Inside INdiana Business

Purdue to analyze the use of lead in military electronics

Purdue University Bell Tower. (Photo Provided/Purdue University)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Purdue University has been named by the U.S. Department of Defense to co-lead a project to reduce the reliance on lead used in electronics by the military. The university has been awarded $1 million during the first year of the multi-year project to accelerate the transition to lead-free electronics in aerospace, defense and other high-performance electronics.

Purdue, the University of Maryland and Auburn University will lead the consortium’s Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project, which has received $40 million to be distributed over a period of five to seven years.

The university says consumer and automotive electronics have been transitioning to lead-free technologies since 2006, but the DoD has been slow to address the issue.

“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, Purdue professor of materials engineering and a principal investigator for the Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project.

Due to concerns about reliability, defense and aerospace companies have continued to use lead-containing electronics, lagging behind commercial sectors that have made lead-free technological advancements in compliance with lead bans.

“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,” said Handwerker.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the extent to which the U.S. had outsourced the manufacturing of vitally needed medical equipment with electronic components. The consortium says defense weapons systems and critical infrastructure could face similar supply-chain challenges if nothing is done to change course.