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Manufacturing Efficiency

Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors

Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and reduced form factor will provide the United States a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy. The projects that comprise ARPA E's CIRCUITS (Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors) program seek to accelerate the development and deployment of a new class of efficient, lightweight, and reliable power converters, based on wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors. CIRCUITS projects will establish the building blocks of this class of power converter by advancing higher efficiency designs that exhibit enhanced reliability and superior total cost of ownership. In addition, a reduced form factor (size and weight) will drive adoption of higher performance and more efficient power converters relative to today's state-of-the-art systems. Past ARPA-E programs have focused on challenges associated with fabricating WBG high-performance switching devices. Program developments led to a new generation of devices that operate at much higher powers, voltages, frequencies, and temperatures than traditional silicon-based semiconductor devices. CIRCUITS projects will build on these earlier ARPA-E programs by designing circuit topologies optimally suited for WBG attributes to maximize overall electrical system performance. Innovations stemming from CIRCUITS projects have the potential to affect high-impact applications wherever electrical power is generated or used, including the electric grid, industrial motor controllers, automotive electrification, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, solar and wind power systems, datacenters, aerospace control surfaces, wireless power transfer, and consumer electronics.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.    

Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science

The IDEAS program - short for Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science - provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards, which are restricted to maximums of one year in duration and $500,000 in funding, are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs. IDEAS awards may also support proof-of-concept research to develop a unique technology concept, either in an area not currently supported by the agency or as a potential enhancement to an ongoing focused technology program. This program identifies potentially disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies that challenge the status quo and represent a leap beyond today's technology. That said, an innovative concept alone is not enough. IDEAS projects must also represent a fundamentally new paradigm in energy technology and have the potential to significantly impact ARPA-E's mission areas.

Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advances in Light Metals Systems

The projects that comprise ARPA-E's METALS program, short for "Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advances in Light Metal Systems," aim to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles and aircraft. Processing light metals such as aluminum, titanium, and magnesium more efficiently would enable competition with incumbent structural metals like steel to manufacture vehicles and aircraft that meet demanding fuel efficiency standards without compromising performance or safety.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2012, ARPA-E issued its second open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 4,000 concept papers for OPEN 2012, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 66 projects for its OPEN 2012 program, awarding them a total of $130 million in federal funding. OPEN 2012 projects cut across 11 technology areas: advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, stationary power generation, water, as well as stationary, thermal, and transportation energy storage.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2015, ARPA-E issued its third open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 2,000 concept papers for OPEN 2015, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 41 projects for its OPEN 2015 program, awarding them a total of $125 million in federal funding. OPEN 2015 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, industrial processes and waste heat, data management and communication, wind, solar, tidal and distributed generation, grid scale storage, power electronics, power grid system performance, vehicle efficiency, storage for electric vehicles, and alternative fuels and bio-energy.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2018, ARPA-E issued its fourth open funding opportunity, designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received thousands of concept papers for OPEN 2018, which hundreds of scientists and engineers reviewed over the course of several months. ARPA-E selected 45 projects for its OPEN 2018 program, awarding them $112 million in federal funding. OPEN 2018 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, distributed generation, electrical efficiency, grid, grid storage, manufacturing efficiency, resource efficiency, transportation fuels, transportation energy conversion, and transportation vehicles.

Adaptive Surface Technologies, Inc

Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Conversion and Environmental Monitoring Technology Advancement

Adaptive Surface Technologies is developing a slippery coating that can be used for a number of technology applications including oil and water pipelines, wastewater treatment systems, solar panels (to prevent dust accumulation), refrigeration (to prevent ice buildup), as well as many other energy-relevant applications. Contamination, build-up of microorganisms, and corrosion of untreated surfaces can lead to inefficiencies in the system. Adaptive Surface Technologies' liquid-based coating is tailored to adhere to and then spread out evenly over a rough surface, forming a completely smooth surface that inhibits buildup. Since it is liquid-based, it can easily repair itself if scratched or damaged, resulting in a stable coating with the potential to significantly outperform conventional technologies, such as Teflon, in friction and drag reduction and in repelling a broad range of contaminants.

Alcoa, Inc.

Energy Efficient, High Productivity Aluminum Electrolytic Cell with Integrated Power Modulation and Heat Recovery

Alcoa is designing a new, electrolytic cell that could significantly improve the efficiency and price point of aluminum production. Conventional cells reject a great deal of waste heat, have difficulty adjusting to electricity price changes, and emit significant levels of CO2. Alcoa is addressing these problems by improving electrode design and integrating a heat exchanger into the wall of the cell. Typically, the positive and negative electrodes--or anode and cathode, respectively--within a smelting cell are horizontal. Alcoa will angle their cathode, increasing the surface area of the cell and shortening the distance between anode and cathode. Further, the cathode will be protected by ceramic plates, which are highly conductive and durable. Together, these changes will increase the output from a particular cell and enable reduced energy usage. Alcoa's design also integrates a molten glass (or salt) heat exchanger to capture and reuse waste heat within the cell walls when needed and reduce global peak energy demand. Alcoa's new cell design could consume less energy, significantly reducing the CO2 emissions and costs associated with current primary aluminum production.

