The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $30 million, five-year grant to Johns Hopkins to lead an alliance of major research institutions in an effort to understand, predict, and control the behavior of materials in extreme conditions caused by weapons of mass destruction. The Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE URA) will be a center, located in HEMI, directed by HEMI Fellow Professor Timothy Weihs (Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering). Professor Todd Hufnagel, a HEMI Fellow hailing from the same department, will serve as associate director.
The MSEE URA, established by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), will “advance the fundamental understanding of materials and chemistries under extreme conditions of pressure, temperature, and radiation.” It is an alliance consisting of 18 institutions and 40 PIs, all led by Johns Hopkins University. Together, they will seek to mitigate the threats posed by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by studying how materials behave and chemistries evolve under the extreme and complex conditions associated with these weapons of mass destruction.
This award creates the second major university consortium based at Johns Hopkins and funded by the Department of Defense in recent years. The first is the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments (CMEDE), which is also located within HEMI.
Such cooperative efforts enable researchers from across the nation to collaborate more effectively, to deliver results faster, and “to train, mentor, and inspire a new generation of students, many of whom will go on to work at federal laboratories and agencies,” Weihs said.
As an expert in developing novel materials to defeat chemical warfare agents, Weihs will take on the role of directing the center and working collaboratively with technical experts within the alliance to manage the consortium.
The research is expected to advance the types of materials that are capable of eliminating stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons while limiting the collateral damage of such defensive actions. The urgency of developing more efficient materials to defeat such weapons has been amplified by the worldwide health and economic damage inflicted in just a few weeks by COVID-19.