NEWS | July 31, 2015

NRL Researchers Honored with Top Scientist and Engineer Awards

By Daniel Parry

Sixteen U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists and engineers representing six research divisions were recognized with the prestigious Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientist and Engineer of the Year Award. The award ceremony was held on June 12th, with Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition) Sean Stackley, and Dr. Delores Etter presenting the awards.

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition sponsors this annual award. Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Delores Etter established the awards in 2006 to recognize scientists and engineers who have made significant contributions to their fields and to the fleet. The NRL researchers honored as 2014 Top Scientists and Engineers are as follows:

Plasma Physics Division
Dr. Dmitri Kaganovich, named an Emergent Investigator, is recognized for his enhancement of temporal contrast in ultra-short laser systems. He provided an elegant solution to the fundamental problem of ultrashort laser contrast. The source of low-intensity laser pedestals has been unknown and there has been no efficient technique for minimizing them. Kaganovich was not only able to pinpoint the source of the problem (natural narrowing of the laser spectrum in the amplification chain of the laser), but also provided a simple, cost effective (few thousand dollar modification to a multi-million dollar laser system) way to significantly increase the contrast in high-intensity laser beams. This contrast enhancement technique could also enable the development of compact laser-based X-ray sources.

Radar Division
Dr. Geoffrey S. San Antonio, named an Emergent Investigator, is recognized for his HF Over-the-Horizon Radar (HFOTHR) technology advancement. San Antonio successfully devised and demonstrated numerous techniques, architectures and experiments that have significantly advanced the HFOTHR technology. This type of radar uses the ionosphere to effectively act like a mirror to bend the radar signal back toward the earth, allowing detection of targets well beyond the radar horizon. San Antonio's research has been instrumental in mitigating environmental factors that limit the performance of these systems, which has been essential in making these systems effective, persistent sensors, capable of target detection at any time of day, any day of the year.

Optical Sciences Division
Dr. Daniel Gibson is recognized for his Infrared Gradient Index Optics. Gibson developed diffusion-based infrared gradient (IR-GRIN) optics technology that will reduce the size, weight and power consumption of multi-band infrared imaging systems for DoD systems. The optics Gibson developed will correct for chromatic aberrations across a wide range of infrared wavelengths, enabling compact multi-band infrared imagers for the first time. His IR-GRIN optics will provide warfighters in the field with new tactical and operational advantages in systems with reduced size, weight and power consumption.

Dr. Michael H. Stewart is recognized for his advanced functional nanoparticles for chemical, biological and solid state optoelectronic applications. Stewart leads multifaceted research efforts developing and advancing colloidal semiconductor quantum dot (QD)-based technologies for chemical, biological and optoelectronic applications. His efforts are relevant to the Department of Navy/Department of Defense for developing nanotechnology to improve nanobiosystems for health and biomedical purposes and to address the future of solution-processed optoelectronics for remote power and detector technologies. In 2014, Stewart demonstrated groundbreaking advances in biosensing and imaging with biocompatible QDs and has demonstrated innovative techniques to design and fabricate QDs for optical interrogation of neuronal communication networks.

Remote Sensing Division
Dr. Mark Sletten is recognized for his next-generation concepts for Synthetic Aperture Radar. Sletten is conducting research at the forefront of next-generation imaging radar systems that overcome the challenges of an environment in perpetual motion as occurs in the maritime domain. Motion associated with ocean waves and ships represent a challenge for radar systems to compensate for and then robustly characterize. This new multi-channel synthetic aperture radar (MSAR), first developed as a ground-based system, has been transitioned to an airborne configuration where the challenging effects of in-scene motion are being overcome. MSAR has many Navy and Marine Corps maritime mission applications.

Electronics Science and Technology Division
The team of Drs. David Abe, Simon Cooke, Baruch Levush, and John Pasour is recognized for their Ka-band amplifier demonstration of 12 kW peak output power. This team developed and demonstrated a ground-breaking millimeter-wave power amplifier that dramatically advances the power of state-of-the-art amplifiers. The 12-kW amplifier is driven by a 20 kilovolt, 3.5-ampere sheet electron beam of 0.3 mm x 4 mm cross-section and produces 20 times the power of commercially available amplifiers of comparable frequency, bandwidth, and operating voltage. The team employed innovative vacuum electronic circuits and techniques to achieve these breakthroughs, which satisfy a critical Navy need for higher-power, broadband, millimeter-wave amplifiers to enable electronic warfare systems to counter new and emerging threats.

Electronics Science and Technology Division
Materials Science and Technology Division

The team of Drs. Boris Feygelson (Electronics Science and Technology Division) and James Wollmershauser (Materials Science and Technology Division) is recognized for their bulk (3D) fully dense nanocrystalline materials with unprecedented improved performance. Feygelson and Wollmershauser developed a nanomaterial fabrication technique capable of producing bulk nanocrystalline ceramics with unprecedentedly small grain sizes that exhibit dramatic increases in hardness; up to 50% greater than conventional ceramics. The research demonstrates for the first time that nanocrystalline ceramics obey the 60-year-old postulation that decreasing the grain size of a ceramic will increase the hardness. The work furthers the fundamental understanding of the mechanical response of nanostructured materials that is critical to the Department of Navy/Department of Defense and the greater scientific community since it can lead to the development of a new generation of structural materials with extraordinary properties.

Optical Sciences Division
The team of Mr. Kenneth Sarkady, Dr. Gregory Lynn, Mr. Roger Mabe, Dr. Hugo Romero, and Mr. D. Merritt Cordray is recognized for developing and flight testing a light-weight integrated missile warning and directed infrared countermeasures system. The team developed an innovative infrared countermeasure system for DoD aircraft. It features a high-power, high-efficiency quantum cascade laser, new two-color infrared focal plane arrays for longer range threat detection, advanced algorithms for lower false alarm rates, novel switching technology for laser energy distribution around the aircraft, and low-weight miniaturized pointing devices. The team designed these new technologies into a system lowering weight, cost, power, and space requirements, while providing full spherical aircraft protection. The system demonstrated unprecedented effectiveness in field and live fire tests against all advanced threats.