By Ms. Tracie R. DeanJuly 31, 2013
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, Integrated Electromagnetic Materials Research team was recently recognized with a 2012 Army Research and Development Achievement Award for their technology titled, "A Materials Physics Innovation to Achieve Enhanced and Balanced Material Properties to Enable the Army's Next Generation On-The-Move (OTM) Communications Systems."
The team, led by Melanie Will-Cole, included Samuel (Gary) Hirsch, Clifford Hubbard, Matthew Ivill, Eric Ngo and Ryan Toonen.
"Each member of the team provided an equally significant contribution for this Materials Physics Innovation; our team's research expertise is complimentary to one another, and in this case, the sum of the parts makes the whole," Cole said.
The technology for which Cole and her research team have been recognized is focused on developing complex oxide thin film materials to enable tunable RF/microwave devices for next generation mobile electrically scanned antennas (ESAs).
Cole explained a major "show-stopper" impeding the development of complex oxide-based tunable phase shifters for ESAs is centered on the simultaneous minimization of the film's dielectric loss (minimization of signal attenuation) in conjunction with maximization of films dielectric tunability (maximization of phase shift).
Cole said this is a difficult challenge to overcome as these two properties are tightly coupled and negatively opposed to one another. By developing a fundamental understanding of the loss mechanisms inherent to these complex oxide materials, namely charged defects/oxygen vacancies, the team was able to develop an effective strategy using ultraviolet-photon irradiation to mitigate these defects, hence reduce dielectric loss without degrading the dielectric tunability.
Cole stated that this RDA award research was actually an extension of an ARL Director's Research Initiative award, which she and her group received a few years ago. After completing the DRI effort, the team continued to think about the problems this technology had and they began unraveling the materials physics responsible for both the intrinsic and extrinsic material loss mechanisms.
"You could say that the DRI served as the root system, which spawned this RDA award," Cole said.
Describing how this technology will impact the warfighter, Cole said, "This innovation established the scientific foundation, which will help realize affordable, high data rate, beyond line of sight for the Army's next generation on-the-move electronic scanning antennas."
According to Cole, collaboration was a driving force for the team.
"Winning this award means a lot to our research team," Cole said. "It is our teams collaborative nature, in which we work together sharing knowledge, expertise and skills with one another, which has enabled this RDA award. Collaborative research behavior is not only critical, but is the vital ingredient for attaining successful and innovative science necessary to realize future Army communications systems."
Cole and her research team have previously been recognized for research that will utilize enhanced performance tunable devices, which are critical components for the Army's next generation of communications systems.
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