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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

EIA projects energy intensity of US steel production to drop 27% by 2040

July 29, 2016

Steel production is energy-intensive; in 2015, the steel industry accounted for 1.5% of all industrial shipments in the US but 6.1% of industrial delivered energy consumption. The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016) Reference case projects that energy use in the steel industry will further increase by 11% over 2015–2040.

Over the same period, however, the AEO2016 projects in its Reference case a 27% drop in the steel industry’s energy intensity, compared with an 18% reduction in total industrial energy intensity. Several alternative cases examine drivers for further energy intensity reductions in the steel industry.

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Study: Overall automotive aluminum recycling rate above 90%

New research from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling calculated an overall recycling rate of 91% for automotive aluminum. The peer-reviewed study, funded by the Aluminum Association, examines how much aluminum used in the United States’ light-duty automotive sector is recovered and recycled from vehicles at end of life.

The new study, Automotive Aluminum Recycling at End of Life: A Grave-to-Gate Analysis, details a “grave-to-gate” analysis, which spans the moment an automobile becomes obsolete to the moment the aluminum metal units are completely recycled and enter back into life as input material for new applications, including vehicles. Researchers attribute automotive aluminum’s high recycling rate to the metal’s economic value, citing the “concerted effort to recover this valuable lightweight commodity from end-of-life vehicles.”

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Utah, Minnesota team discover highly conductive oxide-based materials; STO/NTO offer “different road to power electronics”

July 27, 2016

Engineers from the University of Utah and the University of Minnesota have discovered that interfacing two particular oxide-based materials—strontium titanate (STO) and neodymium titanate (NTO)—makes them highly conductive, a boon for future power electronics that could result in more power-efficient laptops, electric cars and home appliances that also don’t need cumbersome power supplies. Their findings were published in an open access paper in the journal, APL Materials, from the American Institute of Physics.

The team led by University of Utah electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Berardi Sensale-Rodriguez and University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science assistant professor Bharat Jalan revealed that when the two oxide compounds interact with each other, the bonds between the atoms are arranged in a way that produces many free electrons—the particles that can carry electrical current. STO and NTO are by themselves known as insulators—i.e., not conductive at all. When they interface, however, the amount of electrons produced is a hundred times larger than what is possible in semiconductors.

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LLNL researchers build scalable ultra-lightweight and flexible 3D-printed metallic materials

July 21, 2016

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineers have achieved unprecedented scalability in 3D-printed architectures of arbitrary geometry, opening the door to super-strong, ultra-lightweight and flexible metallic materials for aerospace, the military and the automotive industry.

In a study published in Nature Materials, the LLNL engineers report building multiple layers of fractal-like lattices with features ranging from the nanometer to centimeter scale, resulting in a nickel-plated metamaterial with a high elasticity not found in any previously built metal foams or lattices.

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Ford, Jose Cuervo team up to make car parts with bioplastic reinforced with blue agave fibers

July 20, 2016

Ford Motor Company is teaming up with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s blue agave plant fiber byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.

Ford and Jose Cuervo are testing the agave-fiber-reinforced bioplastic for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units and storage bins. Initial assessments suggest the material holds great promise due to its durability and aesthetic qualities. Success in developing a sustainable composite could reduce vehicle weight and lower energy consumption, while paring the use of petrochemicals and the impact of vehicle production on the environment.

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Ultra high-strength materials reduce heavy-duty cylinder liner distortion; GOE330 compacted graphite iron

Federal-Mogul Powertrain has become the first company to bring ultra high-strength iron cylinder liners into series production. Made of a special form of compacted graphite iron (CGI), the latest formulation—designated GOE330—reduces the typical bore distortion under maximum piston side thrust by up to 27%, compared to existing iron materials. It is used in liner applications between 100 mm and 190 mm bore.

The Young’s Modulus of GOE330 is more than 15% greater than existing high-strength iron liner materials, while at 270 MPa its fatigue strength is approximately one-third higher. Future developments are planned that will achieve even higher levels of strength and stiffness.

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Mitsubishi Chemical and Engineering partner to produce and sell zeolite membranes for ethanol dehydration; new process

July 18, 2016

Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) and Mitsui Zosen Machinery & Service (MZM), a subsidiary of Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding are partnering to produce and sell zeolite membranes, with a focus on ethanol dehydration.

