University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame, also aggressively expanding its defense-related research agenda, is an example of the potential spillover effects of defense related research. Consider the recent example of the $6.3 million grant from the DoD’s Multidisciplinary Research Initiative (MURI) awarded in 2011 allowing a group of faculty researchers involved in two of the university’s strategic research investments—The Center for Nano Science and Technology and the Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics Initiative—to develop new gallium nitride (GaN) based electronic devices that operate in the terahertz (THz) range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Patrick Fay, along with Debdeep Jena and Huili (Grace) Xing, led the multi-institutional team to secure the highly competitive grant that also includes researchers from Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University and Wright State University.
The research group receiving the grant includes electrical engineers, material scientists and physicists, each of whom brings different expertise from fields such as semiconductor devices, electromagnetic simulation and design, GaN growth and high-frequency device and materials characterization. “The ability to generate, receive and process signals at terahertz frequencies can have a potentially significant impact on critical areas such as medical sensing, chemical agent screening, and military imaging and communications,” said Fay, principal investigator for the project, professor of electrical engineering and director of Notre Dame Nanofabrication Facility. And while each of these has a clear potential impact on combat scenarios, the civilian uses are equally obvious.
The specialty in GaN research has spillover effects into other defense related uses as well. In 2010, Jena and Xing received separate Department of Defense funding through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for a project to create new GaN ultraviolet light sources that can be used by soldiers (and eventually civilians) to purify water in the field, further underscoring the opportunities being created by Notre Dame’s GaN research. And this research, in turn, also has significant potential for deployment in the developing world where nearly a billion people lack access to clean water.
Notre Dame researcher Harindra Joseph S. Fernando also won a $7.3 million MURI grant to develop fundamental knowledge that helps improve forecasting models of weather in mountainous terrain. These models will focus on aviation and defense operations planning in areas of complex topography, paying attention to severe weather phenomena and the nighttime boundary layer of the atmosphere.