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Monday, June 26 2017 @ 08:41 PM CDT

Seeking Alternatives for Beryllium in DoD Weapon Systems

Beryllium is a military-preferred raw and additive material for high-performance aerospace applications such as targeting systems, electronics, and satellite mirrors. However, because of increasing regulatory restrictions, the U.S. Air Force is actively investigating a suitable replacement.


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Fabricated F-35 aircraft component using non-beryllium materials. (Photo provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Released)

Fabricated F-35 aircraft component using non-beryllium materials. (Photo provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Released)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is leading a team from government and industry in an effort to replace beryllium containing components with non-toxic components manufactured from coated metal powders.

The new, very lightweight material shows promise for several aircraft, missile, and space applications.

AFRL is close to qualifying the first beryllium alternative that meets current beryllium requirements for military use. The efforts leverage existing products with a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) project that advances a new technological approach for creating material from a proprietary mixture of powder metals.

Current efforts address process optimization and material characterization, to be followed by demonstration/validation and then technology implementation into weapon systems.

The optimal material mixture for a component will be dependent on its end use. To date, two materials have been developed and validated to satisfy unique requirements. Full-scale article fabrication and testing are underway.

The Department of Defense (DoD) classifies beryllium as a strategic and critical material because of the material properties of beryllium and current need for critical components used for national security.

It also is a regulated environmental hazard with high lifecycle costs; some finished components cost over $500,000 per pound, not including final disposition costs involving a hazardous material.

By replacing beryllium in component fabrication with a non-toxic alternative, the DoD will realize significant benefits, such as:

  • Environmental safety and occupational health improvements
  • At least 90 percent savings in component procurement costs
  • 90 percent time savings in delivery
  • Reduced reliance on a scarce metal with a limited supply

EnviroTech executes development and demonstration of alternative environmentally preferred technologies. EnviroTech’s mission is to scope and develop technologies to meet user requirements, progress solutions through Technology Readiness Levels, and highlight technology transition activities for Air Force enterprise use.

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