MCC will purchase MZM’s entire output of zeolite membranes and hold the sole sales rights in the US and other global markets. The agreement also provides proposals for new, more efficient dehydration processes that will draw upon both companies’ technologies—including the two different types of zeolites currently produced by each.

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Neos and Lockheed Martin to develop enhanced next-gen airborne gravity gradiometer to advance ability to find oil, gas & minerals

July 06, 2016

In partnership with Lockheed Martin, Neos Inc. will develop a new generation sensor to be used to find oil, gas and minerals beneath the earth’s surface from the air. The new Full Tensor Gradiometry (FTG) Plus technology has 20 times the sensitivity and 10 times greater bandwidth than current gravity gradiometers, according to Neos.

Gravity gradiometers have been commercially used for more than 20 years and militarily longer than that. The technology is based on the principle that earth’s gravity field varies with location, local topography and sub-surface geologic features. Measuring the gravity variation caused by items beneath the earth’s surface can help identify unique underground and undersea geologic structures. The new airborne FTG Plus sensor is so advanced it could find a 10-meter tall hill buried one kilometer below the earth’s surface.

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DOE awarding $16M to 54 projects to help commercialize promising energy technology from national labs

June 22, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced nearly $16 million in funding to help businesses move promising energy technologies from DOE’s National Laboratories to the marketplace. This first Department-wide round of funding through the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) will support 54 projects at 12 national labs involving 52 private-sector partners. Among the selected technologies are a number addressing advanced vehicle and transportation needs.

The TCF is administered by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), which works to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. In February of 2016, OTT announced the first solicitation to the DOE National Laboratories for TCF funding proposals. It received 104 applications from across the laboratory system, for projects in two topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1: Projects for which additional technology maturation is needed to attract a private partner; and

  • Topic Area 2: Cooperative development projects between a lab and industry partner(s), designed to bolster the commercial application of a lab developed technology.

All projects selected for the TCF will receive an equal amount of non-federal funds to match the federal investment.

A selected list of transportation-related TCF selections, as well as the Topic Area 2 projects and their private sector partners is below.

Transportation-related TCF Awards
Technology National Lab Partner Funding
Manufacturing Of Advanced Alnico Magnets for Energy Efficient Traction Drive Motors Ames Carpenter Powder Products $325,000
Direct Fabrication of Fuel Cell Electrodes by Electrodeposition of High-performance Core-shell Catalysts Brookhaven $100,000
Nitride-Stabilized Pt Core-Shell Electrocatalysts for Fuel Cell Cathodes Brookhaven $100,000
Enhancing Lithium-Ion Battery Safety for Vehicle Technologies and Energy Storage Idaho $119,005
Vehicle Controller Area Network (CAN) Bus Network Safety and Security System Idaho Mercedes-Benz R&D North America $150,000
Large Area Polymer Protected Lithium Metal Electrodes with Engineered Dendrite-Blocking Ability Lawrence Berkeley $73,831
Cryo-Compressed Hydrogen Tank Technology in an Internal Combustion Engine Application Lawrence Livermore GoTek Energy $431,995
Scaled Production Of High Octane Biofuel From Biomass-Derived Dimethyl Ether NREL Enerkem $740,000
Thermal Management for Planar Package Power Electronics NREL John Deere Electronic Solutions (JDES) $250,000
Assembly Of Dissimilar Aluminum Alloys For Automotive Application PNNL $500,000
Development of Electrolytes for Lithium Ion Batteries in Wide Temperature Range Applications PNNL Farasis Energy, Navitas Systems $375,000
Direct Extruded High Conductivity Copper for Electric Machines Manufactured Using the ShAPE Process PNNL General Motors R&D $600,000
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Lamborghini inaugurates new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory carbon fiber research center in Seattle

June 21, 2016

Automobili Lamborghini celebrated the grand opening of its new Seattle-based carbon fiber research facility, the Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL). Operating as an entity outside of the company's headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese, the ACSL is responsible for unlocking new potential in carbon fiber.

Seattle is a strategic location for the ACSL, particularly because of its collaboration with Boeing in working toward carbon fiber innovations that are beneficial in both automotive and aerospace applications. The grand opening of the new ACSL also marks the 30th anniversary of Lamborghini’s use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer in its vehicles.

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Materials Project releases trove of data to public; support for work on multivalent battery chemistries and electrolytes

June 10, 2016

The Materials Project, a Google-like database of material properties aimed at accelerating innovation (earlier post), has released an enormous trove of data to the public, giving scientists working on batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, and other advanced materials a powerful tool to explore new avenues of research.

