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/

Week in Review: 12/7/14 – 12/13/14

December 11, 2014

Penn Research Outlines Basic Rules for Construction With a Type of Origami
A team of University of Pennsylvania researchers is turning kirigami, a related art form that allows the paper to be cut, into a technique that can be applied equally to structures on those vastly divergent length scales. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation through its ODISSEI program, the American Philosophical Society and the Simons Foundation.
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-research-outlines-basic-rules-construction-type-origami

December 10, 2014

Defects are perfect in laser-induced graphene
Researchers at Rice University have created flexible, patterned sheets of multilayer graphene from a cheap polymer by burning it with a computer-controlled laser. The process works in air at room temperature and eliminates the need for hot furnaces and controlled environments, and it makes graphene that may be suitable for electronics or energy storage.
http://news.rice.edu/2014/12/10/defects-are-perfect-in-laser-induced-graphene/

December 9, 2014

Local Scrabble player places second in world
A competitive Scrabble player who works at the Rome Air Force Research Laboratory, Lipe last month achieved what he called an “amazing experience,” finishing second at the world Scrabble Champions Tournament in London.
http://romesentinel.com/county/local-scrabble-player-places-second-in-world/QBqnlh!8bJmTlrrvCgSyy7qVVVG3Q/

Contact lens merges plastics and active electronics via 3-D printing
As part of a project demonstrating new 3-D printing techniques, Princeton researchers have embedded tiny light-emitting diodes into a standard contact lens, allowing the device to project beams of colored light.
http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S41/81/41S44/index.xml

A Week in Review: 9/28/14 – 10/04/14

October 3, 2014

President Obama has announced a new competition to award more than $200 million in public and private investment to create an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute, led by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and the second of four new institute competitions to be launched this year. AFOSR was instrumental in creating this opportunity by leading the way with innovative research funding in integrated photonics, participating in the National Academies Optics & Photonics study, participating in the OSTP Fast Track Action Committee on Optics & Photonics, and working with our DoD colleagues. AFOSR support for this award was managed by Gernot Pomrenke, Program Officer, Optoelectronics and Photonics.
FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/03/fact-sheet-president-obama-announces-new-manufacturing-innovation-instit

October 2, 2014

Innovation: Scintillating Statistics
A Look at High-Latitude and Equatorial Ionospheric Disturbances of GPS Signals The data collection and analysis project discussed in this article was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Air Force Research Laboratory grants. http://gpsworld.com/innovation-scintillating-statistics/

October 1, 2014

All directions are not created equal for nanoscale heat sources
Thermal considerations are rapidly becoming one of the most serious design constraints in microelectronics, especially on submicron scale lengths. A study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that standard thermal models will lead to the wrong answer in a three-dimensional heat-transfer problem if the dimensions of the heating element are on the order of one micron or smaller. This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and was carried out, in part, at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory.
http://engineering.illinois.edu/news/article/9528

Platinum meets its match in quantum dots from coal
Graphene quantum dots created at Rice University grab onto graphene platelets like barnacles attach themselves to the hull of a boat. But these dots enhance the properties of the mothership, making them better than platinum catalysts for certain reactions within fuel cells. The Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and its MURI program supported the research.
http://news.rice.edu/2014/10/01/platinum-meets-its-match-in-quantum-dots-from-coal/

Head of Air Force lab at Wright-Patterson to give Rolls-Royce lecture
Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Masiello will give the 2014 Rolls-Royce Memorial Lecture at Purdue University on Oct. 8. Masiello is commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q4/head-of-air-force-lab-at-wright-patterson-to-give-rolls-royce-lecture.html

September 30, 2014

Causes of California drought linked to climate change, Stanford scientists say
In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/september/drought-climate-change-092914.html

September 29, 2014

Adding natural uncertainty improves mathematical models
Mathematicians from Brown University have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. While being as certain as possible is generally the stock and trade of mathematics, the researchers hope this new formulation might ultimately lead to mathematical models that better reflect the inherent uncertainties of the natural world. The work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/09/burgers

