Ballistic and Mechanical Test Lab

University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick
What the facility does

Ballistic testing of materials for defence, aerospace and space applications

Areas of expertise

The UNB Ballistic and Mechanical Test Lab is the only facility in Canada that can launch projectiles ranging from less than 20 grams at 8 kilometres/second to masses of 8 kilograms at 200 metres/second. The facility evaluates the impact-resistant performance of materials when projectiles are launched at them at subsonic to supersonic conditions. The lab uses high-resolution analytical equipment to examine the damage effects to help determine how they failed. The lab also conducts pure research to explore extreme states in solid materials, and can transiently recreate pressures realized inside the Earth to generate high-pressure polymorphs, as well as to study the effect of shock waves passing through materials generated by high-speed collisions. In addition to testing existing materials, the lab's primary goal is to develop new generation impact-resistant systems and superhard materials that protect people, equipment and infrastructure for applications in the defence, aerospace and space sectors. 

Research services

Materials testing at high strain rates, field testing, impact simulation, chemical and structural analysis, product enhancement, manufacturing design and development, design engineering

Sectors of application
  • Aerospace and satellites
  • Construction (including building, civil engineering, specialty trades)
  • Defence and security industries
  • Manufacturing and processing
  • Professional and technical services (including legal services, architecture, engineering)
Foreign Object Damage (FOD) GunA 25-centimetre bore gun, designed and built specifically for the lab to test the ability of commercial and military aircraft to withstand impacts by particular masses at specific speeds without malfunctioning (e.g. bird strike). The gun is mobile and can be loaded on a tractor trailer to perform blade-out tests on jet engines. The gun can also be used to assess building resistance to tornado or hurricane damage.
Single-Stage Light-Gas GunA 10-centimetre bore gun that can launch projectiles of up to 1.5 - 2.0 kilometres/second. Primarily used for military applications to test and develop vehicle protection systems.
Two-Stage Light-Gas Gun (large bore)A 2.5-centimetre bore gun to launch projectiles at up to 8 kilometres/second. This gun is used to test spacecraft armour systems, such as that those protecting the International Space Station.
Two-Stage Light-Gas Gun (small bore)A 1-cm bore gun dedicated to space hardware shield testing and micrometeoroid and orbital debris mitigation research.
Ultra high-speed video and framing camerasFast, high-resolution cameras allow researchers to analyze the effect of impacts on materials, by deciphering the impact mechanism and penetration mechanism of projectiles.
Field Emission - Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM)Enables researchers to magnify samples to nanometre resolution — a billionth of a metre — to analyze material and determine its composition. The lab uses the microscope to conduct the forensic analysis of impacted materials to understand how a projectile penetrated a vehicle, or how a protective material failed.
Split-Hopkinson Pressure Bar (SHPB)The compressive SHPB machine can deform a cylindrical sample at strain rate of up to 10,000 s-1 while acquiring the stress-strain data. This allows for modelling of stress behavior during impact loads. 
Drop TowerGravity-accelerated impacts from varying heights up to four meters, and with masses of up to 2,000 kg.
  • Bombardier Aerospace
  • Department of National Defence
  • NASA
  • Canadian Space Agency