Enemy threats against U.S. military vehicles to diminish under promising ARL research in MHD, computational science

March 06, 2012

Story Highlights

  • ARL is deepening its work in theoretical and computational modeling of plasmas
  • Alegra, ARL's primary code for simulating multiphysics for armor applications, developed at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
  • Dr. Andrew Porwitzky presented a lecture at the University of Kentucky's Department of Mechanical Engineering's William Maxwell Reed Seminar Series.

The Army Research Laboratory is leveraging its expertise in highly sophisticated computational simulations that led to the development of the today's better, stronger MRAP vehicles, to help the Army forecast super-resilient combat systems like other ground vehicles to withstand serious insurgent threats.

ARL is deepening its work in theoretical and computational modeling of plasmas to utilize large computational codes for magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) and plasma simulation, essentially studying how magnetic fields interact with plasmas and materials under extreme conditions, on multi-core supercomputers.

The U.S. Army became a large investor in such codes and capabilities, leading to much success in the development of the MRAP, where hundreds of simulations were conducted to iterate through design parameters leading to more successful vehicle armor.

MRAP stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected, and it makes up a family of armored vehicles produced by a variety of domestic and international companies with a blast-resistant, V-bottomed underbody designed to protect the crew from mine blasts, fragmentary and direct-fire weapons.

"The greatest mistake we can make is to underestimate our enemy. They are extremely motivated and intelligent," said Dr. Andrew Porwitzky, a research physicist within the Army Research Laboratory's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. "Computational simulations give us a way to constantly try new permutations on existing armor and/or threats so that we can always evolve our protection systems to best safeguard our Soldiers."

Porwitzky presented a lecture last month, "Computational Armor Research at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory: Motivation and Validation" as part of the University of Kentucky's Department of Mechanical Engineering's William Maxwell Reed Seminar Series. His work modeling electromagnetic armor landed him this opportunity.

"By having accurate computational tools, we can greatly reduce the time required to test and iterate over proposed armor technologies allowing for full scale experimental testing to be conducted on only the most promising surviving computational cases," said Porwitzky.

He's part of the code development team for Alegra, ARL's primary code for simulating multiphysics for armor applications, developed at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. In that role, he advises Sandia on Army goals and needs, and writes magnetohydrodynamic test cases as part of a continued joint effort to validate and verify the results that Alegra gives the Army against known solutions or experimental results.

"We have achieved very rapid turn-around from armor concept to vehicle integration using computational parameter studies to iterate through a design space. Concept to deployment can happen over a few months as a result of advancements in our simulation capabilities," said Porwitzky, who received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Vermont, and doctoral degree in aerospace science at the University of Michigan.

He said the two main advantages of computational simulations for scientific research are cost and turn-around time.

"Once an investment into parallel computational facilities and code research has been made, the per-simulation cost is extremely low compared to the corresponding per-experiment cost," he said.

A suite of computational parameter studies can be conducted in the time it takes to carry out a single experiment, Porwitzky pointed out. "Take into account personnel safety and computational simulations are a powerful tool. Keep in mind that computational simulations must always be validated against experiments, however. The goal of computational armor research is to have 100 percent predictive capability."

 

Last Update / Reviewed: March 6, 2012