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Northrop Grumman Gifts Ohio State Microsystems Research

Future collaborative efforts between The Ohio State University and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems could bolster under a recent financial gift.

Nima Ghalichechian, a research assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State, received a $40,000 grant from the company this month in support of his research into radio frequency (RF) micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) and microsystems.

“We are interested in working with Northrop Grumman in the future to develop major programs with DARPA and other defense agencies,” he said. “We recently wrote a white paper and are working on future proposals with them. Using PCM for reconfigurable RF microsystems provide a path for millimeter-wave applications where losses are typically large, compared to microwave."

PCM refers to his research into phase change materials. Such materials change their electrical conductivity drastically at a given temperature. The process makes it possible to maximize the performance of antenna systems in orbit.

“These are materials that fit into reconfigurable antennas at high frequencies,” he said. “They are materials that can be conductors or dielectric at two different temperatures.”

Such systems are used primarily for high-bandwidth, high-data-rate communications, Ghalichechian said.

“The fact that people want to make them reconfigurable," he said, "converts a fixed antenna into a smart system that can adapt and work at different conditions, including multiple frequencies."

Ghalichechian said Northrop Grumman builds a lot of satellite antennas, and remains a “major player” in the fields of wireless communications and remote sensing space applications.

As a result of the company's research gift, he said, one Ohio State graduate student will be hired to assist him on the project over the next year.

Ghalichechian currently leads his research through the Ohio State RF Microsystems group, which performs microfabrication out of the cleanroom facilities inside the Nanotech West Laboratory.