Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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AEM spotlight:

Air Force funds professor's look into objective structures

Paul Dye

Richard James (pictured here with graduate students) is researching materials that would improve micro UAV antennae.

Richard James, Russel J. Penrose and Distinguished McKnight Professor, has been funded by the Air Force to determine the applicability of his recent research into objective structures to improved antennae for micro air vehicles. Maria Callier of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs has written up a bit about Professor James' research here.

From Air Force News:

Air Force sponsors research to improve antennas for micro air vehicles

by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs

4/1/2008 - Arlington, VA. -- Professor Richard James of the University of Minnesota is an AFOSR-funded scientist who has discovered a systematic approach to nanotechnology based on the concept of objective structures.

Dr. James designs new materials that look like carbon nanotubes using innovative and powerful mathematical tools. These objective structures are composed of identical molecules. They are assembled so that each molecule exists in the
same environment.

"These are the natural structures to search for special physical properties like ferromagnetism and ferroelectricity. If one atom wants to have unpaired spins, that is, to be magnetic, all of the atoms will want to be magnetic because of the way objective structures are built," he said.

Dr. James notes that the objective structures come in many shapes and sizes.

"Last year, together with two members of my research team, we gave ourselves the task of finding every objective structure. I was on sabbatical in Germany, and I think I invested more than 1,000 hours in this one calculation. But we succeeded in finding an explicit formula for every objective structure," he said.

Dr. James and his students develop theories to understand the behavior of materials, and they then take theoretical predictions to the lab to make the materials.

"As you can imagine, it can be incredibly exciting when we actually discover a new material with some unexpected properties, or deeply humbling when we realize we have left an important factor out of the theory," he said.

Currently, Dr. James is using objective structures in his project called "GameChanger" which seeks ways of making new kinds of antennas for micro air vehicles (MAV) to be used for military purposes. The challenge of the project is that the MAVs' small size prohibits standard solutions.

"We are therefore seeking revolutionary new materials that will enable efficient antennas for these vehicles," he said.

In addition to his cutting-edge research, Dr. James has recently been selected to receive the Prager Medal of the Society of Engineering Sciences' at their upcoming annual meeting in October 2008. The Prager Medal is one of the most important honors a mechanics researcher can receive.

Through support of research projects such as the one led by Dr. James, AFOSR continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force's basic research program.

Release courtesy Air Force News


Last Modified: Thursday, 10-Apr-2008 07:38:50 CDT -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation