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Manufacturing Efficiency

Phinix, LLC

Production of Primary Quality Magnesium and Al-Mg Alloys from Secondary Aluminum Scraps

Phinix is developing a specialized cell that recovers high-quality magnesium from aluminum-magnesium scrap. Current aluminum refining uses chlorination to separate aluminum from other alloys, which results in a significant amount of salt-contaminated waste. Rather than using the conventional chlorination approach, Phinix's cell relies on a three-layer electrochemical melting process that has proven successful in purifying primary aluminum. Phinix will adapt that process to purify aluminum-magnesium scrap, recovering magnesium by separating that scrap based on the different densities within its mix. Phinix's cell could offer increased flexibility in managing costs because it can handle scrap of various chemical compositions, making use of scrap that is currently in low demand. With a more efficient design, the cell can recover and reuse aluminum-magnesium scrap at low cost with minimal waste.

Purdue University

Bio-Enabled Lightweight Metallic Structures with Ultrahigh Specific Strengths for Reduced Weight, Energy Use, and Emissions

Purdue University will develop new bio-inspired ultrahigh strength-to-weight ratio materials. To do so, they will develop porous metal replicas of diatom frustules, which are hollow silica (glass) structures that have evolved over millions of years to possess high resistance to being crushed by predators. They are targeting structures possessing high strengths (> 350 MPa or 50,763 PSI) and low densities (<1000 kg/m3), which they will evaluate using microscale mechanical tests and simulations. These results will then be used to develop scaling laws for the design of robust macroscopic structures from "millions" of individual metallic diatom replicas. If successful, it is hoped that the processes developed can be used to create ultrahigh strength-to-weight ratio vehicle parts that help to increase overall vehicle energy efficiency without sacrificing safety.

Research Triangle Institute

High Operating Temperature Transfer and Storage (HOTTS) System for Light Metal Production

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is developing a high-quality concentrating solar thermal energy transport and storage system for use in light metals manufacturing. A challenge with integrating renewable energy into light metals manufacturing has been the need for large quantities of very high temperature heat. RTI's technology overcomes this challenge with a specialized heat transfer powder. This powder can be heated to temperatures of 1100 degrees Celsius with concentrating solar thermal energy, some 400 degrees Celsius higher than conventional solutions. Because the heat transfer fluid can also store thermal energy, metal manufacturing plants can continue to operate even when the sun is not shining. RTI will also develop advanced materials that will protect the system's components from the accelerated degradation experienced at these high operating temperatures. This technology will enable constant, high-temperature operation of the light metals production process with reduced CO2 emissions.

Ricardo, Inc.

Reducing Automotive CAPEX Entry Barriers through Design, Manufacturing and Materials

Ricardo will develop a detailed cost model for 10 key automotive components (e.g. chassis, powertrain, controls, etc.), analyzing the investment barriers at production volumes. Prior studies of innovative manufacturing processes and lightweight materials have used differing cost analysis assumptions, which makes comparison of these individual studies difficult. The backbone of the project will be a detailed economic model built on a set of common assumptions that will allow the root cause of cost barriers to be identified. The model will then evaluate emerging alternative manufacturing techniques to determine how they might reduce or remove these barriers. This model will utilize a consistent set of assumptions, allowing for an accurate comparison of potential manufacturing techniques. If successful, this cost model will enable private-sector firms to make informed investment decisions, increasing the deployment of innovative vehicle technologies and saving the average consumer money.

SRI International

Direct Low-Cost Production of Titanium Alloys

SRI International is developing a reactor that is able to either convert titanium tetrachloride to titanium powder or convert multiple metal chlorides to titanium alloy powder in a single step. Conventional titanium extraction and conversion processes involve expensive and energy intensive melting steps. SRI is examining the reaction between hydrogen and metal chlorides, which could produce titanium alloys without multiple complicated steps. Using titanium powder for transportation applications has not been practical until now because of the high cost of producing powder from titanium ingots. SRI's reactor requires less material because it produces powder directly rather than converting it from intermediate materials such as sponge or ingot. Transforming titanium production into a direct process could reduce costs and energy consumption by eliminating energy intensive steps and decreasing material inputs.