A Week in Review: 9/21/14 – 9/27/14

September 26, 2014

AFOSR welcomes new director, Dr. Thomas F. Christian
The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the appointment of a new director at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Va.  Dr. Thomas F. Christian will join AFOSR as the 24th director of the agency, which boasts a 63-year history of continuously funding breakthrough basic research for the long-term benefit of the United States Air Force.
http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123426216

September 25, 2014

New Discovery Could Pave the Way for Spin-based Computing
Electricity and magnetism rule our digital world. Semiconductors process electrical information, while magnetic materials enable long-term data storage. A University of Pittsburgh research team has discovered a way to fuse these two distinct properties in a single material, paving the way for new ultrahigh density storage and computing architectures. This discovery was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Army Research Office. http://www.news.pitt.edu/news/new-discovery-could-pave-way-spin-based-computing

Penn Chemists Observe Key Reaction for Producing ‘Atmosphere’s Detergent’ Earth’s atmosphere is a complicated dance of molecules. The chemical output of plants, animals and human industry rise into the air and pair off in sequences of chemical reactions. Such processes help maintain the atmosphere’s chemical balance; for example, some break down pollutants emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. Understanding exactly how these reactions proceed is critical for predicting how the atmosphere will respond to environmental changes, but some of the steps of this dance are so quick that all of the molecules involved haven’t been measured in the wild. A University of Pennsylvania team has now observed one of these rapid atmospheric reactions in the lab.
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-chemists-observe-key-reaction-producing-atmosphere-s-detergent

September 23, 2014

Fluorescent Dyes Highlight Hard-to-Detect Damages in Composites
Current research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is creating a process that uses fluorescence to detect both damage and water in composites, a first for composites. The first system utilizes Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), a method frequently used in molecular biology research to probe the interaction between proteins and other biopolymers. The second approach uses a mechanophore, a molecule that changes color in response to mechanical forces. http://compositesmanufacturingmagazine.com/2014/09/fluorescent-dyes-highlight-hard-detect-damages-composites/

September 22, 2014

Nature’s elegant and efficient vision systems can detect cancer
Mantis shrimp eyes are inspiring the design of new cameras that can detect a variety of cancers and visualise brain activity. University of Queensland research has found that the shrimp’s compound eyes are superbly tuned to detect polarised light, providing a streamlined framework for technology to mimic. The Australian Research Council, the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development and the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research are funding the work. http://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/09/nature%E2%80%99s-elegant-and-efficient-vision-systems-can-detect-cancer

Engineers show light can play seesaw at the nanoscale
University of Minnesota electrical engineering researchers have developed a unique nanoscale device that for the first time demonstrates mechanical transportation of light. The discovery could have major implications for creating faster and more efficient optical devices for computation and communication. The team’s research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The device was fabricated in the cleanroom at the Minnesota Nano Center at the University of Minnesota. http://discover.umn.edu/news/science-technology/engineers-show-light-can-play-seesaw-nanoscale

A Week in Review: 10/27/13 – 11/2/13

October 27, 2013

Beryllium’s Back, Baby
Air Force Research Laboratory engineers, in partnership with industry, reestablished a domestic manufacturing capability for primary (high-purity) beryllium metal. Manufactures at a new reduction plant in Elmore, Ohio, beryllium is a critical component in several Department of Defense (DoD) applications.
http://science.dodlive.mil/2013/10/27/berylliums-back-baby/#sthash.GHD1W4ys.dpuf

October 30, 2013

New Clemson facility to advance nanotechnology
Clemson University completed construction of a world-class nanomaterials facility specifically designed to support research projects that are funded by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Department of Energy.
http://media-relations.www.clemson.edu/5211

November 1, 2013

Synaptic transistor learns while it computes
First of its kind, brain-inspired device looks toward highly efficient and fast parallel computing
http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2013/11/synaptic-transistor-learns-while-it-computes