Albany State University Receives Grant from National Science Foundation

Staff Report From Albany CEO

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Albany State University (ASU) has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the amount of $199,963 for a Catalyst Project on the Design, Fabrication and Testing of a Cost-Effective Microwave Absorber.  

“Undergraduate students will gain experience in using a state-of-the-art 3D electromagnetic simulation software and in the operation of the Vector Network Analyzer. Material property engineering is the key in this research. Electrical property of any dielectric material (such as Teflon, plastic, etc.) that is naturally available, can be adjusted to any value by printing pre-designed metal patterns on it. In the current project, this engineered material will be used in designing a microwave absorber, which will absorb a frequency of incident electromagnetic wave. This engineered material will find application to absorb harmful radiation (if any) from 5G antennas,” said Dr. Arun Saha, ASU professor of physics and engineering.    

NSF Catalyst Projects provide support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) to work towards establishing research capacity of faculty to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics in undergraduate education and research.

“ASU is honored to have been chosen for this grant by the National Science Foundation. Engaging in this research will apply a new method of hands-on learning for our students and will enrich the lives of the diverse constituencies served by the University,” said ASU President Marion Ross Fedrick

“This grant will be a positive addition to the research being performed at ASU. When we add these research-focused activities to the curriculum, our students will not only benefit but will be able to make a real impact on the scientific purview,” said Dr. Angela Peters, ASU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The goal of this project is to design, fabricate and test a microwave absorber by engineering the electrical property (permittivity) of a given material. In this project, the shape and size of metal patterns are determined by a commercial 3D electromagnetic simulation package and then printed on the material to absorb the desired frequency.   

“This grant will provide our campus community an enhanced interdisciplinary research opportunity to develop new techniques, procedures, and deliverables. These deliverables will add value to our students’ education at ASU, as well as to our faculty research capabilities,” said Dr. Zephyrinus Okonkwo, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  

The interdisciplinary character of the research requires knowledge in multiple fields. Engineering, physics, mathematics and computing are all key factors in completing the research and makes the project well-suited for a wide range of undergraduate students at ASU.  

“Through working on the project, students will have various opportunities to gain experience that will prepare them for a career after graduation in multiple fields. For instance, with the experience gained from computer programming, students may choose a career in artificial intelligence or data science,” said Peters.

Currently, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) are developing two lab activities to support student participation in the project to be used in the course “engineering analysis and design.” Students engaging in the lab activities will gain expertise to prepare them for hi-tech positions in companies ranging from telecommunications to the airplane industry.  

This research will also bridge the gap to form partnerships, locally and beyond. “We plan to reach out to our education partners: tier one universities, research centers and technology companies,” Dr. Okonkwo added. These partnerships will diversify ASU students’ opportunities for research experiences at nearby institutions.  

In addition, ASU is excited to share this research with the local K-12 community by engaging with them on the topic of electromagnetics, through demonstration of small projects during classroom visitations, campus visits, career fairs and summer camp activities supported by NASA and NSF- HBCU STEM projects.