Army Research Lab Awards Montana Tech $2,750,000

The Army Research Lab (ARL) has awarded Montana Tech funding in the amount of $2,750,000 for research and development. This is the fifth year of funding from ARL, bringing the total amount to nearly $13 million for a broad range of forefront research on materials processing.
The project, Materials Technology: Science and Engineering Research for the Army (MT-SERA), is managed by Montana Tech’s Center for Advanced Mineral, Metallurgical, and Materials Processing (CAMP). It focuses on addressing the Army’s need for targeted materials research and development (R&D) to advance knowledge and transform the affordability, performance, adaptability, and environmental sustainability of materials needed to protect American warfighters and improve national security and military effectiveness.

Since 2015, Montana Tech has been funded for research on Nanomaterials; Additive Manufacturing; Strategic Materials; and Computational Modeling of Materials. Two new tasks will be started with this new funding: water purification for expeditionary campaigns and creating catalysts capable of neutralizing highly-toxic chemical warfare agents. Tech’s research helps with waste minimization, cost reduction and affordability, reduction in weight and size, environmental sustainability, substitution for strategic materials of limited availability, ability to produce components on or near the battlefield, and the use of advanced modeling and simulation. The research and associated knowledge and skills are being integrated into academic programs and courses at the bachelor’s and graduate levels to prepare diverse students for materials-related careers that contribute to national and global security.

“This funding recognizes the excellent research progress and accomplishments in materials science and engineering made to date by Montana Tech’s students and faculty. We very much appreciate ARL’s continued confidence in our capabilities and performance, along with Senator Jon Tester’s strong support,” said Beverly Hartline, Vice Chancellor for Research. “We look forward to growing and advancing the fruitful collaborations with Army researchers initiated through the MT-SERA project, to helping American warfighters maintain and increase their capabilities, to partnering with industry, and to involving more Montana young people in this vital and fast-moving technology field.”

“Montana Tech is developing cutting edge technology that will strengthen our national security and protect our troops from contaminated water,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “These investments will pay dividends for generations to come.”

Montana Tech’s first two materials science Ph.D. graduates in spring 2018 did their doctoral research funded by ARL—respectively on separation of strategic rare-earth metals and on novel materials for photovoltaic energy generation. Numerous other Ph.D. students, master’s students, and undergraduates are also involved, along with about 15 faculty members in several departments. As part of the collaboration with ARL, two Montana Tech undergraduates have had summer internships at ARL in Aberdeen, Maryland, mentored by army researchers, who are collaborating with Tech. This fall the campus launched a new master of science degree in materials science and engineering, complementing the doctoral program.

“This award enables Montana Tech to continue to build and develop its materials science programs into nationally-recognized graduate programs that are contributing effectively to our military effectiveness and national security,” said Ronald White, Professor and Director of CAMP.

The new funding supports seven research tasks: Synthesis and Processing of Functional Polymer Materials; Metal and Polymer Alloyed Additive Manufacturing Processing; Materials by Design: Synthesis and Sintering of Ceramic and Composite Materials; Metal Casting Instrumentation and High-Temperature Sensing for In-situ Process Verification; Computational Routes to Functional Materials by Design; Advanced Technology for Expeditionary Water Purification; and Destruction of Chemical Warfare Agents.

Descriptions of each research project are as follows:
1. Synthesis and Processing of Functional Polymer Materials uses electrospinning to produce materials that can be applied to electric combat vehicles and wearable electronics, for efficient energy conversion, sensors for equipment or monitoring of soldier surroundings, and equipment for on-site fabrication of materials with high-strength and flexibility.
Lead Investigator: Jack L. Skinner, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering
Co-Investigator: Dario Prieto, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

2. Metal and Polymer Alloyed Additive Manufacturing Processing focuses on developing two important capabilities: replacing a typical single-alloy powder with a custom alloy blend uniquely designed for the printed part; and combining powders to produce a custom-engineered alloy with the unique properties and characteristics required for the use.
Lead Investigator: Peter Lucon, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

3. Materials by Design: Synthesis and Sintering of Ceramic and Composite Materials focuses on synthesizing ceramic and composite materials with unique characteristics responsive to Army needs.
Lead Investigator: Jerome P. Downey, Ph.D., P.E., Metallurgical & Materials Engineering

4. Metal Casting Instrumentation and High-Temperature Sensing for In-situ Process Verification is developing the instrumentation required to validate the process of manufacturing metal castings in the field at the point of need.
Lead Investigator: Bryce E. Hill, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering
Co-Investigator: Charles A. Monroe, Ph.D., University of Alabama, Birmingham

5. Computational Routes to Functional Material by Design uses Montana Tech’s High-Performance Computer (HPC) and material modeling codes coupled with atomic-level experimental methods to develop and apply accurate and relatively inexpensive routes to gain a fundamental understanding of structural, electronic, and photonic properties for design of new materials and devices.
Investigator: Bowen Deng, Ph.D., Computer Science

6. Advanced Technology for Expeditionary Water Purification is a new project focused on developing technologies for purifying water on expeditionary campaigns. It includes two sub-tasks: developing point-of-need capability for producing drinking water filters that remove bacteria and protozoa; and developing an electrochemical process for removing salt and other dissolved contaminants.
Lead Investigator: Katherine R. Zodrow, Ph.D., Environmental Engineering
Co-Investigator: Daqian Jiang, Ph.D., Environmental Engineering

7. Destruction of Chemical Warfare Agents focuses on creating catalytic materials with well-defined surface structures capable of neutralizing the highly toxic, easily dispersed, and environmentally long-lasting organophosphate compounds used in chemical warfare agents.
Lead Investigator: Dario Prieto, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering
Co-Investigators: Jack L. Skinner, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering and Katie Hailer, Ph.D., Chemistry and Geochemistry

For more information about this award, please contact Ron White at or 406-496-4342.

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