Chengzhi Shi Awarded NSF CAREER Award and ONR YIP for Acoustic Wave Research Projects

Chengzhi Shi, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation’s division for Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) as well as an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award.

Shi directs the Woodruff School’s Meta Acoustic Lab which focuses on both theoretical and experimental research related to the control of acoustic wave propagation, the design of metamaterials and phononic crystals, and their applications on acoustic communication and biomedical engineering.

Both of Shi’s awards are related to his research in the area of acoustic angular momentum, a quickly growing field with potential applications for contactless particle manipulation, high-speed underwater communication, imaging with high resolution, and noninvasive therapeutic ultrasound.

Shi’s NSF CAREER Award will allow him to expand upon his past research which demonstrated that acoustic angular momentum could induce shear stress on a solid, dramatically enhancing the efficiency of blood clot lysis using ultrasound, with applications for thrombosis treatments, tumor histotripsy and other noninvasive ultrasound-based surgery.

Shi’s NSF-funded research will attempt to fill an existing gap in knowledge by focusing on acoustic angular momentum carrying wave propagation in anisotropic, or non-homogenous materials since existing research was based on propagation through either water or homogenous materials, while our tissues are typically anisotropic and  usually inhomogeneous. If successful his research will serve as a milestone towards the practical application of these waves in health care.

Shi's research will be complemented by an educational and outreach program in which he will partner with the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology to enroll high school teachers via the Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers and high school students from the Atlanta Public Schools and Atlanta International School, especially students from currently underrepresented group in science and engineering. The teachers and students will be encouraged to compete in the InVenture Prize program using outcomes from this research to broaden its impact.

Shi’s award of $610,000 over five years will provide support for both his research and educational outreach program.

The CAREER Program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the effective integration of research and education within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Shi’s ONR YIP Award also builds on his acoustic angular momentum, but with an application in the area of high-speed underwater acoustic communications. Acoustic waves and SONAR are the dominant underwater communication tools of the United States Navy, but low frequency limits communication speed between submarines and surface warships. In a previous paper published by Shi in PNAS, a proof-of-concept experiment demonstrated the capability to drastically enhance communication speed using acoustic angular momentum multiplexing. The support from this ONR YIP Award will allow him to test this proof-of-concept technology in a real underwater environment in the ocean. If successful, this research will lead to a much higher communication capability for the Navy the conducting of defense and military missions.

Shi’s award of $510,000 over three years will provide support for the underwater acoustic communication research.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program seeks to identify and support academic scientists and engineers who are in their first or second full-time tenure-track or tenure-track-equivalent academic appointment, who have received their doctorate or equivalent degree in the past seven years, and who show exceptional promise for doing creative research. The objectives of this program are to attract outstanding faculty members of universities to the Department of the Navy's Science and Technology (S&T) research program, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers.

“These awards will provide significant support to my research group in conducting state-of-the-art research that could have significant impacts in key areas of national interest for both healthcare and defense,” said Shi. “The support from both awards will enable me to advance the research capability in my lab to a higher level, and support the development of my graduate students.”