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Scientists Review Molecular Dynamics Program

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research completed a thorough periodic review
of its molecular dynamics research program during an annual conference.

By William J. Sharp / Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va., June 16, 2006 – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research here completed a thorough periodic review of its molecular dynamics research program during an annual conference held last week in Arlington.

More than 90 researchers and scientists attended the 2006 Contractors’ Meeting in Molecular Dynamics.  Organizations represented included the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va.; the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and BioTools Inc.  Dozens of researchers from universities worldwide also attended to include U.S. Universities such as Princeton University and University of Illinois and from Germany, Universität Göttingen, and from Brazil, the University of Sao Paulo.

Conferences such as this, attendees said, are crucial to the advancement of basic research.

"Program reviews are important because they give you the opportunity to share your results with your peers and get feedback on what you are doing."

Dr. Emily Carter, professor, Princeton University

“Trading of ideas is essential,” said Dr. Wayne Solomon, a professor at the University of Illinois.  “You can’t make progress if you don’t trade ideas around.  Certainly if I hadn’t had ideas from all over the country on how to make our research work, largely through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and other research institutions, our research would not have been so successful.”

Dr. Emily Carter, professor, Princeton University, agreed.

“Program reviews are important because they give you the opportunity to share your results with your peers and get feedback on what you are doing,” she said.  “(People attended) from the Air Force Research Laboratory and so it is a great opportunity for them to hear what I’m doing, get some feedback, and set up some closer collaborations.” 

Topics presented during the three-day conference included origins and failure in thermal barrier coatings, an update on plasma kinetics, and new electric hybrid lasers.

The purpose of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research program reviews is for program managers and senior leaders to receive progress reports on office-funded research.

The reviews also allow managers to fine tune the direction of research projects and help identify new emerging areas of research.

“This conference provides a great opportunity for interactions and sharing of ideas,” said Dr. Michael R. Berman, program manager for Molecular Dynamics and Theoretical Chemistry within the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

"It stimulates many new collaborations and opportunities between university and Air Force scientists," he explained.

“We are pleased that researchers from four different technology directorates of Air Force Research Laboratory participated in this meeting, helping to build cross-disciplinary and cross-directorate ties,” Berman noted.

The Molecular Dynamics program has produced many important advances for the Air Force including the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL), now the centerpiece of Airborne Laser system, novel propellants, and computer models that predict conditions and improve performance of vehicles in space.

The program has also supported the research of several Nobel Prize winning scientists. 

The objectives of the molecular dynamics program are to understand, predict, and control the reactivity and flow of energy in molecules.

This knowledge will be used in atmospheric chemistry to improve detection and control of signatures; in high-energy-density matter research to develop new energetic materials for propellants and propulsion systems; in chemical laser research to develop new high-energy laser systems; and in many other chemical systems in which predictive capabilities and control of chemical reactivity and energy flow at a detailed molecular level will be of importance.

Areas of interest in atmospheric chemistry include the dynamics of ion-molecule reactions relevant to processes in weakly ionized plasmas, atmospheric heterogeneous chemistry in aircraft and rocket exhausts, gas-surface interactions in space, and reactive and energy transfer processes that produce and affect radiant emissions in the upper atmosphere.

Research on high energy density matter for propulsion applications investigates novel concepts for storing chemical energy in low-molecular-weight systems, and the stability and sensitivity of those energetic molecular systems.

The coupling of chemistry and fluid dynamics in high speed reactive flows is also of interest.  Research in energy transfer and energy storage in metastable states of molecules supports our interest in new concepts for chemical lasers.

Materials-related research includes the study of the synthesis, structure, and properties of metal-containing molecular clusters and nanostructures.

Interest in nanostructures has particular emphasis on nanoscale systems in which the number of atoms or specific arrangement of atoms in a cluster has dramatic effects on its reactivity or properties.

Also of interest are sensitive new diagnostic methods for detecting individual molecules and probing nanostructures.

Fundamental studies aimed at developing basic understanding and predictive capabilities for chemical reactivity, bonding, and energy transfer processes are also encouraged.
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