Lab hopes to create all-new material
The Applied Sciences Laboratory based in the Spokane University District has been awarded an $8.5 million grant to develop a new material that’s tough as steel, yet explosive.
The lab, an offshoot of the Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics, will receive $6.4 million. Collaborators in Minnesota and California will split the rest of the money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
“There was no way we could have done this without a strong team,” said Institute Director Yogi Gupta, one of five researchers who will be involved in the project. ASL employs 11 in Spokane and Pullman.
He said the group will receive the full amount of the grant only if it can deliver 250 grams of “reactive material” after the first phase of development. That’s about what a roll of quarters weighs.
At the end of the second phase, three and a half to four years in the future, the researchers must deliver one kilogram.
Reactive materials contain metals and polymers, for example, that can be as strong and dense as steel. Stable under normal conditions, they must fracture into a fine, explosive dust – the kind that triggers grain elevator fires – under extreme stress, such as impact against a hard object.
Gupta said the fragmentation must produce a “controlled explosion” within 10-millionths of a second.
“Can we do it? We’ll find out,” he said.
Gupta said the new grant brings to more than $12 million the total attracted by scientists at ASL.
Besides Gupta, the scientists involved are ASL Director of Advanced Materials Atakan Peker, WSU chemistry professor and institute Associate Director Choong-Shik Yoo, Gordon Johnson of the Southwest Research Institute, and James Gran of SRI International.