Two sets of data were released: nearly 1,500 compounds investigated for multivalent intercalation electrodes and more than 21,000 organic molecules relevant for liquid electrolytes as well as a host of other research applications. Batteries with multivalent cathodes (which have multiple electrons per mobile ion available for charge transfer) are promising candidates for reducing cost and achieving higher energy density than that available with current lithium-ion technology. (Earlier post.)

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New TM4 SUMO medium-duty electric motors boost torque and speed 45% with SMCs in place of permanent magnets

June 08, 2016

TM4 will introduce three new SUMO medium-duty (MD) powertrain options at the 29th Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition (EVS29), offering an increase of up to 45% in torque and speed, thanks to a new technological advancement.

Until now, the main rotor technology found in TM4’s electric motors was based on surface-mounted permanent magnets. The desire to limit the use of rare-earth magnets has resulted in a technology choice that leverages the reluctance torque of TM4’s external rotor design (earlier post) and decreases by 25% the use of these elements. By substituting some of the magnets with soft magnetic composites (SMCs), variable reluctance adds up to 45% extra torque and operating speed compared with previous technology in same package dimensions.

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DOE issues Request for Information on hydrogen storage for onboard vehicle applications

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001596) to obtain feedback and input from stakeholders on strategies and potential pathways for cost reduction and performance improvements of composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) systems for compressed hydrogen storage for onboard vehicle applications. The purpose of the RFI is to identify future strategic research and development pathways for the DOE to pursue with potential to meet future system cost targets.

Currently, carbon fiber (CF) reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites are used to make COPVs. Type III COPVs have a metallic liner and Type IV COPVs have non-metallic liners. COPVs designed to store hydrogen gas at pressures up to 700 bar are being deployed in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) currently available on the market.

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ORNL, XALT show nanoscale alumina coating on layered oxide cathode materials substantially improves Li-ion battery performance

June 06, 2016

A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and XALT Energy, with colleagues from the University of Michigan and Energy Power Systems, have shown that atomic layer deposition (ALD) of alumina (Al2O3) on Ni-rich full concentration gradient (FCG) NMC and NCA cathode materials can substantially improve Li-ion battery performance and allow for increased upper cutoff voltage (UCV) during charging—delivering significantly increased specific energy utilization.

As described in an open-access paper published in Scientific Reports, their results showed that Al2O3 coating improved NMC cycling performance by 40% and NCA cycling performance by 34% at 1 C/−1 C with respectively 4.35 V and 4.4 V UCV in 2 Ah pouch cells.

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New aluminum-cerium alloys could boost rare earth production; improved energy efficiency of engines

June 03, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and partners Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Eck Industries have developed aluminum-cerium (Al-Ce) alloys that are both easier to work with and more heat tolerant than existing products.

ORNL scientists Zach Sims, Michael McGuire and Orlando Rios, along with colleagues from Eck, LLNL and Ames Laboratory in Iowa, discuss the technical and economic possibilities for aluminum–cerium alloys in an article in JOM, a publication of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. The alloys have the potential to jump-start US production of rare earth elements, the researchers suggested.

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European team devises new strategy for rare-earth-free magnets

June 01, 2016

European researchers have devised a new way to make nanoparticles that could replace rare-earth material use in magnets. The researchers used a mixed iron-cobalt oleate complex in a one-step synthetic approach to produce magnetic core-shell nanoparticles.

The resulting materials showed strong magnetic properties and energy-storing capabilities. The approach could signal an efficient new strategy toward replacing rare earths in permanent magnets such as those uses in electric motors and keeping costs stable, the researchers said. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials.

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ORNL team engineers 1st high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst; outperforms platinum; potential for new electrochemistry systems

May 28, 2016

A research team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has created the first high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst and filed a patent application for the invention. The new bi-directional catalyst can outperform platinum in oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reactions (ORR and OER). The accomplishment is reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The discovery may guide the development of new material systems for electrochemistry. Energy storage devices, such as fuel cells and rechargeable batteries, convert chemical energy into electricity through a chemical reaction. Catalysts accelerate this process, making it more efficient. In particular, an oxygen reduction catalyst extracts electrons from oxygen molecules, while an oxygen evolution catalyst drives the reaction in the opposite direction. Catalytic reactions that proceed in both directions are required for charging and discharging of regenerative energy storage devices.

