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: 12/21/14 – 12/27/14

December 23, 2014

Air Force, small business develop technologies that help electronics stay cool
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and a small business partner are developing technologies that they expect will enable successful use of high-power processors that operate on satellites with funding from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123435244

December 22, 2014

That Old PlayStation Can Aid Science
This spring, Gaurav Khanna noticed that the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth physics department was more crowded than usual. Why, he wondered, were so many students suddenly so interested in science?http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/science/an-economical-way-to-save-progress.html?_r=1

Hands on: Crafting ultrathin color coatings
In Harvard’s high-tech cleanroom, applied physicists produce vivid optical effects—on paper | The Capasso group was supported in this research by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Draper Laboratory. The Center for Nanoscale Systems is a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, supported by the National Science Foundation.
http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2014/12/hands-on-crafting-ultrathin-color-coatings

A Week in Review: 10/5/14 – 10/11/14

October 9, 2014

Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells
An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called “radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers. http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q4/electrically-conductive-plastics-promising-for-batteries,-solar-cells.html

October 7, 2014

Hackathon challenges abilities to solve real-world AFRL problems
Air Force Research Laboratory is preparing to co-host LabHack, a 26-hour long coding competition which will task coding-savvy individuals, or “hackers,” to creatively solve challenges that AFRL researchers face every day. The Air Force’s first ‘Hackathon’ event –produced by AFRL, the Wright Brothers Institute, and Code for Dayton, part of the Code for America Brigade Program–will take place Oct. 25-26 at the Tec^Edge Innovation and Collaboration Center in Dayton, Ohio. http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123427433

October 6, 2014

New way to make foams could lead to lightweight, sustainable materials A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a new type of foam – called capillary foam – that solves many of the problems faced by traditional foams. The new research shows for the first time that the combined presence of particles and a small amount of oil in water-based foams can lead to exceptional foam stability when neither the particles nor the oil can stabilize the foams alone. This research is supported by the Renewable Bioproducts Institute of Georgia Tech, by the National Science Foundation, and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). http://www.research.gatech.edu/news/new-way-make-foams-could-lead-lightweight-sustainable-materials

A Week in Review: 5/5/13 – 5/11/13

May 6, 2013

Researchers develop unique method for creating uniform nanoparticles

University of Illinois researchers have developed a new way to produce highly uniform nanocrystals used for both fundamental and applied nanotechnology projects. “We have developed a unique approach for the synthesis of highly uniform icosahedral nanoparticles made of platinum (Pt), “explained Hong Yang, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a faculty affiliate at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Illinois. “This is important both in fundamental studies — nanoscience and nanotechnology — and in applied sciences such as high performance fuel cell catalysts.
http://esciencenews.com/articles/2013/05/06/researchers.develop.unique.method.creating.uniform.nanoparticles

May 6, 2013

Heart Monitor Uses Paper-thin Flexible ‘Skin’

Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, has developed a heart monitor thinner than a dollar bill and no wider than a postage stamp. The flexible skin-like monitor, worn under an adhesive bandage on the wrist, is sensitive enough to help doctors detect stiff arteries and cardiovascular problems. Bao’s team is working with other Stanford researchers to make the device completely wireless. Using wireless communication, doctors could receive a patient’s minute-by-minute heart status via cell phone, all thanks to a device as thick as a human hair. The team’s research is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2013/05/heart-monitor-uses-paper-thin-flexible-skin

May 8, 2013

AFOSR-funded research key to revolutionary ‘green’ spacecraft propellant

In 2015, NASA, for the first time, will fly a space mission utilizing a radically different propellant — one which has reduced toxicity and is environmentally benign.
http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123347679

May 9, 2013

F-35 fighter takes another step forward

The Air Force took another step forward with its newest fighter jet when an advanced F-35 Lightning II landed at the service’s lead training base, home to the largest fleet of F-35s worldwide.
http:/www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123347856

 

 

 

 

A Week in Review: 4/21/13 – 4/27/13

April 22, 2013

Physicists Find Right (and Left) Solution for On-Chip Optics: Nanoscale Router Converts and Directs Optical Signals Efficiently
A Harvard-led team of researchers has created a new type of nanoscale device that converts an optical signal into waves that travel along a metal surface. Significantly, the device can recognize specific kinds of polarized light and accordingly send the signal in one direction or another.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422143313.htm

April 24, 2013

Supertough, Strong Nanofibers Developed
University of Nebraska-Lincoln materials engineers have developed a structural nanofiber that is both strong and tough, a discovery that could transform everything from airplanes and bridges to body armor and bicycles. Their findings are featured on the cover of this week’s April issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Nano. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and a U.S. Army Research Office Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424112307.htm

April 24, 2013

U.S.-Australia agreement promotes space situational awareness
A new agreement made between the United States and Australia represents the first in what U.S. Strategic Command’s commander hopes will be many that promote transparency in the space domain.
http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123345762