U.S. Army Research Laboratory
Unmanned vehicle

Computer Modeling Provides Material Insights

April 14, 2020
Research by ARL on composite materials is showing strong possibilities for carbon-nanotube-based structures that can provide unique characteristics to unmanned vehicles.

Materials are well known in electronic design as part of printed circuit boards (PCBs) and miniature packages for components and semiconductors. But finding out more about how materials bond is leading to the potential development of rugged composites that could make much more rugged military vehicles, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).  

Work by U.S. Army researchers unveiled in the scientific journal Polymer is offering polymers filled with carbon nanotubes as a building-block material—not only for protective gear and clothing for soldiers, but also for constructing ruggedized UAVs and UGVs and improving how the unmanned vehicles dissipate energy.

Working at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and assisted by collaborators at the Massachusetts InstitUAVute of Technology (MIT) and Drexel University, a research team led by the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is using computer modeling to predict the progression of different materials when combined.

“Our motivation for this research is that there could potentially be a use, as matrix material, for incorporation into lightweight composites in unmanned vehicle systems,” said Dr. Yelena R. Sliozberg, a computational materials scientist at the laboratory.

Polyurethanes are composite materials used in a wide range of applications, including as coatings, foams and solid elastomers. They are often used to bond layers of glass and serve as vision blocks on the side windows of tactical vehicles. The research team felt that new composite materials might also help to toughen the tactical vehicles and extend their usable working lifetimes.

“In contrast to traditional thermoset composite performance, poly(urethaneurea) elastomers are far less brittle, and they offer unparalleled control over material architecture,” sid Sliozberg. “Carbon nanotube/polymer composites have desirable electrical and thermal characteristics that exhibit behaviors superior to conventional fiber materials.” The research team hopes to learn more about the architectures of the composite materials and convert the computer simulations to real-world material processing, perhaps with the aid of 3D printing techniques.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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