A Success Story:  Building Collaborations between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Texas at Arlington

Professor Efstathios Meletis, Professor Jiechao Jiang, Enrique Ramirez, Professor Joseph Ngai and Nonso Chetuya in a lab

From Left to Right: Professor Efstathios Meletis, Professor Jiechao Jiang, Enrique Ramirez, and Professor Joseph Ngai. Nonso Chetuya is seated in front. Photo courtesy of University of Texas at Arlington.

Professor Jiechao Jiang, Professor Efstathios Meletis and Nonso Chetuya in a lab

From Left to Right: Professor Jiechao Jiang, Professor Efstathios Meletis, and Nonso Chetuya. Photo courtesy of University of Texas at Arlington.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Minority Leaders - Research Collaboration Program (ML-RCP) is ideally suited to build on existing relationships between AFRL scientists and faculty members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving institutions (MSIs) as well as to develop new partnerships. Through a cooperative agreement with The Ohio State University partnered with subcontractor ARCTOS, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate of AFRL oversees this program, which has several agreements in place with universities across the United States that energize students to become involved in research across AFRL. The ML-RCP provides opportunities across the AFRL enterprise with several of the Technology Directorates actively involved in partnerships.

Dr. Bruce “Chip" Claflin, Senior Research Physicist of the Sensors Directorate, talked about his experience utilizing the ML-RCP and working with students from the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington). The students performed measurements to characterize the structural quality of his germanium-tin semiconductor thin films and annealing experiments to improve their crystallinity. Dr. Claflin explains his office had no previous relationship with collaborators at UT Arlington prior to this work. Per the process of the program, Dr. Claflin submitted a research topic in which schools were invited to submit proposals to fulfill the requirements of the work advertised. Dr. Claflin was hopeful to work with HBCUs/MSIs to advance his organization’s research goals. As a result, a team of three professors at UT Arlington submitted what was considered the best of several proposals towards Dr. Claflin’s topic. The selection was based on their experience in using a number of characterization techniques that were not readily available to members of AFRL. As a result, a grant was awarded to UT Arlington in August 2022 and involved a team of faculty members and students.

Recently, this project held a productive kick off meeting virtually. Following this meeting, several semiconductor thin film samples were sent to the UT Arlington team to characterize and to gain valuable learning experience, working with a material system new to them. However, this team did much more than was required. Within a month of receiving the material, they requested a video meeting to review the extensive data they had collected. They had lengthy discussions with the AFRL team, which ultimately revealed a breakdown in the structural quality of AFRL’s films above a critical thickness and helped AFRL scientists and engineers to resolve a number of seeming contradictions that had been plaguing them. These results were so significant that Dr. Claflin invited the UT Arlington team to present them at an annual workshop he organized on this material system. The insight gained from this collaboration allowed Sensors Directorate personnel to modify their deposition process to improve the crystallinity of the thin films. This new process was verified by the UT Arlington team measuring some of the newest samples and not finding any signs of structural degradation leading to what Dr. Claflin sees as a very successful collaboration.


Dr. Claflin is extremely grateful to the ML-RCP for facilitating this collaboration with the researchers at UT Arlington. This work has rapidly advanced AFRL’s research effort, which would not have been possible without UT Arlington’s support. Dr. Claflin is grateful for the funding he received to support this effort, to his newly established collaboration, and is excited about the possibility of future work with UT Arlington.

For more information about the ML-RCP, please contact Dr. Sirina Safriet at sirina.safriet.1@us.af.mil.

CLEARED:  AFRL/PA Case Number AFRL-2024-2657, 16 May 2024