Rowan University will lead a $14.5 million Department of Defense/Army Research Lab project to create new composite materials – and ways to process those materials – that will help modernize the Army and improve the safety of soldiers in the field.

The project, titled “Advancing Structural Materials for Army Modernization Priorities via Direct-Write Approaches,” will be led by researchers from Rowan University teamed with PPG, Drexel University, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst to create new advanced composite and plastic materials and ways to process them. The project is driven by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory.

The team will work on developing innovative materials by using “cold-spray” advanced manufacturing technologies. The work will focus on polymers, starting with polystyrene, then move on to more advanced composite materials and systems, as designated by the Army.

“The high particle velocity of cold spray enables rapid cure and adhesion of polymers. This should result in the fast and efficient production of high-performance composite parts or repair of parts,” said John La Scala, associate chief the ARL’s Materials and Manufacturing Sciences Division and cooperative agreement manager for the research program. “Additionally, this novel manufacturing methodology is a layer-by-layer production of composites, which should reduce void and flaw content. This should improve strength and durability significantly, thereby opening the potential of using this manufacturing technique to prepare composites for extreme conditions, while replacing the current expensive manufacturing methods with a much more economical methodology.”

Researchers hope to develop materials to be used for making military equipment stronger and lighter, soldiers more agile and vehicles more durable. Longer-term, the team sees the potential for use of the materials in the fields of civil aviation, automotive, health care and space exploration.

“We will work to make materials more quickly, to make them better and easier to repair offsite and, importantly, onsite in the field,” Dr. Joe Stanzione, associate professor of chemical engineering at Rowan University said. “That includes everything from parts for tanks and jeeps, to usable tools, and helmets.”