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Above: An NPS student doing research on a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle. Right above: NPS Assistant Professor Timothy Chung is a leading expert in autonomous systems and robotics. Right below: An unmanned ground vehicle searches for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials during a global maritime interdiction operation experiment conducted by NPS students and researchers.


Dull, dirty and dangerous are not the only characteristics required from optimal missions for today’s unmanned systems.

Materials science is critical to the Navy and Department of Defense. On every inch of every Navy vessel lies a component of materials sciences. From what the ship is made of, to how it withstands the ravages of war and sea, materials research and maritime operations are intrinsically linked forever.

But materials sciences are not limited to structural components...Advancements in nanomaterials are bringing an entirely new world of possibilities, from sci-fi inspired propulsion to ultra-efficient energy storage and much more. Recognizing these advancements, and capitalizing on how they can be applied to Navy and DOD operations, meant new life needed to be infused into materials research on campus.

A core group of senior faculty saw this need quite clearly. Physicists and mechanical engineers by title, advanced materials researchers in practice, these prominent mentors set forth on an effort to rapidly advance materials research at the institution. The result is a compelling example of how multiple departments on campus, partnering with the NPS Research Office, can collaborate and rapidly deploy an advanced capability in a relevant field.

Five aggressive, young, award-winning faculty were brought on campus, each with an impressive portfolio of research and dynamic capabilities in the classroom. The congruent establishment of the NPS Center for Materials Research and the facilities to support it completed the trifecta. The university now has several students working through advanced thesis research thanks to the enabling power of this effort.

A few examples...Distinguished Professor Young Kwon and a small cadre of students and faculty are examining advanced composite materials along with nanostructures to repair cracks in Navy vessels, and monitor them. Similar work also examines the use of lighter, stronger composites for structural purposes. Associate Professor Sebastian Osswald is also researching the use of composite materials for advanced armor structures. And in an effort straight out of science fiction, student-driven research is examining the potential of ion charged nanotubes to serve as thrusters for small spacecraft and autonomous vehicles.

“This is why we do this field experiment … It provides students with the opportunity to engage in thesis work that not only meets the bar for a master’s degree, but also they get to do something that supports a larger effort by supporting the COCOMs, and the warfighter.”


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