Illinois-led Project Garners $6.25 Million DoD Grant
Both the electronic components of your cell phone and the explosive portions of military weaponry could be better protected by the smarter materials that scientists including AE Profs. John Lambros and Philippe H. Geubelle plan to design.
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $6.25 million grant for the University of Illinois-led project, “Design of Adaptive Load Mitigating Materials Using Nonlinear Stress Wave Tailoring.” The DoD’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) will provide $1.25 million annually for five years to support the work.
Calling the project “ambitious,” Lambros said the team wants to control the microstructure of materials that encase critical components. If the equipment is dropped or otherwise damaged, the casing material would channel resulting stress waves to desired locations and away from areas most needing protection.
“If you drop a cell phone, you don’t want the interior components damaged so you don’t want the stress waves to reach the interior. Instead, a smart casing would trap and annihilate the waves and mitigate impact effects,” Lambros said.
Likewise, such casings would result in munitions being more insensitive to impact loading, making weapons handling safer for people and equipment, he said.
In addition to Lambros, the principal investigator of the project, and Geubelle, other Illinois researchers involved in the project are Profs. Alexander F. Vakakis and Daniel A. Tortorelli of Mechanical Science and Engineering, and Prof. Waltraud M. Kriven of Materials Science and Engineering. Joining them will be Chiara Daraio, an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics from the California Institute of Technology.
It’s clear to the team that more than one material will be needed to achieve the desired results. “We’ll need a combination of materials in a heterogeneous composite system,” Lambros said.
Vakakis and Daraio will begin by looking at the fundamental physics resulting from model experiments on simpler systems such as granular materials that include plastic and metal components.
Using the knowledge Vakakis and Daraio gain, Totorelli and Geubelle will do design and optimization work through computer simulation. Kriven will use the simulations to develop new processing methods and new materials, including granular materials, ceramics and geopolymers – inorganic, lightweight materials that don’t have to be heated to high temperatures to be made, but that are hard and durable like ceramics.
Lambros will do experimental mechanics testing and oversee the entire project, which also will require the work of a dozen graduate students and three postdoctoral research associates.
The Army Research Office (ARO), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) conducted the 2009 MURI competition for the DoD. ARO will oversee the Lambros team’s work.
The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline in order to accelerate both research progress and transition of research results to application. Most MURI efforts involve researchers from multiple academic institutions and academic departments. Selection was highly competitive: a total of 152 proposals were submitted and 41 were funded.