Research Programs from BAA - Materials Science

1.0 Materials Science Division

The objective of research supported by the Materials Science Division of the Army Research Office (ARO) is to realize unprecedented materials properties via discovery of the fundamental relationships that link chemical composition, microstructure, processing history, and material properties. The work, although basic in nature, is focused on developing new materials, material processes, and properties that promise to significantly improve the performance, increase the reliability, or reduce the cost of future Army systems. With the need for lighter weight and higher performance systems in the future, program emphasis has increasingly shifted away from metals research to a more balanced program with interests that cross a broad spectrum of materials including polymers, ceramics, and semiconductor materials. Fundamental research that lays the foundation for the design and manufacture of multi-component systems such as composites, hierarchical materials, and "smart materials" is of particular interest. Other important areas of interest include new approaches for materials processing, new composite formulations, surface treatments that minimize environmental impacts, and novel composite concepts including multifunctional and hierarchical materials. Finally, there is general interest in identifying basic research in the area of manufacturing science which will address fundamental issues related to the reliability and cost (including environmental) associated with the production and long-term operation of Army systems. The following areas of research are not intended to reflect all of the activities of the Materials Science Division because there is always interest in new ideas and cross-disciplinary concepts in materials science that may have future applications for the Army.

1.1 Earth Materials and Processes

Earth Materials and Processes: The aims of the Earth Materials and Processes program are (1) to develop and improve theory that describes physical processes responsible for shaping Earth surface features and (2) to increase knowledge of natural and man-made Earth surfaces to reveal their histories and to inform predictions of their behavior. Advances in these areas are expected to increase predictive power in terms of changing landscapes and the response of Earth surfaces to environmental and operational conditions.

Earth Surface Processes. Through experiments, models, and the development of theory, describe landscape evolution at relevant spatial and temporal resolutions to predict how topographic features are influenced by changes in contributing factors (e.g., rainfall or sediment transport) and exploit the properties of rocks, minerals and soils to provide quantitative information on recent and ongoing surface processes, both independently and for use in the validation of models. A variety of approaches are of interest; for example, research may draw on the increased availability and accuracy of high-spatial- and temporal-resolution remotely sensed data, theoretical developments in granular matter physics, or new microanalytical techniques. This work is expected to have implications for understanding sediment transport and behavior, which affects processes and events ranging from vehicle movement to natural disasters, and the identification of natural and human-disturbed landscapes and surfaces.

Surface Energy Balance. Through development of radiative transfer models for a range of environments, surfaces, and radiative conditions at Army-relevant spatial and temporal scales and associated laboratory experiments, determine how natural and artificial surfaces (e.g., soil, sand, or concrete) store and conduct energy depending on their spatial relationships, inherent material properties, and imparted features such as moisture storage and evapotranspiration. Focus is on thermal properties (thermal conductivity and heat capacity) in the spatially complex built environment and processes responsible for water and energy transfer at the surface-atmosphere interface. For example, research might use a combination of satellite, ground-based, and laboratory data and should establish how thermal properties and processes affect surface temperatures and air temperatures within the atmospheric boundary layer. This work is expected to have implications for energy demand, human health and mortality risk, air quality, and contaminant dispersion.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. David M. Stepp, e-mail:, (919) 549-4329

1.2 Materials Design

The goal of the Materials Design Program is to enable the bottom-up design and fabrication of highly complex multifunctional materials with new and unprecedented properties, e.g. negative index composites with optical cloaking properties or new classes of smart materials that can alter their behavior in response to environmental stimuli. In pursuit of this goal the subfield is supporting research that falls into three broad thrusts. The subfield is laying the foundations for future directed self assembly of materials, developing new analytical techniques capable of characterizing materials at the nanoscale, and seeking to understand complex behavior that emerges in highly coupled systems, e.g. studying frustration effects in magnetic systems, or better understanding field coupling effects in multiferroics. It is envisioned that the confluence of these thrusts will culminate in the development of a new generation of engineered materials with new and unique capabilities. To realize this goal the program recognizes that the experimental program will require a strong complementary theoretical underpinning that addresses modeling of the relevant phenomenology, identification of robust pathways for directed self-assembly, and prediction/optimization of the final material properties. The objective is to predict and control the material structure and properties throughout the self assembly process and affect property changes over time needed to introduce new properties, optimize performance, enhance reliability; and reduce cost and time to development. One area of emphasis will be surface and interface engineering in support of materials integration. There is particular interest in identifying new ways of combining similar and dissimilar materials to afford new multifunctional capabilities. Another area of emphasis will be development of in-situ and ex-situ analytical methods to characterize the nanoscale structure and determine the physical characteristics that will lead to the specific material properties being sought. Two final areas of interest are the development of adaptive materials that change their properties in response to internal or external stimuli, and investigations of novel methods that will lead to large-scale, large-quantity processing of nanomaterials.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. John T. Prater; e-mail:, (919) 549-4259.

