Erdc Takes Top Honor After Design Of Blast Barriers
Federal engineers in Vicksburg have won the Army’s top research award for designing materials that will protect U.S. troops from explosions.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has developed methods to protect structures that are ordinarily susceptible to explosions.
“We came up with something that’s like a thin film that you put on like wallpaper on the inside of this masonry wall,” ERDC director James Houston said. “I don’t think you have to be that good at it, either. You roll it like wallpaper, then you take an adhesive, you use a trowel and you put an adhesive on the back side.”
The film makes a building as much as 15 times as strong as they ordinarily are. The adhesive is easy to apply and confines interior damage from explosions.
“Most of the buildings in Iraq are masonry buildings, and all of Saddam Hussein’s palaces are masonry buildings and we’ve got troops in a lot of those buildings,” Houston said. “So the problem is, when you set off a car bomb outside a masonry building, what will happen is all the wall will come apart and all the blocks will fly into a room and kill everybody.”
The largest loss U.S. forces in the war on terrorism occurred at a dining hall in Mosul on Dec. 21, 2004, when a suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded 69.
In response, Congress has guaranteed $250 million for the Army research laboratory to work on the project as the final tests and modifications are performed at 67 different facilities.
The project also allowed ERDC to develop decompartmentalized facilities which makes it difficult for enemies to create a mass casualty. This can effectively reduce the likelihood of casualties by 99 percent.
The Army was also cited for improving the efficiency of searching military lands to locate unused ammunition and explosives.
“We were able to have a technological breakthrough by fusing a couple of different sensors together to distinguish unexploded ordinance from all the other metal that’s in an area,” Houston said.
The improvement could save the military $50 billion in cleanup costs.
ERDC operates over four sites with over 2,000 employees. The center has $1.2 billion in facilities and an annual research program worth nearly $700 million.
The ERDC was recognized for the eighth time in 14 years for these most recent advances.