MT. PLEASANT — Central Michigan University physics professor Marco Fornari and a six-scientist team have been awarded $8.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop and apply computational methods to replace expensive, rare chemical elements from critical technologies. The award is one of 15 given by the DOD to academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary research.

The team’s proposal, “Rare Element Replacement Strategies,” is a combined effort between Fornari and colleagues at Duke University, Brigham Young University, University of North Texas and University of Maryland-College Park.

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“Our team has worked hard to identify important problems in materials science and we have proposed innovative solutions,” said Fornari. “The vision has been recognized by DOD with this award.”

The goal is to design materials with improved properties that can help relieve the dependence on “rare-earth” minerals, essential to many high technological applications, but considered scarce and expensive to acquire. The project provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate CMU students to assist in the research.

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“We will focus on transformative approaches to combine electrical properties, like metal with optical transparent properties, like glass for night vision, antifogging coatings, laser binding protection and camouflage technologies,” said Fornari.

The 15 awards total $105 million and are presented by the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research under the DOD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative.

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The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 16 topics important to the DOD. A total of 193 papers were received, along with 43 proposals. The 15 awards given are for a five-year period, with the research expected to produce significant advances in capabilities for U.S. military forces and to open up entirely new lines of research. A total of 43 academic institutions are expected to participate in these 15 research projects.