HEMI receives funding from NSF for materials data research

The Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI) has received funding from the National Science Foundation(NSF) to expand its materials data research.

As a recipient of one of the inaugural awards in NSF’s Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable, Open Science Research Coordination Networks (FAIROS RCN) program. HEMI researchers will create the MaRCN (Materials Research Coordination Network). MaRCN will advance and coordinate findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable (FAIR) data and support open-science materials research nationally and internationally, bridging the fundamental gap between materials data and data-intensive methods including artificial intelligence and machine learning.  The project will build on a range of planning and preparatory activities including the U.S. Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) and the Materials Research Data Alliance (MaRDA), a community-based network spanning stakeholders in academia, industry, and publishing.

The MaRCN project involves six institutions: Johns Hopkins University (lead institution), SUNY at Buffalo, Duke University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, and the University of Chicago.  The total project budget awarded was $1,490,815.  The award was jointly supported by the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure.



HEMI leaders join other JHU experts to brief Congress and the public on artificial intelligence on July 28

From self-parking cars to digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa, artificial intelligence is an integral part of many people’s daily lives. But experts say we have only just begun to explore AI’s power to transform and improve lives in areas including health care, transportation, public health, education, climate change, and more.

From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 28, in the next installment of Johns Hopkins Congressional Briefing Series, AI experts from Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, School of Medicine, Applied Physics Laboratory, and Berman Institute of Bioethics will offer their insights into the opportunities and challenges presented by AI. These every-other-month briefings offer policymakers, their staff, and the public the chance to hear top experts’ views on important and relevant topics, such as gun violence, maternal health, and COVID-19. Registration is required, and attendees can submit questions in advance or during the briefing, which will be livestreamed here.

The session, titled “Artificial Intelligence: Opportunities and Challenges,” will be moderated by KT Ramesh, Alonzo G. Decker Jr. Professor of Science and Engineering, director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, and senior advisor for AI to Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels.

“At Johns Hopkins, we are bringing together two powerful forces, human intelligence and artificial intelligence, with the goal of understanding and improving the human condition,” Ramesh said. “The power of AI is at work in everything from autonomous technologies such as self-driving cars and robotic spacecraft to technologies that help us understand disease mechanisms and deliver better healthcare to patients. In this briefing, our experts will discuss the promise of AI, its impact, the ethical issues surrounding its use, and much more.”

Johns Hopkins experts participating are:

Student-Built, Dime-Sized Instrument Is Venus-bound on NASA’s DAVINCI

DAVINCI Descent Sphere above Venus
DAVINCI will send a meter-diameter probe to brave the high temperatures and pressures near Venus’ surface to explore the atmosphere from above the clouds to near the surface of a terrain that may have been a past continent. During its final kilometers of free-fall descent (artist’s impression shown here), the probe will capture spectacular images and chemistry measurements of the deepest atmosphere on Venus for the first time.
Credits: NASA/GSFC/CI Labs

Venus Oxygen Fugacity (VfOx) is a small, button-sized sensor aboard NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus’ atmosphere that will be designed, fabricated, tested, operated, and analyzed by undergraduate and graduate students as the mission’s Student Collaboration Experiment.

Planned for launch in 2029, the DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will send a spacecraft and a probe to Venus to investigate numerous unsolved mysteries of the planet. Prior to dropping its descent probe into the Venus atmosphere, the spacecraft will perform two flybys of the planet, taking measurements of clouds and ultraviolet absorption on the Venusian day side, and taking measurements of heat emanating from the planet’s surface on the night side. Two years after launch, the mission’s probe, called the Descent Sphere, will enter the Venus atmosphere, ingesting and analyzing atmospheric gases and collecting images as it descends to the surface of the planet at the Alpha Regio region.

VfOx will be mounted on the outside of the Descent Sphere, where it will measure the oxygen fugacity – the partial pressure of the oxygen – in the deep atmosphere beneath Venus’ clouds, including the near-surface environment.

By analyzing these ground-breaking VfOx measurements, scientists will, for the first time, seek to identify what minerals are most stable at the surface of Venus in the highlands and link the formation of rocks to their recent modification histories. VfOx will measure the amount of oxygen present near the surface of Venus as a “fingerprint” of the rock-atmosphere reactions that are going on today. The balance of how much oxygen is present in the atmosphere, compared to the amount of oxygen captured in the rocks of Venus, will provide information towards a new understanding of the surface minerals in a mountainous region of Venus (known as “tessera”) that has never been visited by a spacecraft.

Understanding how much oxygen is contained in Venus’ atmosphere will be important in preparation for characterizing Venus-like worlds beyond our solar system with the JWST and future observatories. How much oxygen Venus has in its deepest atmosphere will help scientists studying these remote worlds distinguish between oxygen produced by life, such as what happens on Earth, from oxygen produced solely by abiotic chemical planetary processes, such as what happens on Venus.

