UNDER PRESSURE: University of Rhode Island mechanical engineering students, from left: Sachin Gupta, Christopher Shillings and Payam Fahr, ensure that an implosion experiment is ready to start. The implosion vessel was purchased with a grant from the Office of Naval Research.
COURTESY JOHN PETERSON
By Rhonda J. Miller PBN Staff Writer
Two projects to study implosion have brought $840,000 in funding from the Office of Naval Research to the University of Rhode Island.
The funding includes a $225,000 grant from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program that was used to purchase an implosion testing vessel that is 7 feet in diameter, stands 7 feet tall and “looks a bit like a cross between a pressure cooker and a space station module,” said URI spokesman Todd McLeish.
The experimental vessel is designed to simulate pressures of up to a half-mile deep in the ocean so scientists can study underwater shockwaves and the stresses, velocities and other dynamic phenomena caused by explosions and implosions, McLeish said.
“The $225,000 grant comes with the stipulation the vessel be used for projects for the Office of Naval Research,” said URI professor of mechanical engineering Arun Shukla.
In addition to covering the cost of the vessel, the funding is for two projects being done in collaboration with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport.
The Office of Naval Research awarded URI $305,000 for a three-year implosion research project on metallic materials, said Shukla, adding that URI was awarded an additional $310,000 for implosion research on composite materials.
“For a long time, the Navy has used metals for their ships, for their submarines and for other containers, maybe for launching weapons, but the use of composite materials is very new,” Shukla said.
Composite materials being used in the research, such as glass fiber and reinforced polymers, are similar to materials used for the boat industry in Rhode Island, said Shukla.
It’s not just the project on composite materials that’s leading-edge research.
“For the metals part, we are also on the leading edge in the types of problems we are exploring,” Shukla said. “These problems have not been studied by others in the past.”
The research projects are valuable to the Navy because they can help shed light on and prevent accidents like one that happened several decades ago, Shukla said.
In April 1963, the U.S. Navy nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher was on deep-dive trials 220 miles east of Cape Cod, according to the Naval History & Heritage Command website. The Navy determined that the submarine probably sunk because of a piping failure, the subsequent loss of power and the inability to blow ballast tanks rapidly enough to avoid sinking, according to the website.