DoD Scientist of the Quarter

Dr. Kristopher Darling Awarded DoD Scientist of the Quarter

Dr. Kristopher Darling is recognized as one of the first scientists in the world to produce thermally stable, bulk nanostructured metals. While at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), he has worked to develop programs to explore and develop the processing-structure-property relationships in novel structural metals, with particular emphasis on the unique properties that emerge at the nano-scale. While researching nanocrystalline Cu-Ta alloys, Dr. Darling came across a startling finding that would change previous expectations of how nanocrystalline metals react at high temperatures.

Dr. Kristopher Darling with Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall after formal recognition as ASD (R&E) Lab Scientist of the Quarter Award for Fiscal Year 2016, Fourth quarter.
Dr. Kristopher Darling with Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall after formal recognition as ASD (R&E) Lab Scientist of the Quarter Award for Fiscal Year 2016, Fourth quarter.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has relied solely on single-crystal Ni super alloys in advanced turbine engines for the past 50 years. Traditional nanocrystalline metals exhibited extreme microstructural instability at moderately low temperatures. Dr. Darling’s findings revealed Cu-Ta alloys exhibited a profound resistance even when exposed to extreme combinations of high temperatures and stress. In most cases, it has proven to be more superior than exotic materials such as Ni-based super alloys. Applying these materials to new alloy systems increases efficiency in engines to withstand an operating temperature of 500°C.

For the past six months, Dr. Darling has led a team to identify the mechanism that decouples the unwanted durability trade-off associated with nano-structured metals. Utilizing alloy chemistry and high energetic processing techniques has cultivated the ability to engineer alloys with previously unattained strengths.  Dr. Darling paved the way for new capabilities yet to be realized for lack of suitable material, which are now conceptualized for use across the DoD. His findings have benefited the Army and DoD missions. The DoD can now utilize high-temperature capabilities, enabling replacement of higher-cost materials with lower-cost alloys required for high-temperature applications, such as advanced turbine engines.

Dr. Darling completed his bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. from the North Carolina State University, Raleigh under the guidance of Carl Koch and Ronald Scattergood. He completed his Ph.D. in 2009 and joined the ARL at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a postdoctoral fellow. He has over 10 years of experience in the fabrication, consolidation, testing, and characterization of nanocrystalline metals and alloys. His recent area of research has concentrated on the thermodynamic and kinetic stabilization of nanocrystalline metals and alloys for defense applications.

Dr. Darling has published approximately 60 articles in this area of research, and continues to make significant contributions to DoD’s work in this space.

Dept of Defense US Air Force OASAALT RDECOM ONR NRL US Air Force Joint Chiefs of Staff Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Force Health Protection & Readiness Defense Threat Reduction Agency Missile Defense Agency Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization Chemical & Biological Defense Program