Armour expert takes out young innovator award
A ballistic and blast armour expert who has developed a way to accurately predict the performance of armour systems on ADF vehicles using advanced computer simulations has been awarded the 2021 Land Forces Young Innovator award.
Defence scientist, Dr Brodie McDonald has spent years studying the properties of armour materials and developing computer modelling techniques to accurately predict how they perform when subjected to blast and ballistic impact.
“An explosive test is big, expensive and fairly time-consuming to organise. If we can use computer modelling and simulation rather than do the physical test that’s obviously a lot more efficient,” Dr McDonald says.
“It means we don’t need to fabricate new rigs and we can churn through experiments more frequently, allowing us to evolve our armour designs a lot quicker. To do that we need to be able to represent our materials in the computer and that’s what material characterisation is all about – making a mathematical model of the material from which we can then put into our simulations.”
While modelling armour performance is nothing new, Dr McDonald recognised that the theories and models of armour response which have been used almost exclusively since their inception in the 1980’s were lacking, and that simulations using these models missed key physics involved in how armour materials respond under impact.
Drawing on novel research and modelling concepts from automotive crashworthiness testing and aerospace structural impact modelling, Dr McDonald adapted new modelling concepts to the unique materials and extreme conditions of armour modelling.
“Explosions are a very challenging environment – high velocities, solids and gases interacting and lots of heat – so there are a lot of challenges taking a model designed for vehicle crash tests at 100 km/h and using it with vehicle threats travelling orders of magnitude faster. But done correctly elements of this technique can give us far more insight into armour response than traditional test methods,” he explains.
At the same time, Dr McDonald recognised that new methods of physically testing the armour materials were needed to characterise their behaviour.
Working with dynamic testing experts at the Australian Defence Force Academy, he generated multiple new models for armour materials including numerous compositions of steel, aluminium, titanium and tungsten alloys.
Utilising this work, Dr McDonald has developed a predictive computational modelling approach to design improved armour systems for ADF land vehicles. Dr McDonald’s goal is to continue his innovative research techniques to maximise the survivability of both vehicles and their occupants.
Dr McDonald will be presented with his award at the Land Forces 2021 Exposition in Brisbane from 1 to 3 June.