ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Nearly a dozen professors from the University of North Texas toured the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Aberdeen Proving Ground facilities Jan. 18-19.

The visit was part of the special relationship afforded members of ARL South, a cooperative effort based in Austin, Texas, bringing together government, industry and academia.

"ARL Researchers were excited to bring a large group of materials science professors from North Texas to the laboratory's high rate characterization, ballistic loading and blast facilities to help show them the extreme conditions that materials we design for the Soldier undergo," said Dr. Jeffrey Lloyd, a research scientist with the ARL Impact Physics Branch.

Lloyd said he was pleased with the two days of interaction.

"We were especially excited to combine their experience of materials fabrication and characterization with ARL's expertise in high rate mechanics, ballistics and impact physics," he said.

On the first day, eight professors gave presentations on simulations and experimentation on various alloys, the development of stronger ceramics and novel blast experiments on additive manufactured structures.

The visitors said they were encouraged by their reception.

"The primary goal of this visit is to have more connections and interactions," said Dr. Rajiv Mishra, a UNT distinguished research professor.

In a little more than a year, the team of researchers at UNT and collaborators at ARL have had several accomplishments.

Led by ARL researcher Chris Cummins, UNT and collaborators at Quad City Manufacturing Lab have performed proof-of-concept scaled blast testing on vehicle structure prototypes, which Lloyd said could, "revolutionize the way the Army goes from concept to testing, which by conservative estimates, costs 95 percent less and is 95 percent faster than conventional prototyping."

The team has also manufactured, engineered and tested composite ceramics that are tougher than boron carbide and harder and lighter than silicon carbide, as well as fracture-resistant high entropy alloys that can be manipulated to have strengths as high as our hardest steels.

"These materials will be evaluated ballistically to determine if they can replace existing ceramics and metals for protection applications, and it speaks to the team's urgency that we are on our second and third iteration in little over a year," Lloyd said.

On day two of the visit, 11 professors toured ARL's Rodman Materials Research Laboratory and met with more Army researchers.

"We hosted a materials and manufacturing research activities information exchange meeting with University of North Texas faculty members with the goal of expanding the ARL South research collaboration initiative," said Kyu Cho, materials engineer and lead for the Center for Agile Materials manufacturing Science. "We identified initial collaboration topics of mutual benefit and discussed how our interests align with the Army's modernization priorities and ARL's essential research areas.

Cho said initial research collaboration topics included exploring alloys with unique microstructures; additive manufacturing metallurgy; adaptive, responsive, and functional inorganics; and reconstruction methods for meso- to macro-scale mechanics modeling.

"We also explored the potential for a staff rotation plan where we host UNT graduate students for research exchanges at APG as well as UNT hosting Army researchers in Texas," Cho said. "This would enable physical research collaborations and interactions with the graduate students."

The Army entered into a collaborative partnership with scientists and engineers from the region when the lab launched ARL South in November 2016. Officials said the initiative leverages regional expertise and facilities throughout the south central region to accelerate discovery, innovation and transition of science and technology in support of the Army of the future.

"The point of today," Lloyd told the visitors, "is that we have a path forward to achieving the best scientific product that we can have."

Lloyd said the North Texas partners have been very flexible.

"As we work side-by-side with our ARL South partners, researchers benefit by drawing upon the unique skill set that we each bring to the lab bench," said ARL South Regional Lead Heidi Maupin.

"Visits like this one by our university partners to learn and utilize the Army specific tools and capabilities further enhance and advance the research efforts, leading to a stronger likelihood of efficient, successful placement of advanced technology into the hands of our Soldiers."

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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.