Research Programs from BAA - Material Science

1.0 Material Science Division

The Material Science Division of the ARO seeks to realize unprecedented material properties by embracing long-term, high-risk, high-payoff opportunities for the U.S. Army with special emphasis on Materials by Design, Mechanical Behavior of Materials, Physical Properties of Materials, Synthesis and Processing, and Earth Materials and Processes. Research supported by the division seeks to discover the fundamental relationships that link chemical composition, microstructure, and processing history with the resultant material properties and behavior. 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. It also endeavors to advance the understanding of geological materials and processes, to establish opportunities from which to optimize the performance of future Army systems functioning within them. Fundamental research that lays the foundation for the design and manufacture of multicomponent and complex materials is of particular interest. Foundational research that integrates novel experimental work with the development of new predictive materials theory is also of significant interest. Furthermore, there is lasting interest in new ideas and cross-disciplinary concepts in Material Science that may have future applications for the Army.

1.1 Materials Design

The Materials by Design program seeks to establish the experimental techniques and theoretical foundations needed to facilitate the hierarchical design and bottom-up assembly of multifunctional materials that will enable the implementation of advanced materials concepts including transformational optics, biomimetics and smart materials.

(i) Directed 3-D Self-Assembly of Materials is aimed at enabling the directed 3D assembly of reconfigurable materials, and developing viable approaches to the design and synthesis of multi-component materials incorporating hierarchical constructs.

(ii) Functional Integration of Materials focuses on demonstrating the predictive design and integration of functional properties into complex multicomponent systems, and developing analytical techniques for interrogating the evolution of the 3-D structure and properties of material assemblies at the nanoscale.

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

1.2 Mechanical Behavior of Materials

The Mechanical Behavior of Materials program seeks to reveal underlying design principles and exploit emerging force-activated phenomena in a wide range of advanced materials to demonstrate unprecedented mechanical properties and complementary behaviors.

(i) Force-Activated Materials involves demonstration and characterization of robust mechanochemically adaptive materials based on force-activated molecules and force-activated reactions, tailoring the deformation and failure mechanisms in materials to mitigate the propagation of intense stress-waves and control energy dissipation, and the creation of a new class of adaptive structural materials that demonstrate "mechanical homeostasis."

(ii) Mechanical Complements in Materials discovers superior ionic transport materials and transparent materials through a complementary, interdependent, optimization of mechanical properties, catalyzes a self-sustaining investigation of fiber precursors, tailored for lateral and axial interactions, to generate new paradigms for revolutionary structural fibers, and discovers and validates new atomic-scale strengthening mechanisms governing bulk mechanical behavior..

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

1.3 Physical Properties of Materials

The Physical Properties of Materials program seeks to elucidate fundamental mechanisms responsible for achieving extraordinary electronic, photonic, magnetic and thermal properties in advanced materials to enable future Army relevant innovations.

(i) Free-standing 2-D Materials focuses on the creation of novel free-standing 2-D materials, heterostructures and hybrids with physical properties complementary or superior to graphene, and the invention of novel characterization techniques specific to 2-D materials to determine unprecedented properties.

(ii) Defect Science & Engineering explores the specific influence of defects (positive or negative) on the physical properties of novel functional materials, and elucidates defect control mechanisms during thin film growth and bulk processing of novel functional materials.

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

1.4 Synthesis and Processing of Materials

The Synthesis and Processing of Materials program seeks to discover and illuminate the governing processing-microstructure-property relationships for optimal creation of superior structural and bulk nanostructured materials.

(i) Stability of Nanostructured Materials focuses on the creation of thermally stable, ultrahigh strength nanocrystalline materials through interfacial grain boundary engineering, and the realization of high-strength, stable nanostructured alloys via pinning nanoprecipitates and internal coherent boundaries.

(ii) Manufacturing Process Science supports discovery of the fundamental physical laws and phenomena of materials processes, and the exploitation of unique phenomena that occur under metastable and complex processing conditions for the creation of revolutionary materials.

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

1.5 Earth Materials and Processes

The Earth Materials and Processes program seeks to elucidate the properties of natural and man-made Earth surfaces, with the goals of revealing their histories and governing dynamics and developing theory that describes physical processes responsible for shaping their features.

(i) Earth Surface Materials aims to utilize experiments, models, and theory development to describe the physical and mechanical properties and behaviors of rocks, minerals, and soil, and to exploit the properties of these materials to provide quantitative information on recent and ongoing surface processes and perturbations.

(ii) Surface Energy Balance aims to determine, at Army-relevant spatial and temporal scales, 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.

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


Last Update / Reviewed: January 20, 2015