ONR was authorized by an Act of Congress, Public Law 588, and subsequently approved by President Harry S. Truman on August 1, 1946, with the stated mission of “planning, fostering, and encouraging scientific research in recognition of its paramount importance as related to the maintenance of future naval power and the preservation of national security.”
Today, ONR carries out its mission by funding (through grants and contracts) world-class scientists, technologists, and engineers who perform basic research, technology development, and advanced technology demonstrations. More than 50 researchers have won a Nobel Prize for their ONR-funded work.
Continuous investment in new and innovative technology enables ONR to build and maintain the world’s most capable Navy. Its focus is long term, yet it is highly responsive to near-term Naval needs. ONR’s balanced S&T Portfolio is allocated to meet the broad spectrum of warfighter requirements: 10% Quick Reaction 30% S&T Acquisition Enablers 10% Leap Ahead Innovations 40% Discovery & Invention (Basic and Applied Science) 10% Other
Office of Naval Research (ONR) research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Yellow submarine: Navy hopes new drone revolutionizes how war is fought – April 19, 2015
- Navy researchers developing swarms of cooperating air drones for overwhelming land and sea attacks – April 17, 2015
- Robot surrogates to train Marines – February 3, 2015
- ONR Makes Virtual Training Anywhere, Anytime, a Reality – November 19, 2014
- Navy puts autonomous ‘swarmboats’ into action – October 5, 2014
- Jam Session: New Technology Helps Sailors on the Digital Frontier – August 8, 2014
- Pew Pew Pew! US Military Developing Laser Weapons to Down Enemy Drones – June 16, 2014
- Self-Healing Paint Could Halt Rust on Vehicles
- Mayo Clinic Researchers Apply Regenerative Medicine to Battlefield Injuries
- Plasma Device Developed at MU Could Revolutionize Energy Generation and Storage
- Researchers Unveil Large Robotic Jellyfish That One Day Could Patrol Oceans
- Scientists Use Marine Robots to Detect Endangered Whales
- Squirrels and Birds Inspire Researchers to Create Deceptive Robots
- Robots Using Tools: Researchers Aim to Create ‘MacGyver’ Robot
- Birds’ Perceptual and Maneuvering Abilities Inspire Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- UF researchers develop “nanorobot” that can be programmed to target different diseases
- Energy Harvesting: Wringing More Energy out of Everyday Motions
- Futuristic Navy railgun with 220-mile range closer to reality
- US Navy developing app-summoned robotic helicopters for Marines
- New handheld devices designed to detect brain injuries on-the-spot
- Effortless Sailing With Fluid Flow Cloak
- U.S. Navy demonstrates solid state laser weapon at sea
- Princeton Laser breakthrough will enable sniffing the air at a distance
- New Glasses Change Lens Color on the Fly
- Magnetic Power Offers Energy-Saving Alternative
- Autonomous underwater hull-cleaning robot
Scientists sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have genetically modified a common soil bacteria to create electrical wires that not only conduct electricity, but are thousands of times thinner than a human hair.
As electronic devices increasingly touch all facets of people’s lives, there is growing appetite for technology that is smaller, faster and more mobile and powerful than ever before. Thanks to advances in nanotechnology (manipulating matter on an atomic or molecular scale), industry can manufacture materials only billionths of a meter in thickness.
The ONR-sponsored researchers—led by microbiologist Dr. Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst—say their engineered wires can be produced using renewable “green” energy resources like solar energy, carbon dioxide or plant waste; are made of non-toxic, natural proteins; and avoid harsh chemical processes typically used to create nanoelectronic materials.
“Research like Dr. Lovley’s could lead to the development of new electronic materials to meet the increasing demand for smaller, more powerful computing devices,” said Dr. Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, which sponsors the research. “Being able to produce extremely thin wires with sustainable materials has enormous potential application as components of electronic devices such as sensors, transistors and capacitors.”
The centerpiece of Lovley’s work is Geobacter, a bacteria that produces microbial nanowires—hair-like protein filaments protruding from the organism—enabling it to make electrical connections with the iron oxides that support its growth in the ground. Although Geobacter naturally carries enough electricity for its own survival, the current is too weak for human use, but is enough to be measured with electrodes.
Lovley’s team tweaked the bacteria’s genetic makeup to replace two amino acids naturally present in the wires with tryptophan—which is blamed (incorrectly, some say) for the sleepiness that results from too much Thanksgiving turkey. Food allegations aside, tryptophan actually is very good at transporting electrons in the nanoscale.
“As we learned more about how the microbial nanowires worked, we realized it might be possible to improve on nature’s design,” said Lovley. “We rearranged the amino acids to produce a synthetic nanowire that we thought might be more conductive. We hoped that Geobacter might still form nanowires and double their conductivity.”
The results surpassed the team’s expectations as the synthetic, tryptophan-infused nanowires were 2,000 times more conductive than their natural counterparts. And they were more durable and much smaller, with a diameter of 1.5 nanometers (over 60,000 times thinner than a human hair)—which means that thousands of nanowires could possibly be stored in the tiniest spaces.
Lovley and Chrisey both say these ultra-miniature nanowires have numerous potential applications as electronic and computing devices continue to shrink in size. For example, they might be installed in medical sensors, where their sensitivity to pH changes can monitor heart rate or kidney function.
From a military perspective, the nanowires could feed electrical currents to specially engineered microbes to create butanol, an alternative fuel. This would be particularly useful in remote locations like Afghanistan, where fuel convoys are often attacked and it costs hundreds of dollars per gallon to ship fuel to warfighters.
Lovley’s nanowires also may play a crucial role in powering highly sensitive microbes (which could be placed on a silicon chip and attached to unmanned vehicles) that could sense the presence of pollutants, toxic chemicals or explosives.
“This is an exciting time to be on the cutting edge of creating new types of electronics materials,” said Lovley. “The fact that we can do this with sustainable, renewable materials makes it even more rewarding.”
Lovley’s research is part of ONR’s efforts in synthetic biology, which creates or re-engineers microbes or other organisms to perform specific tasks like improving health and physical performance. The field is a top ONR research priority because of its potential far-ranging impact on warfighter performance and fleet capabilities.