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$1.5M Awarded for Thin-Film R&D

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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A United States military research and development agency awarded $1.5 million in a three-year project to develop new ways to apply thin-film coatings to military equipment without using excessive heat.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, TX, with the $1.5 million, three-year project contract to develop new technologies for depositing thin films.

thin film coatings

The Southwest Research Institute was awarded $1.5 million to spend three years developing a way to apply thin-film coatings without using high-thermal energy.

DARPA's mission is to "maintain the technical superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security."

Overcoming High-Thermal Energy

The contract award is under the agency's Local Control of Materials Synthesis (LoCo) program, which investigates new methods to meet the requirements of depositing thin-film coatings onto the surfaces of a variety of materials without using bulk heating.

The goal of LoCo is to overcome reliance on high-thermal energy input by looking at how thin-films deposit at the molecular component level in areas such as reactant flux, surface mobility and reaction energy.

Thin-film deposition requires high levels of energy to achieve the individual chemical steps to deposit a coating on a substrate. Currently, many of the high-temperature processes for applying the thin-film coatings cannot be used on military vehicles and other equipment because of the temperature limit for the material.

The LoCo program will attempt to create a new, low-temperature process, as well as a new range of coating-substrate pairings to improve the surface properties of materials used in defense technologies, including rotor blades, infrared missile domes and photovoltaics.

"Drawing from our experience in developing novel plasma technologies and thin-film deposition processes, we are focusing on the thin-film deposition process component of reactant flux," said Dr. Vicky Poenitzsch, a senior research scientist at SwRI's Materials Engineering Department and manager of the DARPA project, in a press release.

"We are developing a novel plasma technology—named high power impulse plasma source or HiPIPs—that will provide a high flux of reactive species to a surface while maintaining an overall low deposition temperature," Poenitzsch explained.

"The focus of the first year is a proof-of-concept demonstration of our HiPIPS plasma source to meet metrics for the reactant flux component. In the second year we will integrate our plasma source with other performer teams' technologies for surface reactivity and mobility," she said. The third year will focus on depositing a challenge film on a substrate and a DARPA-selected challenge film on a Department of Defense part.


Tagged categories: Contract awards; Department of Defense (DOD); Paint application; Research

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