A WPI-led Research Team Works to Enhance the Military’s Defense Materials Supply Resiliency
Worcester Polytechnic Institute has entered into a five-year collaborative agreement with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (DEVCOM ARL) to help equip soldiers in the field with a steady and reliable supply of tools and spare parts. The Materials Recovery Technologies for Defense Supply Resiliency (MRT-DSR) initiative supports President Biden’s 2021 directive to the Department of Defense (DOD) to identify risks in the supply chain for critical minerals and materials, such as rare-earth metals used in high-temperature performance alloys needed to build a wide array of military devices.
With a ceiling of $25 million from the DOD, the team, led by WPI and composed of seven U.S. and international universities and six industry members, will work to ensure critical supplies are available when needed, limit the reliance on foreign resources in manufacturing, and provide processes that could be used at U.S. military operations around the world.
The research program has so far received $7.6 million in Congressional funding and builds on an earlier MRT-DSR collaboration with DEVCOM ARL for which WPI received $9 million in 2020-2021.
“Our national safety and security strongly depend on the uninterrupted supply of all kinds of materials. Therefore, recovery and recycling play a pivotal role in maintaining the resiliency in the supply chain,” said Brajendra Mishra, Kenneth G. Merriam Distinguished Professor of Mechanical & Materials Engineering. “This effort will maintain the flow of products and technologies to the Department of Defense and our national industrial base. In addition, the program is intended to create environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and economically viable materials via recycling."
In addition, the program is intended to create environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and economically viable materials via recycling.”
The team’s main tasks include developing methods to recover critical materials, applying advanced manufacturing techniques, identifying field waste metallic material recovery processes, and studying the use of recycled polymeric materials. WPI will leverage its work with the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3), the first research center in the nation dedicated to developing new technologies for maximizing the recovery and recycling of metals used in manufactured products and structures. WPI will also apply its experience as a National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (NSF IUCRC) in bringing together the right experts, labs, and industry-vetted research agendas to identify the best approaches to the program.
“Together with industry collaborators, WPI’s expertise in the area of reclaiming, recycling, and reusing materials puts us in a prime position to respond to and act on crucial supply issues.” said Bogdan Vernescu, WPI Vice Provost for Research. “Our collective goal to provide our warfighters with the best defenses will have a far-reaching impact as we promote new research, innovation, education, and training for future technologies.”
Over 100 industrial scientists, WPI faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students are engaged in more than 20 research projects that will support this program. Researchers hail from Purdue University; Illinois Institute of Technology/GTI; University of Minnesota; University of Maryland; University of Toronto, Canada; University of Queensland, Australia; and KU Leuven, Belgium. Industry partners include Applied Materials; GDB International; Grensol; Gopher Resource and Indium Corporation.
“This is an important initiative to support the domestic supply chain and promote the sustainable production of critical materials for U.S. industry. We are looking forward to working on several innovative projects for the program,” said Joseph Grogan, Chief Technology Officer, Gopher Resource.