Rick Lowden has been a member of the Materials Science & Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 1983. He has Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and a Master of Science degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Rick’s technical interests encompass a broad range of materials issues, but are truly centered on the vapor-phase fabrication of advanced ceramic coatings and composites. Much of his work has been in the development of continuous fiber-reinforced ceramic composites with emphasis on processing and interfacial behavior. However, his experience is not limited to fiber-reinforced composites, but includes the deposition and characterization of multiphase composite and other ceramic coatings, and the exploration of unique applications for vapor-solid reactions. More recently, Rick lead the effort to re-establish particle fuel coating capabilities at ORNL which have been employed to fabricate TRISO fuel particles as well as explore new particle fuel concepts and advanced coating materials. The ORNL team produced particle fuel that exceeded all previous performance records with zero particle failures.
In addition to ceramic coatings and composites, Rick has also been intimately involved in the development and evaluation of non-toxic and special purpose small arms ammunition. Mr. Lowden became involved in the development of powder metallurgy (PM) simulants for the lead in bullets when the Department of Energy became concerned by the poor performance of commercially available products. Rick has developed metal-matrix composite materials with properties that mimic those of lead. These lead simulants are formed using a sinterless process, and can be used to replace lead in any small caliber bullet. The greatest advantage of this powder metallurgy approach is the ability to significantly vary of the properties of the “slug” material. Designs are no longer limited by the properties of lead thus bullets with improved ballistic performance and optimized terminal performance are possible, thus enhancing the capabilities of the user.
Mr. Lowden has thirteen issued patents with others pending. He has received two R&D100 awards, a Vice President Gore “Hammer” Award, multiple pollution prevention and technology transfer awards, and numerous other awards for his technical and scientific achievements. Mr. Lowden has authored or co-authored over 100 papers and three book chapters, and has edited one conference proceedings. He is also a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society and a member of a number of professional societies.
Between 2008 and 2010, Rick completed a two-year assignment to the Pentagon in the Office of the Director of Industrial Policy where he was involved with a variety of issues concerning strategic and critical materials for the Department of Defense. Mr. Lowden was a key member of the Strategic & Critical Materials Working Group, the interagency group established to develop a plan for managing risks associated with strategic & critical materials within the Department of Defense and for reconfiguring the National Defense Stockpile (NDS). Rick was also OSD’s primary action officer for Congressionally-mandated GAO study of rare earths as well as leader of internally-initiated study of the lanthanides assessing the Department’s use of these materials as well as the status and security of domestic and global supply chains.