Concurrent Design of a Multimaterial Niobium Alloy System for Next-generation Turbine Applications

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Evanston, Illinois
Project Term:
08/30/2021 - 03/01/2023

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:

QuesTek Innovations will apply computational materials design, additive manufacturing (AM), coating technology, and turbine design/manufacturing to develop a comprehensive solution for a next-generation turbine blade alloy and coating system capable of sustained operation at 1300°C. QuesTek will design a niobium (Nb)-based multimaterial alloy system consisting of a ductile, precipitation-strengthened, creep (deformation)-resistant alloy for the turbine “core” combined with an oxidation-resistant, bond coat-compatible Nb alloy for the “case.” AM techniques, such as directed energy deposition, will enable fabrication of a turbine blade structure with composition and microstructure tailored to resolve the inherent conflict between mechanical performance and oxidation resistance. A novel coating system with thermal and chemical properties compatible with the underlying alloy will be developed to provide environmental and thermal protection.

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:
Dr. Greg Olson
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

Related Projects

Release Date: