Taking Some Weight off the U.S. Army’s Shoulders

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Associate Professor Enrico Bellotti (ECE) helped pave the way for BUs role in the CDE3M partnership. He will serve as one of the members of the projects alliance executive committee. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky.
Associate Professor Enrico Bellotti (ECE) helped pave the way for BU’s role in the CDE3M partnership. He will serve as one of the members of the project’s alliance executive committee. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky.

Members of the U.S. armed services already face enough challenges in their day-to-day work. Some of these problems are unavoidable but being weighed down by up to 35 pounds of batteries is one hindrance that the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) believes can be solved.

Boston University will partner with the ARL in a $15 million University of Utah-led effort aimed to use computer simulations to create materials for lighter, more energy-efficient devices and batteries. As soldiers increasingly rely more on electronic weaponry, detection devices, protection systems, and advanced communications systems, this project becomes both more timely and necessary.

BU will receive about $3.5 million to focus on the electronic and photonics materials portion of the project while Utah will research electrochemical materials and devices and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the other main partner institution, will focus their work on heterogenous materials.

As part of BU's role on this project, Associate Professor Luca Dal Negro (ECE, pictured) and Professor Giuseppe Vecchi, Politecnico di Torino, will develop new approaches for designing smaller and more efficient electromagnetic devices for energy harvesting. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky.
As part of BU's role on this project, Associate Professor Luca Dal Negro (ECE, pictured) and Professor Giuseppe Vecchi, Politecnico di Torino, will develop new approaches for designing smaller and more efficient electromagnetic devices for energy harvesting. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky.

“The fact that our team has an important role in this project means that the research conducted at BU is receiving significant recognition outside the university,” said Associate Professor Enrico Bellotti (ECE), who paved the way for BU’s role in this partnership and is one of the members of the project’s alliance executive committee. “We think that this program is a great opportunity to further the outside visibility of the department and the research that is carried out in our groups.”

As part of BU’s role on the project, Bellotti, Professor Francesco Bertazzi of Politecnico di Torino, Italy, and Professor Efthimios Kaxiras from Harvard University will focus their research on developing simulation models of electronic materials, specifically wide band gap semiconductors, that can be used by the U.S. armed services. Associate Professor Luca Dal Negro (ECE) and Professor Giuseppe Vecchi, Politecnico di Torino, will develop new approaches for designing smaller and more efficient electromagnetic devices for energy harvesting, and Associate Professor Martin Herbordt (ECE) will provide his expertise in parallel computing since computers will play a key role in developing the simulation models.

Associate Professor Martin Herbordt (ECE) will provide his expertise in parallel computing since computers will play a key role in developing the simulation models in this research.
Associate Professor Martin Herbordt (ECE) will provide his expertise in parallel computing since computers will play a key role in developing the simulation models in this research.

“The work on batteries and fuel cells will potentially lead to energy storage devices that possess a higher power density than what is available now and can operate in a wider range of environmental conditions,” said Bellotti.

The collaboration includes not only BU, Utah, RPI, and Politecnico di Torino, but also Pennsylvania State University, Harvard University, Brown University, and University of California, Davis. Combined, these universities will form the Alliance for Computationally-Guided Design of Energy Efficient Electronic Materials, or CDE3M for short.

Ultimately, this new research effort aims to use powerful computers to simulate the behavior of materials on multiple scales in order to develop better, lighter power supplies. Improving existing materials is also a goal.

“We want to help the Army make advances in fundamental research that will lead to better materials to help our soldiers in the field,” says computing Professor Martin Berzins, principal investigator from the University of Utah.

Bellotti said that their research has the potential to be applied not only by the military but also by automotive and green energy industries.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Related link:
University of Utah press release: “The Energy Efficient Soldier”