CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Leadership from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) discussed ongoing projects and innovative technologies with the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (PDASA) for Installations, Energy and Environment (IE&E) Bryan Gossage, during his visit to the CERL campus Oct. 30.
Gossage’s visit included a brief overview of the CERL, which focused on the organization’s alignment with Army priorities and plans and ended with visits to several CERL facilities.
“The knowledge, technical expertise and passion you and your teams have for the science and technology field is amazing,” said Gossage. “Clearly, your CERL team is focused on the long-term of saving resources and funding. Your techniques are aligned with the new Army Strategy and its long-term vision and planning.”
During the overview briefing, Dr. Kirankumar Topudurti, acting CERL director, elaborated on CERL’s organizational structural alignment with the Army and the laboratory’s focus on developing solutions to some of the nation’s toughest engineering challenges.
“We have aligned our efforts with the Army and now CERL can efficiently and effectively help develop technologies along those lines of effort,” said Topudurti. “Many of the projects we have here at CERL are collaborative efforts. One of the many examples of this pairing and partnership is our 3D printing project, which is the perfect collaborative effort of our CERL researchers, uniformed personnel from different services, our civilian partnering organizations and contractors.”
Following the briefing, CERL leadership escorted the PDASA to multiple CERL facilities.
From providing cost-effective coatings that incorporate corrosion control in the Paint Technology Center, to identifying disturbances in soils that aid in observing troop or vehicle movement in deployed environments in the Synthetic Biology Laboratory, to detecting threatened and endangered species on military lands in the Plant and Soils Building, researchers at each of these facilities had the opportunity to explain how their work relates to readiness for the Soldier.
Dr. Jinelle Sperry, CERL wildlife biologist, specifically highlighted several successful collaborations between CERL and other Army installations, such as Fort Hood, Texas, where effective management of species has led to substantial reductions in training restrictions that were previously imposed through the Endangered Species Act.
“Our research can detect the residual DNA in water or soil samples that can reveal if the species was present in a location,” said Sperry. “This type of data collection and research can be much more cost-efficient as well as safer for both the species and the researchers compared to traditional trapping or sampling of the species.”
Gossage also had the opportunity to visit the Triaxle Earthquake and Shock Simulator, or TESS, one of the premier seismic experimental test facilities in the U.S. The simulator is used to create test environments that mimic earthquakes, vehicle vibrations, and shock motions due to blasts. Analysis conducted on the TESS allows engineers to identify and define vulnerabilities to motions, investigate shock survivability of equipment and structures, and develop mitigation strategies.
At the ERDC Forward Operating Base-Laboratory, or EFOB-L, Gossage was provided information on three research areas—operational energy, additive construction products (3d printing) and operational water—and updates on specific projects related to warfighter support.
The operational energy program, which is focused on providing power solutions that are cost efficient and more mobile, highlighted the development of the Hybrid Power Trailer. The additive construction program, which is focused on delivering modern, custom geometric construction with reduced logistical requirements, highlighted the B-Hut’s unique “chevron” wall design and roof structure that was developed to increase wall performance and capabilities for deployed warfighters. The operational water research team, which focuses on clean water research, highlighted the Mobile Ablution and Water Reuse System, which is a new mobile system that turns gray water into near-potable water and reduces the need for resupply support services.
Gossage also had the opportunity to witness how various sensing modalities at the Robotics Research Facility can be used to collect information about the environment and then turn that information into digital site models. The technology allows for data, such as terrain angels or slopes, soil types, obstacles and trafficability, to be analyzed so that the warfighter can gain improved situational awareness of the environment.
“Before we put an unmanned capability on the ground, we have to understand what type of environment we are dealing with,” said Dr. Ahmet Soylemezoglu, CERL’s Robotics for Engineer Operations project lead and systems engineer. “It’s critical for navigation purposes but becomes even more critical if we are going to do any terrain shaping.”
Throughout his visit, Gossage reemphasized the importance of pursuing collaborative efforts with Department of Defense organizations, industry partners and educational institutions. He specifically indicated a desire for the CERL to enhance its collaborative efforts with service members.
“I encourage you to also reach out to the Army Guard and Reserve because many of those Soldiers bring a unique skillset to the organization,” said Gossage. “In their civilian life, they have an entirely different set of skills in their civilian professions, and I encourage CERL to tap into that resource.”