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

December 13, 2011

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: 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.
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For more information, visit www.onr.navy.mil/Science-Technology/Directorates/office-research-discovery-invention/Sponsored-Research/BRC.aspx.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

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