Wright-Patt Launches Remote Microscopy

researcher pointing at screen on remote station
Dayton Daily - News Frank Scheltens remotely operates an electron microscope from the Air Force Research Lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

Air Force Research Laboratory scientists will be able to more quickly analyze materials needed in weapon systems with nearly $2.5 million spent on electron microscopes that can peer deep into materials, officials said Friday.

AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has simultaneously launched its first “remote collaboratory” in a partnership with Ohio State University.

Researchers can access over the Internet additional high-powered microscope technology at the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis on OSU’s campus in Columbus.

“Partnerships are essential today,” said Rudy Buchheit, an OSU associate dean of academic affairs and administration. “Our budgets aren’t getting bigger, our problems aren’t getting easier.”

A new $1.9 million AFRL electron microscope, dubbed FEI Talos, and another called FEI Titan that had a $500,000 upgrade, will help scientists analyze how materials perform on aircraft, said Thomas A. Lockhart, director of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. The technology, for example, can explore the cause of cracks or corrosion in materials.

“In the past, it’s taken a significant amount of time to do that assessment,” Lockhart said. “With this new machine, what we could do in days now will take hours and minutes.”

The high-resolution technology can peer into strings of atoms and show two-dimensional and three-dimensional images, said Krishnamurthy Mahalingam, an AFRL research scientist. “We can look at how different elements in the material change,” he said.

OSU researchers will work with AFRL’s workforce to solve technical problems, officials said.

“No one center can be state of the art in everything,” said Matthew O’Malley, program manager of AFRL’s Materials Characterization Facility, where the work is performed.

Ohio State has had a decades-old partnership with Wright-Patterson researchers in areas such as material durability, corrosion protection and human performance, Buchheit said.

“Our business is training our future colleagues so in order to make sure that we’re preparing people to participate and have impact in the workforce we have to be relevant and having a partner like AFRL brings us real problems that helps us evolve in that way,” he said.

Nationwide, AFRL has 10 directorates, four of them at Wright-Patterson. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patt has about 900 employees and a $200 million annual budget, Lockhart said.

Click here to read more about the CEMAS Remote Access capabilities.

Category: Research