11/15/20 Bursar Depository, Hovde Hall

Hovde Hall of Administration

A new consortium funded by an award from the U.S. Department of Defense has selected Purdue University to co-lead its first project, which aims to advance the adoption of lead-free electronics in defense systems.

Purdue, along with the University of Maryland and Auburn University, will lead the consortium’s “Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project,” which received $40 million to be distributed over a period of five to seven years, according to a Purdue News press release. Of the $3.9 million in funds allotted for the first year of the project, approximately $1 million has been awarded to researchers at Purdue’s West Lafayette and Northwest campuses.

The Defense Electronics Consortium is designed to “address the defense risks created by the contraction of the U.S. electronics manufacturing sector over the last 20 years,” the release states.

The main goal of the project is to foster research that will accelerate the transition to lead-free electronics in aerospace, defense and high-performance electronics, the release states. Consumer and automotive electronics have been working to transition to lead-free technologies since 2006, when the European Union banned the sale of lead-containing electronics. Japan, India and China also followed suit with similar bans.

“As a result of this worldwide transition, all advanced electronics are lead-free and have evolved to be used in increasingly demanding environments,” said Carol Handwerker, a professor of materials engineering at Purdue and a principal investigator for the Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project, in the release.

Due to concerns about reliability, defense and aerospace companies have continued using lead-containing electronics, causing them to lag behind commercial sectors that have made lead-free technological advancements in compliance with lead bans, according to the release. The uncertainty surrounding lead-free electronics' performance in defense systems has also limited the use of advanced electronics with improved system performance, reliability and security.

“The aim of this project is to close the gaps – quantifying the conditions where advanced lead-free electronics can and cannot be used in defense systems and guiding their implementation,” Handwerker said.

Purdue will be involved in the project by not only in co-leading the DEC Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project but also in helping to identify new opportunities for DEC to form industry, university and government collaborative teams, like this, to address high-priority defense needs.

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