ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Developing world-class advanced technology for Soldiers on the battlefield is a key part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s mission. Many of the technologies stem from partnerships between DEVCOM and its global network of academic, industry and governments, including a project with the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory, located in Maryland; the DEVCOM-Atlantic International Technology Center Northern Europe, located Germany; and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramics Technologies and Systems, also in Germany.
The team is exploring how superhard, diamond-reinforced silicon carbide composites can be applied to various Army technologies. The project, which began in 2020, is a three-year cooperative agreement between DEVCOM and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems.
The initial objective of the project was to understand the effects of various processing parameters on manufacturing fully dense, superhard diamond-reinforced silicon carbide composites and evaluate their properties. However, the team is exploring how the material can be used in other ways, such as in thermal management, corrosion and wear resistant applications.
“This project explored various ways to use this emerging material technology, which has a unique combination of extreme hardness, thermal shock resistance and mechanical strength. These qualities enable superhard diamond-reinforced silicon carbide composite components to perform exceptionally well in thermal management and wear resistant applications,” said Anthony DiGiovanni, Ph.D., DEVCOM ARL materials engineer.
DEVCOM ARL and DEVCOM-Atlantic ITC Northern Europe provided initial funding for the project and worked with the Fraunhofer Institute, which is an international expert in developing this material technology. The teams initially planned to visit each other’s facilities to strengthen collaboration, but the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed international travel, so meetings were held virtually. When travel reopened in 2021, the DEVCOM-Atlantic ITC Northern Europe team visited the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany to get an update on the project and tour the facility.
The project not only meets DEVCOM ARL’s programmatic requirements — it also enables DEVCOM ARL to collaborate with its broader network of partners to modify diamond-based materials to achieve significant performance improvements for thermal management and wear resistant applications without significantly increasing cost, size or weight. Fully mature, diamond-reinforced ceramic composites may provide solutions to a myriad of challenges related to technologies that the Army is developing to support its six modernization priorities.
The ITCs, which are part of DEVCOM’s global enterprise, serve as the forward-deployed "eyes and ears" of the Army Science and Technology Enterprise. In addition to DEVCOM-Atlantic ITC Northern Europe, other DEVCOM ITCs include: North America, Northeast Asia, South America, Southeast Asia, United Kingdom, Southern Europe, Mediterranean, and Southern Hemisphere. The key mission of DEVCOM’s ITCs is to establish alliances with industry, agencies, academic institutions and foreign governments that enable the Army to maximize research funds and develop revolutionary technology for Soldiers.
The ITCs use a central DEVCOM ARL Army Research Office database and an ARO grants process to manage approved international research and technology projects and to keep DEVCOM leaders informed on the projects.
“This is an excellent example of how Army researchers can leverage ITCs to secure critical knowledge and capabilities that can accelerate projects while reducing associated risks leading to shorter timelines without compromising the likelihood of success. ITC Northern Europe handled all the logistics of this international project, including providing the seed funding and visiting the facilities to gather in-person reports on the teams’ progress. DEVCOM ARL is capitalizing on the effort by incorporating the new knowledge and capabilities into their labs and research,” said Jerry LaSalvia, Ph.D, DEVCOM ARL materials engineer.
DEVCOM plans to extend the cooperative agreement to expand collaborations and facility visits.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command — DEVCOM — is home to the Army’s largest pool of civilian scientists, engineers, analysts and technicians who are the bedrock for discovering and developing the capabilities Soldiers need to deter and, when necessary, defeat current and future adversaries.
DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of Army Futures Command and, together, the Team of Teams provides the scientific and engineering expertise necessary to better integrate modernization priorities and give the Army, as part of the Joint Force, the ability to act faster and more effectively than the adversary.