Kristopher Behler, Materials Scientist, DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory
One of the most exciting ongoing research areas in ceramics is the development of ultra-high temperature ceramics (UHTCs). As a Material Scientist at DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Dr. Kris Behler leads the UHTC materials program, within the Ceramic and Transparent Materials Branch (Sciences of Extreme Materials Division), researching and developing UHTCs, UHTCMC and other high temperature materials. This covers the range from synthesis to processing, densification and materials testing/characterization in extreme conditions.
In his spare time, he also Co-leads efforts in armor ceramic processing focusing on light weighting using current and novel ultra- to super-hard boride and carbides multiphase/multicomponent materials and architectures. Dr. Behler is also responsible in developing partnerships with academia, industry and other government organizations to collaborate, reduce risk and transition materials, scientific knowledge and products to support the Army and DoD’s Mission.
We caught up with Dr. Behler to share his expert insight in to this promising area of ceramics, which he will be sharing with us as a panel speaker at Ceramics Expo 2021.
Do you think that the development of UHTCs is gaining more attention? Why?
Development of UHTCs is gaining more interest as the aerospace and defense industries push the limit of materials and processes to even more extreme environments in which higher temperatures and chemical resistance is required. The US, in the most recent 2018 National Defense Strategy, has committed to increasing a sustained investment in technologies supporting hypersonic development. One reason for the increased attention is the increasing ability in high temperature processing (hot-pressing, SPS etc.) through increased knowledge of sintering aids and densification techniques. This is coupled with the potential of complex geometries and architectures utilizing new processing techniques such as ceramic additive manufacturing (AM). Given a more sustainable investment the development of a larger class of UHTCs is poised for improvements that were not achievable just a few years ago. The potential rapid acceleration of research and development has started to renew interest in the field and is very exciting to be part of.
Given a more sustainable investment the development of a larger class of UHTCs is poised for improvements that were not achievable just a few years ago.
What do you think are the current challenges of advancing UHTCs?
The greatest challenge to UHTC advancement is simple, cost efficient manufacturing, which starts with basic ceramic processing. First, the synthesis of high quality powders to reduce contamination and oxide formation (on carbides, nitrides and borides) while using low-cost, domestic resources. Second, the densification of these materials, whether it be monolithic or multiphase to “high entropy”, require high temperatures and aggressive processing conditions that currently do not facilitate easy manufacturing of complex geometries. The third challenge is a robust industrial sector to develop these synthesis and processing techniques while the end users or customers build a need and market for UHTCs.
How will hypersonic end-use applications benefit from the developments of these materials?
Cost-efficient, ultra-high temperature materials may enable bodies that can operate at even more extreme temperatures, pressures and environments than before. In addition, these materials can have dual-use capabilities for high-temperature engines and re-entry vehicles for space exploration. Reducing the cost of these materials will make these applications more accessible to small businesses and even increase the industrial base.
…these materials can have dual-use capabilities for high-temperature engines and re-entry vehicles for space exploration.
As a first time speaker at Ceramics Expo, what are you most looking forward to at the event?
As a first time speaker at the Ceramics Expo I am looking forward to meeting new people, discussing state-of-the-art research and development in UHTCs with industry, academia and other government experts and customers. I am looking forward to pushing the field forward and thus ultimately help the Army and DoD.
Finally, if you were sent to live on a deserted island for a month, what one item would you take with you and why?
A volleyball, so I could talk to someone….Ok maybe a crate with a month’s worth of food/water (figuring I could find some shelter from the sun and other elements) so I would be able to stay nourished for the time on the island. Yes, pretty bland and common, although a fully stocked cruise ship would be a close second.
Join us at the Ceramics Expo 2021 Conference, on August 31st-September 1st in Cleveland, OH where we will be discussing this subject, and many more topics at the forefront of the industry. Experts from leading companies including NASA, Rolls-Royce, Kyocera, Morgan Advanced Materials, Northrop Grumman, Skyworks, and many more will also be speaking at the event, so make sure not to miss it!