AFRL’s scientific achievement award winners guest star on Lab Life podcast Published May 23, 2023 By Justin Hayward Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) ‒ Dr. Matthew Dickerson and Dr. Lisa Rueschhoff of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, are the featured guests on episode 74 of AFRL’s “Lab Life” Podcast titled “Hot Topics in Ceramics.” “Lab Life” brings listeners behind the scenes with scientists, engineers, professionals and the technologies developing tomorrow’s technology today. Dickerson and Rueschhoff recently received the directorate’s Charles J. Charles J. Cleary Scientific Achievement Award for their paper on the Ceramic Additive Manufacturing, or AM of nanostructured ceramics, a topic discussed in the episode. “Through the combined efforts of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Harvard University and UMass Amherst, Ceramic AM of nanostructured ceramics was a project where we were using ceramic additive factoring to control the scale of materials from the nanoscale up to the macroscale using ink which contained a specialty polymer called a black particle self-assemble and the structures in that polymer,” said Dickerson. “Using those specialized polymers together, we could control the structure of the ceramics at the nanoscale. Then atom fracturing allowed us to take that nanoscale material and control the architecture of that out through the micron and out to the macroscale.” Both Dickerson and Rueschhoff are members of the directorate’s ceramics branch. “As material scientists, we think about things as their structure, properties and processing relationships,” said Rueschhoff. “So, everything ties together.” During the episode, both discuss their journeys to AFRL and why ceramics are essential to the Air Force. “Ceramics can handle high temperatures. They are hard,” said Dickerson. “However, some of the major differences between the ceramics in your kitchen and the ones we work on come from how brittle they are. So, my ‘world’s best dad’ coffee mug is fantastic for drip coffee, but if I drop it on the floor, it will break into a thousand pieces. A lot of our work is bringing greater toughness to those ceramics so they can be used for various Air Force applications.” Using fiber reinforcements, Dickerson and Rueschhoff can manipulate the ceramic materials making them stronger and more durable than ordinary ceramics. Reinforcing the materials ensures they do not have a catastrophic failure but rather a graceful failure. “Fiber reinforcement is kind of like a bridge that holds everything together,” said Rueschhoff. “So that is the traditional way we have used it in ceramics. Furthermore, there are many ways to incorporate fibers to reinforce the material.” Because of ceramics’ ability to handle high levels of heat and the need to push aircraft components faster and run at hotter temperatures, ceramics could become a viable and potentially cost-effective way for the Air Force and Space Force to achieve their goals. Currently, that is the goal behind the ceramics branch, as both Dickerson and Rueschhoff are working on various ways to combat the challenges ceramics face while focusing on amplifying their strength and toughness. Listen to the full Lab Life podcast to learn more about Dickerson, Rueschhoff and the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. About AFRL The Air Force Research Laboratory or AFRL, is the Department of the Air Force’s primary scientific research and development center. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.