With military research into nanomaterials, the future looks light

Breakthrough work being led by the Army Research Lab and DARPA could revolutionize jet engines and microelectronics.

The military of the future, in addition to the well-known goal of being better connected, will also be a lot lighter, if current work by researchers comes to fruition. Lighter aircraft, for example, could be faster and more agile while requiring less fuel. As for the electronics carried, or worn, by troops in the field, the lighter the better.

Two examples involve breakthrough work being led by the Army Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, one involving nanomaterials that could boost engine technology, the other developing previously unattainable ultrathin materials by creating them at room temperature.

The ARL project is focusing on finding new materials that can withstand the heat levels—up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit—found in jet turbine engines. The research team managed to stabilize a copper alloy microstructure capable of resisting what’s called “creep response,” which refers to how materials lose their form under the stress of very high temperatures.

The result surprised researchers, to say the least. "What we're seeing is a revolutionary property arising in a class of materials that we never thought was possible," Dr. Kristopher A. Darling, a materials scientist with the laboratory's Lightweight and Specialty Metals Branch, said in an ARL release. "Normally this wouldn't happen," he said.

Darling acknowledged that copper isn’t typically the type of material that would be used in a turbine engine, but said, "If we could do this in other materials like nickel, cobalt or tantalum, it would definitely have a chance of revolutionizing engine technology.”

Darling, who with his team published the results earlier this month in Nature magazine, said that the initial results were so startling that he reached out to colleagues at the University of North Texas and Arizona State University for a second opinion. After some initial skepticism—the results were something that should not happen, according to what has been known in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology in metals—researchers saw the value in what was happening and the team set out on some more exhaustive studies.

"A lot of times unique discoveries are made by accident or by sheer luck, and this was one of those cases where we started to probe the material and we didn't see the response that we were expecting," Darling said.

The team plans to continue research toward maximizing the property, with an eye toward potentially revolutionizing engine technology, which Darling noted could have significant civilian as well as military applications.

DARPA, meanwhile, has been looking to lower the heat involved in synthesizing ultrathin materials, bringing what’s required for the process from 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 degrees F) down to room temperature.

That temperature requirement has prevented the development of thin-film microelectronics, because the heat caused many of the components to lose their functionality. The ability to perform the same process at room temperature could lead to new materials at the atomic level.

The process, called electron-enhanced atomic layer deposition (EE-ALD) was developed at the University of Colorado under the DARPA-led Local Control of Materials Synthesis, or LoCo, program.

The program kicked off in 2012 with the goal of finding low-temperature methods for creating thin films. CU’s research, conducted in collaboration with the Naval Research Laboratory and National Institute of Standards and Technology, has advanced to the point that researchers are now looking to scale the process to larger substrates, leading to significant advances in microelectronics.

“Looking forward, the EE-ALD approach could serve not just as a tool for integrating incompatible materials but also more generally to build and etch device architectures at atomic scales, an increasingly important capability as circuit geometries shrink,” said Tyler McQuade, DARPA program manager.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.