BlazeTech Corp.

Hyperspectral Imaging for the Identification of Light Metals

BlazeTech is developing advanced sorting software that uses a specialized camera to distinguish multiple grades of light metal scrap by examining how they reflect different wavelengths of light. Existing identification technologies rely on manual sorting of light metals, which can be inaccurate and slow. BlazeTech's sorting technology would identify scrap metal content based on the way that each light metal appears under BlazeTech's sorting camera, automating the sorting process and enabling more comprehensive metal recycling. The software developed under this program will be used to dramatically improve existing metal sorting systems. This technology offers great potential to improve the efficiency of light metals recycling, as similar techniques have proven successful in other industries, including vegetation surveying and plastics identification.

Boston Electrometallurgical Corporation

Revolutionary Process for Low-Cost Titanium

Boston Electrometallurgical Corporation will develop and scale a one step molten oxide electrolysis process for producing Ti metal directly from the oxide. Titanium oxide is dissolved in a molten oxide, where it is directly and efficiently extracted as molten titanium metal. In this process, electrolysis is used to separate the product from the solution as a bottom layer that can then be removed from the reactor in its molten state. If successful, it could replace the multistep Kroll process with a one-step process that resembles today's aluminum production techniques. If successful, Ti ingots could be produced at cost parity with stainless steel, opening the doorway to industrial waste heat recovery applications and increasing its adoption in commercial aircraft.

California Institute of Technology

Mechanistic Explanation of Acoustic Wave Enhanced Catalysis (AWEC); An Opportunity for Catalytic Transformations With Greatly Reduced Energy Costs

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) team is using first-principles reasoning (i.e. a mode of examination that begins with the most basic physical principles related to an issue and "builds up" from there) and advanced computational modeling to ascertain the underlying mechanisms that cause acoustic waves to affect catalytic reaction pathways. The team will first focus their efforts on two types of reactions for which there is strong experimental evidence that acoustic waves can enhance catalytic activity: Carbon Monoxide (CO) oxidation, and Ethanol decomposition. Armed with this new understanding, the team will suggest promising applications for acoustic wave enhanced catalysis to new reactions with large energy and emissions footprints, such as ammonia synthesis. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this research is at a very early stage. However, this novel approach to acoustic wave enhanced catalysis has the potential to improve energy and resource efficiency across broad swathes of the chemical, industrial, and other sectors of the economy.

Case Western Reserve University

Novel Titanium Electrowinning Process Using Specialized Segmented Diaphragms

Case Western Reserve University is developing a specialized electrochemical cell that produces titanium from titanium salts using a series of layered membranes. Conventional titanium production is expensive and inefficient due to the high temperatures and multiple process steps required. The Case Western concept is to reduce the energy required for titanium metal production using an electrochemical reactor with multiple, thin membranes. The multi-membrane concept would limit side reactions and use one third of the energy required by today's production methods.

Colorado School of Mines

Efficient Hydrogen and Ammonia Production via Process Intensification and Integration

The Colorado School of Mines will develop a more efficient method for both the conversion of hydrogen and nitrogen to ammonia and the generation of high purity hydrogen from ammonia for fuel cell fueling stations. Composed of 17.6% hydrogen by mass, ammonia also has potential as a hydrogen carrier and carbon-free fuel. The team will develop a new technology to generate fuel cell-quality hydrogen from ammonia using a membrane based reactor. In addition, similar catalytic membrane reactor technology will be developed for synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen at reduced pressure and temperature. This is aided by selective removal of ammonia, which enables equilibrium limitations to be surpassed, a fundamental constraint in conventional Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis.

Energy Research Company

Development of an Integrated Minimill for the Aluminum Industry: From Scrap to Product in One Step

Energy Research Company (ERCo) is developing an automated Aluminum Integrated Minimill (AIM) that can produce finished components from mixed metal scrap. Unlike most current approaches, ERCo's AIM can distinguish and accurately sort multiple grades of aluminum scrap for recycling. ERCo's AIM reduces energy consumption in several ways. First, the technology would provide real-time feedback controls to improve the accuracy of the sorting process. The sorted scrap is then melted and cast. Further, ERCo's design replaces the inefficient dryers used in conventional processes with advanced, high-efficiency equipment. ERCo's AIM enables significantly more efficient and less expensive scrap sorting and aluminum recovery for casting.

