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The Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaiʻi (ARL at UH) is addressing a wide range of emerging problems facing Hawaiʻi and the world such as renewable energy, coastal defense for sea-level rise, submerged breakwaters and coral reef ecology, cybersecurity, underwater munitions detection, and more.

“As the state advances its research and innovation sector to create a more diversified economy through the growth of a high-tech workforce, the University of Hawaiʻi continues to be a driving force behind this initiative,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “The ARL at UH continues to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research while providing a pathway for students to receive the real-world experience required for the high-tech sector here in Hawaiʻi and across the country.”

ARL at UH is the fifth U.S. Navy-sponsored University-Affiliated Research Center, bringing in a total of $139 million since it was established in 2008. In 2022, ARL at UH received $27 million in funding.

wave energy converter in the ocean
The Fred. Olsen Lifesaver wave energy converter (WEC) deployed at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) off Kāneʻohe during 2018/2019.

“I see our role at ARL as being at the forefront of technological innovation, to help protect those who protect us, whether that’s the military, first responders or our planet,” said Margo Edwards, director of ARL at UH. “This research is important to our state and country, and it is exciting that it is happening right here in Hawaiʻi.

The Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) is an example of that important research. The renewable energy project is a collaboration between the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and ARL at UH and a proving ground for wave energy converters (WECs). WETS achieved a groundbreaking milestone in 2015 by connecting wave-generated power to the grid for the first time in the U.S.

“Thanks to the funding provided in support of advancing wave energy, from both the U.S. Navy and the Department of Energy, my team has been able to work on this critical issue facing our state and nation,” said HNEI researcher Patrick Cross, who is in charge of the WETS project and related marine energy research tasks. “We strive to develop this abundant source of clean, renewable energy that is ideal for coastal regions and islands, like Hawaiʻi.

ARL at UH research:

  • R3D coastal defense: With a commitment to protecting coastal infrastructure, ARL at UH spearheads the Rapid Resilient Reefs for Coastal Defense (R3D) initiative. With a multidisciplinary team and $17.1 million in funding, R3D is conducting cutting-edge research on hybrid coral reefs—nature-inspired submerged breakwaters designed to protect coastlines.
  • Cybersecurity: As stewards of cybersecurity in the Pacific region, ARL at UH operates a network with high-performance computing systems and Machine Learning (ML) models. The Pacific Ecosystem for Cyber analyzes network activity, ensuring swift detection of anomalies and updating ML models within hours.
  • Shaping the future of technology: ARL at UH focuses on digital engineering, prototyping, maritime domain awareness and field experimentation technology. Each endeavor contributes to the technological advancement of critical capabilities and addresses emerging challenges.
  • COVID-19 response: Collaborating with the Hawaiʻi Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group, ARL at UH developed a forecast tool to aid medical professionals in preparing for hospital capacity challenges. Further contributions include a technique for ventilating multiple patients with a single ventilator and an app for monitoring mask usage in Hawaiʻi.
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