The US Navy has been increasing the use of polymer matrix composite (PMC) materials on ships and aircraft for the last 50 years. This is in part due to their outstanding mechanical properties, lightweight and durability, corrosion and fatigue resistance and ability to conform to complex shapes with reduced part count. Some of the limitations of these materials include the relative weakness of their out-of-plane properties, numerous and complex failure modes difficult to predict, their limited high temperature performance (in particular during hypersonic flight conditions or when used in closed quarters due to fire, smoke and toxicity), and finally their high manufacturing cost.
Research Concentration Areas
To address those challenges, this program has invested significantly in developing new structural fibers with better mechanical and thermo-oxidative resistance, new non-toxic resins systems and sandwich cores with enhanced resistance to fire and its propagation, new additives to improve PMC inter-laminar properties, and new resin infusion models and processing tools for improving product quality and lowering manufacturing costs. Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) have been investigated in particular because of their outstanding mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical properties. Despite of significant improvements in some of the mechanical properties of PMC with CNTs such as 40% gain in interlaminar shear (ILS) with 0.1% by weight of Single-Walled Nanotube (SWNT) and or demonstrating epoxy/CNT composites with 100% improved stiffness, the full potential of these materials has still not been realized.
Research Challenges and Opportunities
The demand for better performing composites continues (stronger, stiffer, lighter and durable composites) with expanded capability requirements for higher temperature performance, multifunctionality, self-awareness and stealth in support of unmanned platforms, distributed operations, robotics, hypersonics, intelligent platforms, digital twins and autonomic logistics. These new requirements are offering new research opportunities in PMC materials and processes. Research concentration areas include: New approaches for: scalable, cost competitive, continuous growth of CNTs; new materials (fiber, resins, additives, and cores), processes, and manufacturing technologies that further enhance the mechanical properties, lower the weight, add multi-functionality, and improve tailor-ability, while lowering total ownership costs.
- Advanced manufacturing concepts with continuous fiber reinforcement
- Continuous growth of CNTs to realize their full potential for structural, thermal, and multifunctional PMC applications
- Integrating multi-functionalities in to PMC (fire protection, thermal management, acoustic damping, energy harvesting, sensing, actuation, communication)
- Resins with better high temperature thermoxidative resistance and higher char yield
UPDATED: November 2020
How to Submit
For detailed application and submission information for this research topic, please refer to our broad agency announcement (BAA) No. N00014-23-S-B001.
Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.