Air Force Research Lab awards $6.3 Million contract to USM and Florida State

Published 4:54 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has awarded a $6.3 million contract to The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and Florida State University (FSU) to study multifunctional composites to meet the aerospace application needs of the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense.

The grant period is two years, and the funding will be split equally between the two universities.

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Researchers from the School of Polymer Science and Engineering (SPSE) at USM will partner with the High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) associated with the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (FAMU-FSU Engineering), the joint engineering educational and research institution for Florida A&M and Florida State universities, to study, design, and test large lightweight sample panels capable of scale-up manufacturing to provide multifunctional performance for aerospace applications.

The USM team is being led by SPSE Professor Jeffrey Wiggins, and the FSU team will be led by HPMI Director and Professor Richard Liang.

The university teams are working closely with materials experts at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s materials and Manufacturing Directorate to ensure the panels meet the military’s needs.

“This opportunity for our students and faculty to collaborate with world-renowned researchers at AFRL and FSU safeguards our mission for preparing next-generation polymer scientists and engineers who are fully prepared to lead strategic future material development programs in areas of national need,” said Wiggins.

The project emphasizes training of domestic students to develop a workforce of next-generation aerospace composite scientists and engineers to meet an emerging need of highly skilled professionals. The partnership exchanges researchers between the universities, AFRL and strategic industrial collaborators.

“We are very excited about this project to work on aerospace composite technology, and it is very interesting to explore multifunctionality-by-design approach through this major collaborative effort among academics, AFRL and industrial partners,” said Liang, who was recently appointed as FSU Sprint Eminent Scholar Chair.

Dr. Vikas Varshney, AFRL Program Manager, noted: “This collaboration between AFRL, FSU, & USM is timely given the continued need of incorporating multi-functionality in composites for next generation war-fighter needs, not only from the perspective of optimal microstructural design of composites at lab scale, but to make certain that the desired multi-functionality remains intact during scale-up manufacturing.”

The joint university team includes faculty members and lead researchers James Rawlins, Jason Azoulay, Yoan Simon, Sergei Nazarenko, Olivia McNair and Jinhai Yang from USM, and HPMI researchers and FAMU-FSU Engineering professors Jin Gyu Park, Rebekah Sweat, Mei Zhang, Arda Vanli and Qiang Wu.

USM’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering is nationally and internationally recognized for the achievements of its faculty, its level of research excellence and the quality of our students. The school is home to numerous scientific, educational and outreach programs, institutes, and symposia sponsored by private, industrial, and federal agencies

To learn more about SPSE, call 601.266.4868 or visit: