Blast mitigation expert helps create materials resistant to explosions

Apr 23, 2009

The first few microseconds after an explosion are the most important moments for Arun Shukla, because that's when the first hint of damage occurs to nearby structures. As one of the world's leaders in the field of fracture mechanics, he can decipher a great deal about the explosion and about the damaged materials by those first tiny cracks and how they expand.

The Simon Ostrach Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Rhode Island, Shukla has been working since the early 1980s with the U.S. military and, more recently, with Homeland Security, to learn how things break apart and how much force it takes to break them. His goal is to create stronger materials that will mitigate the damage from blasts.

Using powerful computers, a three-dimensional digital image correlation system, and one of the world's fastest cameras, which takes pictures at 200 million frames per second, Shukla can visualize the precise moment of impact. He has used this equipment to improve bulletproof vests, understand how underground bunkers withstand multiple impacts, and strengthen concrete, among other projects.

For the last several years, he has turned his attention to blast mitigation research for the U.S. Navy to help submarines, ships and other naval facilities withstand explosions.

"When an explosion happens in the water, its intensity is far greater than a similar explosion in the air," said Shukla, a resident of Wakefield, R.I. "So we're working to understand how damage happens in air and under water and developing the architecture of new carbon fiber and glass fiber materials to mitigate the damage."

He is also taking what he has learned from this Navy research and applying it to the development of blast resistant materials for buildings, bridges and tunnels in a project funded by the Department of Homeland Security. He is not only studying the structural materials of these buildings, but also such things as blast resistant glass and special coatings on materials that will make them less likely to fail.

"We test these materials at pressures comparable to a large blast using a shock tube," Shukla said, referring to a 23-foot long device that simulates the shock wave from an exploding bomb. "By using the shock tube very close to the materials we are testing, we can get the same results as by testing much larger explosions farther from the materials. And it's much safer."

Shukla's latest project is a collaboration with the U.S. Air Force to develop new materials that can be used in the construction of high-tech airplanes that can fly into space.

"We're creating what are called functionally graded materials," he said. "These must have thermal properties on the outside to withstand the tremendous heat that occurs when it re-enters the atmosphere, but they also have to have mechanical properties on the inside to withstand the great load or pressure that will be exerted on the plane."

Source: University of Rhode Island (news : web)

Explore further: PsiKick's batteryless sensors poised for coming 'Internet of things'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Engineers set to create bomb-proof 'curtains'

Dec 05, 2006

Engineers from the University of Exeter are working on an innovative new project to create curtains made from a ‘smart’ material that could minimize injuries inflicted by a terrorist attack.

Using nanotech to make Robocops

Oct 31, 2007

Bulletproof jackets do not turn security guards, police officers and armed forces into Robocops, repelling the force of bullets in their stride. New research in carbon nanotechnology however could give those in the line ...

New approach to understanding cracks

Feb 03, 2006

Could engineers have known ahead of time exactly how much pressure the levees protecting New Orleans could withstand before giving way? Is it possible to predict when and under what conditions material wear and tear will ...

Engineer focuses on the mechanics of better bullet proofing

Nov 20, 2006

Body armor with greater ballistics resistance is the aim of the research being carried out by Youqi Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas State University, with support from two U.S. Department of ...

Recommended for you

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...