1.3 Mechanical Behavior of Materials

The Mechanical Behavior of Materials program seeks to establish the fundamental relationships between the structure of materials and their mechanical properties as influenced by composition, processing, environment, and loading conditions. The program emphasizes research to develop innovative new materials with unprecedented mechanical, and other complementary, properties. Critical to these efforts is the need for new materials science theory that will enable robust predictive computational tools for the analysis and design of materials subjected to a wide range of specific loading conditions, particularly theory which departs from standard computer algorithms and is not dependent upon tremendous computational facilities. The primary research thrust areas of this program include: a) high strain-rate phenomena (e.g., designing new characterization methods and tools to elucidate the deformation behavior of materials exposed to high-strain rate and dynamic loading conditions, establish a detailed understanding of the physical mechanisms that govern this deformation, and realize novel mechanisms of energy absorption and dissipation); and b) materials enhancement theory (e.g., developing a robust understanding of the interrelationships between materials processes and compositions and the range of properties that can be attained by them, particularly in terms of developing new materials theory capable of predicting such processing-property relationships and identifying novel mechanisms for enhancing specific toughness, engineering and synthesizing new materials containing unique and specifically designed chemical and biological functionalities and activities while maintaining, and preferably enhancing, requisite mechanical properties). Two specific examples of research objectives within these thrust areas are stress wave mitigation via highly nonlinear inhomogeneous granular media and mechanochemically adaptive materials based on stress-activated molecules, respectively. In all cases, brief (less than three pages) white papers describing a specific research objective, scientific approach, and anticipated scientific impact are encouraged to initiate a discussion of potential research directions.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. David M. Stepp, e-mail:, (919) 549-4329.

1.4 Physical Properties of Materials

The program on Synthesis and The Physical Properties of Materials program broadly seeks to understand the fundamental mechanisms responsible for various physical properties (such as electronic, optical, magnetic, and thermal properties) of advanced materials. Specifically, basic research efforts in the areas of modeling, innovative processing and characterization techniques to understand the mechanisms responsible for physical properties of materials are supported. There are primarily two research thrusts in this program: 1) Defect Science & Engineering (DS&E) 2) 2D Free-standing nanostructured materials (2DFNM). In the DS&E thrust, basic research efforts in the areas of introduction, control, and characterization of various defects (dislocations, stacking faults, strain, compositional variations, interfaces, etc.) and their effects on the physical properties (electronic, optical, magnetic and thermal properties) of various materials such as multiferroics, ferro/piezoelectrics, semiconductors, high temperature superconductors, and thermal management materials are supported. The 2DFNM thrust is a new thrust initiated to promote basic research to look beyond graphene to identify novel 2D materials (single elements as well as compounds such as oxides, nitrides, sulfides etc.) that may exist in free-standing mono or a few atomic layer thick form similar to graphene, but with unique and complementary properties. Fundamental studies to process novel 2D free-standing materials as well as their composites and heterostructures, and research efforts to understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the revolutionary physical properties of these material systems are focused in this thrust.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. Pani Varanasi, e-mail:, (919) 549-4325.

1.5 Synthesis and Processing of Materials

The Synthesis and Processing of Materials program aims to enable basic research on innovative processing and synthesis of advanced high performance structural materials systems. The vision of the program is to discover and illuminate the scientific linkages between novel processing and resultant microstructures which enable exceptional properties in structural materials. Research thrusts specific to this program include: a) synthesis under extreme conditions (e.g. pressures, time-rates, temperatures, strain, length-scales), b) metastable materials processing (bulk nanostructured materials, amorphous metals, non-equilibrium phase stabilization), and c) high specific-strength materials and hierarchical composites. Advances in this area are enabled by insights and scientific breakthroughs achieved through combinations of novel experimental tools (such as nano/microscale 3D tomography and in-situ, multi-variable characterization) and recent computational modeling tools (such as ab-initio/first-principles approaches, phase-field modeling, molecular dynamics simulations) for accurate design and simulation. White papers (no longer than four pages) which indicate project objectives, goals, approaches and anticipated scientific outcomes should be submitted to initiate technical research discussions.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. Suveen N. Mathaudhu, e-mail:, (919) 549-4244.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 17, 2014