The power of one small basic research investment

By Molly Lachance and Brianna Hodges, Air Force Office of Scientific Research

A small basic research investment by the Air Force Research Laboratory, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, has created a community of origami researchers who in six short years have transitioned to working on applied technologies for the Air Force.

The story begins in 2012 when AFRL’s Air Force Office of Scientific Research partnered with NSF to develop the Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. Over the years, NSF and AFOSR have invested nearly $28M in this program with the goal of creating the mathematical and material foundation for self-folding origami systems and commercializing the concepts. The origami research community received a big boost when Congress decided to include a $5 million congressional interest item in the fiscal year 2017 budget and made plans for a $4.8 million CII in fiscal year 2018.

AFOSR issued the funding opportunity announcement for the first CII and a team from Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida International University won in open competition. Concurrently, AFRL began taking notice of origami basic research as a promising concept for transition to Air Force applications and provided an additional $20 million of funding to a number of small teams around the lab. AFOSR stayed in the mix by managing that investment and creating a venue for university and AFRL researchers to collaborate and share knowledge.

Now six years after its initial investment, AFRL researchers are developing origami antennas deployable in space. This type of technology requires a multidisciplinary approach, leveraging the knowledge of original and new university partners as well as the expertise of AFRL experts from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Aerospace Systems Directorate, Sensors Directorate, and Space Vehicles Directorate.

“We’re interested in really compelling scientific and engineering challenges that can lead to applications in the future,” said Ken Goretta, AFOSR program officer. “Compelling science and Air Force relevance drive us to invest, and origami antennas have that.”

This community met on September 13 for a workshop on origami antennas and electromagnetics and September 14 for a kick-off meeting for the new Center for Physically Reconfigurable and Deployable Multifunctional Antennas located at Florida International University.

The goal of the center, which celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting September 15, is to develop innovative and advanced origami-based antenna technologies for next-generation Air Force and Department of Defense system.

“We want to use the center as an opportunity to create and train a diverse workforce with state of the art training and antenna programs for our nation and create a pipeline for very well trained engineers that they can go in work in the government” said Dr. Stavros Georgakopoulos, TAC Center Director and Inventor, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at FIU.

Georgakopoulos expresses he never imagined after being funded initially that his grant co-funded by AFOSR would be so transformative for his career. “The Air Force Research Lab have a very strong presence. We are going to collaborate and we are going to use some of their expertise and we are going to do more interdisciplinary type of work. So we are very excited.”

For more information about the history and intent of project as well as its significance to Air force and the Department of Defense, visit https://tac.fiu.edu/.

This story is an example of how AFRL creates asymmetric S&T advantage for the Air Force by making small strategic investments that create communities and conversations with far reaching scientific impact.

https://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1659730/the-power-of-one-small-basic-research-investment/

The Sky is The Limit for Agile Air Force Science Test and Evaluation

Dr. Brett Pokines, AFOSR Program Officer for the Test Science for Test and Evaluation (T&E) program, hosted a three-day conference at the Doolittle Institute in August, maximizing access for the Test and Evaluation Community at Eglin AFB in Western Florida.

Highlights from the meeting include:

  • Keynote speaker, Dr. Elisabetta Jerome, Technical Advisor for Armament and Weapon Test and Evaluation, shared the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) strategic vision and integral role basic science investments present in the needs, changes, and opportunities within the AFTC Enterprise. AFTC’s Span of Operations occupies 32 locations equipped with over 200 Ground Test Facilities. The Test Center includes 100 Aircraft featuring 21 different variants, 12 Unique Test Cells, and three major installations.
  • Lt Colonel Daniel Montes, Director of Curriculum at the USAF Test Pilot School (TPS), presented links between the TPS mission and fundamental T&E research. The USAF TPS is home to the Air Force’s top pilots, navigators and engineers in conducting flight tests and representative data to carry out test missions.
  • Lt Colonel Randy Gordon, Test and Evaluation Lead for AFWERX, highlighted the cultural changes taking place within the T&E community and encouraged review participants to push beyond traditional developmental thinking. AFWERX is driven by innovation to bring tomorrow’s tools to the warfighter today.
  • Mr. Keith Kirk, Experimentation Program Manager in the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Directorate, provided a compelling example in his talk, as Co-lead for Phase II of “The Light Attack Aircraft Experiment,” which evaluated the Light Attack Aircraft capabilities to inform an expeditious procurement process. The program was instrumental in demonstrating how T&E and acquisition teams are reimagining the concepts of bringing capabilities to the Air Force.

