National Security Leaders to Discuss U.S. Innovation in Energetic Materials at Conference at Purdue University


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Leaders in defense research will gather at Purdue University for the Breakthrough Energetics 2022 conference as the invasion of Ukraine and the shadow of wider conflict underscore the need for improved defense chains. procurement for innovative energy materials. Purdue University and its Purdue Energetics Research Center (PERC), a national leader in the research and training of national professionals in the field of energetic materials – propellants, pyrotechnics and explosives – will host the conference on Wednesday and Thursday (4 and May 5). The conference is organized by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), in partnership with the NDIA Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI), the Energetics Technology Center (ETC) and Purdue.

The national security of the United States depends on energetic materials developed decades ago, some of which are produced from increasingly unreliable offshore sources, as detailed in a recent article written by the leaders of ETI and ETC . As with several emerging defense-critical technologies, the article notes, peer competitors have the potential to outpace the United States. But unlike some defense-critical technologies, such as microelectronics, for which there is a vibrant commercial market, the federal government is the primary driver of the energy materials market.

“At this pivotal moment, it is essential that we invest in the development of technologies to ensure that our country continues to lead the world, that our military remains unmatched and that we cultivate a highly skilled national workforce that meets the needs of our fighters and broader economy,” said Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana.

An aging industrial base and fragile supply chains compromise the ability of the United States to maintain superiority in conflict. Congressional action, including the American Competes Act of 2022 and the House Armed Services Committee’s Future of Defense Task Force 2020 report, recognizes and seeks to reverse this growing concern. At Purdue, PERC works with nearly every national security sector agency in the United States on comprehensive research into energetic materials “from molecules to munitions.”

“As a nation, we’ve backed off a bit by losing the capacity of the national workforce. Purdue and our partners at Department of Defense research labs, such as the Army Research Lab, as well as Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and Industry labs, focus on growing talent in this space,” said Jeff Rhoads, professor of mechanical engineering and head of the Air Force-Midwest Research Laboratory Regional Research Center at Purdue.

Breakthrough Energetics 2022 is built around recommendations from a congressional-mandated study conducted by ETC and co-authored by Theresa Mayer, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships; Marcus Jones, professor at the US Naval Academy; and Robert Kavetsky, CEO of the Energy Technology Center. These recommendations correspond roughly to three conference themes needed to rebuild US capabilities in energetic materials.

“Priming the Pipeline” refers to the need for innovative ideas and a skilled national workforce to produce energy materials. “Science and Technology Challenges” talks about reshaping the hierarchy of research decision-making to prioritize innovation. And “Reinventing Technical Requirements” recognizes the need to change the incentive structure in military contracts to emphasize breakthrough innovation rather than incremental improvements.

“We now know the barriers to improving the energy materials pipeline, but to overcome those barriers, we need government, industry and higher education to work together,” said Mayer, who is also a member. of the NDIA Board of Directors. “The Breakthrough Energetics conference is one piece of this coordinated effort, and I expect the benefits of these discussions to resonate in the next steps; moving us from the progressive progress we have to the revolutionary progress we need.

The conference drew high-profile defense voices, including Harry Harris, former commander of U.S. Pacific Command and former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, who will deliver the keynote address on the importance to advance energetics. Three leaders from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment will offer direct Department of Defense commentary. Christopher C. O’Donnell, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, who advises the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition on matters relating to the Department of Defense acquisition system; Steven G. Wax, Senior Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Research and Technology, who champions the Department of Defense Science and Technology Enterprise, will speak on the way forward; and Christine Michienzi, Chief Technology Officer to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, will discuss acquisition requirements.

As the leading institution for advancing energy R&D in the United States, Purdue is a natural gathering place for the event. Purdue invests in energy materials research and workforce development through its Next Moves initiatives, a set of strategic areas that advance the university’s position as a top research and development institution. teaching to the world. PERC educates up to 150 undergraduate and graduate students in energetic materials at any one time, the largest single source of national talent in the field.

Steven Beaudoin, director of PERC, said Purdue is uniquely positioned to lead the field because the university has a large pool of talent in synthesis, process engineering and characterization, three areas needed to invent new energetic materials, develop advanced manufacturing processes and ensure the quality of the results. some products.

The university also enjoys statewide support, with nearly 30% of US munitions stored in southern Indiana, and a strong partnership with the Crane Army Ammunition Activity and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, in Crane, Indiana.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a leading public research institution that develops practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the past four years as one of the 10 most innovative universities in the United States by US News & World Report, Purdue delivers groundbreaking research and groundbreaking discoveries. Committed to hands-on, online, real-world learning, Purdue provides transformative education for all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, allowing more students than ever to graduate debt-free. Learn how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Marie Martialay


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