The careful examination, study and manufacturing of materials underlies the impressive innovations that make up modern life. New supplies of improved metal alloys, plastics and ceramics enhance supersonic aircraft, turbine blades, nuclear fuels, and computing and information systems. Scientists across Argonne use cutting-edge technology and simulations to understand and create the advanced materials that make life better and our nation safer. Research at Argonne has led to discoveries in a variety of commercial sectors including aerospace, transportation, energy, and national security.
Focusing on National Security
Machines and systems for military use have different requirements than those of commercial users, demanding functionality under harsh environments and extreme operating conditions. With a broad and deep expertise in material science, scientists at Argonne produce materials for the military that conform to strict specifications.
Improving military technology begins with careful examination of its structure and past failures. The first component of this work is to examine the microstructure of heavily used materials. In the past, researchers could examine metals and their wear and tear only in bulk. Now at Argonne, researchers can examine the materials at a much finer and highly precise scale. For metals, this includes understanding how the material’s crystalline structure can lead to deformation, cracking and possibly catastrophic failure. For example, studying the microstructure of a single metal used in a helicopter component can show potential weakness or stress points, allowing the military to correct issues before the technology is put into service. With this level of detail, and without costly destruction of equipment in testing, scientists and engineers can develop new materials that better withstand the harsh demands of military operating conditions.
Collaborating for Results
Argonne achieves its results by pairing top scientists from diverse backgrounds with the power of its co-located leading user facilities, such as the Advanced Photon Source (APS). In collaborations that often span the Argonne campus, researchers test and develop these materials then examine them to identify their strengths and weakness.
The national security space has been quick to embrace 3D printing to cut costs and reduce wait and transportation times for armed forces in the field. For example, laser powder bed fusion is a prominent technique that comes with unique challenges. Tiny imperfections from rough surfaces or higher porosity can lead to degraded performance. With the power of the APS, scientists at Argonne, in collaboration with others, gain valuable information from high-resolution, time-resolved X-ray images that can provide unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions.