Department of Defense unit awards UNT researcher grant aimed at reducing combat threats

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 17:42

DENTON, Texas (UNT) – The use of weapons and explosives in conflict zones is often considered inevitable; however, one University of North Texas researcher hopes his work can help the military combat this never-ending threat with data the military can use to develop better protection for soldiers and civilians. UNT Mechanical and Energy Engineering Assistant Professor Xu Nie has been awarded a $585,784 grant from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, a unit of the Department of Defense, to study the way high-performance concrete materials behave when impacted by a moving projectile.

Nie will use this grant funding, along with approximately $225,000 from a previous Air Force Research Laboratory grant, to continue researching the mechanical response and failure behavior of advanced materials and structures. By developing innovative experimental techniques and methodologies to characterize this fundamental behavior, Nie will help the military develop new materials for body armor and for the construction of vehicles and buildings through his work. He said his work is ultimately about saving lives.

"In conflict zones, vehicles, buildings and even people are constantly threatened by bullets, bombs, shrapnel and other weapons," said Nie. "One thing that is of particular importance in designing protective structures is the knowledge of why and how certain materials deform, fail and are damaged when they are hit by projectiles."

Using a device known as a Split-Hopkinson pressure bar, also known as a Kolsky bar, Nie and his student researchers will test the dynamic stress and strain response of materials in both compression and tension. Afterward, the materials will be examined through an X-ray Micro-CT scanner at the UNT Center for Advanced Research and Technology; this will enable the research team to determine how damages develop and propagate across samples under varying impact conditions.

"There will never be an ultimate answer to all of these problems because weapon technology is always moving forward," said Nie. "That is why researchers always have to be on the forefront of providing tangible solutions that can be used to prevent deaths and injuries in these volatile situations."

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