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Novelis commissions $120M finishing line for automotive aluminum sheet; importance of the closed-loop recycling program

May 26, 2016

Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, celebrated the commissioning of its third CASH (Continuous Annealing Solution Heat) treatment finishing line for aluminum automotive sheet in Oswego, NY. Installed to support the production of stronger, lighter and safer vehicles, the $120-million CASH 3 line expands the company’s production to supply aluminum sheet for the body and cargo box of Ford’s 2017 F-150 SuperDuty pickups. The CASH 1 and 2 lines supply aluminum for Ford’s F-150. With the addition of the third CASH line in Oswego, Novelis has furthered its position as the leading automotive aluminum sheet supplier in North America.

The commissioning of the CASH 3 line also marks the expansion of the benchmark closed-loop recycling program—developed by Novelis, Ford and Penske—which processes roughly 25 million pounds of automotive aluminum scrap per month—more than enough to build 30,000 F-150 bodies. (Earlier post.) Recycled aluminum, which requires significantly less energy and water, avoids 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with primary aluminum production.

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DSD and Solvay partner on use of structural plastics for lighter and more efficient transmissions

Automotive engineering consultancy Drive System Design (DSD) and international chemical and advanced materials company, Solvay SA, have entered a development partnership to make the large scale use of structural plastic composites in transmissions a viable solution for future vehicles. DSD is contributing the transmission know-how while Solvay the materials expertise.

There is an immediate weight saving from substituting plastic materials for conventional metal castings but equally important is the potential for improved efficiency due to the greater inherent damping provided by polymeric materials, the partners said. This permits the use of gears that are much more efficient but would have unacceptable noise characteristics in a conventional casing.

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ORNL team develops laser process for lower cost, more robust joining of carbon fiber and aluminum

May 20, 2016

Researchers led by a team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new laser process that could make joining carbon fiber composites and aluminum for lightweight cars and other multi-material high-end products less expensive—as well as making the joints more robust.

The process would replace the practice of preparing the surface of the materials by hand using abrasive pads, grit blasting and environmentally harmful solvents. Using a laser to remove layers of material from surfaces prior to bonding improves the performance of the joints and provides a path toward automation for high-volume use.

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Max Planck, MIT researchers develop new strategy for high-entropy alloys; overcoming the strength/ductility tradeoff

May 19, 2016

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Dusseldorf, Germany, and MIT have developed a novel strategy to design nanostructured, bulk high-entropy alloys (HEAs) (earlier post) with multiple compositionally equivalent high-entropy phases. The new approach is described in a paper this week in the journal Nature.

The result, says C. Cem Tasan, the Thomas B. King Career Development Professor of Metallurgy in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, also challenges the conventional wisdom that improving the strength of a metal alloy is always a tradeoff that results in a loss of ductility.

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Ford first automaker to use captured CO2 to develop foam and plastic for vehicles

May 16, 2016

Ford Motor Company is the first automaker to formulate and test new foam and plastic components using carbon dioxide as feedstock. Researchers expect to see the new biomaterials in Ford production vehicles within five years.

Formulated with up to 50% CO2-based polyols, the foam is showing promise as it meets rigorous automotive test standards. It could be employed in seating and underhood applications, potentially reducing petroleum use by more than 600 million pounds annually. CO2-derived foam will further reduce the use of fossil fuels in Ford vehicles and increase the presence of sustainable foam in the automaker’s global lineup.

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Stanford team develops nanofiber air filters for efficient high-temperature removal of PM2.5

A team at Stanford has developed high-efficiency (>99.5%) polyimide-nanofiber air filters for the removal of PM2.5 from exhaust streams. In a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the researchers report that the new polyimide nanofibers exhibit high thermal stability. The PM2.5 removal efficiency was kept unchanged when temperature ranged from 25–370 °C.

The filters feature high air flux with very low pressure drop. A field-test showed that the new nanofibers could effectively remove >99.5% PM particles from car exhaust at high temperature. Some versions of the filters removed PM2.5 with efficiency higher than 99.98%—the standard of HEPA filters defined as filters with filtration efficiency >99.97% for 0.3 μm airborne particles.

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ORNL exclusively licenses plasma processing technology for carbon fiber production to RMX Technologies; 75% less energy, 20% lower cost

May 13, 2016

RMX Technologies and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an exclusive licensing agreement for a new technology that significantly reduces the time and energy needed in the production of carbon fiber. Combing these benefits with a low-cost precursor currently in development, the result can be a carbon fiber product that is 40% less expensive to manufacture than current commercial products.