Gas Technology Institute

Dual Electrolyte Extraction Electro-Refinery for Light Metal Production

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) is developing a continuously operating cell that produces low-cost aluminum powder using less energy than conventional methods. Conventional aluminum production is done by pumping huge electrical currents into a vat of molten aluminum dissolved in mineral salts at nearly 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. GTI's technology occurs near room temperature using reusable solvents to dissolve the ore. Because GTI's design relies on chemical dissolution rather than heat, its cells can operate at room temperature, meaning it does not suffer from wasteful thermal energy losses associated with conventional systems. GTI's electrochemical cell could also make aluminum production significantly less expensive by using less costly, domestically available ore with no drop in quality.

Gas Technology Institute

Reactor Engine

The team led by Gas Technology Institute (GTI) will develop a conventional automotive engine as a reactor to convert ethane into ethylene by using a new catalyst and reactor design that could enable record-breaking conversion yields. The technology proposed by GTI would use a reciprocating engine as a variable volume oxidative dehydrogenation (ODH) reactor. This means a conventional engine would be modified with a new valving mechanism that would take advantage of high flow rates and high pressure and temperature regime that already exists in an internal combustion engine. This process requires no energy input, does produce minimal CO2 emissions, and improves yields to about 80% at one third the cost. The ODH reactor engine's relatively small size and high throughput will enable ethylene producers to add ethylene production capacity without the financial risk of building a billion-dollar steam cracking plant. This technology will reduce energy-related emissions and could enable the U.S. plastics industry to increase utilization of low-cost, domestic ethane to produce ethylene for plastics.

iMetalx Group, LLC

Advanced Titanium Electrowinning Using Alternative Ores

iMetalx is scaling up an advanced electrochemical process to produce low-cost titanium from domestic ore. While titanium is a versatile and robust structural metal, its widespread adoption for consumer applications has been limited due to its high cost of production. iMetalx is developing an new electrochemical titanium production process that avoids the cyclical formation of undesired titanium ions, thus significantly increasing the electrical current efficiency. iMetalx will test different cell designs, reduce unwanted side reactions to increase energy efficiency, and minimize the heat loss that occurs when processing titanium. By developing a scalable and stable electrochemical cell, iMetalx could significantly reduce the costs and energy consumption associated with producing titanium.

INFINIUM, Inc.

Clean Efficient Aluminum Oxide Electrolysis with SOM Inert Anodes

INFINIUM is developing a technology to produce light metals such as aluminum and titanium using an electrochemical cell design that could reduce energy consumption associated with these processes by over 50%. The key component of this innovation lies within the anode assembly used to electrochemically refine these light metals from their ores. While traditional processes use costly graphite anodes that are reacted to produce CO2 during refining, INFINIUM's anode can use much cheaper fuels such as natural gas, and produce a high-purity oxygen by-product. Revenue from this by-product could significantly affect aluminum production economics. Traditional cell designs also waste a great deal of heat due to the necessity of keeping the reactor open to the air while contaminated CO2 rapidly exits the chamber. Since INFINIUM's anode keeps the oxygen or CO2 anode gas away from the main reactor chamber, the entire system may be far more effectively insulated.

INFINIUM, Inc.

Ultra-Low Energy Magnesium Recycling for New Light-Weight Vehicles

INFINIUM will convert low-grade magnesium scrap into material of sufficient purity for motor vehicle components by a novel high-efficiency process using less than 1 kWh/kg magnesium product. Other magnesium purification technologies such as distillation and electrorefining use 5-10 kWh/kg, and primary production uses 40-100 kWh/kg. This is also a high-speed continuous process, with much lower labor and capital costs than other batch purification technologies. This technology could enable cost-effective recycling of magnesium, converting low-grade scrap metal into high-purity magnesium at low cost and significantly lower energy consumption, and could also enable new classes of primary production technology.

Johns Hopkins University

Carbon Fiber from Methane

Johns Hopkins University will develop and assess components of a self-powered system to convert methane (the main component in natural gas) into carbon fiber. Methane can be separated into carbon and hydrogen, or burned for energy. The team will develop processes to use methane both to power the system and serve as carbon feedstock in a four stage system. First, methane is decomposed into hydrogen and carbon, and combined into a carbon/metal aggregate. Second, the carbon/metal aggregate is melted, producing a liquid melt containing carbon dissolved within it. Third, the melt is solidified into a homogeneous ribbon. Fourth, carbon is extracted from the ribbon in the form of fiber or fiber precursor. Finally, the metal content of the ribbon is reclaimed and recycled back to the start of the process for further methane decomposition. The project will focus on resolving the materials science challenges of directing carbon crystal growth into fiber and/or fiber precursors (steps 3 and 4). The final goal is to produce fibers that have the strength and stiffness of traditionally produced carbon fiber while requiring a fraction of energy and cost to produce.

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