The research, which primarily used the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego along with the Stampede and Stampede2 systems at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), may ultimately provide insight into better protective mechanisms for vehicle and soldier armor after further testing and development.
The study, using fundamental physics principles including quantum mechanics, was published earlier this year in an article called " High-Pressure Deformation and Amorphization in Boron Carbide " in theJournal of Applied Physics. Access to Comet was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, or XSEDE.
"Our research provided new insights and an excellent way of analyzing the root cause of catastrophic failure at high pressure induced by high-velocity impacts", stated UF Professor Ghatu Subhash of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. "Although boron carbide has several desirable properties, under high-velocity projectile impacts it suffers from a deleterious phenomenon called amorphization, where its crystal structure collapses in nanometer-sized regions within the materials."
Amorphization is the precursor for cracks in the armor, which may cause eventual catastrophic failure.
Researchers were able to do large-scale and multi-scale modelling of icosahedral-boron rich solids, the class of crystallographic structure to which boron carbide belongs. "Our simulations ran over three times faster per core when we switched from local workstations to Comet, and today our knowledge pertaining to material behaviour of icosahedral ceramics has been elevated to a level that is second to none", stated Amnaya Awasthi, a postdoctoral researcher who co-authored the study.