The ORNL/RMX plasma processing technology is a new approach to the oxidation stage of carbon fiber production in which polymer materials are oxidized (or stabilized) before carbonization. During oxidation, the thermoplastic precursor is converted to a thermoset material that can no longer be melted. Oxidation is the most time-consuming phase of the multistep carbon fiber conversion process.

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Hemming of thin-gauge AHSS achieves 30% weight savings

May 12, 2016

The Auto/Steel Partnership (announced that the Hemming of Thin Gauge Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) project achieved a 30% weight savings using thinner gauge AHSS for automotive closure panels.

Hemming is a forming operation which is used in the automotive industry to join two sheet metal panels together. During the process, the flange of the outer panel is bent over the inner one. It is commonly used to assemble the outer parts of a car, such as doors, hoods, trunk leads and fenders. The accuracy of the hemming operation is very important as it affects the surface appearance and thus influences surface quality

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Novelis supplying aluminum for Cadillac CT6 in N America and China

May 10, 2016

Aluminum rolling and recycling leader Novelis announced that its aluminum is used in the new 2016 Cadillac CT6 body. The new mixed material vehicle construction featured in the Cadillac CT6 represents a first of its kind for General Motors (GM) in North America and China. (Earlier post.)

In North America, Novelis’ plant in Kingston, ON will supply GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Detroit, Michigan. Novelis’ plant in Changzhou, China will supply GM’s Shanghai plant, which will produce the CT6 manufactured locally in China.

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Cactus-inspired membranes with nanocrack coatings boost fuel cell performance significantly

April 29, 2016

Regulating water content in polymeric membranes is important in a number of applications—such as in the proton-exchange fuel-cell membranes used in automotive fuel cell stacks. Researchers from CSIRO in Australia and Hanyang University in Korea have now developed a new type of hydrocarbon polymer membrane that has the potential to deliver a significant boost in fuel cell performance.

Water content in the membranes is regulated through nanometer-scale cracks (nanocracks) in a hydrophobic surface coating. These cracks work as nanoscale valves to retard water desorption and to maintain ion conductivity in the membrane on dehumidification. In a paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers reported that hydrocarbon fuel-cell membranes with these surface nanocrack coatings operated at intermediate temperatures show improved electrochemical performance.

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LLNL 3D-printed foam outperforms standard materials

April 27, 2016

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) material scientists have found that 3D-printed foam works better than standard cellular materials in terms of durability and long-term mechanical performance.

Foams, also known as cellular solids, are an important class of materials with applications ranging from thermal insulation and shock-absorbing support cushions to lightweight structural and floatation components. Such material is an essential component in a large number of industries, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, marine, biomedical, packaging and defense.

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NEC, NEC TOKIN and Tohoku University develop spin-Seebeck thermoelectric device w/ 10x better conversion efficiency

April 25, 2016

NEC Corporation, NEC TOKIN Corporation and TOHOKU UNIVERSITY have jointly created a thermoelectric (TE) device using the spin Seebeck effect (SSE) with conversion efficiency 10 times higher than a test module that was produced based on a multi-layered SSE technology published by the Tohoku University group in 2015.

The spin-Seebeck effect is a thermoelectric effect discovered in 2008 by Prof. Eiji Saitoh and Associate Prof. Ken-ichi Uchida of Tohoku University (Keio University at that time). This is a phenomenon in which a temperature gradient applied in a magnetic material produces a spin current along the temperature gradient. The spin current is a flow of a magnetic property of an electron.

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Continental showcases car tires and engine mounts with rubber made from dandelion roots; targeting series production in 5-10 years

Continental has developed and tested car tires and engine mounts with rubber made from dandelion roots. In 2014, Continental brought onto the road the first sample of a premium winter tire featuring tread made from dandelion rubber. (Earlier post.) At the end of 2015, ContiTech tested the new renewable resource, named TARAXAGUM, in engine mounts. The company is striving for series production in five to ten years.

Continental says that the plant has the potential to become an alternative, environmentally friendly resource and could further reduce dependency on traditionally produced natural rubber. Not only this, but because it grows under moderate climatic conditions, it can also generate savings in CO2 emissions and transport costs.

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NanoSteel and AK Steel deliver next-gen advanced high-strength steel to GM

April 21, 2016

NanoSteel, a leader in nanostructured steel materials (earlier post), announced the delivery of its first advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) to General Motors for initial testing. GM Ventures invested in NanoSteel in 2012. (Earlier post.)

