The U.S. Army is on the hunt for new materials science breakthroughs by working together with a researcher from Brazil. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has a cooperative research and development agreement with the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, known as PUC-Rio. Isabella Costa is pursuing a master of science degree from the university. Since September, she has been working alongside an Army researcher on basic research into thermal expansion.
“I’ve been exploring, in Brazil, a new system and we found the best composition, the optimum composition, by solid state reaction, and this composition is the one we are working here,” Costa said. “We can change a material that now we are using because we can use another one that we are developing for the same application, which has a better property and a lower cost. So we can work with that and develop new types of materials and that’s very exciting.”
Army researchers welcome the collaborative effort.
“We’re focusing on how to synthesize these materials and how to change the chemistry of the materials in order to decrease the thermal expansion,” said Dr. Victoria Blair, a materials engineer in the lab’s Ceramics and Transparent Materials Branch. “If we decrease the thermal expansion, we can improve the thermal shock resistance of these materials, which could make them more effective in applications that require high-temperature fluctuations and in gradients.”
A CRADA is an agreement between a U.S. government agency and a private company or university to work together on research and development. The laboratory has what’s known as the Open Campus business model for fueling innovation through research and development collaboration.
“It widely acknowledged that innovation is critically dependent on bringing together multiple disciplines to engage in collaborate projects that often yield unpredictable, but critically important results,” said ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti. “Open Campus means sharing world-class ARL facilities and research opportunities for all partners, including international researchers.”
Officials said collaborative efforts like this help to create a 21st century research culture that is agile and effective.
“Collaboration is really important in science because it gives us an opportunity to stretch our minds and figure out exactly what is going on in a material system and to work on things that you’re not familiar with, to work with people that have a different perspective on the work you’re trying to accomplish,” Blair said. “It’s also really helpful for me and as an individual because I learn different experimental methods and techniques that I haven’t really tried before.”
Discovery of new properties pushes the envelope of materials science.
“I saw that we are able to make that in Brazil because we have all the equipment that we need to do that,” Costa said. “We trying to make a new experiment here and that’s something that we never made in Brazil and I hope that we can do that when I arrive and share this knowledge with my colleagues.”
Costa said the experience has also motivated her career goals.
“I think that I’m making something that I always dreamed of to make peoples’ lives better,” she said. After completing her master’s degree, Costa hopes to begin work on her doctorate. “I’m sure that all the culture and all the knowledge that we shared can help me in the future and I made new friends and opened new doors,” she said.
The month-long visit by the Brazilian post-graduate researcher will culminate with a joint paper and attendance at a materials science conference in Ohio; however, the partnership will continue.
“I certainly hope we’ll be close partners for a long time,” Blair said. It definitely looks like it’s a relationship that’s going to continue to grow and now that Isabella’s been here at ARL for a little while other people are getting interest in what their university has to offer so I’m hoping that the relationship will expand as well.”