As the reach of anti-ship missiles lengthens, and their killing power improves, various forms of naval stealth are moving from research curiosities and cameo roles in James Bond films to design and deployment at sea. Materials science is an important component of that effort, and features prominently in stealth ships like Sweden’s Visby Class corvettes and Norway’s Skjold Class air cushioned catamaran corvettes.
Small business qualifier Materials Sciences Corp. in Horsham, PA received a $24.6 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for “continued research, development, and application of advanced metallic and non-metallic materials in existing and new Navy structures and machinery. The research and development of these materials will provide for improved structural, electrical and thermal performance of radar absorption materials.”
SBIR Phase III means the technology is moving out of the research phase and into commercialization/ production. Work will be performed in Horsham, PA (80%); Philadelphia, Pa. (5 percent); West Bethesda, Md. (5 percent); Washington, D.C. (5 percent); and Gulfport, Miss. (5 percent), and work is expected to be completed by September 2013. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured with one proposal solicited and oneoffer received via the Phase III SBIR program. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N65540-08-D-0011).
Ever since World War 1, operations in chemical environments have been a standard scenario for many of the world’s armies. With the invention of nerve gas, the risks multiplied further. Its ability to kill on contract required complete exposure protection, and the dawn of the nuclear era added the ability to operate in irradiated areas as a key criterion for NBC(Nuclear, Biological, chemical) protective equipment like the USA’s MOPP and JSLIST gear. Even so, protection against ionizing radiation is limited.
In conventional silicon transistors, a certain finite voltage swing on the order of 150-200 mV (for high performance devices) is needed to switch a device between the on and off states. Reducing that number would enable drastic improvements in power consumption, because modern chips have many millions of transistors – but the fundamental physics of thermionic emission over an energy barrier is in the way.
International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation of NY recently received a contract option for $6.4 million under a DARPA program known as “Steep-subthreshold-slope Transistors for Electronics with Extremely-low Power (STEEP). The goal is to develop novel transistor technologies based on non-thermionic switching, allowing manufacturers to build high-performance logic circuits with very low power consumption. At this time $4.5 million has been obligated by Det 1 AFRL/PKDA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8650-08-C-7806).
IBM’s new devices under this DARPA-funded research program will utilize a fundamentally different mechanism of operation based upon quantum mechanical tunneling, which allows them be switched on and off over a much smaller voltage range. Such devices have previously been demonstrated, but only at extremely low performance levels. The goal of this program is to build a device that meets the performance criteria for much higher-performance computing.
Which is nice – but why does this really matter in the field? Consider 3 factors making themselves felt on the front lines, plus one above them, and another behind:
The US Aerospace industry remains one of America’s strong export successes, and serves as an important core of the nation’s high-tech manufacturing workforce. An improved set of aerospace industry tax incentives in 2005 was a start, but AIA and others have been pressing for more. In late December 2007, NASA announced a National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure under Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13419. That’s wouldn’t be a big event in Britain or Europe, but it’s a first for America. The plan will be updated every 2 years, and stretches over a 10-year horizon with near (<5 year) and longer term (5-10 year) goals. A supplemental report with additional technical content, a preliminary assessment of relevant Federal aeronautics R&D activities to identify areas of increased emphasis and of redundancy, and an infrastructure plan that will include an identification of RDT&E capabilities considered critical to satisfying the national aeronautics R&D goals and objectives are all under construction in 2008 as supplements to the basic plan.
A number of the plan’s goals are civilian, of course and relate to airspace traffic and safety. Others are more obviously military…
Flowforming is an advanced cold forming process, used to manufacture dimensionally precise, seamless metal components in rounded shapes. The technology offers a number of advantages, including very high precision, the ability to use very thin walls or even variable thickness walls, refined grain structure and uniformly oriented texture that helps create higher yield and tensile strengths, and working with pre-hardened metals in ways that eliminate further grinding, machining, et. al. See flowforming animations.
On the materials side, Inconel 718 is a precipitation hardenable nickel-based steel alloy designed to display exceptionally high yield, tensile and creep-rupture properties at temperatures up to 1300Â°F. This alloy also has excellent weldability.
If you’re building mortar tubes that have to be light enough to carry, while containing and channeling the controlled explosions that send mortar bombs on their way, the attributes of flowforming and Inconel 718 make them an attractive combination. The US Marines certainly think so…
Small business qualifier Southern Counties Oil Co., doing business as SC Fuels in Orange, CA won a $7 million modification to a fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for biodiesel fuel on behalf of the US Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were 28 proposals originally solicited with 21 responses, and the date of performance completion is Aug 31/09. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, VA issued the contract (SP0600-06-D-4528).
