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Cho wins new prestigious DARPA Young Faculty Award

Assistant professor in mechanical engineering Hanna Cho is the recipient of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) award in the amount of $499,769 for the next two years.  The new award identifies and engages rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia early in their careers to develop innovative new research enabling transformative capabilities for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).  DARPA is an agency of DoD responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.

Advances in micro/nano-scale fabrication techniques have led the extensive development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), many of which employ a mechanical resonator to achieve their exceptional sensitivity for sensing by tracking the change of a sharp resonant peak.  In the early development stage, MEMS devices were mostly designed to operate in their linear resonant modes. However, mechanical resonators at micro/nano-scale can easily exhibit nonlinear resonances because of 'low damping.’ Once nonlinear resonance is triggered, the MEMS devices no longer have a sharp peak to be used for superior sensing. Subsequently, the nonlinearity in MEMS is often considered detrimental.

The DARPA award supports Dr. Cho’s research to utilize intentional nonlinearity constructively to manipulate the mechanical resonance to achieve performance otherwise unattainable in linear settings. The research will investigate the structural nonlinearities in both analytical and experimental ways. The knowledge potentially obtained through this study will provide optimal strategies to manipulate and optimize the nonlinear properties in the design of MEMS, producing transformative applications using resonant devices for sensing, energy harvesting and signal processing. 

“This is an extremely competitive award and a recognition of Professor Cho’s excellence in research," said Vish Subramaniam, chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  "We are very proud of her achievement and wish her much success in her innovative research.” 

Cho joined The Ohio State University in 2015.  Previously, she was assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University (TTU).  She earned BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering from Yonsei University, South Korea in 2002 and 2004, respectively, and earned a PhD in mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 2012. 

Cho’s research laboratory, the Micro/Nano Multi-physical Dynamics Laboratory, is focused on various multi-physical dynamics problems at micro/nanoscales.  The lab studies linear and nonlinear dynamics of micro/nanomechanical resonators for various MEMS applications in sensing and energy harvesting.  They also try to advance the current state-of-the-art AFM (atomic force microscopy) based on better understanding about the dynamics of AFM micro-cantilevers.  Based on our advanced capabilities of AFM, they are collaborating with many other researchers in the field of biomechanics, environmental science and material science to reveal important physics underlying nanomaterials and biomaterials.