Montana Tech Receives 2.9 Million dollars for Research and Development

The Army Research Lab has awarded Montana Tech funding in the amount of $2,890,000 for research and development. This is the fourth year of funding from the Army Research Lab bringing the total amount to $10,220,205.

This funding will enable Montana Tech to continue developing its research infrastructure at the same time that it contributes to the fundamental and applied knowledge necessary to protect the nation’s warfighters and provide them with the necessary tools to carry out successful campaigns in the field. The research projects undertaken at Montana Tech will engage undergraduate and graduate students in cutting-edge research important to national security and will demonstrate the excitement of being researchers advancing knowledge and technology. In addition, a component of this program places Montana Tech students in local classrooms to inspire elementary, middle, and high school students about science and engineering.

"Montana Tech’s world class research and development is preparing the next generation of industry leaders and strengthening our national security,” Senator Jon Tester said. “These funds will allow the students and faculty at Montana Tech to continue this critical research project and help Butte remain a destination for the best and brightest engineering students in the nation.”

"This project and its funding are helping Montana Tech apply and build research capacity in a broad range of important materials science and engineering specialties – from nanotechnology to additive manufacturing to ceramics, recycling and more,” said Dr. Beverly Hartline, Vice Chancellor for Research at Montana Tech. "Much of this research is being done by Materials Science Ph.D. students at Montana Tech, with master’s and undergraduate students, who will gain valuable experience in the process. Their advances are essential to the effectiveness and protection of American warfighters and produce key technologies for economic development. We thank Senator Tester for his continued strong leadership in securing these investments."

Montana Tech has six projects funded under this grant. The projects are:

Polymer-Based Functional Materials by Design: This project is led by Jack L. Skinner, Ph.D. in the Mechanical Engineering department at Montana Tech. Co-investigators on the project are: Katie Hailer, Ph.D., Chemistry & Geochemistry; Dario Prieto, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering; and Wataru Nakagawa, Ph.D., Electrical and Computer Engineering at Montana State University. The long-term goal of this task is to understand nanoscale phenomena leading to enhanced materials and devices for use by the U.S. Army. The project uses electrospinning (ES) to create materials and devices with desirable functions, such as drug delivery and war fighter protection. Fiber sizes ranging from 10s of nanometers to 10s of microns can be fabricated at Montana Tech's Nanotechnology Laboratory (MTNL), which will be moving soon into a clean room facility in the new Natural Resource Research Center.
Innovations in Materials Processing and Additive Manufacturing: This project is led Ronald White, Ph.D., Center for Advanced Mineral, Metallurgical and Materials Processing (CAMP) at Montana Tech along with co-investigators: Jeffrey Braun, M.S., Computer Science; Ronda Coguill, M.S., CAMP; K.V. Sudhakar, Ph.D., Metallurgical & Materials Engineering; along with General Engineering faculty: Scott Coguill, M.S.; Peter Lucon, Ph.D. P.E.; Bruce Madigan, Ph.D., and Brahmananda Pramanik, Ph.D. This project takes advantage of Montana Tech’s expertise in advanced materials processing, joining, simulation, and additive manufacturing to help the Army develop field-deployable capabilities in advanced, real-time manufacturing. This research directly supports the Army's vision to produce low-cost, light-weight and high-performance mission components at small lot sizes on demand and in the field.
Materials by Design: Non-oxide Ceramic Materials, Sintering, and Rare Earths: This project is led by Jerome P. Downey, Ph.D., P.E., Materials Science Program Director and faculty member in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering. This project continues research to synthesize sub-micron powders of tungsten carbide, molybdenum carbide, and silicon carbide. Potential applications for the carbides will be investigated, including determining whether their powders are amenable to the cold-spray manufacturing technology. A new effort will evaluate the potential of X-aerogels to increase warfighter survivability by virtue of their superior thermal insulation and thermal regulation qualities. Aerogels are highly porous gels in which the water portion is replaced by a gas. Development of improved insulation for clothing, shelters, and vehicles used by the warfighter will be emphasized.
Advanced Processing Technologies: Raw Materials and Spent Materials Scavenged from Environment/Processes for Recycle and Energy Purposes: This project is led by Courtney A. Young, Ph.D., Metallurgical & Materials Engineering with co-investigators from the Metallurgical & Materials Engineering Department: William Gleason, Ph.D.; Hsin Huang, Ph.D.; and Avimanyu Das, Ph.D. This task is predominantly centered on resource conservation and environmental restoration, a focus that complements the purpose of expeditionary manufacturing. Specifically, the project involves recovering and recycling water and various materials from military scrapyards with a focus on the forward operating base. Although this task will involve a comprehensive examination of the recycling requirements of military scrapyards, our studies will focus on brass, plastics and water bottles in the coming year.
Metal Casting Imaging and Verification: This project is led by Bryce E. Hill, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering; and co-investigator Charles A. Monroe, Ph.D., Materials Science & Engineering, University of Alabama, Birmingham. This project focuses on enabling the success of agile manufacturing by developing appropriate sensors to validate process and quality in real time, during the manufacturing process, rather than relying on post-manufacturing nondestructive testing. Technologies that are incorporated into this approach include vision systems, novel temperature sensing, and wireless data communication and analysis. The manufacturing environment is inhospitable for many sensors due to high temperatures, abrasive media, high velocities, caustic atmospheres, etc. Manufacturing controls are generally set in place to maintain operating conditions not to ensure part performance. This project focuses on the development of instrumentation for metal casting. The project is developing a method to instrument and record casting data during and after pouring.
Computational Routes to Functional Material by Design: This new project is led by J. David Hobbs, Ph.D., Chemistry Department and co-investigator Bowen Deng, Ph.D., Computer Science. Current and future agile materials and manufacturing sciences demand computational design tools that include material properties, as well as processing and thermodynamic parameters. High-performance computers (HPC) and material modeling codes coupled with atomic-level structural and spectroscopic experimental methods offer accurate and relatively inexpensive routes to a fundamental understanding of structural, electronic, photonic, and energy materials and devices. This task is collaborating with the experimental work, and it includes the applying and further developing structure and electronic methods for simulations of a broad range of materials: crystalline, metallic, polymeric, amorphous and/or composite materials. Ultimately the goal is to have reasonable methods for predicting microstructure and electronic properties, and much greater reliability of microstructure-based predictions of mechanical properties.
The Center for Advanced Mineral & Metallurgical Processing (CAMP)—Montana Tech’s center for excellence in materials science and engineering—is providing overall management and coordination of the project. For more information, please contact Dr. Ronald White at 406-496-4342.