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DoD Corrosion Office Deepens its Partnership with Universities

Government and Academe Raise Expectations for Collaboration

The Department of Defense has raised the stakes of a four-year-old partnership that aligns the research goals of DoD corrosion prevention experts with those of university scientists.

Christine E. Lemon discusses her corrosion technology research during the student poster session contest. Lemon worked with Heather C. Allen on the project, titled “Field Studies of the Atmospheric Corrosion of Silver.”
Christine E. Lemon, a doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University, discusses her corrosion technology research during the 2011 DoD Corrosion Conference student poster session contest. Lemon worked with Heather C. Allen on the project, titled “Field Studies of the Atmospheric Corrosion of Silver.” Photo by Diana Zalucky.

“As the DoD community identifies serious corrosion problems and develops new technologies and applications to solve those problems, we’re looking for a higher level of research support than we’ve had in the past,” said Rich Hays, Deputy Director of the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office. “To meet this objective, we are stepping up our research collaboration with academic scientists from universities renowned in corrosion science, and encouraging more of their students to consider careers in the DoD corrosion community,” Hays said.

DoD and academic corrosion scientists began partnering in 2007 when the DoD Corrosion Office formed the University Corrosion Collaboration (UCC), a Congressionally supported effort. Participating schools included The Ohio State University, The University of Virginia, The University of Akron, Southern Mississippi University, The University of Hawaii, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Naval Postgraduate School, U.S. Naval Academy, and Air Force Institute of Technology joined the group in 2011. When the UCC met for two days in January 2010 at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock Division, experts from DoD’s research laboratories began discussing their studies in corrosion mitigation with university peers to see how they might collaborate on technologies required for DoD aircraft, ground vehicles, and facilities structural innovation.

Since that meeting and subsequent forums, the UCC has grown into a better-funded, broader consortium known as the Technical Corrosion Collaboration (TCC). The Corrosion Office is hoping to add two new potential TCC partners, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2012.

Ben K. Hoff discusses his project with Office of Naval Research expert Dave Shifler during the student poster session contest.
Ben K. Hoff, a graduate student at the United States Air Force Academy, discusses his project on the effects of using a specific aluminum alloy within areas of corrosion fatigue with Office of Naval Research expert Dave Shifler during the 2011 DoD Corrosion Conference student poster session contest. Photo by Diana Zalucky.

Gerald Frankel, Professor of Materials Science Engineering at Ohio State University, a TCC participant from the outset, is enthusiastic about the evolution of the collaboration’s vision. “I have no doubt about the ability of each university to do interesting and relevant work, but transitioning the results to the DoD has been almost impossible for us in the past. The military labs are now perfectly situated to implement and apply our research.”

Foundations and New Objectives

Thus far, the military-academic collaboration has yielded a specific understanding of certain environmental effects on coating formulations, inhibitor-binder synergy, the corrosion-resistance characteristics of a magnesium-rich primer, and the relation between accelerated lab test data and field data.

But DoD’s attempt to forge a partnership with the universities did not happen overnight.

“Before the partnership got underway, we at Ohio State had interaction with some military labs, but now under the aegis of the TCC, the labs are much more interested and welcoming,” Frankel said. “Ohio State now has a strong collaboration with NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) on topics that are of real interest to them, and we are slated to provide the fundamental understanding that will underlie their development programs. It is a win-win.”

The DoD corrosion community expects the TCC to build upon UCC’s successful foundation, but the initiative’s goals are now multi-layered, Hays said. Working with university experts in materials science, metallurgy, electrochemistry, fatigue, fracture mechanics, and polymer engineering, the TCC plans to prioritize areas of joint research in corrosion prevention that are most pressing for the war fighter, while balancing the needs of taxpayers, he said. “We aim to produce technologies, advanced components, and knowledge technologies, processes, and commodities that tangibly reduce the impact of corrosion on DoD weapons systems and infrastructure.”

Niteen Jadhay discusses his research project with DoD Corrosion Conference attendees at the student poster session contest. Jadhay’s project, co-authored with Christopher A. Vetter, is titled, “Synthesis and Electrochemical Investigations of Polypyrrole/Aluminum Flake Pigment Compositions.”
Niteen Jadhay, a North Dakota State University graduate student, discusses his research project with DoD Corrosion Conference attendees at the student poster session contest. Jadhay’s project, co-authored with Christopher A. Vetter, is titled, “Synthesis and Electrochemical Investigations of Polypyrrole/Aluminum Flake Pigment Compositions.” Photo by Diana Zalucky.

To realize this goal, DoD is committed to helping universities understand the constraints engineers work under in applying technology within various environments where military aircraft are flown and vehicles are driven, Hays explained. At TCC workshops slated for 2012, military experts will be able to discuss the challenge of working with industry partners and working within existing platforms.

