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Electromagnetic Materials

The Electromagnetic Materials program develops advanced materials critical to the enhancement of electronic and photonic devices for naval applications. Historically, this program funded research on silicon, Group IV alloys, and Group III-V compound semiconductors. As those technologies have matured, the emphasis has shifted to other materials, including chalcogenides, perovskites, and nickelates in both two- and three-dimensional forms. The materials and heterostructures developed in this program will lead to enhanced performance of traditional electronic and photonic devices and enable the creation of new device architectures that are not feasible using conventional materials.

  • A current emphasis of the Electromagnetic Materials Program is on phase-change materials (PCMs), which can be switched rapidly and repeatedly between two states, typically a high-resistance amorphous state and a low-resistance crystalline state. Electronics applications could take advantage of several orders-of-magnitude change in resistivity.
  • Concurrent with the changes in resistivity are changes in refractive index. Photonic devices based on PCMs could include tunable optical modulators, filters, switches, couplers, routers, broadband absorbers, memory, and waveguides.
  • The simultaneous changes in resistivity and refractive index will also allow mixed-mode operation in which electrical excitation is provided and sensing is carried out optically or vice-versa.
    • For example, electrical actuation could allow optical modulators with extremely small footprints.
    • Implementation on a silicon platform could also be considered, allowing the integration of memory, logic, and photonics.

Many efforts in this program include both material development and fabrication/testing of prototype devices. Other ONR programs emphasize device development:

Research Concentration Areas

  • Current efforts include complex-oxide semiconductors for novel and high-performance electromagnetic devices, and phase-change materials for RF electronics and photonics.
  • Of particular interest is basic and applied research that could impact naval programs in surveillance, electronic warfare, and communications. A goal is battlefield dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Also of interest is emerging materials research that offers the potential for unprecedented functionality, such as bandwidth, power handling, reconfigurability, linearity, tunability or other new capabilities.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • Discovery and ab initio-based computational modelling of “new” materials that have suitable phase-change properties for photonic applications
  • Development/refinement of appropriate growth techniques for new and existing electromagnetic materials such as atomic layer deposition, sputtering, pulsed laser deposition, and molecular beam epitaxy
  • Investigation of the fundamental mechanisms of the phase-change process induced by optical, electrical or thermal stimuli
  • Novel means of reconfigurability
  • Modeling and testing of (nano)photonic structures that incorporate PCMs

How to Submit

For detailed application and submission information for this research topic, please refer to our broad agency announcement (BAA) No. N00014-22-S-B001.

Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.

Grants: All white papers for grants must be submitted through FedConnect, and full proposals for grants must be submitted through; instructions are included in the BAA.


Dr. Kevin Leonard
Program Officer
Code 312