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Structural Metals

Survivability in a contested environment is an important design consideration for a naval ship. For this reason, the basis for the design rules for naval ships lies in the limitations of strength and fracture toughness of the structural metals used in their construction. Improvements in the strength and fracture toughness in structural metals can enable reduced ship light displacement, which itself enables increased speeds and reduced fuel costs. The development of specialized high-strength alloys has well-established physical principles, and is established in the global community. Since the strength and toughness are emergent properties of the microstructure, we see that failure in these materials results generally from low-probability interactions of microstructural features and/or defects. Models that predict failure come from details of the local configurations, and their interactions through global deformation mechanisms. Developing and implementing these models as part of material and structural design leads to novel materials that enable improved performance.

Similarly, the performance, availability, and affordability of advanced defense and commercial systems are strongly dependent on the materials and manufacturing technologies employed. Optimization of the materials and manufacturing often relies on multiple approaches – which depends on accessible capabilities, and subject matter expertise. Integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) provides an efficient rigorous framework for optimizing processing and manufacturing schemes. Fostering an environment where complementary approaches can be identified, coordinated, and tackled by the requisite subject matter expertise, who together provide a broad and deep capacity to effectively utilize an ICME framework, will accelerate the development and insertion of advanced systems and structures.

The intent of these investments is to:

  • Develop characterization and modeling tools, at appropriate length and time scales, to enable the advancement of materials science, including design and predictive capabilities;
  • Develop technologically feasible transition paths for advanced structural metals and processing, and the knowledge needed for the confident design and life prediction of components and systems; and
  • Establish an understanding and quantitative description of the mechanisms that define the evolution of a material’s structure as a function of composition and processing;
  • Provide an understanding of the complex and dynamic interactions that modify materials structure and behavior as a function of operational demands and loading events;
  • Support coordinated activities that enable application of ICME approaches to manufacturing of structures designed for performance and affordability, while minimizing system weight.

Research Concentration Areas

The Structural Metals program emphasizes developing the fundamental understanding needed to discover, design, and produce high-performance structural metals. The current focus is predominately on basic and applied research in the areas of advanced naval steels, affordable titanium alloys, temperature-resistant aluminum alloys, and robust and affordable processing and joining technology. Through a balance of experimental, theoretical, and computational work, the Structural Metals program provides warfighters with enhanced materials that improve platform survivability, reduce platform weight, and improve platform efficiency at reduced life-cycle costs. These advantages accrue through the availability of affordable, qualified high-performance structural metals, and the necessary processing techniques to support their production and fabrication.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • Exploring processing and fabrication technologies to improve the affordability of high-performance structures
  • Identifying new strengthening and toughening mechanisms in metals through novel structure-property relationships for application in severe environments
  • Supporting the design and exploitation of new materials through integrated computational materials science and engineering tools and design workflows

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. N00014-22-S-B001.

Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.

Grants: All white papers for grants must be submitted through FedConnect, and full proposals for grants must be submitted through; instructions are included in the BAA.


Mullins, William M. Dr.
Program Officer
Code 332