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The new funding will support projects that range from advancing hypersonic propulsion to improving semiconductor performance.

Three University of Central Florida researchers are part of recently announced multi-million-dollar research projects aimed at facilitating the growth of newly emerging technologies for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The awards, which are part of the DOD’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, will support projects that range from advancing hypersonic propulsion to improving semiconductor performance and will fund the work for the next five years.

The awardees are:

Kareem Ahmed, UCF Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering associate professor
Project: Multiphase Detonation of Liquid Aeropropulsion Fuels
Amount: $7.5 million total project award, with UCF receiving $1.1 million

This research advances detonation-based propulsion for hypersonic and space rockets using jet and rocket propellant multiphase fuels for ultimate hypersonic and rocket propulsion performance.

The work is based on published research on detonation in Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This will lead to ultra-fast intercontinental travel, such as from New York to London in less than 5 minutes, and for commercial space activities and interplanetary travel that use a higher power and more efficient rocket propulsion technology in a smaller form, thus making space travel more economical,” Ahmed says.

Stanford University is the lead institution, and researchers with the University of Connecticut, the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia are also part of the project. The work is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

Tania Roy, UCF NanoScience Technology Center assistant professor
Project: REDESIGN: Radiation Effects preDiction through Experimentally validated Simulation of Gallium Nitride
Amount: $7.5 million total project award, with UCF receiving $700,000

The work will focus on understanding defects caused by ionizing radiation in gallium nitride semiconductors, which are used in high-power and 5G network devices.

Ionizing radiation comes from the sun or other celestial bodies and can affect devices in space and on the Earth through solar flares.

“It is important to understand how radiation will affect the devices and what can be done at the roots to make these devices immune to radiation,” Roy says.

Her team will use standard and novel techniques to understand the nature of the defects. This includes further developing sophisticated techniques, such as inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy in a magnetic field.

Pennsylvania State University is the lead institution for the project, and it also includes researchers with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Iowa. The work is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Kevin Coffey, UCF Materials Science and Engineering Professor
Project: Comprehensive Minimally/Noninvasive Multifaceted Assessment of Nano/ Microelectronic Devices (CoMMAND)
Amount: $7.5 million total project award, with UCF receiving $561,000

This work will examine advanced metrology, or measuring, techniques for microelectronics. As semiconductor electronics continue to advance, novel characterization and metrology techniques are needed to ensure reliability and design consistency, Coffey says.

His research team will be using experimental techniques developed from current and prior projects.

“I am very pleased that this MURI was selected for funding and pleased to be part of this strong group of collaborators,” Coffey says. “The project’s longer term of five years is very welcome as it provides the opportunity for significant scientific discovery.”

The State University of New York at Buffalo is leading the research, and the project also includes researchers with Columbia University; Boston University; the University of Maryland, College Park; and the University of Arizona. The work is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

About the 2022 MURI Awards

For the competitive, 2022 DOD MURI Awards, the Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in more than 25 topic areas of strategic importance.

From a merit-based review of approximately 340 proposals received, a panel of experts narrowed the proposals to a subset, from which the 28 final awards were selected. The grants, which total $195 million, will be provided to teams located across 63 U.S. academic institutions for five years each, subject to satisfactory research progress and the availability of funds.

“By supporting teams whose members have diverse sets of expertise, the MURI program acknowledges that the complexities of modern science and engineering challenges often intersect more than one discipline and require creative and diverse approaches to tackle these problems.  This cross-fertilization of ideas can accelerate research progress to enable more rapid R&D breakthroughs and hasten the transition of basic research findings to practical application,” says Dr. Bindu Nair, director, Basic Research Office, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in a release announcing the awards. “It is a program that signifies a legacy of scientific impact and remains a cornerstone of the DoD’s basic research portfolio.”

Since its inception in 1985, important technological advances from the the tri-Service MURI program have had a significant impact on current and future military capabilities as well as multiple applications in the commercial sector.

Researcher Backgrounds

Ahmed joined UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, part of UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, in 2014. He is also a faculty member of the Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research and the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion. He served more than three years as a senior aero/thermo engineer at Pratt & Whitney military engines working on advanced engine programs and technologies. He leads research in propulsion and energy with applications for power generation and gas-turbine engines, propulsion-jet engines, hypersonics and fire safety, as well as research related to supernova science and COVID-19 transmission control. He earned his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics associate fellow and a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research faculty fellow.

Roy joined UCF in 2016 and is a part of the NanoScience Technology Center with a joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Department of Physics. Her recent National Science Foundation CAREER award focuses on the development of devices for artificial intelligence applications. She received the UCF Luminary Award in 2021. Roy was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to joining UCF. She received her doctorate in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University.

Coffey joined UCF in 2002 and is part of UCF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center. He received his doctorate in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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