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Manufacturing Efficiency

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

 MEMS RF Accelerators For Nuclear Energy and Advanced Manufacturing

LBNL will use advanced microfabrication technology to build and scale low-cost, compact, higher-power multi-beam ion accelerators. These accelerators will be able to increase the ion current up to 100 times, helping to enable a new learning curve for compact accelerator technology. MEMS (micro-electro mechanical systems) technology enables massively parallel, low-cost batch fabrication of ion beam accelerators. The team proposes to scale ion accelerators based on MEMS to higher beam power and pack hundreds to thousands of ion beamlets on silicon wafers. Ions will be injected and accelerated across the gaps formed in stacks of wafers, leading to high-current densities for ion accelerators. MEMS-based batch fabrication will reduce the size, weight, power and cost of ion accelerators more than tenfold, enabling low-cost, rapid testing and development of radiation-hard materials for advanced nuclear energy and new applications in manufacturing.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Multimetallic Layered Composites (MMLCS) for Rapid, Economical Advanced Reactor Deployment

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will lead a team including Georgia Tech, Louisiana Tech, and the Idaho National Lab in developing multimetallic layered composites (MMLCs) for advanced nuclear reactors and assessing how they will improve reactor performance. Rather than seeking complex alloys that offer exceptional mechanical properties or corrosion resistance at unacceptable cost, this team will develop materials with functionally graded layers, each with a specific function. The team will seek general design principles and engineer specific MMLC embodiments. The materials developed will be tested using irradiation experiments, coupled with predictive models for performance under irradiation. To date, the issue of material performance at low cost has proved a challenge for advanced reactor deployment. Developing a scalable method of materials manufacturing and testing for advanced nuclear reactors could facilitate their rapid deployment, thereby reducing energy-related emissions and improving energy efficiency.

Materials & Electrochemical Research (MER) Corporation

Advanced Electrolytic Titanium Powder Production from Titanium Oxycarbide

Materials & Electrochemical Research (MER) 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. MER is developing an new electrochemical titanium production process that avoids the cyclical formation of undesired titanium ions, thus significantly increasing the electrical current efficiency. MER 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, MER could significantly reduce the costs and energy consumption associated with producing titanium.

Neuvokas Corporation

Energy Efficient, Incrementally Scalable, Continuous Basalt Fiber Filament-Forming Extrusion Bushing

Neuvokas Corporation will develop an energy-efficient CBF manufacturing process. The project will focus delivering a filament-forming extrusion bushing capable of supporting the production of low-cost, high-quality CBF at scale. Using CBF instead of steel to reinforce concrete can reduce capital expenses, greenhouse gases, and operating expenses, and increase concrete service life and time to major maintenance by more than 30 years, saving greater than 0.5 quad (146,535,500,000 kWh) of energy per year.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

New High Temperature, Corrosion-Resistant Cast Alloy For Operation in Industrial Gaseous Environments

The team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will develop new cast alumina-forming austenitic alloys (AFAs), along with associated casting and welding processes for component fabrication. ORNL and its partners will prototype industrial components with at least twice the oxidation resistance compared to current cast chromia-forming steel and test it in an industrial environment. These innovations could allow various industrial and chemical processing systems and gas turbines to operate at higher temperatures to improve efficiencies and reduce downtimes, thus providing cost and energy reductions for a wide range of energy-intensive applications.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Catalyzed Organo-Metathetical (COMET) Process for Magnesium Production from Seawater

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing a radically new process to produce magnesium from seawater. Today's methods are energy intensive and expensive because the magnesium concentration in seawater is so low that significant energy is needed to evaporate off water and precipitate magnesium chloride salt. Further, conventional technologies involve heating the salt to 900°C and then using electric current to break the chemical bond between magnesium and chlorine to produce the metal. PNNL's new process replaces brine spray drying with a low-temperature, low-energy dehydration process. That step is combined with a new catalyst-assisted process to generate an organometallic reactant directly from magnesium chloride. The organometallic is decomposed to magnesium metal via a proprietary process at temperatures less than 300°C, thus eliminating electrolysis of magnesium chloride salt. The overall process could be significantly less expensive and more efficient than any conventional magnesium extraction method available today and uses seawater as an abundant, free resource.

