Feature Article - Atoms to armor

mar13_2013

Time-release sequence of an armor piercing projectile impacting a boron carbide armor test tile. The dark strike face is boron carbide. The lighter layer is a backing material. “Atoms to armor” — Army invests in basic research to design new materials By Eileen De Guire A s far back as 1997, the Department of Defense top brass challenged its researchers to adopt computational methods for advanced materials design—an “atoms to armor” approach. Time has shown that the idea was sound. However, 15 years ago, considerable foundational work needed to be done (see sidebar, “Evolution of materials by design”). Those gaps in the foundational work have since closed, and last spring the Army Research Laboratory (ARL; Adelphi, Md.) established a program that integrates all of the ARL multiscale basic science research on materials into one cohesive effort. Called the “Enterprise for Multiscale Research of Materials (EMRM),” the program integrates all of the multiscale basic science research on materials into one cohesive effort and adopts a materials by design approach to engineering material structure, properties, and performance for armor and electronic materials of strategic interest to the Army. In April 2012, ARL awarded an approximately $120 million, potential 10-year project, to two university-based “collaborative research alliances” that engage the talents and resources of more than a dozen research universities. The Enterprise also includes an inhouse ARL research component. Assuming no unforeseen budget cuts, this is the first sustained Army basic research program in protection materials of this size and structure. Among the first to champion the materials by design concept was Jim McCauley (FACerS, Distinguished Life Member, and past president), ARL Fellow and chief scientist in materials at ARL. We asked McCauley to tell us more about the Enterprise, its goals, organization, and the materials science it will drive. Q. Why do we need an Enterprise for Multiscale Research of Materials program? A. Materials are ubiquitous in all Army materiel. The performance and function of every Army system is determined by the underlying properties of the materials that compose them. In turn, the properties of the materials themselves are a product of the hierarchy of structures found within. From atoms, to molecules, to crystals, to grains, to laminates, etc., the final performance of any system is a “sum of the parts” of the underlying physics down to the smallest level. Today, when we design new systems and platforms, all of these scales come along for the ride (Figure 1). Unfortunately, most of these scales are not accounted for by designers, and, as a result, the potential to gain extraordinary improvements through effective design and control remains untapped. Enabling the design of these hierarchical materials structures in concert with the overall design and function of the system will allow for transformational gains in the performance of Army materiel. This forms the foundation (Credit: W. Gooch, ARL.) Armor piercing projectile in B4C B4C Backing 26 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 92, No. 2


mar13_2013
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