advanced technology research areas
The SRD has capitalized on the strong academic and research capabilities at The Pennsylvania State University in materials science. The MDD's participation in basic research and development for piezo-electric ceramic and crystal and magneto-strictive materials fuels the design of wide bandwidth and efficient transducers. Development of these devices is the key technology enabler of modern SONAR systems. Typical applications for SRDD products include relatively small Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) [insert link to Hydroid, WHOI, and Bluefin Robotics] and buoys where weight, space, and power are limited. Advanced material and device engineering allow the use of wide bandwidth, high performance payloads on these platforms that were not possible before.
Once the device is developed to the point that it meets the desired performance, the TAT department engineers those devices into an aperture and package that meets the customer's overall SONAR requirements while meeting the platform constraints. This involves packaging to meet the hydrostatic pressure, electro-acoustic, and buoyancy needs. Typically, the transmitting and receiving antennas, or arrays, are designed to meet specific customer-based SONAR system requirements. The group is well versed in many different types of transduction designs such as bars, plates, disks, flextensionals, longitudinal vibrators, piezo-composites, and piezo-plastics. The design team uses modern plane wave and finite element analysis to visualize the device, array, housing, and in-water responses. Rapid prototyping of designs and electo-acoustic testing highlight the validation process for the designers.
The SD Department performs a number of functions. They have the modeling tools to analyze customer requirements and convert those requirements into component specifications. To that end, the various components of the SONAR system are defined to produce the final system performance desired. These derived requirements are used by the hardware, software, and processing engineers to develop the component solutions necessary for a specific system.
ARL has developed a modular approach to SONAR design that allows building blocks to be re-used or modified to rapidly and in a cost-effective manner provide the SONAR tool to the science and technology (S&T) community. Ultimately, the data collected by the SONAR system is the end game for the systems designed at ARL. The SD Department also has the capability to process, health monitor, and visualize the various pieces of data collected by the SONAR system. These capabilities are essential to provide validation and documentation of the pedigree of the database so that it is extensible to multiple end users. The data feeds many other organizations within the Navy and S&T community in general. The systems are designed for a five-year minimum lifespan. It is not unusual for ARL systems to significantly exceed that goal with thousands of hours of operation. Typically, the technology becomes overcome by events before the systems wear out.Finally, to develop, fabricate, and test underwater systems special facilities are required. The SRDD has or has access to machine shops, plating tanks, material preparation and cleaning, clean rooms for assembly and bonding/encapsulation, water tanks for acoustic testing, and large hydrostatic tanks for pressure vessel proofing, as well as electro-acoustic testing as a function of hydrostatic pressure.