Engineering Solutions Through Advanced Materials

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is conducting innovative research on advanced materials and manufacturing technologies that will play a vital role in both civilian and military applications.

Researchers in ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) are focusing on key areas such as Civil and Military Engineering, Blast and Weapons Effects on Structures and Geomaterials and Military Installations and Infrastructure.

Dr. Robert Moser, ERDC's Senior Scientific Technical Manager, discusses advanced materials and experimental testing capabilities with USACE District personnel. (USACE photo by Dr. Robert Moser)
Dr. Robert Moser, ERDC’s Senior Scientific Technical Manager, discusses advanced materials and experimental testing capabilities with USACE District personnel. (USACE photo by Dr. Robert Moser)

“ERDC is one of the key research and development (R&D) organizations in the Department of Defense (DoD),” said Dr. Robert Moser, Senior Scientific Technical Manager with GSL, adding that ERDC is also one of four Science and Technology labs within the DoD that contributes mission-critical competencies.”

Within ERDC’s core competency of Blast and Weapons Effects on Structures and Geomaterials, researchers are working to utilize advanced materials technologies to protect the Warfighter from a range of threats. These materials range from concrete and geomaterials to advanced metals and composites. Unique experiments conducted at ERDC support these research activities and assist in the development of advanced computational models that aid in designing new materials and engineering their applications in infrastructure systems.

“Making true advancements and innovation in these fields requires a unique combination of disciplines— from materials science to structural engineers and computational modeling,” said Moser.

Another military engineering research area at ERDC focuses on force projection and maneuver support technologies – how military and support systems maneuver from place to place.  ERDC engineers develop steel or concrete structures to protect Soldiers, facilities and critical infrastructure, while researchers analyze the materials necessary to make rapid infrastructure repairs or upgrade the capacity to support future operations. Such systems include rapid bridging, port construction and new lightweight material technologies.

Dr. Travis Thornell, research physical scientist with ERDC's Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, conducts research on polymers and polymer composites. (USACE photo by Shelley Tingle)
Dr. Travis Thornell, research physical scientist with ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, conducts research on polymers and polymer composites. (USACE photo by Shelley Tingle)

Infrastructure is not only important on military installations, but it is also vital for civil applications such as dams, levees and hydropower projects. Current issues like an increase in natural disasters, aging infrastructure and future modernization requirements to support economic competitiveness are often underpinned by advancements in materials that support improved sustainability and resilience of critical infrastructure systems.

“We enhance our ability to accomplish the mission by making our systems more sustainable and resilient,” said Moser.

From the sustainability perspective, the goal is to minimize waste of materials and energy use, which can be accomplished by using local and indigenous resources and less fuel. Resilience applies to maintaining or accomplishing the mission under any adversity.

To carry out this mission-essential work, ERDC relies on a strong network of partners across the government, industry and academia. Additionally, growing a future workforce with the STEM skills needed to support critical DoD research is another key factor in mission success. From STEM outreach events and local schools/universities training students, Moser said that the work accomplished at ERDC wouldn’t be possible without the support and collaboration of its partners.

“The ecosystem that is developing here is really exciting as we work to align with strategic initiatives across ERDC and the entire Corps of Engineers,” said Moser. “All of these new innovations and how we integrate them across our missions will help us solve the Nation’s toughest problems.”

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