Doan-Nguyen earns prestigious AFOSR Young Investigator Award

Posted: January 6, 2022
Vicky Doan-Nguyen

Vicky Doan-Nguyen, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at The Ohio State University, was awarded a $450,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) through its Young Investigator Research Program (YIP). The Air Force awarded approximately $16.2 million in grants to 36 scientists and engineers from 30 research institutions and small businesses.

Doan-Nguyen will work on designing new anisotropic nanostructures and polymer-derived ceramic composite materials for aerospace applications. Her proposal engendered support from aerospace industry partner Lockheed Martin Space, recognizing the impact of high temperature coatings applications for which the polymer-derived ceramics can be used.

Breakthroughs in advanced aerospace materials capable of high-temperature operations require innovations in new silicon-based polymer-derived ceramic (PDC) nanocomposites with improved electrical properties and controlled microstructure design.

“To enhance mechanical properties of PDC nanocomposites with nanofillers, we need to understand how interfacial chemistry, thermodynamics, and precursor molecular structure of PDCs as well as nanofillers evolve with temperature and affect the final nanocomposite’s microstructure,” said Doan-Nguyen.

The overall aims of her work are to design interactions of nanofillers with preceramic polymer matrices and understand nanocomposite structural evolution in real time. Outcomes of the project will provide important new insights into controlling electrical conductivity of PDCs and inform the chemical design of new PDCs within this important class of aerospace materials. Findings will help inform new molecular chemistries and filler size, shape, and functionality for a wide array of applications.

According to Doan-Nguyen, the invention of polymer-assisted nucleation and growth (PPANG) is different than conventional polymers because the process not only grafts the polymers to the metal salt precursors, but it will integrate the preceramic polymers as reactants as well.

“The impact of this work demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of the project and how we can utilize fundamentals of materials science and engineering in conjunction with materials chemistry to construct an entirely new library of materials that aren’t readily available commercially,” she added. “Hopefully, we can scale up and manufacture these materials once we understand the fundamental structure-property relations of functional polymer-derived ceramics.”

This is a single PI proposal and award; however, the preliminary data was acquired with collaborators from Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. The X-ray scattering equipment at AFRL enabled Doan-Nguyen’s team to capture the growth during the synthesis to prove that the chemistry will work.

AFOSR’s YIP is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the last five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. It is designed is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.

This year AFOSR received more than 175 proposals in response to the AFOSR broad agency announcement solicitation. AFOSR program officers select proposals based on the evaluation criteria listed in the broad agency announcement. Those selected will receive the grant over a three-year period.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |

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