By Jim Barlow
By fall the algorithms will begin flying, helping to create advanced computer simulations in a new UI research center whose primary goal is improving communication and radar systems for aircraft.
A team of some 40 scientists and doctoral students from the fields of mathematics, computer science, physics and engineering will pool their knowledge at the Center for Computational Electromagnetics.
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded $6.25 million over five years for the center, which is located in a renovated space in the Everitt Laboratory. Other supporters are the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and private industry.
Algorithms -- a computer-driven, step-by-step problem-solving mathematical procedure -- will be at the heart of the multidisciplinary research. Researchers will focus on the interaction of various environments with the electromagnetic waves generated in communication, radar and remote-sensing technologies.
The potential payoff will be better-designed aircraft, airborne communication systems and radar, says director Weng Chew, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Improvements could result in the design of antennas and computer chips, in oil-exploration technology and in the collection and interpretation of data obtained through the remote sensing performed by satellites.
The center's first task will be to design enhanced computer programs to solve electromagnetic scattering equations, Chew said. Such work should cut down the cost of computer modeling and simulation, and, in turn, reduce laboratory costs.
"The Department of Defense is interested in replacing many field and laboratory experiments, especially those that require experimental aircraft, with computer simulations," Chew said. "You can change an aircraft's design and do a lot more things on a computer than you can do in a lab, and you can do these things faster and at less cost.
"We will be able to illuminate different aircraft designs with simulated electromagnetic waves and see what the interaction will be," he said. "Antennas have different sensitivities. The design of an antenna and of an aircraft have to be compatible, because the materials used in their construction can reflect signals. You want to be able to send and receive signals effectively."
If all goes according to plan, Chew said, the center "could alter the way computers are used in computer-aided engineering."