CAIMEE hosts review of U.S. Army basic research program focused on high-throughput materials discovery

Earlier this month, the Center on Artificial Intelligence for Materials in Extreme Environments (CAIMEE) hosted a midpoint review of the High-Throughput Materials Discovery for Extreme Conditions (HTMDEC) program on Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.

Visitors gathered on April 2 to hear about the progress being made in different areas of HTMDEC, a basic research program sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Attendees included researchers from participating universities, scientists from government labs, and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The HTMDEC program aims to combine automation and machine learning techniques with manufacturing and characterization to develop novel materials to perform under extreme conditions.

ARL sponsors two research centers as part of the HTMDEC program, one of which is led by CAIMEE. The Center on High-throughput Materials Discovery for Extremes (HT-MAX), is led by Lori Graham-Brady, a professor of civil and systems engineering and associate director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI), and Michael Shields, an associate professor of civil and systems engineering.

HT-MAX combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic automation technologies to discover novel hard/brittle materials with tailored properties for use in extreme environments. Researchers will develop new materials which will have improved ductility, hardness, and strength when the materials are exposed to elevated strain rates, pressures, temperatures, and heating rates.

Discovering new materials that can withstand extreme conditions is critical for government and private industry entities alike. Hard and brittle materials like ceramics are used in armor, and accelerating the discovery of these materials can give nations an edge in protecting soldiers and vehicles from next-generation weapons and threats.

Additional HEMI fellows contributing to HT-MAX are K.T. Ramesh, the Alonzo G. Decker Jr. Professor of Science and Engineering, and Todd Hufnagel, a professor of materials science and engineering. HT-MAX researchers come from seven universities and collaborate with researchers at ARL. David Elbert, a HEMI research scientist, leads data management efforts for the HTMDEC program.

Learn more about HT-MAX

HT-MAX logo on green background

In late 2023, the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI) established a new center focused on using high-throughput and data-driven artificial intelligence and machine learning-based tools to accelerate materials discovery, with an emphasis on hard and brittle materials. This new center, the Center on High-throughput Materials Discovery for Extremes (HT-MAX), has found a new home online at

HT-MAX is a four-year, $9.2 million project funded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and was initiated on September 15, 2023.

HT-MAX is led by Lori Graham-Brady, director of HEMI’s Center on Artificial Intelligence for Materials in Extreme Environments (CAIMEE) and professor of civil and systems engineering, and Michael Shields, associate professor of civil and systems engineering. Other Hopkins faculty members affiliated with HT-MAX include Todd Hufnagel and K.T. Ramesh.

HT-MAX will leverage the cutting-edge resources available in the AI for Materials Design (AIMD) laboratory in the Stieff Silver Building to address four research areas:

1.    High-throughput synthesis and processing
2.    High-throughput characterization
3.    Machine learning-augmented physics-based modeling
4.    Data-driven materials design

The center includes experts from seven universities and ARL, including Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of California Santa Barbara, and University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Researchers and staff present MSEE and CAIMEE research on Capitol Hill

Over 500 visitors filled the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building on June 7 for Hopkins on the Hill, a biennial event showcasing some of the federally funded research taking place at Johns Hopkins University. Congressional staffers and government officials mingled with Johns Hopkins researchers, staff, and alumni.

Of the programs highlighted at the event, two are housed within the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute. Both HEMI-affiliated programs strive to make the world a safer place by expanding the horizons of materials science in extreme environments. Knowledge gained from both programs has the potential to bolster national defense, making them particularly valuable to government partners and collaborators.

The MEDE+ program, within HEMI’s Center on Artificial Intelligence for Materials in Extreme Environments (CAIMEE), aims to explore the possibilities of AI in materials design. By utilizing AI, machine learning, and automation, researchers hope to create a facility that can accelerate the modelling, production, and testing of materials. The program has the potential to revolutionize high-throughput materials design, facilitating the creation of materials with tailored properties for use in extreme environments, with a focus on materials of interest to its partners at DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory.