The instrument will operate similarly to the oxygen sensor in many automobile engines, which measures the amount of oxygen in the fuel system relative to other components of the fuel. Like all instruments aboard the DAVINCI Descent Sphere, VfOx must be adapted to survive Venus’ inhospitable atmosphere. Even though temperatures at the surface of the planet are hot enough to melt lead, the temperatures in internal combustion car engines are even hotter, so VfOx will operate in a comparatively cooler environment on Venus. Additionally, VfOx will be built out of ceramic, a material that is resistant to temperature changes.

The motivating goal for DAVINCI’s Student Collaboration Experiment is educating and training young scientists and engineers in planetary science and engineering skills and providing a real-world application for those skills. “We are trying to engage and encourage the next generation of planetary scientists and engineers,” says Dr. Noam Izenberg, principal research staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and student collaboration lead for VfOx on DAVINCI.

Students will build the VfOx instrument, analyze the data it returns from Venus, and participate in science activities with the DAVINCI science team. Students involved will be advised by faculty at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The excitement of being actively involved with a real space-flight mission as an undergraduate may be one of the best incentives to attract a diverse group of students to this project. “We want to attract more students from all backgrounds, including the less-advantaged and the less-represented,” says Dr. Izenberg. “There will be lots of mentors across the board – on the mission and science side, and the engineering side – where students can find not just mentors of the professions that they might be looking for, but also mentors who look like them, because the DAVINCI team itself is fairly good in its own diversity.”

Johns Hopkins will be working in collaboration with the Applied Physics Lab to plan and implement the student experiment. Johns Hopkins will also work in collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, which has an extreme arts institute that will be involved with an intersection between science and art. The Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute in Baltimore will help coordinate this project, and Morgan State University in Baltimore is an intended partner.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator institution for DAVINCI and will perform project management and scientific leadership for the mission, as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard also leads the project science support team and provides two key instruments on the probe.

Prototype VfOx instrument
These images of a prototype of the shirt-button-sized VfOx instrument show the disk of the sensor itself. It has a diameter of just under one centimeter (almost 0.4 inches) and will be located on the side of the DAVINCI Descent Sphere.
Credits: Johns Hopkins APL

Brooke Hess
​NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Media Contacts:

Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
[email protected]

This article originally appeared on the NASA website.

Mach Conference celebrates 10th year

The 2022 Mach Conference, held virtually in April, brought together representatives from academia, government and industry to share their work in the field of materials, with an emphasis on advancing the fundamental science and engineering of materials and structures in extreme environments.. The conference’s plenary speakers included Prof. Wei Chen (Northwestern University), Prof. Reuben Kraft (Penn State University), and Prof. Tao Sun (University of Virginia).

Conference-goers attended lectures, presented on research, and socialized with their peers in the discipline. Attendees also participated in the Student/Postdoc poster competition. Winners in each category are listed below.

Judge’s Award: 

High-throughput methods using laser-driven micro-flyers for interrogating spall failure, Presenter: Christopher DiMarco, Johns Hopkins University 

High pressure induced precipitation in Al7075 alloy, Presenter: Abhinav Parakh, Stanford University

People’s Choice Award:

Interaction-Based Damage Model for Heterogeneous Brittle Solids under Uniform High-Rate Loading, Presenter: Sakshi Braroo, Johns Hopkins University

The Mach Conference is held in April each year. For more information, visit www.machconference.org.

HEMI Collaborations Showcased Through Five Summer Student Opportunities

Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, summer 2021 was an exciting time for HEMI, with five different internship and apprenticeship programs highlighting a diverse array of research opportunities.

The High School Apprenticeship Program (formerly known as REAP), sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program, sought out high school students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Working with a mentor, these students pursued research into topics ranging from breaking bonds in crystal quartz, to the development of 3D models simulating surface growth.

The Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program (formerly known as URAP), provided undergraduate researchers with the resources to develop and pursue individual research projects. Sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program and CMEDE, this program provided valuable Army research, as well as experience that will prepare these students for careers in science and engineering.

Students participating in the HEMI/MICA Extreme Arts Summer Project/Internship had the opportunity to artistically engage with HEMI research and projects. They translated scientific research into expressive, thought-provoking art, as well as to research and develop new materials.

Students in the Morgan State Extreme Science Internship (ESI) participate in both internal and external internships associated with the CMEDE. ESI opportunities are STEM-focused with a particular emphasis on providing research opportunities related to MEDE. Internal ESI are hosted by MSU faculty on the campus of Morgan State University. External ESI are conducted at one of the CMEDE university and research institutions located across the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Finally, with the addition of the Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE URA) to HEMI, the Undergraduate Research Award program was offered this summer for the first time. In this program, students work under the mentorship of an MSEE URA principal investigator within the technical areas of chemical and biological agent defeat, and nuclear blast.

If you would like to read more about our summer programs and the research completed by this year’s participants, click here.

Susanna Thon, Paulette Clancy, and Rama Venkatasubramanian join researchers from Morgan State University to establish innovative materials research center

HEMI Fellows Susanna Thon, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Paulette Clancy, professor and head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Rama Venkatasubramanian, team leader in Energy and Thermal Management at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, have collaborated with researchers at Morgan State University in an initiative designed to not only advance materials research but also to establish the first center of its kind at any Historically Black College or University.

