By Jenna Brady, ARL Public AffairsOctober 6, 2016
ADELPHI, Md. -- The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has named a senior campaign scientist for its Materials Research campaign to help streamline research efforts in support of the Army of the future.
Dr. William Benard, an electrical engineer and former associate division chief of ARL's Electro-Optics and Photonics Division, takes on this new role as the lab addresses the science and technology-driven imperatives mandated by the future Army's complex operational environment and core competencies.
The mission of the Materials Research campaign is to perform fundamental interdisciplinary research in materials and manufacturing science to ensure rapid and affordable development of materials, from discovery to delivery, critical to the Army of 2030.
"Everything a Soldier uses is made of materials, so for the U.S. Army to maintain its edge, the development of advanced new materials is a fundamental requirement," Benard said.
From on-demand production to the tailoring of material properties and structures through additive manufacturing and the unique applications of fields, materials research plays a key role in the delivery of materiel to Soldiers when they need it, in the amount they need it and specific to their missions.
"We not only focus on developing materials with extraordinary properties, but also developing a robust understanding of properties and processing so that new materials can ultimately transition to support our warfighters on the battlefield," Benard said.
One key aspect of the Materials Research campaign that Benard appreciates is that it is cross-cutting, playing into the seven other campaigns central to ARL's Technical Strategy, Extramural Basic Research, Computational Sciences, Sciences-for-Maneuver, Information Sciences, Sciences-for-Lethality and Protection, Human Sciences and Assessment and Analysis.
Benard's primary interest is identifying the research opportunities that the campaign intersections represent, some of which have yet to be fully mapped out.
In his new role, Benard is looking forward to accomplishing many tasks that are essential to the success of ARL, both now and as the lab moves into the future.
"My role is relatively new to the organization and there is much to be done including advancing ARL's strategic vision for materials, working with the other senior campaign scientists to develop best practices, developing a campaign communication strategy, engaging the workforce to understand what their goals and needs are in terms of our technical strategy, and looking for new opportunities in the cross-cutting space that has been created through the eight campaigns," Benard said.
ARL will celebrate its milestone 25th anniversary next year, and Benard is looking forward to his strategic role as the lab moves into the next 25 years.
"We are at a very interesting time in materials research, especially at ARL," Benard said. "ARL is well positioned to play a significant role, which will involve further research into areas such as materials for autonomous systems and additive manufacturing."
Benard noted that there will be a big push for on-demand multilevel modeling and design of materials and structures, for which ARL will need to expand its capabilities, as well as emerging low-cost, high-performance materials discovered through synthetic biology research.
"We have the opportunity to create materials that have never been created before and tailor those materials to how we want them to operate in a certain space," Benard said. "For example, we can develop molecules where we can adjust the adhesion to a specific surface at one end, and change the properties at the other end, such as to have specific spectral properties."
Benard also noted that as the lab's capabilities evolve, scientists can start to envision approaches to achieving highly functional complex systems by combining their multidomain expertise.
"For example, we could use our additive manufacturing and synthetic biology expertise to engineer and direct synthetic biological processes to produce complex multiscale materials and structures using very little energy, which has been a limitation of traditional additive manufacturing approaches," Benard said.
Whatever the future may bring, Benard is ready to lead ARL as the lab further pursues materials research.
"I am very excited and pleased to be here and in this position," Benard said. "I have been fortunate my entire life to have the opportunity to work with extremely impressive people, which continues here at ARL. It is a tremendously interesting time for ARL and for materials research, and I am proud to be a part of it."
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.