Stanford University

Utilizing CO2 for Commodity Polymer Synthesis

Stanford University will develop a new process to produce furan-2,5-dicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a potential replacement for purified terephthalic acid (PTA). PTA is produced from petroleum on the scale of 60 million tons per year and used to make synthetic polymers like polyester. The production of PTA is associated with 90 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. FDCA, on the other hand, can be made from biomass and its polymers boast superior physical properties for high-volume applications such as beverage bottles. Current technologies produce FDCA from food sources (fructose) and have not demonstrated economic competitiveness with PTA. The Stanford technology produces FDCA from CO2 and furfural, a feedstock chemical produced industrially from waste biomass. The use of CO2 avoids challenging oxidation reactions required for fructose-based syntheses, which provides a potential advantage for commercial production. Packed-bed reactors utilizing the technology have achieved high FDCA yields but require reaction times that are too long for industrial application. This project will transition the process to a fluidized bed reactor, where reactants are suspended in flowing CO2, to achieve industrially viable synthesis rates. If optimized, the process could enable the production of FDCA with negative greenhouse gas emissions.

Titanium Metals Corp.

A Vision of an Electrochemical Cell to Produce Clean Titanium

Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET) is developing an electrochemical process for producing pure titanium powder. Incumbent titanium production processes require the importation of high-grade titanium ores. TIMET's groundbreaking design will enable the use of abundant, low-cost, domestic ore to produce titanium powder electrolytically. By totally revolutionizing the electrolysis process, TIMET can fully optimize the process more effectively using a unique approach. TIMET's electrochemical methods could produce higher quality titanium powder at lower cost and reduced energy consumption compared to the conventional Kroll process.

UHV Technologies, Inc.

Low-Cost High Throughput In-Line X-Ray Fluorescence Scrap Metal Sorter

UHV Technologies is developing a sorting technology that uses X-rays to distinguish between high-value metal alloys found in scrap of many shapes and sizes. Existing identification technologies rely on manual sorting of light metals, which can be inaccurate and slow. UHV's system will rapidly sort scrap metal passed over a conveyer belt, making it possible to lower metals waste while simultaneously increasing the quality of recycled metal alloys. By analyzing the light emitted from X-rayed metal pieces, UHV's probe is able to identify alloy compositions for automated sorting. By automating this process, UHV would significantly reduce the costs associated with recycling light metal scrap.

United Technologies Research Center

Additive Manufacturing of Optimized Ultra-High Efficiency Electric Machines

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is using additive manufacturing techniques to develop an ultra-high-efficiency electric motor for automobiles. The process and design does not rely on rare earth materials and sidesteps any associated supply concerns. Additive manufacturing uses a laser to deposit copper and insulation, layer-by-layer, instead of winding wires. EV motors rely heavily on permanent magnets, which are expensive given the high concentrations of rare earth material required to deliver the performance required in today's market. UTRC's efficient manufacturing method would produce motors that reduce electricity use and require less rare earth material. This project will also examine the application of additive manufacturing more widely for other energy systems, such as renewable power generators.

United Technologies Research Center

Design of Ulra-Efficient, Manufacturable, and Low-Cost Thermal Fluid Components for Energy Systems

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop design tools and software for new thermofluidc components that can lead to 50% efficiency improvements in heat exchangers and other related energy systems. Modern heat exchangers and flow headers used in energy systems such as thermal power plants are not optimally designed due to a lack of advanced design tools that can optimize performance given manufacturing and cost limitations. UTRC's design framework will focus on topology exploration and optimization - the mathematical method of optimizing material layouts within a given design space for a given set of loads, conditions, and constraints. The design space will be redefined by emerging advancements in materials such as multi-material composites and custom microstructures. Constraints are imposed by manufacturing limitations and the application of new technologies such as 3D weaving and 3D printing. The requirements of next-generation systems will also be considered, for example, the high temperature and pressure requirements of advanced steam turbines. The design framework will assess the design space, constraints, and requirements using two key innovations. First, topology exploration methods developed for heat exchangers will harness emerging advancements in data sciences to produce new concept designs for the heat exchanger core, headers, and their assemblies. Second, a projection-based topology optimization method will optimize designs for specific manufacturing processes and costs. The new design framework may lead to greater than 50% improvements for heat exchangers by providing new ways to integrate advanced materials and manufacturing techniques.

