Duke engineers involved in Department of Defense research

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 03:52 PM

Scientists with Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering are involved in four of 15 large grants recently awarded by the Department of Defense.

The grants are part of the DOD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program, which is designed to promote basic research conducted by consortiums of universities. All four projects are supported by the Office of Naval Research, and each is funded for five years at an average rate of $1.5 million annually, according to a Duke release.
Stefano Curtarolo, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and director of the Center for Materials Genomics, said in a statement that his goal is to come up with combinations of elements with unique properties that will relieve dependence on “rare-earth” minerals, which are scarce, expensive and can be located in politically sensitive areas.
“We want to come with new materials not so much based on their composition, but their functionality,” Curtarolo said in a Duke statement. “Ideally, we’d like to come up with materials that can be conductive as well as transparent.”
Curtarolo’s team, which includes researchers from other universities, has developed a “cookbook” that allows scientists to mix and match different elements, depending on the properties desired, according to the release.
Steven Cummer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, focuses on metamaterials, which are man-made constructs that have properties unseen in natural materials. Cummer’s project focuses on acoustic waves, and Duke researchers have already pioneered metamaterial “cloaking” devices for many types of waves, according to the release.
“Acoustic metamaterials are useful not only for hiding objects but for making better devices for generating, sensing and manipulating sound,” Cummer said in a statement. “While the results of our research could help in such areas as better acoustics in auditoriums or concert halls, the Navy is keenly interested in applying these approaches in marine environments.”
The third MURI grant involves Duke associate professor Jungsang Kim and professor Dan Gauthier. The Duke portion of the project involves using quantum physics to develop a secure means of transmitting and receiving messages underwater. After developing the detector technology, the team plans to test it at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.
The fourth MURI will analyze the informational content of noise in the ocean, both from a theoretical and experimental basis. Duke professor Jeff Krolik will be part of the research team.