Dr. Polcawich recognized for outstanding and distinguished accomplishments in the piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems field

ARL Scientist Honored as DoD Lab Scientist of the Quarter

Dr. Polcawich recognized for outstanding and distinguished accomplishments in the piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems field

Dr. Ronald G. Polcawich from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Micro & Nano Materials & Devices Branch, was recently honored as the 2017 fourth quarter winner of the Department of Defense (DoD) Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter Award. Polcawich was recognized for his outstanding and distinguished accomplishments in the field of piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

As a leading subject-matter expert in this field, Polcawich, along with collaborators from academia and the Naval Research Laboratory, for the first time evaluated the radiation effects in the piezoelectric response of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin films. The results illustrate that there is a certain degree of radiation hardness within PZT that can be further extended by using conductive oxide electrodes as opposed to traditional platinum electrodes. The results from gamma radiation tests indicate that PZT materials, as well as associated actuator devices (e.g., switches, resonators, and inertial devices), can all benefit from the radiation tolerance of the PZT. This is significant as, for example, actuators as well as sensors have demonstrated operation during mild radiation exposure and as a result can be integrated into platforms evaluating nuclear material where human exposure needs to be minimized. In related work, Polcawich and his team have been also able to improve the overall electromechanical response of PZT thin films by 15-30% through the incorporation of iridium oxide electrode materials.

Polcawich’s discoveries have helped ARL to become a leading research facility for PZT materials and MEMS technology. His research has led to increased global community interest in incorporating piezoelectric thin films into microelectronic and MEMS devices, and there is a now interest in PiezoMEMS devices breaking into the commercial and military markets in the future. The two biggest areas of initial impact will be commercial inkjet print heads for industrial printing and inertial sensors for position, navigation, and timing.

Polcawich has also taken a leadership role in initiating collaborations with academia and industry to leverage external resources to assist the Army and DoD mission goals, and also has an active presence on multiple Industrial Advisory Boards for the National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program of Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics. Polcawich’s research within piezoelectric MEMS will continue to help the Department achieve its goals to assist in solving the most pressing technological challenges on both a national and global scale, now and in the future.

Past Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter Awards have also been presented Dr. Joseph B. Lyons, Air Force Research Laboratory, 711 Human Performance Wing, Human Trust and Interaction Branch (2017 third quarter winner), Dr. Kang Xu, Army Research Laboratory, Weapons and Materials Directorate, Energetic Materials Science Branch (2017 second quarter winner), and Dr. James T. Hing, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Naval Air Systems Command (2017 first quarter winner).

By Emily Tully