Primary research areas of expertise in the Branch include molecular reaction dynamics, mass spectrometry and ion chemistry, chemical and biological sensor and instrumentation development, microbiology and molecular biology based research, and carbon cycling in marine and estuarine environments. A central focus of the Branch involves development of experimental analytical, chemical and biological capabilities with theoretical and modeling support for experimental studies; this work is applied to both short-range Navy problems, technology needs of both DOD and National concern, and to the long-range development of scientific expertise and knowledge relevant to future Navy and DOD missions.

The Branch has very strong capabilities in analytical methods and conducts basic and applied research in: reaction mechanisms and chemical dynamics of molecular species on the millisecond to femtosecond time scales and photochemistry and relaxation dynamics of molecular species in gases, heterogeneous and interfacial environments and on surfaces. Integration of microelectronics, microlithography, analytical detection methodology, and microfluidics are combined to develop novel chemical sensing devices. Microfluidic systems and structures are designed on miniaturized microchip platforms to completely encompass a typical analytical separations laboratory, including extraction, preconcentration, injection, separation, pre- and post-column derivatization and detection techniques. Research is also being performed on the development of optical chromatography and the utilization of optical trapping for the separation of molecules based on both size and refractive index.

The Branch has a new emphasis on alternative energy and power sources. Basic and applied research is focused on novel material and structures for fabricating novel anodes and cathodes; harvesting for micropower and microbial fuel cells, and; optical studies of species and processes in fuel cell catalysts and solid oxide fuel cells. Emphasis is on electrochemical devices such as fuel cells and batteries, with underpinnings in materials science and biology and fuels. Test and fabrication facilities for fuel cells and microbatteries provide unique capabilities.

The Branch has a strong commitment to a wide range of microbiology and molecular biological thrusts. We conduct basic and applied research in:

  1. Biogeochemical influence on methane hydrate formation and carbon cycling in fresh, estuarine and littoral marine environments;
  2. Biological contribution to organic contaminant natural attenuation in military and industrial harbors;
  3. Organic contaminant source and fate;
  4. Deep ocean carbon sequestration, and;
  5. Microbial influences corrosion and metal reduction. In addition, research on the development of laser-based optical chromatography and the utilization of optical trapping for the separation of molecules based on both size and refractive index is being conducted.

Major scientific facilities in the Branch include: numerous laser fluorescence-laser spectroscopy systems which are employed to study photochemistry and reaction kinetics/mechanisms. They are also employed as diagnostic instruments such as nonlinear optical spectroscopy, laser fluorescence and infrared absorption. Lasers, in combination with molecular beam systems, are used to study the complex gas phase reactions of such materials as cluster materials and the fundamental dynamics of unimolecular chemical processes. The Branch has a state-of-the-art cellular and molecular biology facility equipped with flow cytometers, surface plasmon resonance, epi-fluorescence and fluorescence in situ hybridization microscopy.