Additive Manufacturing of Ultrahigh Temperature Refractory Metal Alloys

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Madison, Wisconsin
Project Term:
05/06/2021 - 08/05/2023

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:

Current alloys used in gas turbines operate at about 90% of their melting temperature, which sets a limit on achieving higher temperatures. Refractory metal alloys (RMA) have the capability to enable continuous operation at 1300°C and with compatible coatings along with cooling systems to allow for gas inlet temperatures to reach 1800°C. The high RMA melting temperatures present challenges for traditional manufacturing methods, however. Incorporating the concurrent development of system design and materials, the University of Wisconsin will use a novel additive manufacturing approach based upon a thermodynamically guided alloy selection, high-throughput materials synthesis and characterization using reactive synthesis of powders, a new dimensional number to predict processing parameters, and an innovative processing scheme to fabricate test coupons and potentially turbine components. These advances will transform RMA manufacturing by enabling cost-efficient and large-scale fabrication of components.

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 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. John Perepezko
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Northwestern University
Computherm, LLC

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