Designed to provide automakers with a new standard in material performance, the sheet steel is poised to accelerate vehicle lightweighting initiatives focused on affordably meeting rising global fuel-economy regulations. Production of the material, targeted to the $100 billion-plus automotive steel market, is the result of a multi-year joint development program between NanoSteel and AK Steel Corporation—an industry-leading innovator in steel product development.

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Toyota to pioneer use of biosynthetic rubber in engine and drive system hoses

Next month, Toyota will become the first automaker to use biohydrin, a newly-developed biosynthetic rubber product, in engine and drive system hoses.

Jointly developed by Toyota, Zeon Corporation, and Sumitomo Riko Co., Ltd., biohydrin rubber is manufactured using plant-derived bio-materials instead of epichlorohydrin, a commonly-used epoxy compound. Since plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during their lifespan, such bio-materials achieve an estimated 20% reduction in material lifecycle carbon emissions in comparison to conventional petroleum-based hydrin rubber.

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Outokumpu and Fraunhofer Institute develop lightweight stainless steel battery pack for EVs; up to 20% weight reduction

April 19, 2016

Finland-based stainless steel expert Outokumpu is working on lightweight stainless steel solutions for electric vehicles in cooperation with Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, in Germany. Their latest innovation is a new battery pack that combines several lightweight engineering technologies as well as new types of cooling and structural strategies.

The Forta H1000 fully-austenitic, ultra-high-strength stainless steel (an advanced manganese-chromium alloy) from Outokumpu enables the implementation of structural lightweight engineering initiatives, while providing a high level of safety.

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BAIC BJEV in strategic cooperation with Dresden University of Technology for lightweighting technology

April 14, 2016

Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. (BAIC BJEV), a subsidiary of BAIC, signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Dresden University of Technology (TUD) to create the Sino-German Automotive Light Weighting Technology Joint R&D Center. The two also entered into a letter of intent on the establishment of Sino-German Automotive Light Weighting Technology Engineering Center Co., Ltd. TUD Distinguished Senior Professor Werner Hufenbach was named chief scientist in lightweight technology for BAIC BJEV.

The Sino-German Light Weighting R&D Center will become the company’s fifth overseas R&D center. BAIC BJEV has been building its global R&D network in its core areas, i.e. electric and smart technologies, by establishing oversea R&D centers in Silicon Valley, USA; Aachen, Germany; Detroit, USA; and Barcelona, Spain. (Earlier post.)

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Lawrence Livermore team shows carbon nanotube porins are fastest known proton conductors; potential application for PEM fuel cells

April 05, 2016

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have shown that 0.8-nm-diameter carbon nanotube porins, which promote the formation of one-dimensional water wires, can support proton transport rates exceeding those of bulk water by an order of magnitude.

The transport rates in these nanotube pores also exceed those of biological channels and Nafion—one of the most common and commercially available membranes for proton exchange membrane (PEM fuel cells). Carbon nanotubes are the fastest known proton conductor. The research appears in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Practical applications include proton exchange membranes (PEMs); proton-based signaling in biological systems; and the emerging field of proton bioelectronics (protonics).

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SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall launch long-term initiative for CO2-free ironmaking for steel production

April 04, 2016

Swedish-Finnish steel company SSAB, mining company LKAB and power company Vattenfall have launched an initiative to develop a steel production process that emits water rather than carbon dioxide.

The aim of the HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) project is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ironmaking to zero by eliminating the need to use fossil fuel for iron ore reduction. The idea is to replace the blast furnaces with an alternative process, using hydrogen produced from “clean” electricity.

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PNNL team develops higher-strength, lower-cost titanium alloy aimed at improving vehicle fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions

April 02, 2016

An improved titanium alloy—stronger than any commercial titanium alloy currently on the market—gets its strength from the novel way atoms are arranged to form a special nanostructure. For the first time, a team led by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have been able to see this alignment and then manipulate it to make the strongest titanium alloy (hierarchical nanostructured Ti-185, or HNS Ti-185) yet developed. On top of the gains in strength, the new alloy benefits from a lower cost process.

In an open access paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers note that that material is an excellent candidate for producing lighter vehicle parts, and that this newfound understanding may lead to creation of other high strength alloys.

