The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $14.2 million to accelerate the development and deployment of stronger and lighter materials for advanced vehicles. (DE-FOA-0000648) This funding will support the development of high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber composites and advanced steels and alloys that will help vehicle manufacturers improve the fuel economy of cars and trucks while maintaining and improving safety and performance.
Replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials—including advanced high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum, and polymer composites—allows manufacturers to include additional safety devices, integrated electronic systems, and emissions control equipment on vehicles without increasing their weight, DOE notes. Using lighter materials also reduces a vehicle’s fuel consumption; e.g., reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10% can improve the fuel economy by 6 to 8%, DOE says.
Lightweight materials are especially important for improving the efficiency and range of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles because they offset the weight of power systems such as batteries and electric motors. Advanced materials also increase efficiency by enabling engine components to withstand the high pressures and temperatures of high-efficiency combustion regimes. Predictive modeling and integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) has the potential to significantly accelerate the development of lightweight materials, supporting faster improvements to vehicle and engine efficiency.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently released a white paper outlining the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) (earlier post), an interagency effort that supports development of the material models, the implementation framework, and the data analytics tools necessary to solve industrially relevant materials engineering problems using an ICME approach. Yet, while ICME is a promising technique for solving vehicle weight reduction problems, continued focus on improving the tools and techniques is required to realize the potential of this approach, the DOE sugests. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) supports the MGI and development of ICME as important tools for advancing lightweight and high-performance automotive materials.
The Energy Department intends to fund projects across three major areas of materials research and development, including developing modeling tools to deliver higher performing carbon fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as researching new lightweight, high-strength alloys for energy-efficient vehicle and truck engines. The specific research areas include:
DOE intends to fund projects across three Areas of Interest; Area of Interest 3 includes two subtopics. Applicants may submit more than one application. Applicants must only target one Area of Interest or subtopic per application. Applicants must clearly identify the Area of Interest or subtopic for which they are applying to in the Project Narrative. Only applications that specifically address Area(s) of Interest described in the following section will be accepted under this announcement.
Area of Interest 1: Predictive Engineering Tools for Injection Molded Long Carbon Fiber Thermoplastic Composites.
Area of Interest 2: Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) Development of Advanced Steel for Lightweight Vehicles.
Area of Interest 3: Advanced Alloy Development for Automotive and Heavy-Duty Engines. This includes 3a) Lightweight Cast Alloy Development for Light Duty Automotive Engine Applications; and 3b) High Strength Cast Alloy Development for Heavy-Duty On-Road Engine Applications.
Predictive Engineering Tools for Injection Molded Long Carbon Fiber Thermoplastic Composites. The objective is to accelerate the realization of materials for lighter weight vehicles made from advancing and validating the use of predictive tools (models) for long fiber injection molded carbon fiber thermoplastic polymer resin composites.
This Area of Interest is focused exclusively on predictive engineering of fiber length and orientation for injection molded “long fiber” thermoplastic composites, where the length of the fiber before molding is the same length as the thermoplastic pellet (approximately half of an inch) prior to being introduced into the injection molding machine. Successful applications will focus on integrating and validating predictive tools for long fiber thermoplastic carbon fiber composites. Long glass fibers may be included as model systems if the measurement of fiber length and orientation is more direct compared to that for carbon fiber; however, long carbon fibers must also be characterized and validated in the project.
Projects within this Area of Interest will integrate, optimize, and validate thermoplastic injection molded long carbon fiber composite predictive engineering tools capable of achieving specified requirements. The predictive tool will be capable of predicting the impact of processing and design changes to existing systems, as well as predicting the performance of a new system under a varying set of conditions of processing. The desire is to integrate current state-of-the-art predictive tools.
Tools developed under this Area of Interest should be amenable to later validation of localized mechanical properties, and determination of macroscopic structural requirements to enable the required weight reduction and cost. However, characterization and analysis of mechanical properties will not be funded under this Area of Interest.
Thermoplastic resin systems of interest shall include both polypropylene, as a commodity resin, as well as polyamide, as a representative engineering thermoplastic. Additional thermoplastic resins can also be evaluated, but polypropylene and polyamide resins must be included.
Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) Development of Advanced Steel for Lightweight Vehicles. The objective is to develop simultaneously 3rd Generation Advanced High Strength Steel (3GAHSS) technology to support immediate weight reduction in passenger vehicles while also advancing ICME techniques to support a reduced development-to-deployment lead time in all lightweight materials systems.
Applications are to focus on a “foundational engineering problem” (FEP) approach to using ICME techniques for the cost-effective reduction of vehicle weight through the development and application of 3GAHSS. Applications will design, develop, and optimize an assembly consisting of at least four 3GAHSS Light Duty Vehicle components for either the body or chassis system, consistent with specified weight reduction and cost savings targets. With the exception of fasteners and adhesives (no more than 5% of baseline system weight), all components shall be constructed of 3GAHSS. Applications proposing materials other than 3GAHSS will be considered non-responsive.
Advanced Alloy Development for Automotive and Heavy-Duty Engines. 3a) The objective of the first sub-area, Lightweight Cast Alloy Development for Light Duty Automotive Engine Applications, is to develop new, lightweight alloy materials to allow for higher cylinder pressures in high-efficiency, light-duty passenger vehicle engines. As manufacturers continue to push the limits of vehicle efficiency, materials are needed that provide improved castability, high-temperature strength, and fatigue performance relative to existing state of the art aluminum alloys such as A319 or A356.
Applications are sought to develop new, lightweight alloys that provide a 25% improvement in component strength relative to components made with A319 or A356 and measured using standard material characterization techniques. Cost targets for components manufactured utilizing the new materials should not exceed 110% of the cost of components using A319 or A356 aluminum alloys. To be considered a lightweight alloy for this application the density of the new materials must not exceed 6.4g/cm3.
Only applications using sand or investment casting of aluminum will be considered; other casting techniques such as permanent mold casting will be non-responsive.
Using ICME to predict alloy properties may reduce the number of iterations necessary in the alloy development process and thereby reduce the development time and cost requirements. Area of Interest 3 includes the validation of existing ICME models to benchmark the current state of the art for these alloys. Therefore, as part of the technical scope of this Area of Interest, DOE expects that each team will evaluate the performance of existing ICME codes to accelerate the development of new alloys and processing techniques resulting in a gap analysis of existing ICME capabilities. However, this Area of Interest does not include the development of new ICME models. If an application includes tasks involved in the development of ICME models, those tasks will not be funded.
The objective of the second sub-area, High Strength Cast Alloy Development for Heavy-Duty On-Road Engine Applications, is to develop new, high-strength ferrous alloys to allow for higher cylinder pressures in heavy-duty diesel engines. For the purposes of this FOA, a heavy-duty engine is defined as having a displacement of 10-17 liters and developing more than 350 hp (261 kW) and 1,650 lb-ft (2,237 N·m) of torque. As manufacturers continue to push the limits of engine efficiency, materials are needed that provide improved castability (relative to cast iron ASTM A48), high temperature strength and fatigue performance (relative to CGI ASTM A842).
Applications are sought to develop a low-cost high-strength cast material that can enable heavy-duty diesel engines to increase their specific power density (horsepower/weight) and increase their thermal efficiency while avoiding a significant cost penalty. To achieve this objective it is desired that new high-strength ferrous materials be developed that provide at least 25% improvement in component strength relative to components made with A842 (Compacted Graphite Iron). Cost targets for components manufactured utilizing the new materials should not exceed 120% of the cost of components using A48 cast iron.
As with the first sub-area, only applications using sand or investment casting will be considered; other casting techniques such as permanent mold casting will be non-responsive.
Funding and timing. DOE will make up to $8.2 million available in fiscal year 2012 for selection under this funding opportunity announcement, and subject to congressional appropriations, the Department plans to make an additional $6 million available in fiscal year 2013 to fully fund these advanced materials projects, which will take 2-4 years to complete.
The Department will accept applications from industry, national laboratories, and university led-teams to address these challenges and enable technologies that will drive innovation in vehicle design. Applications for the solicitation are due 7 May 2012.