Additive Manufacturing of Oxidation-Resistant Gradient Refractory Composites

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
04/05/2021 - 04/04/2023

Critical Need:

Gas turbines produce approximately 35% of the total electricity generation in the U.S. Improving their efficiency is important for reducing energy usage and carbon emissions. Similarly, higher efficiency aviation and other industrial turbines would improve the economics and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in these sectors. Gas turbine efficiency largely depends on the gas temperature at the inlet; the higher the temperature, the higher the efficiency. Gas turbine operational temperature is currently limited by its component materials, particularly those in the path of the hot gas such as turbine blades, vanes, nozzles, and shrouds. Turbine blades experience the greatest operational burden because they must concurrently withstand the highest temperatures and stresses. Currently, turbine blades are made of single crystal nickel (Ni)- or cobalt (Co)-based superalloys. After many years of refinements, their development has plateaued. There is a need to discover, develop, and implement novel materials that work at temperatures significantly higher than that of the Ni or Co superalloys if further efficiency gains are to be realized.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology will develop a new additive manufacturing (AM) process, capable of producing refractory composite materials for use in high-temperature, oxidation-resistant turbine blades and other demanding energy-conversion applications. The AM process will incorporate hardware and software to establish uniform, high-quality refractory materials that are traditionally prone to micro-cracking and oxidation during AM, thereby establishing the required mechanical properties and oxidation resistance of a target alloy. The project will also incorporate a high-throughput approach, enabled by the local definition of material composition, to span potential alloy compositions that meet the demanding material requirements of the program. In synergy with materials development and evaluation, the team’s AM process and system will ultimately enable digital production of representative turbine blade geometries with low surface roughness and high-precision, complex internal cooling channels.

Potential Impact:

Combining development of new ultrahigh temperature materials with compatible coatings and manufacturing technologies has the potential to increase gas turbine efficiency up to 7%, which will significantly reduce wasted energy and carbon emissions.


Coal-fired and nuclear-powered plant electricity generation is uneconomical, unsafe, outdated, and/or contributes to significant CO2 emissions. Increasing gas turbine efficiency is critical to ensuring that plants can effectively deploy their capacity to the grid, increasing energy security.


Improving gas turbine efficiency can significantly reduce carbon emissions from air travel, which represents 2% of all global carbon emissions.


By 2050, a 7% efficiency improvement in the natural gas turbines used for U.S. electricity generation could save up to 15-16 quads of energy; in civilian aircraft turbines, 3-4 quads of energy could be saved for U.S. air travel.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Philseok Kim
Project Contact:
Prof. A. John Hart
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

Related Projects

Release Date: