By Gwyn G. Neill
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs
The Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi hosted more than 75 participants for the Third Annual Engineer Research Development Center Materials Science Community of Practice Meeting held in January.
The meeting brought researchers from all seven ERDC laboratories, external collaborators and extramural partners together to discuss current research activities and new capabilities. This meeting allowed recently hired engineers and scientists working in materials science to connect with one another.
The CoP is a forum to communicate what is being done in other business areas so researchers who primarily work in military engineering programs can see what is being done on environmental topics and vice versa. This cross-laboratory and multi-disciplinary understanding is very beneficial and has resulted in the generation of new cross-laboratory collaborations, better awareness and use of ERDC materials research capabilities, and new ideas for collaborative materials research opportunities.
“One of the biggest benefits of this type of forum is that it provides an opportunity for materials research from across the ERDC to be communicated with one another and to see what is being done across the laboratories. I think this helps us to better connect across the labs, particularly between the labs in Vicksburg and labs at the other sites,” said Dr. Robert Moser, research civil engineer in GSL’s Engineering Systems and Materials Division.
An awareness of capabilities across all of the ERDC’s laboratories helps better utilize research instrumentation and reduces redundancies through collaboration. This awareness and understanding is generated simply by distributing information on these capabilities through the CoP.
“One of the biggest benefits of the meeting is for recent hires in the materials area at ERDC. ERDC is big and works on so many different things it’s often difficult to know who does what, who has the equipment that could potentially be used and what research opportunities are out there. This meeting has been particularly useful, I think, to some of our new folks to understand where they fit in this community and what opportunities and resources are out there for them to further their materials research interests,” added Moser.
Recently hired research geologist Erin “Rae” Reed-Gore said, “Attending the Materials Science CoP meeting held at the ERDC was beneficial in many ways. It provided me an opportunity to meet fellow researchers across the ERDC and university collaborators within the materials analysis community.”
Two groups met at each of the workshop sessions. One was the general materials science community of practice which has a broad focus on all areas of materials research ranging from protective materials to energy and environmental risk studies. The second focused on high-strength concrete composite materials which is a materials research focus area for ERDC.
New to the meeting were overviews from the ERDC’s Military Engineering, Civil Works and Environmental Quality and Installations business areas with the goal of pinpointing opportunities for materials research.
Unique capabilities and expertise by ERDC partners support ERDC researchers in conducting basic materials science on a variety of topics including advanced metallic materials to concrete fracture mechanics to environmental research on nanomaterials and additive manufacturing. The partner’s participation provides an opportunity to understand the application spaces of interest to ERDC which helps guide academic and industry research. In addition, this meeting also provided an audience to communicate the results of extramural research activities to ERDC researchers and to generate new collaboration and transition opportunities.
Representatives from academia and industry, ERDC’s primary extramural research partners, were also in attendance. University of Maine, Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi representatives spoke about ERDC’s extramural research activities in advanced metallic materials, lightweight composites and graphene nanocomposites.
Many of the developments presented by the university collaborators also represented cutting-edge developments to transition into ERDC applied research programs. Some cutting-edge experimental and simulation capabilities presented included new high strain rate testing equipment, additive manufacturing systems and electromagnetic properties measurement instrumentation.
More specific information presented ranged from molecular modeling of nanocomposite materials to characterization of ice and snow fracture mechanics and multi-scale modeling of composite materials. The link between experiments and modeling is one of ERDC’s strengths which shows in the work presented.
“Attending the CoP meeting was a great opportunity to learn what other ERDC labs are currently researching, new testing procedures and modeling techniques that are being developed,” concluded Reed-Gore.