University of California, Los Angeles

CUSB: A Platform Technology for the Renewable Production of Commodity Chemicals

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) seeks to develop a platform technology, Catalytic Units for Synthetic Biochemistry (CUSB) that will use enzymes in solution (i.e. in vitro) to convert carbohydrates into a wide variety of useful carbon compounds in extremely high yield. The use of enzymes in solution has advantages over whole-cell microorganisms. Enzymes can be concentrated much further than whole-cells which improves volumetric productivity. Additionally enzymes may be less sensitive to the production of compounds of interest that are typically toxic to whole-cells even at low concentrations. Yet most importantly, the use of specific enzymes provides a high degree of precision to direct carbon and energy efficiently from the feedstock to the final product. The team envisions catalytic breakdown modules that will reduce the carbohydrates to simpler compounds. Breakdown energy is released during this chemical process and can be stored in other high-energy chemicals. Additional catalytic modules will be added to utilize the carbon and energy from the breakdown module to build useful chemicals that can replace petroleum products. This process can potentially generate new markets by producing complex chemicals more economically and with higher energy efficiency than current methods. The team predicts that their technology can reduce the non-renewable energy input required for chemical production by more than 2.5 fold. The system can also provide large-scale production of chemicals that are too costly or too environmentally damaging to produce by current methods. During a prior ARPA-E IDEAS award, the team developed this platform technology. Now, as an addition to the ARPA-E REMOTE program, the UCLA team will further its research and demonstrate CUSB by building a prototype system that can produce isobutanol and terpene, at a much higher yield and productivity than has been previously achieved. The successful development of CUSB will represent a paradigm shift in the way high-volume commodity chemicals can be produced from renewable resources.

University of California, San Diego

Production of Large-Sized LOCH Parts

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) will develop a scalable process for the production of large (up to 500 lb.) pre-cast blocks using lean-organic compacted hybrid (LOCH), a new type of infrastructural material which may compete with traditional portland cement. Portland cement is the most common cement type and one of the most versatile construction materials in the world. Its widespread use over the last century is due to its low cost, abundance of its ingredients including limestone and shales, and standard performance characteristics. However, the production of portland cement involves heating the raw materials to high temperatures, which is an energy intensive process. It also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions by producing nearly one ton of CO2 for every ton of cement. The UC San Diego team proposes LOCH as a cheaper, more durable, energy efficient alternative to portland cement. LOCH is not formed through hydration like traditional cement, but rather uses a polymer binder to bond raw sand or soil grains together. This method uses only the minimal amount of binder content, leading to low material costs. If implemented widely, LOCH could provide a drastic reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions as compared to portland cement, at a significant cost reduction. The 1-2 hour fast setting time of LOCH can simplify project management and further lower costs of construction logistics and labor. The construction procedure of LOCH does not require rebar, the steel mesh and bars used to reinforce traditional cement, eliminating their time consuming installation and repair operations. LOCH also promises increased strength, durability, and longer service life. Nearly 15% of portland cement is used for precast parts, standard cement parts pre-assembled offsite. The team will first target this precast market, as it provides the best opportunity to easily integrate and scale the new technology.

University of Colorado, Boulder

Carbothermal Reduction Process for Producing Magnesium Metal using a Hybrid Solar/Electric Reactor

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) is developing a new solar-powered magnesium production reactor with dramatically improved energy efficiency compared to conventional technologies. Today's magnesium production processes are expensive and require large amounts of electricity. CU-Boulder's reactor can be heated using either concentrated solar power during the day or by electricity at night. CU-Boulder's reactor would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions compared to existing technologies at lower cost because it requires less electricity and can be powered using solar energy. In addition, the reactor can produce syngas, a synthetic gasoline precursor, which could be used to power cars and trucks.

