Three DOE labs join DARPA's ReSource program to turn waste into battlefield supplies

Three DOE labs join DARPA's ReSource program to turn waste into battlefield supplies

January 13, 2021

Three Department of Energy laboratories--Idaho, Savannah River, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories--are among the partners tapped by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to join its ReSource Program to rapidly produce large quantities of supplies from materials that would otherwise be considered waste.

Warfighters are burdened with transporting and disposing of single-use materials, and have limited ability to create valuable materials when and where needed. To address these challenges, DARPA has selected teams from Battelle, Iowa State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michigan Technological University, in addition to the three DOE labs, to support the ReSource Program.

A versatile, operationally relevant system that converts single-use resources into edible macronutrients, tactical fibers, adhesives, and petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POLs) will be developed in the ReSource program. If successful, the program will support independent expeditionary units and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) stabilization operations in resource-limited environments.

“The ReSource program could fundamentally improve how the Department of Defense approaches waste management, shifting away from burning, burying, and shipping burdensome waste to onsite material conversion of waste from a less valuable form to a strategic resource,” said Dr. Blake Bextine, ReSource program manager. “The systems will require little energy, run continuously, be scalable, and available on-demand based on warfighter need.”

Goals of the ReSource program include advancing science in three main areas:

* breaking down mixed waste, such as recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics;

* reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and

* recovering purified, usable products.

In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption. DARPA is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure all relevant guidelines are adhered to and regulatory standards are met.

“If we are able to meet the groundbreaking goals outlined in the program, it will revolutionize battlefield procurement and supply by expanding mission duration and operational flexibility,” Bextine said.

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