Defence awards engineers $2m extension funding

Thanks to $2million in funding awarded by the Department of Defence, Sydney researchers will co-lead a truly global R&D collaboration, involving nine universities, on frontier materials science challenges in advanced manufacturing.

Minister of Defence Industry, the Hon. Melissa Price, and US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J Austin III, recently approved a recommendation from the US Office of Naval Research and Australia’s Department of Defence to grant an extension phase to an Australian-United States Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (AUSMURI) program led by the University of Sydney.

AUSMURI is one of the flagship schemes under the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF) and is the Australian companion to the United States MURI program. Both programs create bi-lateral, multidisciplinary teams that conduct research on high-priority projects for future defence capability.

Professor Simon Ringer is the project’s Chief Investigator. Credit: University of Sydney

AUSMURI extensions are granted on the basis of a project’s performance and prospects. The extension funding delivers a further $1million per year to the team, which is led by Chief Investigator Professor Simon Ringer. It comes off the back of an initial $3 million program grant.

Professor Ringer said: “Our team were put through their paces in a review over two days with senior research engineers and scientists from various companies and organisations including Lockheed Martin, GE, AmericaMakes, the various arms of the US Department of Defense Research Offices (Navy, Air Force, Army) and Australia’s Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG).

“With the time differences between Australia and the US, you might say it was a couple of hard days’ nights! Beyond the great efforts made by the AUSMURI teams at the University of Sydney and UNSW during the annual review processes, our project has so far been hugely successful because of the breakthrough research in understanding new ways that phase transformations work in the extreme conditions of additive manufacturing, which will help us design new materials with remarkable structural properties.”

Co-Chief Investigator, Professor Xiaozhou Liao said: “This is a global research team. We have researchers from the University of Sydney and UNSW working with the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, the University of California – Santa Barbara, Ohio State University, Iowa State University, Colorado School of Mines and Virginia Tech. The US team are funded by MURI and our team are funded under AUSMURI. The scale and capacity of this global team is truly impressive.”

Professor Xiaozhou Liao is the Co-Chief Investigator. Credit: University of Sydney

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Duncan Ivison welcomed the funding announcement.

“MURI and AUSMURI are high-profile NGTF programs that the US and the Australian defence departments support and monitor at the highest levels because they are so targeted to our defence priorities,” said Professor Ivison.

“I am delighted that the University of Sydney leads the Australian side of this international research program, and congratulate the team on their success. Additive manufacturing is not just a great technology story: the quest to understand what happens during additive manufacturing and how to harness it is opening new, deeply complex scientific questions that require a multidisciplinary approach – a factor that plays to Sydney’s strengths.”

Head of Computational Materials and Structures from the Aerospace Division of DSTG, Dr Zoran Sterjovski said: “My colleagues and I are delighted with the news that this MURI/AUSMURI program will be extended. The AUSMURI team has discovered new phase transformation pathways in titanium alloys, new crystal defect structures in high-entropy alloys, and are developing new methodologies for multi-scale, multidimensional characterisation of microstructures right down to the atoms.”

“Many of Defence’s Science, Technology and Research (STaR) Shots require complex delivery platforms, making additive manufacturing a critical technology enabler. This means we have to get to the bottom of the materials science in order to apply additive manufacturing as a defence technology.”

“These breakthroughs help us understand how to qualify additive processes and materials for applications in Australia’s air, maritime and land-based defence platforms.

“More broadly, the NGTF is investing $1.2 billion over the next decade in technologies to revolutionise Australia’s defence capability.”

MURI’s lead Chief Investigator from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and ORNL Professor Sudarsanam Suresh Babu said: “Additive manufacturing is a massively non-equilibrium process that has taken materials science into completely uncharted territory. I am so delighted with the way that the MURI and AUSMURI groups have come together to form an international research team to tackle this vital exploration challenge.

“Sure, ‘additive’ is very exciting and the field is moving incredibly fast, but much more research is needed. Agencies and organisations are starting to realise that fundamental materials science research is the rate-limiting step to make things happen in additive.”

Professors Ringer and Liao are members of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, and the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis.

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