SC Fuels has already worked with Disneyland [PDF] and Safeway grocery stores on biodiesel projects. Most forms of biodiesel fuel actually end up requiring more energy inputs to produce and refine than they produce as outputs, which makes them very dubious replacements for fossil fuels. Nevertheless, the US military is running a number of experiments and solicitations involving biodiesel and synthetic blends in its aircraft and vehicles, in case strategic issues or improved production techniques make some level of biodiesel replacement an intelligent option in future. In situations where future uncertainty is high, a strategy of placing a diverse array of low-priced options on various possibilities, with follow-on investment as circumstances dictate, is a standard recommendation.
Goodrich Corp. subsidiary Sensors Unlimited Inc. in Princeton, NJ received a $1.25 million increment of a $5.7 million cost plus fixed fee contract to develop extremely small, lightweight, shortwave infrared imaging sensors on a chip. They’ll be used in helmet-mounted and micro air/ground vehicles.
The primary goal of this program is to establish the micro-systems technology for extremely light weight, low power cameras with the performance necessary for medium to short range applications. Micro-air and micro-ground platforms and helmet mounted applications require some special features: sensor operation at room temperature or with extremely low power cooling and temperature stabilization, micro-packages with operational lifetimes consistent with military operations, and optics and electronics consistent with the platform. DARPA specifically excluded research targeted at evolutionary improvements; innovations in optical and detecting materials, sensor design and fabrication, signal processing, and micro-packaging will be necessary to achieve their extremely light weight goals.
The first phase of the program will demonstrate the feasibility of integrating an imaging array into a micro-package of the size and weight necessary, with measured data supported by models and calculations predicting performance. Options may be exercised to continue the program after this initial demonstration; if they’re exercised, the second phase will feature a feasibility demonstration of an integrated system. Work will be performed in Princeton, NJ (93%), White Plains, MD (3%), and Woodland Hills, CA (4%) and is expected to be complete February 2009. Funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. DARPA posted Broad Agency Announcement BAA06-46 “Micro-Sensors for Imaging (MISI)” on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Oct 3/06, and 10 proposals were received (HR0011-08-C-0011).
Sometimes, a contractor’s technical problem is really an opportunity. When the multinational Joint Strike Fighter’s F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant for the US Marines, Royal Navy, et. al. found itself 3,000 pounds overweight, the program faced a 1 year pause while a crash program of empowered teams and suppliers worked to solve the problem. The result was an F-35B design that ended up ahead of the other variants, even though it was considered to be the most complex. That’s reflected in the pattern of test aircraft being produced – and now, it’s reflected in a large subcontract as well.
Alcoa’s proprietary and advanced aluminum alloys, technical and engineering expertise, and collaborative design capabilities that support large and complex forgings proved very valuable to the F-35B’s Slimfast diet. Now Lockheed Martin has handed Alcoa’s Power and Propulsion business a 10-year, $360 million contract by Lockheed Martin to supply advanced patented 7085 alloy aluminum die forgings for the F-35 program.
Alcoa Forged and Cast Products in Cleveland, OH will design and manufacture all the large aluminum structural die forgings for more than 1,200 aircraft. Parts include 15 large bulkheads that weigh 1,800-6,000 pounds, range from 10-23 feet in length, and act as the primary structural support for the wing and engine. They will also work on 6 wing box parts which serve as an important component of the skeletal structure to the wing. Meanwhile, other Alcoa aerospace units will provide items like highly-engineered joining devices from Alcoa Fastening Systems, specialty alloy plate from Alcoa North American Mill Products, and high-pressure turbine blades for F-35 JSF engines and structural aluminum castings from Alcoa Power and Propulsion.
As part of the JSF contract, Alcoa plans to invest $24 million in Cleveland Works primarily for new machinery, equipment and infrastructure improvements. Alcoa Forged and Cast Products is being supported by the State of Ohio with a $400,000 Rapid Outreach Grant, and up to $450,000 for employee training.
Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) announced a federal investment of more than C$ 48.8 million (about $45 million) for 29 new projects under the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI). These projects will address diverse requirements such as the development of more rapid, accurate and portable tools to detect chemical, biological and radiological agents, the fast-track development of an antiviral drug against Avian influenza, and the enhancement of decision-making support tools that assist the first responder and national security communities in coordinating a more efficient response to CBRNE incidents.
Canadian government departments and agencies working on this round of projects include DRDC, Department of National Defence, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Environment Canada, Health Canada, National Microbiology Laboratory, National Research Council of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) are seeing more us these days in aerospace, replacing the nickel, chromium and titanium alloys historically used in high-temperature zones like rocket motors and turbine engine hot exhaust areas. In addition to their thermal protection, they can offer weight reductions of up to 50%. The GE/Rolls Royce F136 engine that serves as the F-35 Lightning II‘s “second engine” program uses Silicon Carbide CMCs, and the material is even being considered for naval and aircraft structures.
Aurora Flight Sciences recently announced that the company has received a grant from the West Virginia High Technology Consortium and NASA for the development of Laser Assisted Machining of Silicon Carbide Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) for Space Propulsion Structures…