Yale University Research Contributions to National Security To Be Showcased at Capitol Hill Exhibition

Yale University will participate in a national exhibition on Capitol Hill illustrating why university-based research is vital to the nation’s defense. The exhibition will take place Wednesday, April 29, 4:30-7:30 p.m. in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building with Rear Admiral Paul Gaffney, chief of Naval Research, and members of Congress speaking at 6 p.m.

Yale will demonstrate a specialized optical imaging microscope important in advanced telecommunications and computer-chip production. The microscope also enables scientists to undertake genetic studies with fluorescently labeled DNA.

Titled “Basic Research in the National Defense: University Contributions to Defense Technology,” the event will feature researchers and students from 33 U.S. universities and highlight the long-standing partnership between the federal government and higher education to produce key defense technologies. Sponsoring the event is the Association of American Universities in cooperation with U.S. Senators Joseph Leiberman (D-Conn.), Strom Thurmond (R-S. C.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), plus six U.S. Representatives.

Yale’s specialized microscopy is conducted in the laboratory of Robert D. Grober, assistant professor of applied physics and physics. The technique, called scanned probe microscopy, involves scanning a very small probe in close proximity to a sample, such as genetic material. The advantage of this “near-field” optical imaging, in which the probe is either a light source or light detector, is that it can help scientists determine molecular structures as small as tens of nanometers (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter), which is more than an order of magnitude smaller than is possible with conventional optical microscopy.

“Our laboratory combines the techniques of near-field optics for structural analysis with spectroscopic imaging for chemical analysis,” said Grober, whose work is supported by the Army Research Office. “The combination of both spatial and spectral information yields a powerful diagnostic tool. In addition to biological studies, our imaging research focuses on semiconductors for advanced telecommunications and the processing of silicon computer chips.”

The U.S. Department of Defense funds about $1 billion in basic research each year. While this amount represents less than one-half of one percent of the total defense budget, it supports between 40 and 60 percent of all federally funded research in engineering, new materials, computer science, and aeronautical and astronomical science.

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