NEWS | Sept. 24, 2013

NRL Researchers Honored with Navy's Top Scientist and Engineer Awards

By Donna McKinney

Twelve U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists and engineers representing six NRL research divisions were recognized with the prestigious Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientist and Engineer of the Year award.

The award ceremony was held at NRL on September 5th, with RADM Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research; Dr. John Montgomery, NRL Director of Research; and CAPT Anthony Ferrari, NRL Commanding Officer, presenting the awards. This annual award is sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. 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 2012 Top Scientists and Engineers are as follows:

Optical Sciences Division

Dr. Jesse Frantz is recognized for his successful demonstration of flexible PV devices made from chalcogenide-based films sputtered in a single processing step. Initial devices exhibited sunlight to electricity conversion efficiencies greater than 11%. He invented the technology to make high purity bulk chalcogenides, prepare sputtering targets from these materials, and to deposit films from these targets. Dr. Frantz's work provides a detailed scientific understanding of nucleation and grain growth in chalcogenide films. He determined the detailed dependence of the films' morphological and electronic properties on the target composition and deposition parameters and established deposition conditions that result in high efficiency PV devices. A private company has licensed two of his patents and will incorporate them into a PV processing line. Dr. Frantz's research on high efficiency thin film PVs has made single-step sputter deposition of high quality chalcogenide-based thin films on an industrial scale a realistic possibility. These devices are an appealing power source for applications such as rugged, portable power and unmanned platforms because of their high power-to-weight ratio and flexibility. Dr. Frantz's research has had significant impact on these areas and a huge range of other Department of the Navy and Department of Defense programs for which power is a very real constraint.

Dr. David Tulchinsky is recognized for his successful leadership in the design, development, and testing of state-of-the-art high power and highly linear microwave photodetectors used in analog microwave photonic optical links. He had made significant contributions to the design and modeling of microwave photodetectors that allowed his team to build and test devices, which exhibit 100 times better performance than that of currently available commercial devices. These photodetector designs are being transitioned to commercial vendors and prime contractors on Navy/Department of Defense programs to enable integration into high performance radars, sensor and receiver designs, and electronic warfare and communication systems. The high microwave power levels and photocurrents generated by these photodetectors are now the key enabling technology for several current and many future Navy/DARPA/NSA programs.

Mr. Allen Davis is recognized for leading the design, development and fabrication of a full element simulator and stimulator (SIM/STIM) for the fiber optic lightweight wide aperture hull array (LWWAA) on the VIRGINIA class submarine. This capability allows, for the first time, the complete LWWAA receiver to be exercised in a laboratory environment rather than on a submarine platform, resulting in both monetary savings and freeing tactical assets. Starting with an initial cost estimate of $94 million, Mr. Davis redid the design of the SIM/STIM from the ground up. His fundamental analysis showed the way to retain all the critical features of the SIM/STIM, provide all its required performance, reduce the number of fiber optic channels by more than an order of magnitude, add several new capabilities to the SIM/STIM, cut the cost to less than a million dollars and deliver the system more than six months ahead of schedule. His SIM/STIM was used in verification of the operational performance of the new LWWAA electro-optic hardware developed under the technology refresh program. The SIM/STIM has played an important part in the testing of the technology refresh hardware during the prototype system design verification phase at both the component and system level and will subsequently be used in the performance verification of the actual LWWAA production builds before they are accepted for the Block 3 through Block 5 VIRGINIA platforms.

Plasma Physics Division

Dr. Joseph Huba is recognized for his leading role in the development of the world-class, physics-based ionosphere-plasmasphere model (SAMI3) and its application to studying the effect of ionospheric disturbances (naturally occurring, caused by solar storms, or artificially produced) on naval communications, navigation, sensors, and radars. Dr. Huba has created a world-leading capability to self-consistently model small-scale plasma bubbles within a global ionosphere model, and studied the impact of naturally occurring ionospheric irregularities (e.g. equatorial spread F) on naval operations. In 2012, SAMI3 was extended to include the three-dimensional, first physics-based model of the plasmasphere, enabling the modeling of the ionosphere during both normal conditions and during solar storm conditions.

Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering

Dr. Gary Vora is recognized for initiating and leading NRL's basic research efforts in the microbiological sciences. In 2012, these efforts resulted in development of the first model bacterial system that can be rationally genetically engineered for sensing, synthesis and decontamination applications in marine environments, integrated biomolecular analyses of ship hull biofouling communities and a comprehensive, single assay tool capable of surveying emerging antibiotic resistance trends and influencing therapeutic treatment decisions: a technology that has been transitioned for use by U.S. Naval Medical Research Units, tri-service and academic collaborators to protect civilian and military populations from multidrug resistant bacterial pathogens. Overall, Dr. Vora has established NRL as a tri-service leader in systems and synthetic biology and a recognized laboratory in the scientific community at-large by developing a set of systems biology methods and tools that facilitate our understanding of how marine bacteria function on the biomolecular level and enable the rational design and construction of genetically engineered sensing and bioremediation bacterial constructs Navy/Department of Defense relevant applications. As experimental pipelines such as this exist for only a handful of bacterial systems, his efforts have placed the NRL in an enviable position with respect to the nascent fields of systems and synthetic biology. His leadership has allowed NRL to develop a new core competency and necessary research infrastructure that is critical for in-house research and development efforts and for the evaluation of synthetic biology-derived materials from commercial entities: an ability that is not only central to the next century of biotechnology but one that has already been exploited by the Department of Navy in the form of microbially-generated drop-in liquid biofuels.

Space Systems Development Department

Mr. Christopher Huffine is recognized for his leadership and excellence for developing the Software Reconfigurable Payload (SRP); a flexible, reliable, and relevant capability for tactical communication and signals collection. Remotely programmable on-the-fly, it uses open system standards. These features greatly improve applicability across naval platforms for signals collection and exploitation, communication and electronic attack. A companion Software Developer's Tool kit enables diverse participation in applications development. The SRP is an enabling capability to realize the Navy's future vision of information dominance in net centric warfare. His leadership and engineering skill are advancing innovation in naval and expeditionary communications and signals collection performance, flexibility and responsiveness while at the same time reducing life-cycle costs.

Space Science Division

SuperMISTI Team - Dr. Bernard Phlips, Dr. Eric Wulf, Dr. Lee Mitchell, and Dr. Anthony Hutcheson are recognized for developing and demonstrating the SuperMISTI instrument, which is state-of-the-art in the detection of radiological/nuclear weapons of mass destruction from large standoff distances by passive detection methods. SuperMISTI combines cryogenic detectors that precisely identify the radiation threat with a gamma ray imaging system for source localization. In the July 2012 maritime test program, the self-contained, transportable system demonstrated accurate detection, identification and localization of simulated radiological/nuclear threats in various maritime scenarios at standoff distances out to 300 meters. As an intelligence-cued resource, quickly deployed to a target of interest, it can provide the Department of Navy high sensitivity, accurate information on suspected illicit transport of radiological/nuclear threat materials with dramatically reduced chance of false positive alarms and
much larger standoff distances over existing detection capabilities.

Electronics Science and Technology Division

Microfabrication Techniques Team - Dr. Colin Joye and Dr. Alan Cook are recognized for their research and development of a novel microfabrication process culminating in the demonstration of a record-breaking 220 GHz, 50 watt vacuum electronic amplifier offering 10 times the output power and over 50 times the bandwidth of state-of-the-art commercial devices. Drs. Joye and Cook have invented, developed, and demonstrated novel ultraviolet photolithography microfabrication techniques that revolutionize the way vacuum electronic devices operating in the sub-millimeter wave frequency range are constructed. Their efforts open the door for many advanced applications in wireless communication, radar, imaging, and medicine in the Navy and beyond.