Executive Summary

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requested that the National Research Council (NRC), through the National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB), conduct a study to identify and prioritize critical needs for materials and processing research and development (R&D) to meet 21st-century defense needs. NMAB established the Committee on Materials Research for Defense After Next in the fall of 1999.

The committee identified DoD materials needs (described in Chapter 1) and explored the revolutionary defense capabilities that could result from R&D in five classes of materials:

  • Structural and multifunctional materials,

  • Energy and power materials,

  • Electronic and photonic materials,

  • Functional organic and hybrid materials, and

  • Bioderived and bioinspired materials.

Due to the breadth of these materials areas, the committee established a separate panel to address each one; each panel produced a separate chapter (Chapters 3 through 7) that contains research priorities for its area (cross-referenced to other panel chapters as necessary). Each of these chapters begins with a summary that describes the panel’s scope, DoD needs addressed, and R&D priorities identified. Chapter 8 integrates the R&D priorities from all five materials areas and presents the committee’s R&D recommendations.



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Executive Summary The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requested that the National Research Council (NRC), through the National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB), conduct a study to identify and prioritize critical needs for materials and processing research and development (R&D) to meet 21st-century defense needs. NMAB established the Committee on Materials Research for Defense After Next in the fall of 1999. The committee identified DoD materials needs (described in Chapter 1) and explored the revolutionary defense capabilities that could result from R&D in five classes of materials: Structural and multifunctional materials, Energy and power materials, Electronic and photonic materials, Functional organic and hybrid materials, and Bioderived and bioinspired materials. Due to the breadth of these materials areas, the committee established a separate panel to address each one; each panel produced a separate chapter (Chapters 3 through 7) that contains research priorities for its area (cross-referenced to other panel chapters as necessary). Each of these chapters begins with a summary that describes the panel’s scope, DoD needs addressed, and R&D priorities identified. Chapter 8 integrates the R&D priorities from all five materials areas and presents the committee’s R&D recommendations.

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The committee recognized that realizing the revolutionary new defense capabilities that materials science and engineering offer will depend on more than just R&D; innovative management will also be needed to reduce risks in translating fundamental research into practical materials, and to promote cross-fertilization of scientific fields (e.g., biology and materials science) that heretofore have had little experience or contact with one another. Chapter 2 discusses these issues and presents the committee’s recommendation for needed innovations in management. This report describes the most promising areas for materials research and the systems that can benefit from them over the next 20 years. While these areas of research are expected to pay off handsomely for DoD, many of their benefits are likely to be evolutionary. However, the impact of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II reminds us that failure to invest in more speculative areas of research that involve extremely high risk but have comparably high potential payoff could lead to just the sort of technological surprises that DoD wishes to avoid. Therefore, the research opportunities identified in the present report should be addressed in addition to ensuring continued research at the forefront of physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science. Though this basic research may not result in technologies that are ready for deployment in 2020, it will provide the seeds for potentially revolutionary technologies to be realized later in the 21st century. RECOMMENDATIONS Management Processes Discussions within the committee and its panels raised important questions about materials R&D management processes that affect all the broad areas of materials applications: How can emerging and future materials advances be better communicated to defense acquisition personnel who make technical decisions about the design of systems, subsystems, and components? How can technical decision makers in government and industry better communicate to materials researchers critical system, subsystem, and component engineering opportunities where existing materials limit system performance, so that the opportunities can be addressed by materials not yet in service?

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How can materials R&D be structured so that proper attention is paid to the complete set of functional characteristics a material must have to be put into service and perform successfully? How can materials R&D funds be deployed so as to reduce the time for a new material to progress from discovery or invention to service? How can government-funded materials R&D programs be prioritized to leverage commercial industrial materials R&D? Addressing these questions can enhance the effectiveness of materials R&D in bringing promising materials from concept to service. To enable that effort, the committee offers the following recommendation. RECOMMENDATION 1. TO ACCELERATE THE TRANSITION OF MATERIALS FROM CONCEPT TO SERVICE, The Department of Defense (DoD) should budget research-to-development transition funds and devise a method to select early the materials advances on which to concentrate funds. DoD should adopt measures to enhance communication between materials researchers and users. DoD should make investments to organize and populate databases that describe the physical properties and attributes of materials to complement and validate materials computer modeling, and to facilitate communication among researchers and engineers at the system, subsystem, and component levels. Materials Research The committee examined a broad range of materials research areas, from bioderived materials for wound healing to high-temperature structural materials for advanced jet engines and materials for advanced explosives and propellants. Despite this diversity, the committee was able to condense the results of its analysis into the following recommendations: RECOMMENDATION 2. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SHOULD MAKE RESEARCH INVESTMENTS IN THE DESIGN OF MATERIALS, DEVICES, AND SYSTEMS ASSISTED BY COMPUTATION AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL MODELS OF MATERIALS AND MATERIALS BEHAVIOR.

