The following is an excerpt.
For nearly four decades, researchers from NTNU and the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency have built a unique partnership, protecting people and property.
It started with a phone call in 1984. The oil company Statoil was concerned about what would happen if a 3-tonne drill pipe dropped to the deck of an oil rig during installation.
They had put a fresh PhD candidate on the task to find out. His name was Magnus Langseth, and he searched for skilled people and input on how to construct a full-scale test rig.
He was recommended to talk with one Mr Arnfinn Jensen. Mr Langseth picked up the phone, and the ball started rolling.
Mr Jensen was the then Head of R&D in the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency (NDEA). A project like this, focusing on extreme impact and
under the auspices of the Norwegian Institute of Technology, triggered his interest instantly.
«Immediately, he stated that we dealt with a classical «long rod penetration issue. In the evening, I boarded a train to meet with him in Oslo the following day».
Magnus Langseth is co-founder of the research group SIMLab and Director of the group´s second Centre for research-based innovation, SFI CASA.
TO STAY AHEAD OF THREATS
THE KEY PLAYERS
NDEA’s firm belief in research played an important role in building SIMLab as a powerful research group. And without a doubt, the legendary Mr Arnfinn Jensen played a crucial role. It is a four-decade-long story of targeted research, joint efforts and personal and professional relationships.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBLE EMPLOYERS
Another key player is Professor Tore Børvik, an expert in modelling, simulation and testing materials and structures subjected to extreme loading. He is head of the SIMLab research group and co-director of SFI CASA. For Børvik’s part, the journey started in 1991. The then 25-year-old student from Narvik in northern Norway had handed in his master’s thesis. The topic of protective structures very soon caught the interest of Mr Arnfinn Jensen. NDEA already had the tradition of sending new graduates to NTNU for military service to provide valuable staff. Thus, opportunity knocked for the young Mr Børvik as well. He ended up doing his military service at the Department of structural engineering.
And he was not alone.
«There was a whole bunch of us, recruited into
academia via NDEA», Børvik recalls.
Among the fellows he teamed up with were Arild Holm Clausen and Odd-Geir Lademo. The energetic Magnus Langseth was already there, and so was the highly recognised theoretical capacity, Odd Sture Hopperstad. After the military service, Børvik worked as a senior adviser in NDEA’s R&D department for some years. Then they decided to finance his PhD in ballistic penetration and perforation of steel plates. After the defence, Børvik was appointed as an Associate adjunct professor at SIMLab.
«From day one, NDEA allowed me to work from NTNU in Trondheim. If it weren’t for the flexibility from my employers, allowing me to combine working for both, things would have been very different», he says.
ALL ABOUT SAFETY AND PROTECTION
From 2012 on, Tore Børvik became a full Professor at NTNU and a part-time adviser at NDEA’s R&D department. In this position, he developed tasks and projects of common interest.
The various projects form chapters in the story: There have been investigations related to international peacekeeping operations, such as lightweighted protective structures for military applications. They have focused on handling massive impact and ensuring maximum protection against bullets and blast loadings. Protective solutions for buildings exposed to missile impact is another topic. Dr Sumita Dey, a Senior Engineer and Researcher at NDEA, fills in:
«Also, mapping of steel’s behaviour when exposed to
an explosion and not least, projectile intrusion, has been studied for decades. Both through Tore Børvik’s and my PhD, and in further collaboration after that».
NDEA and SIMLab have also joined forces on calculating granular materials exposed to various projectiles and small arms ammunition.
Aluminium is another material.
«In general, we have, or are, researching all relevant building materials at different levels», says Dr Dey.
All this is uncharted territory to most of us. Still, the meticulous research work concerns us all.
It is about protection and safety – of anything from large buildings to vulnerable human bodies.
PREPARING FOR THE UNTHINKABLE
NEW, CLOSE-RANGE EXPLOSION STUDIES
One of the more recent collaboration projects was displayed for a few days in spring 2022. Then, 30 blast loads detonated in the NDEA’s test facilities in Eastern Norway. Behind the destruction lies the shared goal of understanding more of what happens during close-range explosions in confined spaces. Dr Ole Vestrum, senior engineer and researcher at NDEA, proposed the topic for an MSc thesis.
Vestrum earned his PhD at SFI CASA in 2020. Together with Associate professor Vegard Aune and PhD student Benjamin Stavnar Elveli, Vestrum and NDEA-researcher Knut Ove Hauge formed a supervising team. Their MSc students, Marie Bacher and Anne Myran Larsen praised the collaboration and NDEA’s outstanding commitment to their work.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MASTER’S STUDENTS
Anders Haavik-Nilsen says their support of MSc and PhD projects gives NDEA valuable access to research results that they can develop further to fit their purpose. Professor Tore Børvik estimates that he has supervised close to 200 master’s students over the years. One of the projects unfolded one freezing February morning in 2019. A truckload of fluid concrete arrived outside the
concrete lab at the Department of Structural Engineering. Together with the SIMLab staff researchers from NDEA took part in moulding tenfold concrete plates and cubes. After 30 days of hardening, the concrete was ready for bullets and blasts in the Gas Gun and Shock Tube facilities.
THE BEHAVIOUR OF CONCRETE…
«Through NDEA, we offer various and demanding projects. My impression is that the students find the tasks quite cool, fun, and attractive. Also, they make an exciting opportunity leading them into the building and construction sector», says Professor Tore Børvik.
Dr Sumita Dey confirms that SIMLab is a vital recruitment platform.
«They educate students with the background we and other industries need», she says.
Over time, up to 10 SIMLab-people have worked at NDEA simultaneously. As of today, NDEA has six employees from the group. Because of the last year’s development in the threat situation, NDEA addresses the need for facilities that could withstand large penetrating missiles such as warheads. Dr Sumita Dey explains the backdrop of the project mentioned above: blast loads, either from an accident or a terrorist attack, are always accompanied by several damaging fragments hurled out at high speed. The fragments could decrease the material’s ability to
withstand the blast wave arriving shortly after the fragmenting impact.
… AND IT´S CARBON FOOTPRINT
«The project dealt with concrete exposed to projectile or fragment penetration and combined cargo of explosion and penetrating objects. The aim was to find a good way to calculate the behaviour of the concrete structures exposed to such loads. The model gave promising results», she explains.
Now, a new 3-year project delves deeper into this field. The aim is to verify if they can capture the exact behaviour of the concrete structure.
«We will also study the carbon footprint by comparing standard and low carbon concrete. We like to emphasise that this is a highly relevant topic in our sector these days». The new project is a part of Øystein Eirik Kvist Jacobsen’s doctoral work at SFI CASA, and Dr Dey, Professor Børvik, and Associate professor Martin Kristoffersen form his supervising team.
Dr Dey was Børvik’s first PhD student, and NDEA partly financed her project. She is an essential link between the two partners.
«When I took up the position in NDEA, I expressed a wish to maintain and strengthen our link to SIMLab. Norway is small, with only a few players in this research field. Thus, it is important for us to work closely with the foremost experts on these important topics», she says.
CLOSE BONDS AND AN OPEN DIALOGUE
Sumita Dey says that the research done at SIMLab aligns with NDEA’s needs and thus is also useful for the industry.
«SIMLab can consider their needs and, at the same time, investigate and delve into the topics on a much larger scale than we can. In this way, the research becomes meaningful for both parties. The collaboration deals with several different levels. Either via direct projects where both parties are involved, PhD and master’s theses, recruitment, lectures for the students or just a quick conversation between the parties».