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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

MAE Assistant Professor Amin Reihani Receives $895,000 ONR Grant 

The Office of Naval Research, which sponsors research and development for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, has awarded mechanical and aerospace engineering assistant professor Amin Reihani $895,000 for a three-year project to develop microbolometers, or small highly sensitive thermometers, for measuring infrared radiation. 

“This is my first externally funded project,” says Reihani, who joined the MAE faculty in 2022. “So, it is extremely helpful to me as I am trying to establish my laboratory and research group.”  

Professor posing in a lab with equipment on a cart.

According to Reihani, the project aims to use phonon-assisted quantum mechanical tunneling in semiconductor devices to detect very small intensities of infrared radiation. “The developed sensor utilizes the change in population of phonons, which are quanta of vibration of atoms in the material, to detect small magnitudes of incident infrared radiation. The sensor can be used for highly sensitive and fast response infrared and terahertz imaging with broad applications in healthcare, thermal imaging, autonomous vehicles, and more.” 

Combining Theory and Experiments 

Reihani is excited by the fact that the project’s success will combine both theory and experiments to achieve its goals. “The proposal was based on our initial theoretical prediction which later proved to be correct – and useful for sensing temperature in our experiments,” he notes. 

While project measurements and computations will take place in his lab, Reihani and a graduate assistant and post-doctoral associate will rely heavily on conducting microfabrication processes in the school’s nanofabrication facility.