Materials with superior strength, density and resiliency properties are important for the harsh environments in which Department of Defense platforms, weapons and their components operate. Recent scientific advances have opened up new possibilities for material design in the ultrahigh pressure regime (up to three million times higher than atmospheric pressure). Materials formed under ultrahigh pressure, known as extended solids, exhibit dramatic changes in physical, mechanical and functional properties and may offer significant improvements to armor, electronics, propulsion and munitions systems in any aerospace, ground or naval platform.
Despite the dramatic performance improvements—both demonstrated and predicted—for extended solids, the ultrahigh pressures currently required for synthesis and stabilization of such materials prevent scalability for any practical use. DARPA created the Extended Solids (XSolids) program to address the key challenges in synthesis and scale-up necessary for manufacture, through both computational and experimental approaches, with the intention of opening a vast new material design space for the DoD.
Interdisciplinary research teams are working to develop multi-step, barochemical processes that can reduce the peak pressure needed to achieve scalable synthesis of target materials. Performers are working in parallel on computational exploration of high-pressure material structures and properties, and the small-scale synthesis of a variety of materials to experimentally verify their properties.
Potential DoD applications of extended solids are pervasive. If the program is successful, it will create breakthrough improvements in properties such as strength, stiffness, energy content, thermal conductivity, electromagnetic and optical properties, with associated performance improvements in a wide range of defense applications.
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