Opportunities to network, collaborate, and connect with stakeholders set the stage for groundbreaking work in the Science Test and Evaluation community in the countdown to 2030. The conference provided an engaging platform for the T&E community to align opportunity, capability, and innovation in support of the Air Force mission.

A Week in Review: 8/10/14 – 8/16/14

Aug. 12, 2014

Electrical engineering’s Giebink receives Air Force Young Investigator Award Giebink’s proposal, titled “Complex index and nonlinearity modulation in organic photonic composites,” aims to develop a new class of optical materials made from small molecules and polymers that control the flow of light in photonic integrated circuits to enable unidirectional properties and efficient frequency conversion. http://news.psu.edu/story/322647/2014/08/12/academics/electrical-engineerings-giebink-receives-air-force-young

Aug. 13, 2014

New material could enhance fast and accurate DNA sequencing
Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available. http://news.illinois.edu/news/14/0813nanopores_NarayanaAluru.html

Focus on the Future

History has demonstrated that basic science is often unpredictable. When managed successfully it produces groundbreaking and game changing technologies for the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and society as a whole. The United States depends on science, technology and innovative engineering to protect the American people and advance our national interests.

In this video, we focus on AFOSR’s investment in the six basic research areas that have the potential to create foundations for new disruptive technologies and solve formerly unsolvable problems for the Department of Defense. These areas are organized and managed in five scientific directorates: Dynamical Systems and Control (RTA), Quantum & Non-Equilibrium Processes (RTB), Information, Decision, and Complex Networks (RTC), Complex materials and Devices (RTD), and Energy, Power, and Propulsion (RTE). The research activities managed within each directorate are summarized on our website.

Dr. Russell, the former director of AFOSR (current Director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory) highlights AFOSR’s focus to identify cutting edge scientific principles that will lead to a future Air Force unlike the one we have today.

The focus of AFOSR is on research areas that offer significant and comprehensive benefits to our national warfighting and peacekeeping capabilities. The ground breaking work of our scientists and engineers will yield significant results well into the future!

What disruptive technology do you envision in the future?

A Week in Review: 4/6/14 – 4/12/14

April 6, 2014

Self-Assembled Silver Superlattices Create Molecular Machines with Hydrogen-Bond “Hinges” and Moving “Gears”
A combined computational and experimental study of self-assembled silver-based structures known as superlattices has revealed an unusual and unexpected behavior: arrays of gear-like molecular-scale machines that rotate in unison when pressure is applied to them.
http://www.research.gatech.edu/news/self-assembled-silver-superlattices-create-molecular-machines-hydrogen-bond-%E2%80%9Chinges%E2%80%9D-and-moving

April 7, 2014

Computing’s invisible challenge
Northeastern University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Ningfang Mi recently learned she was one of 42 early-​​career researchers to win a Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. She plans to use award to figure out a better way to manage the vast amount of information sharing that takes place online—and push that mas­sive technical challenge even further into the background for end users.
http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/04/computings-invisible-challenge/

Rebar technique strengthens case for graphene
Carbon nanotubes are reinforcing bars that make two-dimensional graphene much easier to handles in a new hybrid material grown by researchers at Rice University. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour set nanotubes into graphene in a way that not only mimics how steel rebar is used in concrete but also preserves and even improves the electrical and mechanical qualities of both.
http://news.rice.edu/2014/04/07/rebar-technique-strengthens-case-for-graphene/

April 9, 2014

New ‘switch’ could power quantum computing
Using a laser to place individual rubidium atoms near the surface of a lattice of light, scientists at MIT and Harvard University have developed a new method for connecting particles — one that could help in the development of powerful quantum computing systems.
http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/new-switch-could-power-quantum-computing-0409

April 10, 2014

Fruit flies, fighter jets use similar nimble tactics when under attack
Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator.
http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/04/10/fruit-flies-fighter-jets-use-similar-nimble-tactics-when-under-attack/

April 11, 2014

Air Force R&D group experiments with Google Glass
The BATMAN researchers are experimenting with many probable battlefield scenarios, including how Google Glass could be used by ground forces to help aircraft acquire targets or how it could work as a communications device between combat controllers and overhead aircraft.
http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140411/NEWS04/304110040/Air-Force-R-D-group-experiments-Google-Glass