs, bats need to perform an aerobatic feat unlike anything else in the animal world. Researchers from Brown University have shown that it’s the extra mass in bats’ beefy wings that makes the maneuver possible.

UW team refrigerates liquids with a laser for the first time
In a study to be published the week of Nov. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team used an infrared laser to cool water by about 36 degrees Fahrenheit — a major breakthrough in the field.

Tough enough: Stanford and IBM test the limits of toughness in nanocomposites
Researchers at Stanford and IBM have tested the upper boundaries of mechanical toughness in a class of lightweight nanocomposites toughened by individual molecules, and offered a new model for how they get their toughness.

Brushing Up Peptides Boosts their Potential as Drugs
Chemists at the University of California, San Diego, have found a simple, potentially broadly useful way to send peptides into cells and tissues.

Week in Review: 11/8/15 – 11/14/15

November 12, 2015

Nanopores could take the salt out of seawater
MechSE professor Narayana Aluru has led a team of University of Illinois engineers in finding an energy-efficient material for removing salt from seawater that could provide a rebuttal to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lament, “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.”

November 10, 2015

Onion-like layers help this efficient new nanoparticle glow
A new, onion-like nanoparticle could open new frontiers in biomaging, solar energy harvesting and light-based security techniques. The particle’s innovation lies in its layers: a coating of organic dye, a neodymium-containing shell, and a core that incorporates ytterbium and thulium. Together, these strata convert invisible near-infrared light to higher energy blue and UV light with record-high efficiency, a trick that could improve the performance of technologies ranging from deep-tissue imaging and light-induced therapy to security inks used for printing money.

November 9, 2015

New Technology Colors In the Infrared Rainbow
In a new study, a team lead by Maiken H. Mikkelsen, the Nortel Networks Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics at Duke University, demonstrates perfect absorbers for small bands of the electromagnetic spectrum from visible light through the near infrared. The fabrication technique is easily scalable, can be applied to any surface geometry and costs much less than current light absorption technologies.

Week in Review: 11/1/15 – 11/7/15

November 5, 2015

Harvesting more energy from photons
Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have found a way to significantly boost the energy that can be harnessed from sunlight, a finding that could lead to better solar cells or light detectors.

Freshwater fish, amphibians supercharge their ability to see infrared light 
Salmon and other freshwater fish and amphibians supercharge their ability to see red and infrared light. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that this evolutionary adaptation hinges on the activity of an enzyme that converts vitamin A1 to vitamin A2, enabling the aquatic creatures to more easily navigate murky waters.

UMD Discovery Could Enable Portable Particle Accelerators
A new discovery by physicists at the University of Maryland could hold the key to the construction of inexpensive, broadly useful, and portable particle accelerators in the very near future. The team has accelerated electron beams to nearly the speed of light using record-low laser energies, thus relieving a major engineering bottleneck in the development of compact particle accelerators.

It’s a Beauty: JILA’s Quantum Crystal is Now More Valuable
Physicists at JILA have made their “quantum crystal” of ultracold molecules more valuable than ever by packing about five times more molecules into it. The denser crystal will help scientists unlock the secrets of magnets and other, more exotic materials.

A New Slant on Semiconductor Characterization
Grayson’s research team has created a new mathematical method that has made semiconductor characterization more efficient, more precise, and simpler. By flipping the magnetic field and repeating one measurement, the method can quantify whether or not electrical conductivity is uniform across the entire material – a quality required for high-performance semiconductors.

November 4, 2015

Novel “crumpling” of hybrid nanostructures increases SERS sensitivity
By “crumpling” to increase the surface area of graphene-gold nanostructures, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have improved the sensitivity of these materials, opening the door to novel opportunities in electronics and optical sensing applications.

Graphene could take night-vision technology beyond ‘Predator’
Researchers Find That Thermal Sensors Made Out Of Graphene Could Create Low-Cost Night-Vision Technology.

November 2, 2015

Ultrasensitive sensors made from boron-doped grapheme
Ultrasensitive gas sensors based on the infusion of boron atoms into graphene — a tightly bound matrix of carbon atoms — may soon be possible, according to an international team of researchers from six countries.

Week in Review: 10/25/15 – 10/31/15

October 29, 2015

Entering the Strange World of Ultra-Cold Chemistry
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to study the unusual chemical and physical properties of atoms and molecules at ultra-cold temperatures approaching absolute zero – the temperature at which all thermal activity stops.