Air Force Institute of Technology’s Dr. Hengky Chandrahalim, assistant professor of electrical engineering, inspects a microelectromechanical chip outside the AFIT nanofabrication facility. The chip is a small, complex device that can be used to sense and control physical phenomena. (U.S. Air Force photo by Katie Scott)
Dr. Hengky Chandrahalim was selected as Air Education and Training Command’s Outstanding Airman of the Year, Civilian Supervisory Category IV for 2022.
Chandrahalim is an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the faculty director of the AFIT Nanofabrication and Characterization Facility.
“To me, being an AETC award winner means that my efforts to provide my students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their careers and to serve their country have been recognized and appreciated,” said Chandrahalim. “Winning the AETC award is a great honor and privilege. This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of my students, colleagues, and mentors. I am grateful for their support and encouragement.”
Chandrahalim’s research in microsystems engineering and nanotechnology produced revolutionary techniques in microfabrication with the potential to address key Department of the Air Force needs. He pioneered the development of a two-photon nanofabrication technique to create 3D functional microsystems on virtually any substrate. This technology created breakthrough solutions for multipurpose sensing in spatially constrained applications such as drones, fighter aircrafts, microsatellites, and autonomous underwater vehicles. The originality and creativity of this research has resulted in eight patents, more than 15 articles and received an invited talk at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers RAPID 2021 Conference.
“I believe in the mission of the USAF and the critical role that education plays in supporting that mission,” said Chandrahalim. “As a faculty member at AFIT, I have the privilege of working with some of the brightest minds in the military, and it is an honor to be a part of their development as our future leaders and thinkers.”
Moreover, his research team is investigating novel thin-film electromechanical transducers such as solid dielectrics, liquid dielectrics, ferroelectric and piezoelectric thin-films to efficiently generate high-quality mechanical waves in solids. The results have enabled the realization of highly miniaturized, frequency-agile radio wave processors on an integrated chip-scale platform. At higher technology readiness levels, these devices can be used to facilitate the implementation of multifunction advanced data link in modern jet fighters and signal processing units in microsatellites with much lower power consumption and costs compared to the existing technology. These radio frequency microsystems can also directly support the four current Air Force Vanguard programs: Golden Horde, Navigation Technology Satellite 3 (NTS-3), Skyborg, and Rocket Cargo. The outcomes of this research have been disseminated in over 20 articles.
Chandrahalim led a research team in exploiting the unique properties of quantum dots to enable nondestructive testing of materials. Applications that can make use of this technology are non-contact testing of aircrafts, ground vehicles, and ships. The most near-term use of this technology is a new strain gauge for quality control, 3D printing, and in buildings and structures. This non-destructive, non-contact technology also has the potential to compete against another optical 2D strain-sensing technology called digital imaging correlation. At about 8% of the cost of a DIC system, this could save the Air Force approximately $32 million when buying a single system for up to 386 squadrons. The results of this study have been published in multiple venues and received serious attention from news media, such as Nanotechnology Now and IEEE Spectrum. This work also received special mention from the editor-in-chief of the American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials and Interfaces.
Chandrahalim has developed an innovative technology that utilizes the optomechanical properties of crystalline liquids to sense broadband acoustic waves. A good understanding of the interactions between light and sound waves in structured liquid crystalline materials has the potential to revolutionize current sensing technology and motivate other fundamental experiments. His team was the first to report chip-scale liquid crystalline optomechanical sensors that detect broadband acoustic signals using white light. This breakthrough enabled the development of small, low-power, cost-effective and geometry-independent broadband acoustic sensors. Their work was recognized as one of the best student paper finalists at the IEEE NEMS 2019 Conference and awarded a U.S. patent in 2022. It has also received special coverage from TechLink News in 2022.
His recent research contributions have been recognized as one of the top 30 breakthrough stories in Optics in 2022, among the 20 best papers in the 2022 Optical Sensors and Sensing Congress, and as a 2020 highlight by the IOPscience.
Air Force Institute of Technology’s Dr. Hengky Chandrahalim, assistant professor of electrical engineering, proudly showcases his students' incredible achievement - a wafer-scale microelectromechanical system, fabricated in AFIT’s state-of-the-art nanofabrication facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Katie Scott)
Chandrahalim is very active in learning new materials, processes and methods to produce state-of-the-art microsystems that will elevate the research field to a higher level and deliver newer technologies to the Air Force. He hybridized the 3-D nanofabrication technique based on nonlinear light-matter interactions of ultrafast laser pulses and transparent materials with 2-D traditional photolithography to create photonic platforms that have new functionalities and superior performances. These recently developed devices have not only enabled numerous new applications in molecular and environmental sensing, healthcare monitoring, photoacoustic imaging, ultrasound detection and biophotonics but have also opened the door to the investigation of new physical phenomena, such as parity-time symmetry in optics and optically induced molecular magnetism.
He has taken initiative to train AFIT graduate students in novel nanoelectronic-based paints to economically and accurately identify strain on aircraft parts. This technology enables quick identification of surface defects on aircraft through an easy-to-read surface map. The team was a finalist in the Air Force Materiel Command’s 2020 Spark Tank Competition and attracted the attention of the Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF who encouraged them to submit a follow-on research proposal in July 2021.
A globally recognized scientist, engineer and educator, Chandrahalim has received several highly competitive awards including the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Professional Achievement Award, an IEEE Dayton Section Photonics Society Award, the AFIT Innovation Award and a National Research Council Fellowship for innovative research and efforts in educating the next generation of Air Force scientists.
Chandrahalim is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Optica and is a member of the Acoustical Society of America, American Physical Society, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of American Military Engineers and the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers. He is an active reviewer for publications in optics and photonics, radio frequency and microwave systems, acoustics, ultrasonics, frequency control, micro/nanosystems, and sensors and actuators. Chandrahalim is an associate editor of the Royal Society Open Science. He has served as an organizer for various major technical conferences.
Chandrahalim earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University, and Master of Engineering, Master of Science and doctoral degrees from Cornell University, all in electrical and computer engineering. After graduating from Cornell University in 2009, he joined the Micro and Nanosystems Laboratory at ETH Zurich as a postdoctoral fellow.
Prior to joining AFIT, Chandrahalim had a joint appointment as a research fellow and lecturer at the Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments at the University of Michigan.