Building next-generation Army shelter
Researchers at UNT have built a stronger and safer tactical shelter for military personnel. Engineering professors and students recently completed a two-year project funded by the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to build a prototype of an improved shelter.
“The military wants to develop a next-generation shelter using new technology to achieve a lighter weight and higher strength, at a lower cost,” says Cheng Yu, professor of engineering technology and director of UNT’s Structural Testing Lab. “The current structure has been used by the Army for about three decades. The technology has not changed.”
UNT worked with collaborators at Northeastern University and the University of Southern Mississippi to develop the basic materials and construction of the prototype.
“Creating an improvement to the outdated shelter is a big problem requiring multiple investigators from different areas to work on,” says Sundeep Muhkerjee, associate professor of materials science, adding the project spans three department in UNT’s College of Engineering. “The multi-dimensional collaborative approach we are developing also will advance the research capacity of the university.”
The materials science and engineering department was responsible for materials selection and processing. The engineering technology department was responsible for the design and thermal performance analysis of the structure as well as the fabrication of the prototype. The construction included the use of advanced connection techniques, including laser welding. And the mechanical and energy engineering department worked on vibration suppression in the shelters, which may be used for sensitive equipment or surgical facilities.
“Once we integrated the three departments together, we came up with the prototype that was shipped to the Army recently for examination and further testing,” says Seifollah Nasrazadani, professor and interim department chair of the engineering technology department.
Researchers created walls of corrugated cold-formed steel and polymer composite panels with an energy-efficient spray polyurethane foam insulation in between, which they say has achieved a much lighter-weight, stronger structure that could be produced at far lower cost. They also have exceeded the vibrational standards of the project.
“The unwanted shelter floor vibration caused by human walking may be troublesome for surgery operations in military shelters, therefore, we designed and are installing a tuned mass damper that can be integrated into the shelter floor suppressing the vibration by 40 to 50 percent,” says Haifeng Zhang, associate professor of department of mechanical and energy engineering. “As a result, military personnel will be able to have a safe operation at any time.”
The completed prototype shelter was recently shipped to Northeastern University, which funded the program through the Army. Researchers at other universities are working on ballistic defense, ventilation, heating and air conditioning, electricity and other components of the structure.
“We developed this prototype for other teams to apply and examine their cutting-edge advanced technologies,” explains Yu. “The shelter is currently being used by the Army to test other technologies. We provided a good foundation for the next-generation high-tech tactical shelter for the Army. This is version one. We hope to improve in some areas so that we achieve higher performance down the road.”
Many students were involved from the design to the final construction of the shelter. Two Army veterans who were students in the College of Engineering brought working knowledge of the shelters in the field and were instrumental in the development of the structure. Graduate and undergraduate students performed much of the final fabrication and testing in the Structural Testing Lab. Graduate students who worked on this project helped train the undergraduate students who are currently working in the labs.
“We intentionally include undergrad students in all the projects,” says Nasrazadani. “In getting them involved early on, we’re helping to plant a seed of the need for creativity, innovation, and productivity.”
Narendra Dahotre, interim vice president of research and innovation and University Distinguished Research Professor in materials science and engineering, was one of the principal investigators on the project and led the activities in the material selection, characterization and joining. He emphasizes that such large multidisciplinary projects provide opportunities for faculty and students from various backgrounds to work together as well as help in developing large research infrastructure at UNT.
“This project was a success story of UNT’s recent push for large externally funded projects involving multi- and cross-disciplinary approaches with faculty, researchers and students from multiple departments.” Dahotre says.
U.S. Army PAO #: U18-804