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Research Topics

REU experiences will specifically focus on the cross-sectional programs and departments of national prominence for the Navy. Check out a list of projects currently being conducted at UT and UNCC.

Division 351 of “Aerospace Science Research Program”

Understanding the dynamic behavior of the transitional boundary layer between laminar and turbulent flow is critically important for the development of high-speed weapons and projectiles. Both UT and UNC Charlotte have significant hypersonic research capabilities with wind tunnels that range from Mach 2 to Mach 7 and complementary high-fidelity modeling. In an ONR-supported program (Hypersonic Aerodynamic, Heat Transfer and Materials, PM, Eric Marineau), a UT team is led by Professor John Schmisseur and Research Assistant Professor Ryan Glasby. They are conducting an integrated experimental and computational investigation of the fundamental behavior of shock-wave/boundary-layer interactions (SWBLI) generated within transitional and turbulent boundary layers, to probe the relationship between the incoming boundary layer state and interaction characteristics. As a model system, a general hollow-cylinder-flare shock generator is being investigated at Mach 4 and greater. To complement the experimental capabilities at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI), the team is working closely with NASA Langley researchers and conducting complementary experiments in the Langley Mach 6 and 10 facilities under the recently introduced NASA facility use policy that enables academic access to NASA facilities.

Division 311 “Applied and Computational Analysis”

UNC Charlotte, North Carolina Motorsports, and Automotive Research Center Virtual Engineering and Analysis are using Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis, along with analytical models to research complex flow problems in aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and hypersonics (Naval Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Workforce Initiatives, PM, Michael Simpson).

Division 322 “Arctic and Global Prediction”

Antarctic research conducted by Associate Professor Jill Mikucki (NSF ASCEND faculty member, Microbiology,) informs our understanding of microbial community transition through major climate change events such as glaciation and provides insight into natural adaptations to extreme conditions for biotech applications that can lead to biomimetic sensing, communications, and adaptation analogs for cold region operations. She has led international teams in the Antarctic to execute interdisciplinary projects in ice drilling, geophysical surveying, and microbiological sampling of diverse icy ecosystems. Her interdisciplinary work attracts students interested in pursuing different aspects of STEM including astrobiology, microbial ecology, and biotechnology. Her research often includes expedition opportunities for students to rugged, remote field camps where science is executed under often harsh conditions. This type of research benefits from diverse skill sets often found in our veteran students including leadership, positive attitude, and rigor.

Division 342 “Warfighter Protection and Applications”

The Zinser lab (Microbiology) at UT explores the biological implications of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on the microbes that dominate the geochemical cycles operating in ocean waters. Most aerobic (oxygen-breathing) organisms, like us, have a robust defense against ROS. However, the most abundant microbes in the ocean appear to have sacrificed this defense for the sake of improved growth efficiency. As part of his work, Associate Professor Erik Zinser has collected data on research cruises in the Pacific Ocean in addition to microbial experiments in his lab on campus. Each of these measurements can be performed by undergraduates and graduate students, and are highly suitable for future research cruises.

Division 321 “Maritime Sensing”

Professor and Navy veteran, Professor and UCOR Fellow Jason Hayward, (Nuclear Engineering) conducts research using a REMUS 100 underwater vehicle.

One project currently being proposed involves research that aspires to collect radiation backgrounds that are essential to understanding the detectability of nuclear threat sources through reliable metrics such as minimum detectable activity and receiver operator characteristic curves. Research experiences available to veterans will involve operating the underwater vehicle and collecting data in controlled (pool) and riverine environments.

Division 331 “Service Life Predictions”

Southern Company Faculty Fellow Jamie Coble (NSF ASCEND faculty member, Nuclear Engineering,) is investigating the fusion of vibration analysis and fluid analysis to enable condition-based maintenance to enhance the reliability and availability of military assets for aging fleets. In a project recently sponsored by ONR, (Logistics, PM Billy Short), Coble worked with Navy experts to design and construct testbeds to generate representative data for in service degradation of drivetrain bearings. The UT testbeds – which includes in situ state variables, vibrations in three axes, periodic oil sampling, and debris monitoring – are available for veteran students as part of their research training.

Division 322 “Littoral Geosciences Optics Program”

UNC Charlotte, in partnership with the University of Rochester and 17-member NSF/IUCRC, has formed the Center for Freeform Optics (CeFO, Research with CeFO members (AFRL, Aperture Optical Sciences, Ball Aerospace, Corning, L-3, UTAS, Thales) and non-members (Rochester Precision Optics, Nanohmics) has demonstrated the potential of freeform optics in military applications. The center focuses on cost-effective manufacturing and metrology on freeform surfaces with overall form accuracies of less than 100 nm and surface micro-roughness of less than 1 nm. This program builds the bridge between what can be conceived (optical design) and what is feasible (manufacturing, metrology, build/test), while training students in new technologies who can then be hired by the military supplier base.

Division 332 “Materials and Processes for Additive Manufacturing”

In separate efforts, Janis Terpenny (NSF ASCEND faculty member and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of Engineering) and UT-ORNL Governors Chair Suresh Babu (Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering) are performing research related to additive manufacturing (AM). Terpenny is developing a new decision-level fusion method to improve prognostics performance and reduce computation time of the AM processes. Babu is leading a team of world-renowned experts in a MURI program currently supported by Office of Naval Research (Program Manager Jennifer Wolk) aimed at understanding the physical metallurgy of AM builds at different length- and time-scales to qualify processes for high value-added metallic components. This research is developing integrated computational materials engineering tools through data generated by in-situ and ex-situ characterization for AM. This comprehensive fundamental research program will provide veterans students with exposure to all crucial metal AM processes including large-scale direct energy deposition processes involving arc, plasma and laser, laser powder bed fusion, electron powder bed fusion, and binder jet and metal jet processes.

