The U.S. Army awarded up to $50 million over five years to eight academic teams pursuing basic research across scientific disciplines.
The teams will study topics including heat energy transfer between nano-structured materials, modeling of plant and pollen distribution, and understanding to the restorative effects of sleep. The awards are a part of the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, known as MURI.
The MURI program supports research teams whose efforts intersect more than one traditional scientific and engineering discipline. The awards are typically funded at $1.25 million per year for three years with an option for two additional years.
“MURIs provide unique opportunities for small teams of experts from diverse research areas to work together and develop disruptive solutions to some of our most promising scientific challenges,” said Dr. David Stepp, acting director, Army Research Office. “These research efforts enable profound and significant breakthroughs that unite disparate scientific disciplines and initiate new opportunities for transition to Army applications.”
Since its inception in 1985, the tri-service MURI program has successfully convened teams of investigators to combine insights from multiple disciplines to both facilitate the growth of newly emerging technologies and address DOD’s unique problem sets.
The highly competitive MURI program complements the department’s single-investigator basic research grants and has made immense contributions to both defense and society at large. For example, a MURI led to the development of optical materials that can be designed to have properties not possible with conventional optics, called transformative optics. The potential long-term applications are extensive, and may one day rival the impact of the laser. Future DOD applications include ultra-thin and lightweight optical elements replacing heavy, bulky glass optics for technologies such as gun sights, satellites, and other imaging systems, as well as more efficient energy harvesting, or enhanced detector sensitivity.
Another notable MURI team was key to driving the creation and success of the new field of mechanochemistry whereby scientists identify mechanisms for converting mechanical energy to chemical changes and designing and synthesizing bulk materials that detect stress and repair damage. In the long term this research may enable the development of a national research agenda geared towards protecting Soldiers using responsive materials.
This year, the eight projects funded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, through its Army Research Office include:
- How sleep clears your brain: slow waves, glymphatic waste removal, and synaptic down-selection, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, University of Rochester, in collaboration with researchers at University of Rochester and University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Formal Foundations of Algorithmic Matter and Emergent Computation, Dr. Dana Randall, Georgia Institute of Technology in collaboration with researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and Arizona State University
- Networked palynology models of pollen and human systems, Dr. Anthony Grubesic, Arizona State University in collaboration with researchers at Arizona State University, University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University
- Near-Field Radiative Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion in Nanogaps of Nano- and Meta-Structured Materials, Dr. Sangi Reddy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in collaboration with researchers at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Purdue University; Stanford University; and Yale University
- Investigating energy efficiency, information processing and control architectures of microbial community interaction networks, Dr. James Boedicker, University of Southern California in collaboration with researchers at University of Southern California; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and California Institute of Technology
- Predicting and Controlling the Response of Particulate Systems through Grain-Scale Engineering, Dr. Jose Andrade, California Institute of Technology in collaboration with researchers at California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University, Louisiana State University and A&M College
- Quantum State Control of Molecular Collision Dynamics, Dr. Arthur Suits, University of Missouri in collaboration with researchers at University of Missouri; Stanford University; University of Colorado, Boulder; Harvard University; University of New Mexico; and University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Foundations of Decision Making with Behavioral and Computational Constraints, Dr. Ali Jadbabaie-Moghadam, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in collaboration with researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University
For the fiscal 2019 competition, the Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 24 areas important to DOD and the military services. From a merit-based review of the 295 proposals received, a panel of experts narrowed the proposals to a subset from which the 24 final awards were selected. The awards will be provided to these teams located across 73 U.S. academic institutions, subject to satisfactory research progress and the availability of funds.