“Through the TCC, the Corrosion Office will strive also to balance its investment portfolio by actively seeking out areas of high-risk, high-reward research to complement the lower-risk, more technically mature efforts that we currently sponsor through technology validation projects that the services have carried out since 2005,” Hays said. “What is most exciting for us is that, finally, the TCC can begin investing in emerging technologies designed to prevent corrosion on military weapon systems and facilities.

Equally important is TCC’s second objective—to foster a joint commitment between DoD and universities to develop graduate students who are committed to making careers with DoD and its industry partners. “We want individuals with advanced education who can make up the future core of our corrosion prevention and control technical community within DoD, its support network, and its suppliers,” Hays explained.

There are several ways in which TCC can carry out this objective strategically, from providing funding to military research labs that encourage working with academe to encouraging existing government employees to return to school to earn a master’s or Ph.D. degree in a relevant field.

Hays believes that more graduate students would choose careers in government if they knew more about the existing opportunities. “There are many ways for advanced engineering students to join the DoD corrosion community. Ph.D.-level experts might work in a government lab or join a program office that procures a specific model of jet fighter, for example. Others may prefer to produce equipment as an entrepreneur. Still others graduating from a military academy might join the uniformed services as a technical expert.”

“Within the TCC, we are committed to helping universities understand the opportunities that exist for students who aspire to become corrosion experts within DoD, while also educating them about DoD’s practice of working with contractors within certain budget constraints,” Hays said. “If we increase DoD’s interaction with graduate students in engineering fields such as materials science, for example, it will broaden their awareness of the career paths available to them. It will let them know that the government can be an exciting place to work.”

The student research contest at the biennial DoD Corrosion Conference is one forum that fulfills the TCC's goal of bringing corrosion professionals in contact with university researchers. At the 2011 meeting, a record number of 32 graduate students discussed poster-sized displays—each illustrating advanced research in corrosion science, engineering, and technology—with military scientists and engineers.

Receiving the Robert Ferrara Award for Corrosion Engineering was Anuska Chilukuri and Rebecca F. Schaller presented by Corrosion Office Deputy Director Rich Hays.
Receiving the Robert Ferrara Award for Corrosion Engineering at the 2011 DoD Corrosion Conference reception is the first-place winner, Anusha Chilukuri, (left), from The Ohio State University, and the second-place winner, Rebecca F. Schaller, from The University of Virginia. Corrosion Office Deputy Director Rich Hays presented the award. Both students displayed their advanced research projects during the conference poster session contest on August 1. Photo by Diana Zalucky.

A Movement Gathers Steam

Besides being supported by researchers, the TCC is gaining support from military officials who write and enforce corrosion policy. “The TCC concept and accomplishments are being embraced by corrosion executives in the Army, Navy, and Air Force who oversee the implementation of DoD’s corrosion policies and practices,” Hays contended. The TCC was a subject on the agenda at the last Corrosion Board of Directors meeting, which included Daniel J. Dunmire, Director of the Corrosion Office; Wimpy Pybus, Army Corrosion Executive; Steve Spadafora, Navy Corrosion Executive; and Col. Elizabeth Arledge, Acting Air Force Corrosion Executive. “All three corrosion control and prevention executives have been supportive and constructively critical, and we want them to guide us and help us do the right thing,” Hays noted.

At the DoD Corrosion Forum on December 8, 2010, at LMI Government Consulting, the TCC will kick off a series of three all-day workshops to develop a 20-year technology roadmap that will lead to a more focused, long-term mission and strategic outlook for both sets of partners. Periodic seminars will also be held to promote interaction between researchers at military labs and universities. “Our first TCC seminar will take place from January 10-12 at The University of Southern Mississippi and it is designed to generate self-sustaining, collaborative efforts between government researchers and universities who are willing to share interests and build a team,” Hays said.

“Through the workshops and seminars, the Corrosion Office hopes to get a critical mass going that becomes self-propagating and doesn’t need our continued investment,” Hays said. “For example, we envision creating opportunities for research professors at our partner universities to do a sabbatical at a government lab and take their experience back to the university community.”

“Both DoD and university researchers benefit from understanding what the other sector is doing. For example, some government researchers may not have a strategic perspective because they’ve only worked on projects they understand and like,” Hays said. “And likewise, academic scientists immersed in theoretical research can benefit from seeing the applications of their research.”

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series exploring the goals and objectives of the new Technical Corrosion Collaboration. The Spring 2012 issue of CorrDefense will detail how universities view the partnership in a discussion of TCC’s benefits and challenges.

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