AFRL opens International Center at Rice University

  • Published
  • By Erica Harrah
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

HOUSTON, TX (AFRL) -- The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, held a kickoff meeting for the new International Research Innovation in Nanotechnology, or RISING, Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas, May 9.

“For the last three years, we have been working with our counterpart, India’s Defense Research Development Organization, or DRDO, as well as the Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, Kanpur to formulate a four-way collaboration with Rice University and AFRL,” said Dr. Ajit Roy, senior materials engineer, AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “This collaborative effort will not only increase availability of rare nanomaterials technology, but it will also help to strengthen U.S. scientific and manufacturing ties with India and enable four-way resource leveraging.”

 At about the size of 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, nanomaterial composites can be used add strength without extra weight and have myriad uses and benefits, from faster more fuel-efficient aircraft to enhancing the performance of sensors, circuits, computer chips and more.

“The unique properties of nanomaterials means that their potential applications span many different technologies,” said Dr. Nicholas Glavin, senior materials engineer, AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “We are hoping to leverage the center to help answer some questions regarding manufacturing of those new materials.”

Five nano manufacturing technical areas were identified by the AFRL US-India Nano Manufacturing Working Group, or USINaM-WG, which included representatives from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing, Sensors and Munitions directorates and 711th Human Performance Wing, or 711HPW. These areas addressed specific needs of each directorate and included thin-film crystalline growth process scale up, device contacts of tailored properties, device fabrication process, nanomaterials/polymer process protocol and 2D materials process scale up.

“Efforts like this encourage us to come together as an AFRL team and learn more about how to interact with our international counterparts as leaders in the global science and technology world,” said Dr. Amanda Schrand, senior engineer, AFRL Munitions Directorate.

Strengthening international partnerships in science and technology development and manufacturing was one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Air Force/Space Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. A strong emphasis was placed on further strengthening relationships with India, tapping into India’s talent pool and resources for joint technology development. Nano Manufacturing is an area of emphasis in the DOD’s initiative on Critical Emerging Technology, or iCET, for boosting electronics manufacturing capability.

Roy said that Rice University was chosen as the location for the RISING Center not only because it is on the frontier of 2-D nanotechnology, but also because it provides a physical contiguous United States, or CONUS, location for international innovation and science and engineering exchange between the U.S. and India. Both Rice University and IIT Kanpur will be collaboration hubs for joint technical work. AFRL scientists and engineers will spend time on both campuses working with international students and collaborators.

“The center is not only an excellent platform for workforce development, but it also expedites the development of technology with our international partnerships,” said Saber Hussain, a researcher with the 711HPW. “This center offers a fast track in getting new technology to AFRL.”

All four participating AFRL technical directorates will be collaborating on the execution of five projects, which include sensors for human health monitoring, high purity 2D materials growth via chemical vapor deposition, or CVD, conformal and flexible electronics for munitions and energy harvesting materials technology.

“Strategic partnering with our closest allies and partners at all levels of S&T and doing ‘business’ differently are two major pushes from AFRL as we adapt to a global technology landscape changing faster and faster,” said AFRL Chief Technology Officer Dr. Timothy J. Bunning. “This activity couples both of these pushes with a long-term focus on developing the talent and competencies needed by marrying strengths of both parties.”

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit