Army scientists build next-gen armor from scratch

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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUNDS, MD—Examining a three-dimensional x-ray of a rotating soldier’s helmet, Army Research Laboratory (ARL) scientist Dr. Jennifer Sietins examines a mini wall of computer screens to analyze the properties and performance specifications of materials used to develop optimal designs for weapons, vehicles, and other military equipment.

“We analyze information in three dimensions. We can assess the internal structure of that to ultimately improve the performance of the soldier,” said Sietins, materials engineer for the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. national interest in an interview.

The concept is to innovate with combinations and layers of new materials, with the ultimate goal of analyzing their properties. Once performance parameters can be identified, scientists are in a much better position to design the weapons of the future. The process involves analyzing combinations of substances at the microscopic level and creating new, better performing materials.

“We use advanced manufacturing techniques to improve the ballistic shapes of armor,” said Dr. Nicholas Ku, materials engineer in the ARL’s Ceramics and Transparent Materials Branch. national interest in an interview.

“A lot of academic work has shown [that] if you monitor how these composites are joined, you can see how the cracks start. … You can see how the layer structure can make a material stronger,” Ku said.

Since different materials have an array of properties and can be made in different combinations, ARL is able to experiment and seek breakthrough developments in new materials. Perhaps new compound blends can dramatically reduce cracking or penetration in a way that outperforms traditional armor? This could lead to safer or more lethal armored vehicles, stronger helmets, or paradigm-shifting ammunition.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: DVD.

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