Cellular Materials

Extremely lightweight but very strong, cellular materials can be used to manufacture a wide range of products that demand both qualities.

Members of a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion wearing light-weight, energy-absorptive helmets and body armor.Members of a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion wearing light-weight, energy-absorptive helmets and body armor.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth W. Robinson)

Cellular and porous materials contain many open or closed cells distributed throughout the material, as in Styrofoam and other plastic foams or certain ceramic materials. This cellular structure provides properties that are attractive for applications requiring ultralight panels and shells, heat dissipation, or energy absorption (such as armor).

Since 1996, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has looked to enhance our understanding of, and explore the different uses of cellular materials. Research sponsored by an ONR multidisciplinary university research initiative has amplified insights into the mechanical, thermal, and acoustic properties of cellular and porous materials. It added to the fundamental understanding of structural behavior in micro-architecture materials, hierarchical lattices, and 3D additive lattices. This work made it possible to provide an integrated pathway between material behavior, structural design, and component manufacturing, providing new opportunities in the development of lightweight structures and heat-dissipating materials.

ONR core investments further delineated cellular materials behavior during blast and ballistic events. The Deshpande–Evans ceramic impact model described and experimentally verified the mechanical behavior of energetic materials, providing a new capability to investigate fundamental aspects of material response to multiple ballistic hits. It is currently being embedded into the Department of Energy/Department of Defense Allegra Ballistic Code used in the design of armor.

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