DAHLGREN, Va. –
When technology is constantly evolving, eventually the equipment used to operate high-power systems loses functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the equipment can’t still serve a purpose. What is unusable to one person is valuable to another.
Command leadership at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) recognizes the potential to repurpose inactive systems and hardware for multiple different applications, such as for academic research to further STEM initiatives.
In the late spring and early summer months of 2022, personnel within the Integrated Engagement System Department and Chief Technology Office communicated with University of Maryland (UMD), Texas Tech University (TTU) and University of Texas in Arlington (UTA) administrators to rehouse equipment that the warfare center no longer needed, making room for newer warfare systems with advanced capabilities.
NSWCDD donated three pulse power systems proof of concept (POC) modules – a collection of capacitor banks that were part of the railgun hardware – for pulse power research at the college level. The POCs measure 28 feet in length by 3.5 feet in width by 6 feet in height, and need a large crane to lift the 12,800-pound unit into position on a transport truck for delivery. Because these universities have pulse power labs on campus, NSWCDD donated one of the modules to TTU in early May and will deliver two others to UMD in July.
According to Derek Diltz, chief engineer in the High Power Microwave Systems Division at NSWCDD, “the universities will benefit from obtaining this older equipment as they can now conduct high-energy, high-current experiments in their own labs. It provides a hands-on opportunity for students to learn about pulse power.”
NSWCDD also sent one of five available battery charging containers (BCCs), which contained a series of high-voltage power supplies and high-energy batteries, to UTA.
Dr. David Wetz, a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at UTA, replied in an email that the university plans to use the components provided in the BCCs to support ongoing research efforts funded by Office of Naval Research grants. The batteries will be used to foster the electric ship research development consortium program, including testing and evaluating medium voltage direct current risk reduction and robust unmanned power platforms. In addition, some batteries are slated for test events studying battery aging as well as analyzing safety metrics within the container itself, due to its large, isolated space.
In a recent conversation, Diltz recognized the large-scale effort from the Dahlgren workforce to ensure an effortless transition. “There were a lot of moving parts in preparation of donating and delivering this equipment. Many people across the department and the Dahlgren organization aided in making this donation effort possible.”
As an alumnus of UMD, Diltz reflected on the opportunity to pay it forward and support the next generation of STEM leaders. “It feels great to be able to give back in this capacity, to generate interest in the work we do here and to provide students with an interactive experience to learn on practical hardware instead of just reading about it from a textbook,” he said. “We want to keep providing students with the tools and knowledge that will help them enter into STEM fields.”