NSWC Crane Scientist Wins International Pyrotechnics Award

Dr. Jonathan Dilger, a scientist at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), has won the 2016 Dr. Bernard E. Douda Young Scientist Award. The International Pyrotechnics Society (IPS) presents the award annually to assist one scientist under 40 in presenting research at an IPS seminar. Dilger will present his winning paper, “Pyrolysis / Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry: A New Tool to Detect Toxic Byproducts of Pyrotechnic Reactions”, at the 42nd IPS seminar in July.


Dr. Jonathan Dilger, a scientist at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), has won the 2016 Dr. Bernard E. Douda Young Scientist Award.

Dilger’s prestigious award was announced barely a year after he transitioned from studying gas-phase chemistry at Indiana University to the field of pyrotechnics at the end of 2014. He credits his quick success in a new area to the NSWC Crane PhD Fellowship Program and the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE/219) Program, which funds and encourages scientists and engineers to be highly creative to support defense missions and provide enhancements for the science and engineering workforce.

“Those two programs, respectively, gave me the toolbox and then allowed me to use it. It’s one thing to obtain the education and then it’s another thing to capably apply it with a program that understands and approves of the direction in which you’re headed,” Dilger said, adding that he was also empowered to succeed by a managerial culture that enables innovative research and development.

The Department of Defense typically uses pyrotechnics as aerial infrared countermeasures for heat-seeking surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles. NSWC Crane develops pyrotechnics with a focus on improving performance and safety not just for the warfighter but also for the global environment. The Dr. Bernard E. Douda Young Scientist Award jury noted that Dilger’s research will have great impact on the ongoing research on energetic materials and development of testing standards, greatly assisting the efforts of the community to develop green pyrotechnics. Dilger explained that scientists often remove chemicals from formulas because regulations state the individual chemical is bad for the environment, but do not evaluate the end product afterwards.

“Is it truly green? Is it truly environmentally benign? Or are we actually just compliant to a single regulation? That is still valuable, but it isn’t necessarily the goal and the intent in making green pyrotechnics,” he said. “You’ve got reactants and you’ve got products and I’m okay with removing bad reactants, but shouldn’t we also be looking at removing bad products?”

Dilger’s award is named after Dr. Bernard E. Douda, who was instrumental in establishing a research and development capability at NSWC Crane and pioneered pyrotechnics research at the warfare center. NSWC Crane Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Elder said winning the young scientist award named for Douda is an achievement not just for Dilger but for the entire institution. “NSWC Crane went up against the nation’s academic cream of the crop and won this award. That’s a fine accomplishment for the PhD Fellowship Program, the NISE/219 Program and also the management structure that enabled Dr. Dilger to gain international recognition in a brand new field of research for himself—a field where NSWC Crane was already famous, thanks to the efforts of former personnel such as Dr. Douda.”


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