University of Maryland

A Case Study on the Impact of Additive Manufacturing for Heat/Mass Transfer Equipment used for Power Production

The University of Maryland (UMD) will leverage recent advances in additive manufacturing to develop a next-generation air-cooled heat exchanger. The UMD team will assess the performance and cost of current state-of-the-art technology, including innovative manufacturing processes. The team will then utilize computer models to simulate a wide-range of novel heat exchanger designs that can radically enhance air-side heat transfer performance. The team will then physically build and test two 1 kilowatt (kW) prototype devices. If successful, these heat exchangers would enable new, highly-efficient dry cooling of steam condensers that could eliminate evaporative water losses from power plant cooling. Advances in efficient air-side cooling could also have significant spillover benefits in aerospace, automobile, air-conditioning and refrigeration, electronics cooling, and chemical processing.

University of Tennessee

Advanced Reversible Aqueous Air Electrode

The University of Tennessee (UT) will develop a reversible Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR) catalyst that can be used both as a peroxide-producing electrolyzer and in reversible air batteries. The ORR catalyst development seeks to significantly improve peroxide electrolysis efficiency and achieve high charge and discharge rates in air-breathing batteries. In conjunction with the new catalyst, an anion exchange membrane (AEM) will be used to further increase the electrolyzer efficiency and reduce peroxide production costs. In the reversible air battery, the AEM increases battery power performance. Finally, a two-phase flow field design will increase both the current density and current efficiency for peroxide production and can also be used in the reversible air battery to build up a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide for energy storage. This technology could also enable onsite hydrogen peroxide production at small scale.

University of Utah

A Novel Chemical Pathway for Titanium Production

The University of Utah is developing a reactor that dramatically simplifies titanium production compared to conventional processes. Today's production processes are expensive and inefficient because they require several high-energy melting steps to separate titanium from its ores. The University of Utah's reactor utilizes a magnesium hydride solution as a reducing agent to break less expensive titanium ore into its components in a single step. By processing low-grade ore directly, the titanium can be chemically isolated from other impurities. This design eliminates the series of complex, high-energy melting steps associated with current titanium production. Consolidating several energy intensive steps into one reduces both the cost and energy inputs associated with titanium extraction.

University of Utah

Electrodynamic Sorting of Light Metals and Alloys

The University of Utah is developing a light metal sorting system that can distinguish multiple grades of scrap metal using an adjustable and varying magnetic field. Current sorting technologies based on permanent magnets can only separate light metals from iron-based metals and tend to be inefficient and expensive. The University of Utah's sorting technology utilizes an adjustable magnetic field rather than a permanent magnet to automate scrap sorting, which could offer increased accuracy, less energy consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and reduced costs. Due to the flexibility of this design, the system could be set to sort for any one metal at a time rather than being limited to sorting for a specific metal.

Valparaiso University

Solar Thermal Electrolytic Production of Mg from MgO

Valparaiso University is developing a solar electro-thermal reactor that produces magnesium from magnesium oxide. Current magnesium production processes involve high-temperature steps that consume large amounts of energy. Valparaiso's reactor would extract magnesium using concentrated solar power to supply its thermal energy, minimizing the need for electricity. The reactor would be surrounded by mirrors that track the sun and capture heat for high-temperature magnesium electrolysis. Because Valparaiso's reactor is powered by solar energy as opposed to burning fossil fuels, integrating magnesium production into the solar reactor would significantly reduce CO2 emissions associated with magnesium production.

ARPA-E’s Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advances in Light Metals Systems (METALS) program seeks cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles and aircraft. ARPA-E Program Director Dr. David Tew discusses the METALS program and explains how reducing the amount of energy and money it takes to recycle or process light metals like titanium or aluminum may enable competition with heavier incumbents like steel. This video highlights two METALS projects: UHV Technologies, which has developed a first-of-its-kind automatic scrap metal sorter to reduce the cost of metal recycling, and the University of Utah, which has discovered a new chemical process to extract titanium powder directly from ore—reducing cost and energy consumption. 

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