ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Understanding how materials behave at the microscale enables researchers to build the underpinnings for Army technology.

U.S. Army and French researchers are partnering to better understand energetic materials. Dr. John Brennan, a research chemical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, helped to establish the collaboration while working in France for a year.

"The U.S. Army has a need to simulate energetics at the microscale level," he said. "There was another group in France that was doing similar work. We are the two in the world doing this."

Brennan explained that he and his colleagues use computational modeling and simulation to predict the behavior of materials, such as explosives and propellants, at the nanoscale and microscale. This knowledge helps to create improved materials at later stages of the R&D process.

"It's all in improving the performance of a material that goes into an Army technology. We look at materials at the fundamental level and try to understand what's happening with atoms and molecules," said Brennan, who works in ARL's Energetic Materials Science Branch and holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from Wayne State University.

"Ultimately, we hope to go to a synthesis chemist and can tell them, 'This is how you want to make the material so it will perform the way we want it to at a system level.' "

To further his expertise, he chose to participate in the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program with the French, whom he said are among the world's leading experts in this field. He worked at the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives outside of Paris from July 2015 to July 2016.

"It really was perfect timing in that what I was working on here at ARL, they were working on there. It definitely advanced our tools and techniques," Brennan said. "We came together and made an improved model for a key piece of our computational tools. This will be a continuing collaboration, and they're going to visit in January or February to continue the work.

"We improved what they had and vice versa. Our group at ARL is leading the way in microscale modeling and simulation. We're continuing to build those capabilities."


Mid-career level Army engineers and scientists in Career Program 16 can apply for an ESEP assignment. Applicants may arrange for a position from one of 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Chile.

Participants should be in General Schedule pay grades 12 through 14 (or acquisition demo equivalent) at the time of deployment, hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree and have at least four years of technical experience in industry or military/government.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.