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DOE awards $54M to 13 projects for transformational manufacturing technologies and materials; top two awards go to carbon fiber materials and electrodes for next-gen batteries

The US Department of Energy (DOE) awarded more than $54 million—leveraging approximately an additional $17 million in cost share from the private sector—for 13 projects to advance transformational technologies and materials that can help manufacturers significantly increase the energy efficiency of their operations and reduce costs.

The top two awards, one of $9 million to a project led by Dow Chemical, and one of $8.999 million to a project led by PolyPlus, will fund projects tackling, respectively, the manufacturing of low-cost carbon fibers and the manufacturing of electrodes for ultra-high-energy-density lithium-sulfur, lithium-seawater and lithium-air batteries.

Industrial processes consume about one-third of all energy produced in the United States, representing a huge opportunity to boost American competitiveness through advances in energy-saving technologies. The selected projects range from improving manufacturing processes that reduce the energy needed to make components for aircraft and vehicles, to lowering the production costs of carbon fiber for a wide range of clean energy products.

The goal is for the projects to advance technologies early enough in their development cycles to permit the full scope of their technical benefits to be shared across a broad cross-section of the domestic economy. The projects selected for awards include:

  1. The Dow Chemical Company, Scale-Up of Novel Low-Cost Carbon Fibers Leading to High-Volume Commercial Launch. Collaborators include Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Ford Motor Company.

    This project will develop a lower cost carbon fiber production process that uses polyolefin in place of conventional polyacrylonitrile as the feedstock. Low-cost carbon fiber has widespread application in automobiles, wind turbines, and various other industrial applications. Potentially this novel process could reduce production costs by 20% and total carbon dioxide emissions by 50%.

    DOE award is $9,000,000, with cost-share of $4,500,432.

  2. PolyPlus Battery Company, Innovative Manufacturing of Protected Lithium Electrodes for Ultra High Energy Density Batteries. Collaborators include Corning Incorporated and Johnson Controls Incorporated.

    This project will develop a Protected Lithium Electrode, a solid electrolyte and a scaled up manufacturing process for high energy density lithium-air, lithium-water and lithium-sulfur batteries. This project will scale up the production from a batch mode to a high volume process. Commercial introduction of this manufacturing process could extend the driving range of electric vehicles, in turn saving 100 trillion Btus of energy annually.

    The PolyPlus lithium-water battery has achieved the highest energy density ever recorded at 1,300 Wh/kg. Aimed at the marine market, the battery offers an extremely long lifetime, making it suited for such applications as underwater robots or unmanned, underwater vehicles. The company is currently testing samples of the battery, expects the product to be commercially available in 2013, and has already built a list of several companies who have committed to buy the product.

    PolyPlus is also developing a lithium-air rechargeable battery with very high energy density, and is also working on a new generation of lithium-sulfur batteries aimed at the electric vehicle space.

    DOE award is $8,999,920, with cost share of $2,915,287. In 2010, PolyPlus and Corning also received a $5-million ARPA-E award focused on the advanced batteries. (Earlier post.)

  3. American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), A Novel Flash Ironmaking Process. The University of Utah Salt Lake is collaborating on the project, which will develop a process that sprays iron ore directly into the furnace chamber and uses natural gas, hydrogen, or syngas as a reducing agent to replace the energy-and capital intensive coke oven and blast furnace process steps. This new process has the potential to reduce the energy needed to make iron by more than 50%.

    DOE award is $7,120,000, with $1,780,000 cost-share.

  4. Research Triangle Institute, Advanced, Energy-Efficient Hybrid Membrane System for Industrial Water Reuse. Collaborators include Duke University and Veolia, Inc.

    This project will develop and demonstrate a single hybrid system for industrial wastewater treatment and reuse that combines two known processes: forward osmosis and membrane distillation. This system will use waste heat to treat a wide variety of waste streams at manufacturing facilities. The process will reuse more than 50% of the facilities’ wastewater, decrease wastewater discharge, and recover significant amounts of industrial waste heat.

    DOE award is $4,800,000, with $1,199,982 cost-share.

  5. Lyondell Chemical Company, Catalyst-Assisted Production of Olefins from Natural Gas Liquids: Prototype Development and Full-Scale Testing. Collaborators include BASF Qtech Inc. and Quantiam Technologies Inc.

    This project will use a new coating material to reduce surface deposits (unwanted byproducts) and improve the energy efficiency of ethylene production. As ethylene production is the largest user of energy in the chemical industry, a 6 to 10% per plant reduction in energy consumption would result in an annual energy savings of 20-35 trillion Btus. The proposed technology can be installed during the normal maintenance cycle, and, with the growing availability of shale gas, it has the potential to help the US maintain its position as a world leader in olefins production.

