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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2023

NSWC Crane announces its first research-based OTA, rapidly advancing Boron Nitride materials

By Sarah K. Oh, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) is using its first-ever research other transaction authority (OTA) to rapidly advance boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs). This Strategic and Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S²MARTS) research OTA team will be selecting an award at the end of November. 


NSWC Crane has three Principal Investigators (PIs) who have worked to further this project, titled “Characterization and Improvement of Boron Nitride Nanotubes and Their Composites”: Dr. Cole Davis (right), Manda (left) Schaeffer, and Dr. Steven Seghi (center). Schaeffer said there are many benefits to leveraging an OTA to conduct research.  

“With this S2MARTS OTA, we can select more than one organization to work with,” said Schaeffer. “Through the traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based rules, we can only work with one organization on a solution. With the research OTA, we can build teams. We can have multiple people on one contract.” 

OTAs have more flexibility and create opportunities for non-traditional participants. Dr. Davis said the S2MARTS research OTA creates more opportunities for rapidly advancing research.  

“The research OTA is the fastest way to start this process,” said Dr. Davis. “This authority allows us to identify universities and small businesses that have compatible capabilities for the problem set. We can get a lot of research done more efficiently with the same funding source. The real advantage of the OTA is rapid acquisition, contracting, and awards. The Crane contracting team is working hard to make sure this gets awarded quickly.” 

The NSWC Crane contracting team for the S2MARTS research OTA is led by Danielle Julian-Klier and Sydney Wittmann. Wittman said this has been a great effort to establish at NSWC Crane. 

“It has been an honor working with this team of technical experts to establish the first research project under S2MARTS Research OTA,” said Wittmann. “Helping to set the stage for a successful Research OTA has been fulfilling and is a huge step in OTA progression at NSWC Crane.” 

Julian-Klier said it will be exciting to watch the research take place under the OTA.  

“It has been a privilege to have been selected to be one of the team members to work on the first research OTA for NSWC Crane,” said Julian-Klier. “Being challenged with new work/experiences is always something I look forward to and have great expectations this will be the first of many to come. It will be exciting to see how the research evolves and helps our technical team members provide a better tomorrow for our warfighters.” 


A picture containing outdoor objectDescription automatically generatedBNNTs were first synthesized in the 1990’s just after carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were discovered. However, CNTs were easier to produce at the time and have since been developed and utilized in critical technologies such as electronics, sensors, energy storage, medical devices, and more. BNNTs weren’t studied in-depth until recent advancements in synthesis methods. Now that BNNTs are commercially and reliably available, it is important to begin exploring their exotic material properties.  

“BNNTs are relatively new with little scientific research—there’s a lot of unknown properties that need characterized,” said Dr. Davis. “It is a new material with a lot of unknowns, but a lot of potential.” 

BNNTs exhibit thermal conductivity, high strength, and electrical resistivity. Schaeffer said these properties are worth researching.  

“There are unique properties BNNTs have that CNTs don’t,” said Schaeffer.  

Dr. Davis said NSWC Crane’s role goes beyond managing the proposals. 

“NSWC Crane is doing research in parallel,” said Dr. Davis. “The research the organizations will be doing through this OTA supplements our own internal efforts to develop this material. The Navy is always seeking to remain at the forefront of new technologies that can provide an advantage to our warfighters.” 

NSWC Crane is collaborating with the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL), NSWC Carderock, and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The S2MARTS research OTA is funded by NSWC Crane through the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Schaeffer said the collaborative research is applicable across multiple mission areas.  

“This project is a new opportunity to bring value and cutting-edge research to NSWC Crane,” said Schaeffer. “The S2MARTS research OTA creates a low point of entry. A lot of basic research is being done by universities who have experts, expensive equipment, and novel techniques—NSWC Crane can then take that basic research and apply it to warfighter needs. This BNNT research shows promise towards both Spectrum and Strategic mission areas at NSWC Crane. This OTA provides an exciting opportunity to get involved in the development earlier in the lifecycle and ultimately transition new material solutions to production.” 

About NSWC Crane | NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electromagnetic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter. 

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