Palo Alto Research Center

Probing Alloys for Rapid Sorting Electrochemically (PARSE)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing an advanced diagnostic probe that identifies the composition of light metal scrap for efficient sorting and recycling. Current sorting technologies for light metals are costly and inefficient because they cannot distinguish between different grades of light metals for recycling. Additionally, state-of-the-art electrochemical probes rely on aqueous electrolytes that are not optimally suited for separating light metal scrap. PARC's probe, however, uses a novel liquid, which enables a chemical reaction with light metals to represent their alloy composition accurately. A probe that is more accurate than existing methods could separate scrap based on alloy quality to obtain low-cost, high-quality aluminum.

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.

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.

Rutgers University

Microbial Curing of Cement for Energy Applications

Rutgers University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Arizona will develop a new hardening method for C3 to address thickness. C3 synthesis currently relies on externally-introduced carbon dioxide for solidification. This program will use microbes mixed into the C3 prior to curing to produce carbon dioxide internally for solidification. This microbial-cured C3 is expected to last longer than OPC at the same thickness, which will reduce the need for concrete repair and replacement. This in turn reduces energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and costs associated with concrete-based projects.

Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics, Inc.

Oxidation Resistant High Temperature Ceramics for Solar Thermal Reactors and Other High Temperature Energy Systems

Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics is conducting early-stage research to extend operating temperatures of industrial ceramics in steam-containing atmospheres up to 1,500 °C. Materials that are able to adequately withstand these punishing conditions are needed to create durable solar fuel reactors. The most attractive material based on high-temperature strength and thermal shock resistance is sintered (the process of compacting solid material without melting it) silicon carbide (SiC). However, the highly reactive H2O/H2/CO/CO2 atmosphere within a solar reactor causes most industrial ceramics, including SiC, to degrade at temperatures above 1,200 °C. At those temperatures volatile reaction products are formed, which continually eat away at the integrity of the reactor walls. The Saint-Gobain team is conducting research along three lines of inquiry: 1) Creating high-temperature coatings for the SiC material; 2) Creating "self-healing" SiC surfaces which are created via an oxidation reaction on an ongoing basis as the surface layer is damaged; and 3) Testing alternative ceramic materials which could be more robust. The results of the three lines of inquiry will be evaluated based on stability modeling and thermal cycling testing (i.e. repeatedly heating and cooling the materials) under simulated conditions. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this research is at a very early stage. If successful, the technology could potentially result in significant energy and cost savings to the U.S. economy by allowing liquid transportation fuel to be produced from water and carbon dioxide from the air via solar energy instead of conventional sources. In addition SiC materials with enhanced oxidation resistance could be applied to vessels and components across many industrial, thermal, chemical, and petrochemical processes.

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.

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 Arkansas

Reliable, High Power Density Inverters for Heavy Equipment Applications

The University of Arkansas and its project team will develop a power inverter system for use in the electrification of construction equipment. Heavy equipment providers are increasingly investing in electrification capability to perform work in harsh environments. As with all electrified systems, size, weight and power considerations must be met by these systems. The team's approach is to utilize the advantages of wide bandgap semiconductors not only in the converter elements themselves, but also in the converter's gate driver as well. This innovation of having the low-voltage circuitry built from the same materials as the power devices enables higher reliability, longer life, and a more compact system packages. Their multi-objective optimization method will provide the best outcome and trade the efficiency and power density goals against circuit complexity, device ratings, thermal management, and reliability constraints. If successful, the team will achieve an improvement of four times the power density and reduce converter cost by 50% compared to today's technology. The proposed design methods and technological advances can also be applied to many applications such as electric vehicles, smart grid power electronics, and data centers.

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.

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