Rice University to Lead the Development of New Graphene Nanodevices and High-Temperature Superconductors

Rice University is challenging Texans' notion that bigger is better. The elite private university led all Texas top-tier research universities in awards this month from the Department of Defense's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program. Rice has been tapped to lead the development of new techniques for "opportunistic sensing." The university will also help create new graphene nanodevices and new and better high-temperature superconductors.

Texans often think everything's bigger in the Lone Star State, but Rice University is challenging the notion. The elite private university this month won more than $9 million in research grants from the Department of Defense, or about 3.5 percent of the total funding awarded under the department's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

"This funding will help Rice continue its leadership in researching and developing technology to improve future security capabilities and surveillance systems and better ensure our nation's safety," said Sen. John Cornyn. "The important work being done at Rice is a source of pride for Texas."

Rice, located in Houston, is the lead institution on one MURI project and a member institution on two others. It led all Texas universities in the number of projects funded, despite having only about one-tenth the number of students as the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University, the state's other top-tier research universities. With 5,339 students, Rice is the second-smallest member of the Association of American Universities, an organization representing the nation's top 62 research universities.

"Rice's faculty are second to none, and the university's growing portfolio of security-related research is broader than most people realize," said James Coleman, Rice's vice provost for research.

Rice's MURI wins come in areas where the university has notable research strengths: digital signal processing, computation, nanotechnology, quantum magnetism and high-temperature superconductivity.

Rice is the lead institution on a $6.3 million MURI project that aims to build upon advances in sensor design, signal processing, communications and robotics by developing new techniques for "opportunistic sensing." The project, which is funded by the Army Research Office, is expected to directly impact the design of future ground and aerial surveillance systems, making them more powerful, more reliable and better able to distinguish friend from foe. The principal investigator on the project is Richard Baraniuk, Rice's Victor E. Cameron Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Rice co-principal investigators include Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and professor of bioengineering; Wotao Yin, assistant professor of computational and applied mathematics; and Volkan Cevher, research scientist in electrical and computer engineering. Member institutions include the University of Maryland--College Park, the University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign, Yale University, Duke University and the University of California--Los Angeles.

Rice is a member institution on two MURI projects. Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, will lead Rice's $2.2 million effort to forge new techniques for creating graphene nanodevices. The lead institution for the project, which is funded by the Office of Naval Research, is the University of California--Berkeley. Rice's co-principal investigators include James Tour, the Chao Professor of Chemistry and professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, and Boris Yakobson, professor in mechanical engineering and materials science and of chemistry. Emilia Morosan, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, is leading Rice's $1 million effort to create new and better high-temperature superconductors. The project is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and led by Stanford University.

All MURI award amounts are subject to negotiation between the academic institutions and the Department of Defense research offices making the awards. The five-year grants resulted from a highly competitive program in which the department received more than 150 proposals.

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