Air Force hosts internationally-recognized molecular biologist at anniversary celebration|
by Dr. Robert White
Air Force Office of Scientific Research
5/1/2012 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- On April 25, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Va., hosted a presentation by noted biomimetic materials synthesis expert Dr. Rajesh R. Naik.
An award-winning scientist with the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Dr. Naik gave a presentation entitled, "Hierarchically Assembled Materials Using Biological Building Blocks and their Applications," to an enthusiastic audience that followed up with numerous questions--including an on-line query, as the session was also streamed.
Dr. Naik readily acknowledged his appreciation for the funding support he received from AFOSR over the years, and stated that breakthroughs over the past twelve years would have been impossible without such assistance which has been responsible for the development of a world-class biomimetics program. Dr. Naik's program explores the synthesis and directed assembly of materials across multiple length scales to enable various applications in materials, sensors, optics and catalysis.
This is accomplished by exploiting the biological and nano interface for the creation of multifunctional materials that makes possible, for example, peptide interfaces for assembling hybrid structures; creating new recognition elements for sensors; emergent properties using bio-nano assemblies; and controlling nanomaterial properties using biomolecules.
One nature inspired sensor program described by Dr. Naik was an insect odor sensing mechanism effort that seeks to understand and exploit the capability of certain insects to identify specific odors via inherent odor binding proteins, the identification of which, in turn, would be relayed via an electrical impulse and appropriate action taken if, for example, a selective TNT binding domain was employed to identify the presence of explosives.
Another program of concern to the military is maintaining peak human performance. Dr. Naik's program in this area, in collaboration with researchers from the Human Effectiveness Directorate, employs the use of peptide-functionalized sensors for detecting molecular markers associated with human performance levels, especially in determining limits in various military missions, where new technologies are needed to sense, assess and augment the "Man-in-the-Loop" on a continuous basis. Put in more technical terms, this program seeks to apply material technologies to enable human prognostics for pre-emptive personnel management to optimize performance of the human-system interface. In other words: keeping personnel concentration, acuity, and vigilance at peak levels regardless of the machine they are responsible for--be it a fighter aircraft or a computer monitor.
Dr. Naik deals not only with sensors but investigates at the nano level the possibilities of increased energetics with regard to combustion kinetics, the power of which is limited by mass transport of reactants, diffusion distance, inhomogeneity, and poorly defined interfaces. By controlling the uniformity and size of the reactive components, Dr. Naik seeks to reduce the diffusion distance and the mass transport between the oxidizer and nano-size aluminum component to achieve increased combustion kinetics, greater reactivity, and higher energy release.
Dr. Naik highlighted other programs dealing with self-assembling biological structures, a review of various biomimetic material applications such as enzyme entrapment in silk, and paper-based diagnostics.
Dr. Naik's presentation was part of a continuing series of events planned throughout the coming year as part of AFOSR's 60th anniversary celebration.
AFOSR continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force's basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFOSR's mission is to discover, shape, and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force.
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