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Protecting Our Military and Our Everyday Lives Through Material Science

Mechanical Engineering Professor Receives Award from the Army's Young Investigator Program

Composite non-metal materials are becoming a bigger part of our lives every day, and the lives of our military. Temporary housing and other structures in combat areas, automobiles, steel and other rigid materials (such as concrete) are being replaced by lighter, more easily adaptable materials. However, these materials must still perform at the protective level of rigid materials. This is especially true in combat areas where composite textile materials used in construction may be subject to explosions and other severe impacts while troops are inside.

YIPAward To better understand how these materials may perform and be improved, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Lab, through its Army Research Office (ARO) asked for proposals under its Young Investigator Program (YIP) to quantify how much energy composites can safely absorb. Professor Kedar Kirane of the Department of Mechanical Engineering submitted the winning proposal. He will receive a grant of $359,000 over three years to study and predict the ability of composites to withstand blasts and other impacts.

“The ability of rigid materials, such as concrete and steel, to withstand blast and other catastrophic events is well-understood. Not so with composites,” said Professor Kirane. “Dissipation of the energy absorbed based on the material’s cracking rate and branching of cracks is key to understanding how well these materials perform. Additionally, in composites, complications arise since branching of cracks can often imply a transition to a different failure mechanism. Capturing these transitions is key to correctly predicting the energy absorption.”

“Protecting our military in at-risk situations is a critically important mission,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Through his successful proposal for the YIP award, Professor Kirane and Stony Brook will be an important part of that mission. Given the increasing usage of composites in everyday life, the findings will likely have broader application beyond the military.”

“The development of models that can predict damage and crack propagation in advanced materials such as textile composites when subjected to severe conditions will lead to significant advancements for future Army vehicles and soldier protection systems,” said Dr. Ralph Anthenien, Solid Mechanics Chief, Mechanical Sciences Division, Army Research Office.

Professor Kirane previously worked on the performance of composites in automobile crashes. Based on this and his other materials experience, he is creating a computer model that will capture crack branching and the transitions in failure mechanisms, and demonstrate how these materials will perform under relevant scenarios, particularly impact/blast. This model will be a valuable tool for designing composite structures for reliable protection of personnel and infrastructure against impact, blast or crash type loads.

 -Dick Wolfe