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Summary Record of the Workshop on Polymer Materials Research August 30-31, 1999 Woods Hole, Massachusetts Session 1 Overview INTRODUCTORY REMARKS Thomas Munns, associate director of the National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB), opened the meeting. After welcoming the participants, he explained the work and mission of the NMAB and described two activities that could be of interest to the workshop participants: a national forum sponsored by the NMAB on materials and processing, “Materials in the New Millenium: Responding to Society's Needs,” at the National Academy of Sciences on February 8–9, 2000 an NMAB study, Materials Research for Defense-After-Next, that will identify critical materials and processing research and development (R&D) to address twenty-first century defense needs Munns then defined the objectives of the workshop: (1) to provide an opportunity for Air Force scientists to interact with leading researchers in polymer science; and (2) to discuss promising long-range R&D opportunities in polymeric materials with potential aeronautical and space applications. Robert Evers, chief of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Polymer Branch, thanked the participants for their attendance on behalf of the Air Force. He pointed out that, as defense budgets shrink, the importance of identifying priorities and investing wisely increases. This workshop would provide an opportunity for discussions of promising polymer technologies for Air Force investment. MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURING AT THE AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Charles E. Browning (AFRL/Materials Directorate) then reviewed the status of materials research at AFRL. The Materials Laboratory (ML) has an annual budget of $250 million. Its mission includes 6.1 (basic research), 6.2 (applied research), and 6.3 (advanced technology development), and the Manufacturing Technology Program (ManTech). The ML has established several core technology areas (CTAs): polymer science, metals, ceramics, organic composites, nondestructive evaluation, tribology and coatings, materials and processing sensors, laser-hardened materials, and manufacturing technology. The CTAs are intended to support Air Force leadership in several key integrating technology areas (ITAs): air vehicles, space vehicles, sustainment, weapons, and agile combat support. The overall trend will be to increase research on technologies for use in space, at the expense of technologies for aircraft. Browning suggested that space technologies would ultimately be allocated 25 to 30 percent of the research resources. According to Dr. Browning, the main program drivers are (1) space, (2)
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Summary Record of the Workshop on Polymer Materials Research August 30-31, 1999 Woods Hole, Massachusetts sustainment, (3) affordability, (4) the health of the defense industrial base, (5) core strategies, (6) investment guidelines, (7) core technologies, and (8) budget realities. Dr. Browning described four stages in the life cycle of aerospace materials: Stage 1, a revolutionary idea; Stage 2, an emerging material; Stage 3, a specialty material; and Stage 4, a commodity material. The focus of the AFRL programs is to transition technologies from Stage 1 to Stage 2 by (1) demonstrating promising properties, (2) demonstrating processibility at the coupon level, (3) demonstrating scale-up potential, and (4) identifying potential applications. His challenge to the workshop was to identify the next revolutionary materials. Browning identified the following trends that he believed would shape defense materials research in the twenty-first century: The military-unique industrial base will continue to decrease. Military-unique requirements will continue to be very demanding and “push the envelope.” Reliance on the commercial industrial base will continue to increase. Commercial requirements are not likely to push the envelope. Commercial industry will continue to be oriented to near-term results. Computational capabilities will increase exponentially. The emphasis on reducing cycle time will increase. Strategic partnerships will continue to grow in importance. The challenge to the aerospace materials community will be to pursue the development of revolutionary materials that will improve performance while reducing costs. Dr. Browning felt that, even though the overall investment in materials R&D would continue to decrease, the need for revolutionary technologies would increase. Therefore, government investment would be vital. Finally, he believed the key areas for revolutionary advances would be (1) multifunctional materials, (2) self-inspection capabilities, (3) nanostructured materials, (4) molecular engineering, (5) virtual prototyping of materials and processes, (6) bioengineering, (7) computationally derived structures, and (8) virtual databases. TECHNOLOGY FORECAST Wade Adams (chief scientist at the AFRL/ML) explained the priorities and systems-level motivations for R&D. AFRL has an annual science and technology (S&T) budget of about $1.3 billion. The investment philosophy is to (1) emphasize military relevance; (2) identify, track, and leverage commercial developments; and (3) complement other government programs (and avoid duplication). AFRL programs and priorities are driven by user pull (e.g., air and space superiority), technology push (e.g.,
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Summary Record of the Workshop on Polymer Materials Research August 30-31, 1999 Woods Hole, Massachusetts S&T investments that enable revolutionary capabilities), and a desire to be a smart buyer of technology. Dr. Adams reviewed AFRL's successes in the past decade, including smart munitions, precision navigation, airborne warning and control system, global communications, low observables, and the joint surveillance target attack radar system. Some capabilities that could shape the twenty-first century Air Force include: 100-meter space apertures for optics and radar operations aerospace electric power sources of greater than 10 megawatts directed energy technology on-orbit maintenance very high-temperature materials (e.g., materials that can withstand 10,000°C) In Dr. Adams' opinion, polymers could provide revolutionary capabilities in a number of areas: materials for transatmospheric aircraft microelectronics and optoelectronics fiber optics and lasers smart structures lightweight structures advanced wavefront compensation nonlinear adaptive optics membrane materials coatings He felt that the Air Force should provide leadership in defining technology foundations and developing a strategy for developing them.
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