Division 332 “Solid Mechanics”

Peebles Professor Dayakar Penumadu (Civil & Environmental Engineering) conducts research in support of the Navy by developing basic science for improved understanding of fiber-reinforced composites subjected to static and dynamic loading. Penunadu’s recent ONR supported research (Program Manager Yapa Rajapakse) focuses on the combined effects of the harsh Naval environment on the thermo-mechanical properties of polymeric composites and sandwich structures. In a new Phase II SBIR (Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC), Todd Pickering) entitled “Advanced Non-Destructive System to Characterize Subsurface Residual Stresses in Turbo-Machinery Components,” Penumadu is seeking to demonstrate neutron diffraction (ND) as a highly effective and unique method for measuring the subsurface residual stress (RS) in titanium alloy (Ti64) and steel alloys of high interest to NAVAIR OEM (Pratt & Whitney). If successful, this will be the first such demonstration of a university-based laboratory ND system. The project could reduce the dependence of such measurements on large-scale reactor sources such as the High Flux Isotope Reactor or Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As these projects illustrate, Penumadu has a number of opportunities for veteran students related to experimental materials research along with associated opportunities to interact with Naval personnel at installations including NSWSC, Carderock Division, and NAWC Aircraft Division, Patuxent River.

Division 332 “Nano-engineered Materials”

Chancellor’s Professor Veerle Keppens, (NSF ASCEND lead PI, Department Head, Material Science and Engineering) is studying configurational disorder as a strategy to discover new phases of crystalline matter and functional materials. The concept of entropy stabilization has been recently expanded to oxides, thus providing the opportunity to realize the first high entropy oxides (HEOs) and demonstrate configurational disorder to enable the discovery of new materials with unprecedented properties. Her recent efforts focus on engineering new HEO ceramic materials with multiple functionalities. Thus far, Keppens’s team has synthesized a variety of single-phase high entropy oxides including nine different compositions of spinel, six compositions of perovskite, and three pyrochlores.

Division 331 “Power Generation and Energy Storage Systems”

UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Electrical Energy Conversion and Storage Tom Zawodzinski’s (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering) research is concerned with developing advanced energy storage and conversion technologies with an emphasis on understanding the materials and fundamental electrochemistry that control device performance. This research program cuts across four primary focus areas:

  1. flow batteries,
  2. polymer electrolytes,
  3. solid acid fuel cells, and
  4. nonprecious metal catalysts.

The Zawodzinski group’s research is relevant across a wide range of Naval applications including energy conversion and storage systems, water purification, sensors, and even estuarial energy-harvesting systems.

The Zawodzinski group has significant opportunities for veteran students as a result of its substantial experience and history of integrating junior researchers from the undergraduate level into its research activities. Students are explicitly trained in high-quality laboratory practices and carry out measurements ranging from electrochemical characterization of catalysts, to studies of transport in membranes, to preparation of catalyst layers and materials for use in devices. As students continue in the lab, they are trained in sophisticated methods including device fabrication and testing. This systematic approach allows students to gain knowledge of components and devices plus as many as 10 instrumental methods.

Division 331 “Energy & Power Management”

Professor Hanno H. Weitering (Department Head, Physics and Astronomy) is leading an effort on high-temperature superconductivity in semiconductor-based interfaces and hetero-structures in support of ONR (Program Manager, Scott Coombe). The discovery of a nearly tenfold increase in the superconducting transition temperature of ultrathin films of iron selenide when grown on oxide substrates such as SrTiO3 has created a new pathway to high-temperature superconductivity through interface engineering. The integration of this discovery into scalable devices and wire technologies requires the incorporation of such interfaces into bulk heterostructures. The project combines advanced growth and characterization capabilities with state-of-the-art theoretical modeling. If successful, this research could help create unprecedented opportunities to exploit the quantum properties.

Through this program, veteran students will receive thorough training and mentorship in one or more of the following areas: state-of-the-art many-body theory, ab initio electronic structure calculations, methods in computational physics, heterostructure and thin-film growth, core-level photoemission spectroscopy, angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, and scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has locations within 30 miles of UT, and there are currently 164 UT/ORNL joint faculty and 15 UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs. This partnership provides additional opportunities for research experiences and graduate projects. ORNL has Naval research in two primary areas:

  1. Cyber/Computation/Sensing, and
  2. Materials and Advanced Manufacturing.

A sample listing of ongoing Cyber/Computation/Sensing Naval-relevant topics include:

  1. Integration and production engineering for further development of a cyber-analytics platform;
  2. Advancement of ocean sciences to maintain US Navy dominance;
  3. Biomimetic vector sensor towed arrays; and
  4. Efficient beam combination of blue, high-power diode laser arrays.

A sample listing of ongoing Materials and Advanced Manufacturing Naval-relevant topics include:

  1. Materials and processes for 3D-printed radomes;
  2. Materials and processes for composite tooling and structures for aerospace components;
  3. Manufacturing at scale capability demonstrator; and
  4. Combined advanced manufacturing, neutron science, and supercomputing projects.