Research Directorate: Basic Research:
Emerging Scientific Research Areas
Synthetic Biology involves modifying living cells (typically bacteria) to produce novel substances, such as bio-fuels, bio-sensors, improved vaccines, and high-strength materials. Scientific challenges include modeling complex biological pathways, automating laboratory experiments, and selecting host cells compatible with synthetic genomes.
Quantum Information Science uses quantum mechanics to perform otherwise intractable numerical calculations, provide ultra-secure communications, and simulate exotic materials. Realizing these goals requires new techniques for controlling quantum systems and new algorithms for exploiting quantum computation.
Cognitive Neuroscience, the study of how the brain functions, provides deeper understanding of human learning and decision-making, improves performance under stress, and cures or reduces the effects of war trauma. Research must include correlating brain structure with function, modeling brain signals, and developing improved brain imaging.
Understanding Human and Social Behavior of individuals, groups, and nations enhances strategic and tactical decision making, improves immersive training and mission rehearsal, and facilitates cross-cultural coalition building. Principal challenges include developing and validating improved models, and gathering and managing large, relevant data sets.
Novel Engineered Materials encompasses superconductors, metamaterials, plasmonics, and spintronics, (among others), and can improve antennas and detectors, provide fluid-repellant coatings, yield self-healing composites, and greatly increase computational capabilities. Realizing these requires improved understanding of underlying concepts and better synthesis methods.
Nanoscience, the study and manipulation of the radically different material properties that emerge at the nano-scale, makes possible new classes of electronics and sensors, chemical catalysts, high-strength materials, and energetic materials. Challenges include developing new nanomaterials, functionalizing them when necessary, and incorporating them into devices.