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New Federal-Mogul Powertrain piston skirt coatings increase durability for the life of pistons

March 30, 2016

Federal-Mogul Powertrain has introduced two innovative piston skirt coatings: EcoTough-New Generation (for gasoline engines) and EcoTough-D (for diesel engines). Building on the proven performance of previous EcoTough coatings, the new formulations further reduce engine friction, wear and noise while dealing with the increasingly challenging loads and temperatures that exist in the latest downsized, turbocharged engines.

Gasoline and diesel engines require alternative solutions because of important differences in their relative combustion loads, piston geometry and the lubricity of their respective fuels. Federal-Mogul Powertrain has accommodated these differences by formulating specific coatings, each optimized for either gasoline or diesel application.

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Successful performance test of natural Albany graphite versus synthetic graphite in a Ballard fuel cell stack; potential cost reduction

Zenyatta Ventures Ltd. and Ballard Power Systems announced the successful performance testing of high-purity Albany graphite in components of a Ballard fuel cell stack. This Phase 4 testing program was designed to show viability of Zenyatta’s Albany graphite compared to synthetic graphite under realistic fuel cell operating conditions.

The membrane electrode assembly (MEA), which includes the gas diffusion layer (GDL), is a critical component of a PEM fuel cell that must meet exacting performance standards for the fuel cell to be robust and reliable. Ballard prototyped GDLs from Zenyatta graphite—which included an anode and cathode sub layer—and then incorporated it into a MEA that was tested in a fuel cell stack to characterize fuel cell performance.

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ORNL seeking US manufacturers to license new carbon fiber process; reduces cost up to 50% and energy up to 60%

March 24, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a production method they estimate will reduce the cost of carbon fiber as much as 50% and the energy used in its production by more than 60%. After extensive analysis and successful prototyping by industrial partners, ORNL is making the new process available for licensing.

A detailed analysis of the new process compared to a published baseline for conventional carbon fiber production examined manufacturing cost of nine major process steps, starting with the precursor and pretreatment and finishing with surface treatment, sizing, winding, inspection and shipping. The analysis revealed the new process yields significant reductions in materials, capital and labor costs resulting in an overall manufacturing cost reduction of up to 50%. Details of the cost analysis will be shared with the prospective licensees.

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ORNL team develops better moldable thermoplastic by using lignin; 50% renewable content

March 23, 2016

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new class of high-performance thermoplastic elastomers for cars and other consumer products by replacing the styrene in ABS (acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene) with lignin, a brittle, rigid polymer that, with cellulose, forms the woody cell walls of plants.

In doing so, they have invented a solvent-free production process that interconnects equal parts of nanoscale lignin dispersed in a synthetic rubber matrix to produce a meltable, moldable, ductile material that’s at least ten times tougher than ABS. The resulting thermoplastic—called ABL for acrylonitrile, butadiene, lignin—is recyclable, as it can be melted three times and still perform well. The results, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, may bring cleaner, cheaper raw materials to diverse manufacturers.

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Series production of next-generation Acura NSX hybrid supercar begins in April at new Performance Manufacturing Center

March 17, 2016

Acura’s Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) will begin series production of the next-generation Acura NSX hybrid supercar (earlier post) in late April, with customer deliveries to commence thereafter.

The PMC is constructing the Acura supercar entirely in-house and, like the NSX itself, is a clean-sheet development—a manufacturing facility designed around the NSX’s unique Multi-Material Body and aluminum-intensive space-frame design and optimized for low-volume production of high-performance specialty vehicles.

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Continental Structural Plastics and Mitsubishi Rayon exploring joint venture for carbon fiber automotive structural components

March 08, 2016

Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Rayon (MRC), regarding the development and manufacturing of innovative carbon fiber structural components for the automotive industry in North America. Under the MoU, CSP and MRC will begin detailed studies to substantiate the establishment of an equity-based joint venture.

Specifically, the new joint venture will produce compression molded components made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic materials, which could include carbon fiber sheet molded compound (SMC) and/or Pre-preg carbon fiber Compression Molding (PCM).These components will include Class A body panels, as well as non-class A structural automotive applications including: pillars; engine cradles or supports; radiator supports; frames and rails; bumper beams; underbody shields; door inners and intrusion beams.

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UT, Oak Ridge scientists gain new insights into atomic disordering of complex metal oxides; materials for energy applications

A team from the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and Forschungszentrum Jülich Institute of Energy and Climate Research has used neutron total scattering to gain new insights into atomic disordering of complex metal oxides.

