Alexander to lead $309K naval research project

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Alexander to lead $309K naval research project

Dennis Alexander

UNL's Dennis Alexander will use a $309,000 task order award from the Office of Naval Research to advance a study into how a wide range of metallic surfaces function under extreme conditions.

The research funding was directed through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska. The institute, a University Affiliated Research Center, is dedicated to helping U.S. Strategic Command explore solutions for combating weapons of mass destruction.

The research project is being conducted on functionalizing metallic surface properties, or creating new surfaces, that can be used in harsh environments at high temperatures. Such initiatives also include a surface with resemblance to structures on sharkskin for underwater missions.

"This research will benefit the Office of Naval Research by improving size, weight and performance of military devices that are needed in harsh environments," said retired Lieutenant General Bob Hinson, executive director of the NSRI. "It's essential for the Office of Naval Research to generate energy very quietly without giving the enemy information of location due to heat exchange, mechanics or underwater drag."

Potential research outcomes include development of surfaces that will repel liquids containing chemical or biological agents. Additionally, surfaces developed may directly affect the power management of heating/air conditioning systems needed in remediation of nuclear, biological, and contamination sites.

Alexander, a professor of electrical engineering and courtesy professor of mechanical and materials engineering, is the principal investigator on the research project. The award provides partial funding for about 20 faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students to work on the project.

Other members of the research team include Troy Anderson, Craig Zuhlke, George Gogos, Sidy Ndao and Natale Ianno.

"This research award is very important for our multidisciplinary research group," Alexander said. "I believe that having faculty that knows lasers, heat transfer, material properties and drag properties gives us the unique ability to make rapid progress."

Specifically, the research group will be investigating the fundamental physics of the formation processes, the basic heat transfer enhancement that can occur using these surfaces in pool boiling and flow boiling experiments, and the reduction of drag due to the formation of a thin air film (plastron) on surfaces. Additionally, the researchers will be investigating the making of prototype devices that will capture energy from nuclear radiation and turn it into electrical energy.

The research will be conducted at NSRI facilities and at UNL's Center for Electro-Optics and Functionalized Surfaces.