UI research team to aid Air Force

By Rob Warren

The new Midwest Structural Sciences Center, a University research group, has an ambitious goal to help the Air Force create tools necessary for supersonic and global strike aircraft.

The air vehicles division of the Air Force Research Laboratory funds the campus group. The center is set to receive five million dollars from the Air Force during the next 10 years.

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However, what makes the center unique is its continued collaboration between the Wright-Pratt Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio and University professors from a variety of Engineering departments.

“In other projects, they grant you the money, with a few restrictions and expectations and then come back in a few years for the results,” said John Lambros, member of the center’s steering committee and professor in aerospace engineering. “In the center we’ll be working in collaboration with the Air Force labs,”

William Dick, who acts as an administrator and organizer, heads the center as the executive director; the steering committee acts as the guiding force for projects, Lambros said.

One of the two research focuses of the center, Global strike is the ability to fly to any location in the world in only a couple of hours, said Glaucio Paulino, member of the center’s steering committee and professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

An aircraft capable of supersonic speeds and global strike needs to be able to go into space, or more than 100 kilometers in altitude because the atmosphere interferes with objects attempting to travel at supersonic speeds, Dick said.

To meet the goal of space flight, the center is focusing on three main areas: the design of aircraft, new materials and health monitors Dick said.

Health monitors are systems that check for any damage the aircraft received during flight.

There are three methods of research the center will use, Paulino said: modeling with computers, experiments and validation, and risk analysis.

The modeling will be conducted on many computers, but will rely on the use of the University’s Computer Science and Engineering Turing Cluster.

The center purchased 200,000 CPU hours of use on the 1280 processor supercomputer.

Paulino said the models will help the researchers view and analyze both small and large problems.

Experimental research will involve testing of materials and principals, Lambros said. This will validate the information found in models.

Risk analysis is important because the philosophy of construction is changing, said Paulino.

“Instead of manufacturing hundreds of F-15’s in the future the Air Force might just have a dozen air craft with the capabilities we’re looking at. At that point reliability and risk analysis become very important,” Paulino said.