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Meeting the 'Challenge': Office of Naval Research funds new projects

ARLINGTON, Va.In the spirit of science competitions that yielded technologies to send U.S. astronauts to the moon, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) selected five new basic research projects for significant funding, officials announced Dec. 12.

"We hope that the research will bring in new science areas and new principal investigators," said Dr. William Lukens, the program officer overseeing the effort for ONR's Basic Research Challenge (BRC).

The BRC program supports projects in areas not already addressed by ongoing science investigations within the organization. ONR reserves a small percentage of its basic research funds for this internal effort, giving program officers incentive to compete for resources for scientific pursuits that broaden their portfolios.

Out of 36 proposals, ONR officials chose five winning topics for fiscal year 2012. Each will receive a four-year award worth approximately $1.5 million annually.

The five topics and their respective program officers are:

  • Decentralized On-line Optimization; Dr. Don Wagner, Dr. Behzad Kamgar-Parsi, Dr. Jason Stack and Marc Steinberg
    The goal of this research is to develop theory and computational methods for solving resource-optimization problems under the assumption that information is revealed incrementally and follows a decentralized decision process.

  • Carbon Molecular Electronics; Dr. Chagaan Baatar and Dr. Paul Armistead
    The objective of this research is to encourage innovation in bottom-up chemical synthesis and assembly of graphene and other carbon-based electronic devices and circuits with atomic precision and Angstrom resolution.

  • Co-prime Sensor Array Signal Processing: A New Framework for Reduced Complexity Sensing; Dr. John Tague and Dr. Rabinder Madan
    The research will establish the theory of co-prime sensor array aperture design and signal processing.

  • Understanding and Characterizing Intuition for More Effective Small Unit Decision- Making Training Technologies; Dr. Ivy Estabrooke and Cmdr. Joseph Cohn
    Researchers will characterize intuitive decision making and develop training technologies to enhance it.

  • CouplingsOcean to Space or Ionospheric Drivers from Below; Scott Budzien
    The research will address new fundamental, multidisciplinary science questions about the coupling of near spacethe Earth's upper atmosphere, 20-100 kilometers above sea levelto the physical processes below.

The program officers for each topic will seek principal investigators, or lead scientists, at academic institutions and labs to conduct the research.

Dr. Dan Green, a program officer for materials research in ONR's electronics group, won an award last year with ONR colleague Dr. Wally Smith for research on phase transition electronics.

"We're trying to create the device or the widget that's going to replace the transistor," Green said. "It's really about changing the mechanics that underpin a lot of the electronics technology that we use."

Green is supervising four teams of university-based principal investigators with expertise in solid state physics and semiconductors to advance the knowledge of metal-to-insulator transitions.

"Material can go from being a metal to being an insulator," he explained. "We're trying to understand how to use that property in electronic devices. If we end up with something that's like a transistor, hopefully it is going to have better properties than what is available to us with conventional approaches."

ONR's BRC program began in 2008. The organization's director of research (DOR) selects several projects annually for the award. ONR program managers propose research topics that are prioritized by department heads into a pool of approximately 30 candidates. A third of those are chosen for formal presentations before a panel consisting of the DOR, deputy DOR and division directors who advise the DOR.


Contact: Tammy White
Office of Naval Research

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