Rayna Mehta, a graduate student studying materials science in the Whiting School of Engineering, explained some of the cutting-edge work being done in the MEDE+ program while Bess Bieluczyk, CAIMEE’s program manager, presented information about the program’s new state-of-the-art materials fabrication facility. This facility, the Artificial Intelligence for Materials Design (AIMD) Laboratory, is currently being built in the historic Stieff Silver Building and is set to open this fall.

Representatives from the Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE URA) were also in attendance. MSEE’s research covers a wide range of topics, from neutralizing chemical weapons to studying the effects of nuclear blasts. Researchers studying reactive materials—in this case, substances designed to defeat chemical and biological weapons—showed samples of their work. Among these researchers was Kyle Fisher, an ROTC cadet and the only undergraduate student presenting research at the event.

For Andrew Proulx, the program manager of MSEE, Hopkins on the Hill was a chance to show off not only the group’s groundbreaking research, but also MSEE’s workforce development potential. “Hopkins on the Hill was an exciting opportunity to showcase the great research being performed in MSEE to a number of stakeholders,” said Proulx. “From congressional aides and DOD partners to Hopkins alumni, everyone was engaged and excited to meet with our students and learn about our critical research and workforce development activities. I am proud to be a member of MSEE and appreciative of the opportunity to talk with so many folks about the program’s impact.”

A handful of people in formal attire stand together for a group photo

MSEE and CAIMEE researchers and staff at Hopkins on the Hill 2023 (image: Will Kirk)

Four people in business attire discuss research in a large ballroom

Bess Bieluczyk (left) and Rayna Mehta (second from left) discuss CAIMEE’s MEDE+ program with guests. (image: Will Kirk)

A metal plate showing the effects of an impact, with a large crater in the middle

MSEE and CAIMEE researchers used material samples and images to give attendees a glimpse into the compelling work they do every day. (image: Will Kirk)

CAIMEE researchers convene for MEDE+AIMD Review/AMDEE Kickoff

The global community is only beginning to delve into the potential applications for AI, while researchers at the Center on Artificial Intelligence for Materials in Extreme Environments (CAIMEE) are already forging pathways to integrate AI into materials design, testing, and fabrication. 

CAIMEE is leading the effort in these cutting-edge AI applications with three programs: Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments Plus (MEDE+), AI for Materials Design (AIMD), and AI-Driven Integrated and Automated Materials Design for Extreme Environments (AMDEE). These programs represent a collaborative, concerted effort to accelerate and optimize high-throughput materials design.  

On Thursday, May 18, CAIMEE’s leadership, faculty, and staff convened for a series of presentations to review MEDE+ and AIMD’s progress and give an overview of their plans for AMDEE. During this event, principal investigators presented some of their research findings, challenges, and goals to visitors and collaborators from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (DEVCOM ARL). 

Within the MEDE+ and AIMD cooperative agreements, the research faculty and staff at CAIMEE aspire to establish a state-of-the-art laboratory that integrates AI, machine learning, and automation technologies. The AIMD Laboratory is currently being built in the Stieff Silver Building and will feature an automated closed-loop system designed to fabricate, characterize, test, and store material specimens with minimal human interaction. AMDEE will harness the AIMD Laboratory’s capabilities to develop and study alloys that are relevant to DEVCOM ARL’s interests. 

The event highlighted the collaborative nature and wide reach of CAIMEE’s programs. Each program is divided into discrete tasks, with each aspect of the research led by experts from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware. 

Lori Graham-Brady, a professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering, is the director of CAIMEE and associate director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI). Graham-Brady leads the MEDE+, AIMD, and AMDEE research efforts, overseeing collaboration between Johns Hopkins research faculty, postdocs, graduate students, staff, and ARL and University of Delaware partners.  

Principal investigators from Johns Hopkins include Jaafar El-Awady, K.T. Ramesh, Tim Weihs, Todd Hufnagel, Paulette Clancy, David Elbert, Tamer Zaki, Mark Foster, and Axel Krieger. Each team member brings their unique expertise to contribute in areas such as physics-based computational modeling, robotic automation, data management, AI-driven decision making, Bayesian optimization, high-throughput characterization and testing, and fabrication of novel alloy powders.