Keeping the Navy shipshape

A look at the work of the Naval Materials Research Laboratory, Ambernath, Maharashtra.

Updated - June 12, 2016 03:53 pm IST

Published - March 26, 2013 06:59 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Every naval force requires machinery and equipment made of quality materials. They have to be in tune with the developments in science and technology and the consequent demand for application of cutting-edge expertise.

The challenges offered by the quality of equipment used by the enemy come as a significant factor in the design of military equipment. Continuing research in this segment of materials is necessary to keep the naval force ready for action.

The requirement of materials depends on the nature of work taken up by any naval force. Whether it undertakes shipbuilding or carries out maintenance at all levels using its own manpower is a factor that decides its studies on materials.

Basic and applied research on materials is necessary in any dynamic navy. Special materials may be necessary for marine applications. Naval structural materials should have fine structural efficiency and damage tolerance. Chemistry and solid-state physics of alloy formation have profound influence on the properties of alloys. This is relevant in shipbuilding, which invariably involves the assembly of plates bonded to each other and to an underlying support framework.

Nanomaterials may be used for forming hybrid structural materials, with rare properties, for applications including coatings for critical components and structures. Computer-aided materials design would not only bring down the cost but also help in predicting properties of materials even before they are physically evolved.

Some of the areas of research may be on composite hull structural materials in the naval environment, design of photovoltaic devices, high electrical conductivity in doped conjugated polymers, high-temperature propulsion materials, high-temperature structural insulators, and structural cellular materials.

Research in India

The nation has a laboratory of repute noted for research in speciality materials for naval applications: The Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL), Shil Badlapur Road, Ambernath, Maharashtra - 421 506;

Website: labs/NMRL/English/ index.jsp?pg=homebody.jsp

This is one of the oldest laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It was started in a small way in 1953 at Naval Dockyard, Bombay. It grew gradually and in nearly 15 years could make substantial import substitution. The lab could develop technologies in the field of underwater anti-corrosive and anti-fouling paints (paints applied to the hull to arrest the growth of organisms) and cathodic protection at global standards. The emphasis was shifted from import substitution to R&D. Materials such as high-strength steel, transducer ceramics and speciality polymeric materials were developed.

The lab assumed its present name in 1995. Subsequently, it pursued basic research as well as application-oriented technology development in several frontier areas such as metallurgy, polymer, ceramics, coating, corrosion and electrochemical protection and marine biology. The infrastructure in terms of space and manpower was expanded to meet the added demands of service.

It now maintains advanced work centres such as the Power system Engineering Centre, the Polymer Science and Technology Centre and an integrated test facility for naval platforms. The NMRL now provides a single window for materials for naval applications. It functions as a nodal laboratory of the DRDO for supporting the power and energy requirements of the Indian armed forces and sister DRDO laboratories and establishments.

Thrust areas

Advanced protection technologies for structures in marine environment.

Arsenic-removal water filter (for civilian use as well. A large population in the Gangetic plain is affected by arsenic poisoning, often leading to skin cancer, carcinoma and stunted growth. The NMRL filter, which uses the principles of co-precipitation and adsorption, is used to mitigate the problem.).

Bioremediation of oil in marine environment (an eco-friendly approach for oil spill management).

Body and vehicle armours (effective body armour for high velocity and armour-piercing bullets to be used in connection with handling terrorism).

Chemical and biological control of the marine environment.

Conducting polymer-based super capacitor.

Development of fuel-cell power packs.

Failure investigation of structures and components in the marine environment.

Flameless space heater.

High-performance adhesives.

Intumescent paint (helps contain fire. Expands several times when heated and protects whatever is underneath by providing thermal insulation).

Modular fuel-cell-based power packs for the armed forces.

One-stop solution for all categories of marine materials.

Special processing technologies for polymeric, metallic and ceramic materials and their characterisation.

Special ZTA ceramics, high-strength polymer blends, composites, and adhesives (Zirconia-toughened alumina ceramics have emerged as a superior choice).

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