Birol & Poerschke win ONR Young Investigator Awards

April 22, 2020 - Assistant Professors Turan Birol and David Poerschke are among the recipients of prestigious research grants from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP). Within the group of ONR’s 2020 Young Investigators, twenty-six recipients will share $14 million in funding to conduct challenging scientific research that will benefit the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The ONR YIP is a highly competitive early-career award program in which academic achievement and potential for scientific breakthrough are key factors in the evaluation process. The final candidates in 2020 were chosen from more than 275 applicants. The YIP awards support laboratory equipment, graduate student stipends and scholarships, and other expenses critical to the planned research. Typical grants range from $510,000 to $750,000 over a three-year period.

Awardees represent 19 academic institutions nationwide, supporting naval-relevant research including autonomy, wireless communications, energetics, power and energy, machine learning, artificial intelligence, sensors, weather forecasting, bio-tissue repair, hypersonics, metamaterials and nanomaterials.

Birol's proposal, “First Principles Study of Ferroelectricity in Novel Systems” aims to extend the computational search for ferroelectric materials and new mechanisms of ferroelectricity to classes of compounds that have not been studied in this context before. Ferroelectric crystals -- materials which have a macroscopic, switchable electric polarization -- are utilized in a range of technologies including electromechanical actuators, nonvolatile random access memories, X-ray generators, and sonar. Birol's area of expertise, first principles quantum mechanical computations, has allowed him to be successful in both understanding the materials properties of ferroelectrics, and also in elucidating the physical mechanisms that give rise to ferroelectricity.

Three additional YIP awards were recently granted as part of the FY2019 program, which provided funding for David Poerschke’s proposal “Surface Phenomena in Refractory Multi-Principal Element Alloys: Accelerated Development of Resilient Multifunctional Materials.” With this grant, Poerschke and his students seek to harness the alloy design flexibility afforded by the increased solid solution homogeneity ranges in multi-principal element alloys (MPEA) to enable the development of alloys with outstanding high temperature durability while also retaining ductile phases for mechanical performance. One thrust of the project will focus on the development of new alloys and refractory composites with exceptional high-temperature oxidation resistance while a second thrust explores the potential of nitrogen-based surface enhancement processes to achieve superior tribological performance. These thrusts have common technical objectives focused on understanding how the thermochemistry, phase equilibria, and microstructure of the bulk alloy influence the interplay between various thermodynamic and kinetic factors controlling the surface reactions. The fundamental knowledge emerging from the project will also have broad-ranging applications for a variety of Navy propulsion and hypersonic technologies requiring materials with unique combinations of structural and functional properties for service in harsh environments. Additional details for Poerschke's award can be found here:

Established in 1985, the ONR YIP is one of the nation’s oldest and most selective basic-research, early-career awards in science and technology. Its purpose is to fund tenure-track academic researchers, or equivalent, whose scientific pursuits show outstanding promise for supporting the Department of Defense, while also promoting their professional development.

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