Tulane Science Professor Awarded Funding from the Department of Defense

October 2, 2009

Kathryn Hobgood
Phone: 504-865-5229

Zhiqiang Mao, a physics professor in the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, has been awarded a $450,000 grant from the Department of Defense as part of the Defense Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR). These grants are meant to enhance research and engineering capabilities in disciplines critical to national security and the Department of Defense.

Mao and his team, comprised of fellow Tulane professors Dae Ho Kim and Ulrike Diebold and Leonard Spinu of the University of New Orleans, are developing a new generation of materials for bolometric detection. Bolometric detectors, devices that measure the energy of electromagnetic radiation, have important applications in both the military and civilian sectors. For example, bolometric detectors are used on military devices such as night vision goggles for navigation and reconnaissance.

Mao says that currently, bolometric detectors are mainly based on materials such as silicon and vanadium oxides that limit the sensitivity of the detector. The other major problem with these materials is that they are non-uniform and amorphous, leading to high noise in readings.

“It is imperative to find alternative materials to develop a new generation of bolometric detectors,” says Mao. “Our preliminary studies at Tulane have shown that calcium ruthenium oxides are promising candidates.” He and his team hope to accomplish a 10 times improvement in detectivity and 100 times improvement in noise compared to the current state-of-the-art devices.  

The award is the result of a merit competition conducted for the Department of Defense research and engineering directorate. The Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research solicited proposals. 28 were selected out of 131 proposals for 2009.

The full list of projects selected for fiscal 2009 DEPSCoR funding is available online at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000