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Early man developed and refined processes for melting and shaping metals and their alloys through exhaustive trial-and-error approaches extending over millennia, giving rise to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Such trial-and-error processes have continued into modern times, for example, the protracted search for an acceptable electric light bulb material, which culminated in the tungsten filament. Today’s breathtaking improvement in computational power enables materials scientists to move beyond trial and error and predict certain structures from first principles. Indeed, in some cases, such as energetic materials, computational approaches are leading experiments in new materials synthesis and are reducing the time required to discover and apply new materials. Used with phenomenological models to help identify and predict the characteristics and behavior of potentially revolutionary materials, advanced computational approaches offer a rapid and powerful means for discovery. The staggering potential benefits for DoD include: Improved ability to predict and select new materials, Design of materials with extreme properties, Improved design processes for structural composites, Protection of personnel and materiel against battlefield lasers, Improved materials for power generation, and Improved ability to predict and extend component life. RECOMMENDATION 3. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SHOULD MAKE RESEARCH INVESTMENTS THAT PROMOTE CONVERGENCE, COMBINATION, AND INTEGRATION OF BIOLOGICAL, ORGANIC, SEMICONDUCTOR, PHOTONIC, AND STRUCTURAL MATERIALS. Convergence, combination, and integration are major themes for defense systems of the future. History has shown that major advances often occur at the points of convergence among disparate areas, whether in terms of broad fields of endeavor (e.g., chemistry, physics, and biology) or more specific areas (e.g., lithography and microsystems). These themes become apparent in the following R&D areas that the committee judged to be the most promising examples: Convergence between materials science and biology, New combinations of materials,

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Organic/inorganic composites, Integration of function in microsystems, Multifunctional materials, Preservation of biological function in devices, Organic materials for electronics and computing, Materials damage detection, and Materials processing and characterization. RECOMMENDATION 4. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SHOULD MAKE RESEARCH INVESTMENTS THAT PROMOTE DISCOVERY AND CHARACTERIZATION OF NEW MATERIALS WITH UNIQUE OR SUBSTANTIALLY IMPROVED PROPERTIES (BY 50 PERCENT OVER CURRENT PROPERTIES). DoD systems of 2020 would benefit significantly from the discovery, development, and application of materials with properties that either are unique or considerably exceed those of today’s materials. DoD weapon systems and platforms must be lethal and sustainable, and they must enhance the survivability of the user. These requirements drive new materials discovery. Reducing volume and mass while enhancing functionality are key drivers for enhanced system performance. Munitions must be more compact; power and energy sources must have higher densities; armor must be lighter while providing equivalent or enhanced protection; platform structure should be lighter but remain strong in order to increase payload; and electronic and optical communication systems must be smaller and lighter while adding capability and bandwidth. All of these are tangible system requirements that depend on substantially improved new materials for use in subsystems, device components, and subcomponents. The most promising examples of such materials include: Tunable materials for infrared countermeasures, Improved organic photovoltaic materials, High-quantum-efficiency electroluminescent materials, Improved energetic materials, Improved optical materials, Agents that identify and interdict pathogens, Materials for efficient ultraviolet lasers and detector media, and Improved membranes.

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RECOMMENDATION 5. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SHOULD MAKE INVESTMENTS IN RESEARCH LEADING TO NEW STRATEGIES FOR THE PROCESSING, MANUFACTURE, INSPECTION, AND MAINTENANCE OF MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS. Discovery of the structures and properties of novel materials and combinations of materials and integration of functionalities provide the seed for new and far-ranging DoD capabilities. This will likely require expert intuition, advanced computational methods, and combinatorial materials science. Miniaturized or highly parallel chemical reaction systems could be used to process novel materials for study or to create materials that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to process in bulk. However, such an approach is only the starting point for introducing new materials into systems. Indeed, these materials must first be processed and demonstrated successfully in the laboratory on a small scale before there can be practical and robust methods for scale-up to sufficient quantities. Moreover, techniques must be available for fabricating and assembling new materials into prescribed geometries, for quality assurance to make certain they meet requirements, and for inspecting them in the field to identify service-induced defects and other problems. It is also crucial that there be means for repairing them, and for assuring the adequacy of repair. Examples of the most promising areas for investment to meet these requirements include: Materials characterization while in service, Self-repairing or self-healing materials, Processing that yields material with high purity, Large-scale processing of nanomaterials, and Biomimetic and bioinspired materials manufacturing. CONCLUSIONS Future defense systems could employ advanced materials that are self-healing, can interact independently with the local environment, and can monitor the health of a structure or component during operation. Advanced materials could act as a host for evolving technologies, such as embedded sensors and integrated antennas. Advanced materials must also deliver traditional high performance in structures; protect against corro-

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sion, fouling, erosion, and fire; control fractures; and serve as fuels, lubricants, and hydraulic fluids. The next 20 years will present the materials community with daunting challenges and opportunities. Requirements for material producibility, low cost, and ready availability will be much more demanding than they are today. On the other hand, spurred by the accelerated pace of advances in electronics and computation, the performance, life span, and maintainability of materials will be greatly enhanced. Some of the advances will result from R&D undertaken by commercial enterprises for competitive advantage in areas like telecommunications and computation. In other areas, however, DoD may have to bear the funding burden directly. In these special areas, considerable funding will be necessary not only to identify critical new materials, but also to accelerate their progress through development to applications in the defense systems of the future.

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