Since 2012, the Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments Collaborative Research Alliance (MEDE CRA) is working with the United States Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory (DEVCOM ARL) to research extreme environment materials. They aim to create materials that will protect soldiers and equipment from weapons that are appearing, and may appear in the future, in combat.
In a recent article published by SIGNAL, Sikhanda Satapathy, collaborative agreement manager of the MEDE CRA, says that the materials being researched (metals, ceramics, and composites) will need to withstand military conditions, which are more extreme in pressure, stress, and strain rate than the conditions that arise in commercial use. These materials will also need to be minimal in weight to reduce the strain on soldiers, improve mobility, and maximize fuel efficiency.
The metal research is focused on reducing weight, so the ARL is examining magnesium, one of the lightest structural metals available. Because it is lower in strength and has inherent failure mechanisms, research is centered on identifying and ameliorating these failure mechanisms. Another prong of the research is to develop a magnesium alloy strong enough to avoid these failure mechanisms, and the knowledge gained from the creation of the alloy will also apply to research of other metals, such as aluminum and steel.
Ceramics are five times as strong but also five times more brittle than metal. The ceramics research, a collaboration between the ARL and MEDE CRA members Johns Hopkins and Rutgers University, is focused on achieving a high hardness level and high tensile strength for the material. One approach is to use boron carbide as a ceramic material and to strengthen its crystal structure with molecular materials, given its amorphous shear tendency that reduces the material’s crystal integrity. Doping the boron carbide with silicon reduces the shear tendency but also reduces strength; adding titanium diboride eliminates the reduction of strength. They are looking at ways to scale production for larger samples for further testing.
Composite research is conducted by the ARL and MEDE CRA member, the University of Delaware, and is focused on examining a glass-epoxy composite’s tendency for failure. Coating individual fibers chemically can help prevent the fiber from failing. By adding different materials to the composite, they strengthened the composites and are now looking to scale production to create larger samples for further testing.
Learn more about the materials being researched here.
Learn more about DEVCOM ARL here.