    DOE award is $4,500,000, with $2,199,895 cost-share.

  6. Third Wave Systems, Inc., Sustainable Manufacturing via Multi-Scale Physics-Based Process Modeling and Manufacturing-informed Design. Collaborators include Purdue University; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of California Santa Barbara; and The Pennsylvania State University.

    This project will develop microstructural modeling tools for metals and demonstrate a design framework to improve the understanding of dynamic response and statistical variability. This project will enable design engineers to evaluate effects of design changes and various materials; anticipate quality and cost, prior to factory floor implementation; and achieve processes for low-waste, low-cost manufacturing.

    DOE award is $4,069,882, with cost-share of $964,717.

  7. Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC, High Metal Removal Rate Process for Machining Difficult Materials. Raydiance, Inc. is collaborating on the project, which will develop fast lasers that use micro precision cutting in a single-step manufacturing process, and verify this operation for producing flow control openings for fuel injectors. This improved process will reduce re-work and scrap rates, eliminate secondary processes such as etching, surface cleaning, or deburring, and increase laser machining energy efficiency up to 20%–25% over standard practices.

    DOE award is $3,700,000, with cost-share of $925,000.

  8. MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc., High-Quality, Low-Cost Bulk Gallium Nitride Substrates Grown by the Electrochemical Solution Growth Method. Collaborators include Sandia National Laboratories and Georgia Institute of Technology.

    This project will enable more efficient manufacturing of gallium nitride (GaN) which could reduce the cost of and improve the output for light emitting diodes, solid state lighting, laser displays, and other power electronics. Use of GaN holds the potential to reduce lighting energy use by 75%, electric drive motor energy use for consumer applications by 50%, electric motor energy used for transportation by 60%, and energy for information technology infrastructure power delivery by 20%.

    DOE award is $3,680,000, with $920,000 cost-share.

  9. General Motors LLC, Development of Energy Efficient Integrated Die Casting Process for Large Thin-Walled Magnesium Applications. Collaborators include Meridian Lightweight Technologies and The Ohio State University.

    This project will develop an integrated super-vacuum die casting process using a new magnesium alloy to achieve a 50% energy savings compared to the multi-piece, multi-step, stamping and joining process currently used to manufacture car doors. By substituting magnesium for steel inner panels, car doors could weigh 60% less, resulting in significant fuel economy improvements and carbon emission savings.

    DOE award is $2,672,124, with $668,031 cost-share.

  10. Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, Sacrificial Protective Coating Materials that Can Be Regenerated In-Situ to Enable High-Performance Membranes. Collaborators include Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance and Georgia Institute of Technology.

    This project will develop, optimize and test a highly durable membrane coating for the black liquor-to-fuel concentration process used by the pulp and paper industry. By eliminating two steps in the conventional five step black liquor evaporator process this technology has the ability to save the paper industry roughly 110 trillion Btus per year.

    DOE award is $2,110,000, with cost-share of $530,000.

  11. The University of Utah, A New Method for Low-Cost Production of Titanium Alloys for Reducing Energy Consumption of Mechanical Systems. Collaborators include Army Research Laboratory; Reading Alloys/Ametek; and Ford Motor Company.

    This project will develop a new process for producing titanium components that could reduce the materials needed by ten-fold in aircraft and vehicle manufacturing. This technology combines a lower temperature powder metallurgy process with minimal post-processing steps to build parts with titanium’s high strength-to-weight ratio.

    DOE award is $1,460,285, with $370,000 cost-share.

  12. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Bioelectrochemical Integration of Waste Heat Recovery, Waste-to-Energy Conversion, and Waste-to-Chemical Conversion with Industrial Gas and Chemical Manufacturing Processes. The Pennsylvania State University is collaborating on the project.

    This project combines a microbial reverse electrodialysis technology with waste heat recovery to convert effluents into electricity and chemical products including hydrogen gas. This technology uses salinity gradients to overcome the thermodynamic barriers and over potential associated with hydrogen production. This technology will be applicable to a wide variety of US industrial sectors, including the chemical, food, pharmaceutical, and refinery industries and, by providing on-site electricity generation, could save industry 40 trillion Btus annually and further offset 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

    DOE award is $1,200,000, with cost-share of $300,000.

  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Continuous Processing of High Thermal Conductivity Polyethylene Fibers and Sheets. This project will research a new continuous manufacturing process to make high molecular weight, high thermal conductivity polyethylene fibers and sheets to replace metals and ceramics parts in heat transfer equipment. Also, because polyethylene density is 35% less than aluminum, the new materials developed as part of this project could generate fuel savings in vehicle applications.

    DOE award is $1,000,000, with cost-share of $29,350.



Mostly very good projects for future improved batteries. What come be done to ensure local mass production?

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