Ramesh C. Budhani, professor of physics at Morgan State, has recently been awarded a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to found the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials. Thon and Clancy serve as co-PIs on the grant. Other key contributors to the project include Venkatasubramanian and David Shrekenhamer from the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory.

“Johns Hopkins is pleased to be a partner with Morgan State on this initiative. By furthering the relationship between our institutions via the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials, we are creating pathways of success for students while increasing our research capacity in the area of next-generation materials for a variety of applications,” said Thon. “We are especially excited about the potential to attract top-notch talent to Baltimore by combining the strengths of our two schools.”

Fundamental to the Center’s research operations will be its mission to train underrepresented diverse students by expanding talent pipelines within the technology workforce and defense sector. The exposure of students to specific technologies, and their accumulated experience attained at the newly created center, will increase proficiencies and marketability within private and public sector industries. The cornerstone of the applied experience made available through the Center’s research will be summer internships for both Morgan and JHU students, co-advising of PhD dissertations, and joint annual workshops. Additional funding from the grant will underwrite internships for 10 to 15 undergraduate students and five students from area high schools and community colleges.

“Through the establishment of this center, STEM students have a space to perform cutting-edge research on an emergent class of quantum materials and technologies for clean energy, electromagnetic sensing and information processing,” says Clancy. “They also have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with researchers outside of their home institution. The impact this center will have on the workforce within the materials research community will be significant.”

The DoD funding will provide vital resources in the realm of scientific research rooted in thin films and nanostructures of refractory metal dichalcogenides and layered materials of a semiconductor and thermoelectric material called bismuth telluride, which is often used as a topological insulator. These layered materials will be synthesized at Morgan. Subsequent highly critical stability calculations and growth kinetics modeling of the 2D materials, along with experimental device development, will be performed by JHU and APL researchers.


CMEDE Fall Meeting Highlights Research by HEMI Fellows

The Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments Collaborative Research Alliance (MEDE CRA) conducted its Fall Meeting on October 15th, 2020. As the lead research organization of the CRA, Johns Hopkins University hosts and staffs the event. Due to COVID-19, the annual, closed event was completely virtual this year.

The MEDE Fall Meeting brings the entire MEDE CRA together for program overviews, collaborative activities, and discussion. In 2020, the event was attended by 130 individuals including special guests from the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Command,  the Office of Naval Research, and the National Ground Intelligence Center. Professor K.T. Ramesh (JHU) and Dr. Sikhanda Satapathy (CCDC ARL) led the meeting, which highlighted the research accomplishments for new metallic, ceramic, and composite protection materials, as well as new computational design codes and tools for armor applications. The meeting also featured a virtual poster session with 55 presenters including ARL researchers, university faculty, graduate students, and postdocs from within the MEDE CRA.

The MEDE Fall Meeting highlights research from partners around the world.

Announcing the Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $30 million, five-year grant to Johns Hopkins to lead an alliance of major research institutions in an effort to understand, predict, and control the behavior of materials in extreme conditions caused by weapons of mass destruction. The Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE URA) will be a center, located in HEMI, directed by HEMI Fellow Professor Timothy Weihs (Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering). Professor Todd Hufnagel, a HEMI Fellow hailing from the same department, will serve as associate director.

The MSEE URA, established by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA),  will “advance the fundamental understanding of materials and chemistries under extreme conditions of pressure, temperature, and radiation.” It is an alliance consisting of 18 institutions and 40 PIs, all led by Johns Hopkins University. Together, they will seek to mitigate the threats posed by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by studying how materials behave and chemistries evolve under the extreme and complex conditions associated with these weapons of mass destruction.

This award creates the second major university consortium based at Johns Hopkins and funded by the Department of Defense in recent years. The first is the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments (CMEDE), which is also located within HEMI.

Such cooperative efforts enable researchers from across the nation to collaborate more effectively, to deliver results faster, and “to train, mentor, and inspire a new generation of students, many of whom will go on to work at federal laboratories and agencies,” Weihs said.

As an expert in developing novel materials to defeat chemical warfare agents, Weihs will take on the role of directing the center and working collaboratively with technical experts within the alliance to manage the consortium.

The research is expected to advance the types of materials that are capable of eliminating stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons while limiting the collateral damage of such defensive actions. The urgency of developing more efficient materials to defeat such weapons has been amplified by the worldwide health and economic damage inflicted in just a few weeks by COVID-19.

Read the full JHU news release here >>

Timothy Weihs (left); Todd Hufnagel (right)

Dr. Laszlo Kecskes Named a HEMI Fellow

Please join us in welcoming our newest HEMI Fellow, Dr. Laszlo Kecskes! Dr. Kecskes is currently a Research Professor within HEMI. His research involves the dynamic behavior of novel material (metals and polymers) systems as well as the creation of materials under extreme processing conditions that lead to unique to meta-stable sub-structures as a means to modify their nominal behavior.

Dr. Kecskes earned a BS in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Masters in Physics from the University of Minnesota, and his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Delaware. Previously, he conducted research for the U.S. Ballistics Research Laboratory as well as for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, where he served as co-lead of the Metals Collaborative Materials Group, a subset within the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments.