DARPA’s involvement with material science began in the early 1960s with the genesis of the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratories, which transformed into the National Science Foundation Materials Research Laboratories. DSO continues to advance the frontiers of material science by concentrating efforts on emerging capabilities and maintaining the interdisciplinary theme that generates many of the breakthroughs in this field.
The DSO Materials program seeks to advance material science on many technology fronts. Programs range from developing physics- and chemistry-based models that allow for the design of novel materials possessing radically improved or new properties, to innovative processing methods that dramatically reduce the cost of producing titanium metal and its alloys. Mathematical and characterization tools are being generated to enable rapid design and development of new armor systems. Armor systems based on topological constructs are demonstrating an increase in performance not achievable with traditional approaches. Biologically inspired approaches to material synthesis and design are pervasive in many DSO initiatives. Future investments in the DSO Materials program will continue to explore the frontiers of material science, which include new science-based tools for the development of new materials, novel materials for energy and water harvesting, new mechanical designs that exploit or challenge new materials and material systems, and innovative electromagnetic materials that will revolutionize the field of electronics. This aggressive vision to pursue the development of radically new materials and material systems is producing the critical technologies that will allow for the next generation of high-performance military platforms.
Objectives: This focus area includes new materials concepts for lowering the weight and increasing the performance of aircraft, ground vehicles, and spacecraft structures. Techniques are being established for assessing damage evolution and predicting future performance of the structural materials in Defense platforms and systems through physics-based models and advanced interrogation tools. New, low-cost processing and fabrication techniques are being developed to enable expanded use of new materials and structures in Defense applications. The design and development of electromagnetic materials and material systems that have unique intrinsic or extrinsic properties are being pursued. Mathematical tools are under development that will reduce the complexity and increase efficiency of ab initio methods and allow for the discovery of novel materials and structures as well as new synthesis routes.
Objectives: As military systems and missions become more complicated, the development of materials that are dynamic in both shape and activity is becoming critical. In addition, the combination of functions, such as power generation of blast resistance, with structural loadbearing, is expected to yield markedly enhanced capabilities across multiple military platforms. Current projects in this focus area include revolutionary new armor systems that exploit unique high-strength steel/polymer composite hybrid configurations for military vehicles; an extremely small (less than 7.5 centimeters), ultralightweight (less than 10 grams) air vehicle system with the potential to perform indoor and outdoor military missions; and barriers that can be rapidly emplaced and reversed to allow fluid U.S. force movement.
Objectives: DSO’s focus area in biologically inspired materials explores the emerging interfaces between biology and novel materials. Areas under development include systems that mimic the ability of plants to generate large strains while performing a robust structural function and circulatory systems to induce extreme changes in structural system properties.