This provides a new basis for understanding order-to-disorder transformations important for applications such as plutonium immobilization (host materials for nuclear waste containment), fast ion conduction (solid oxide fuel cells), and thermal barrier coatings (gas turbine jet engines). A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Materials.

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Faurecia using flax-based composite in Urban Liftgate demonstrator

March 07, 2016

Faurecia’s recently introduced Urban Liftgate demonstrator is a showcase for several innovations designed to rethink the rear-end of vehicles. Among the innovations is the use of a new type of composite made of natural flax fibers instead of carbon.

Although the flax-based composite is not comparable mechanically to carbon fiber composites, said Laurent Gillard, Senior Engineering Manager, it has its own intersting properties and offers a lower-cost than carbon fiber and an environmentally friendly solution for lightweighting. The flax-fiber composite provides a weight savings of around 45% Gillard said—in the ballpark of the estimated 50% weight savings from carbon fiber.

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Toyota and Yanmar to collaborate on marine development and products; Toyota Hybrid Hulls

March 05, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation and Yanmar Co., Ltd. have reached a wide-ranging agreement to collaborate on technical development, production, and mutual parts use in the marine industry. A concept craft previewing the first product developed under this collaboration was on display at the Japan International Boat Show this week.

Toyota currently manufactures and sells aluminum-hulled pleasure crafts equipped with automotive engines. Yanmar is an industrial device manufacturer that has specialized in industrial diesel engines. The company also manufactures marine engines, as well as fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) fishing boats and industrial vessels.

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Argonne and Los Alamos national laboratories partner to find alternative to platinum in hydrogen fuel cells; Electrocatalysis Consortium

March 02, 2016

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Los Alamos national laboratories have teamed up to support a DOE initiative through the creation of the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat), a collaboration devoted to finding an effective but cheaper alternative to platinum in hydrogen fuel cells. ElectroCat is one of four consortia that make up DOE’s new Energy Materials Network (EMN). (Earlier post.)

About half of the total cost of a typical automotive fuel cell stack comes directly from the cost of the platinum metal in the electrode catalysts. ElectroCat is dedicated to finding new ways to replace rare and costly platinum group metals in fuel cell cathodes with more accessible and inexpensive substitutes such as materials based on the earth-abundant metals iron and cobalt.

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Toho Tenax develops integrated production system for CFRP; projects in automotive

Toho Tenax Europe GmbH (TTE), the German subsidiary of Toho Tenax, itself the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fibers and composites business, has developed an integrated production system for carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) that enables manufactured composite parts to be optimized for required shapes and properties.

The new production system uses a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process and TTE’s own one-step carbon fiber to part technology, called Part via Preform (PvP), which it developed in 2014. One European automaker has already adopted this system and other projects are under way in the automotive industry.

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DOE launches Energy Materials Network with $40M for first year

February 25, 2016

The US Department of Energy launched the Energy Materials Network (EMN), a new National Laboratory-led initiative. Leveraging $40 million in federal funding in its first year, EMN will focus on tackling one of the major barriers to widespread commercialization of clean energy technologies: the design, testing, and production of advanced materials. By strengthening and facilitating industry access to the unique scientific and technical advanced materials innovation resources available at DOE’s National Labs, the network will help bring these materials to market more quickly.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is providing the funding to establish EMN’s four initial National Laboratory-led consortia and solicit proposals for collaborative R&D projects with industry and academia. Each EMN consortium will bring together National Labs, industry, and academia to focus on specific classes of materials aligned with industry’s most pressing challenges related to materials for clean energy technologies.

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Faurecia wins JEC World 2016 Innovation Award for “one-shot” composite manufacturing process; mass production slated for 2018

Faurecia has won a JEC World 2016 Innovation Award for its “one-shot” manufacturing process for visible composite parts; the approach combines structure and aspect in a single part. The technology makes it possible to insert a pre-heated thermoplastic composite reinforcement into the injection mold and secure it in a stable position.

The efficient process was demonstrated on a plastic tailgate with a pre-impregnated (prepreg) glass fiber reinforcement and is particularly suited to tailgates, lower tailgates and semi‑structural parts. The main benefits of this process are improvements in weight, quality, cost and cycle times.

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DOE requesting information on critical energy materials, including fuel cell platinum group metal catalysts

February 18, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released a Request for Information (RFI) on critical materials in the energy sector, including fuel cell platinum group metal catalysts. The RFI is soliciting feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to the demand, supply, opportunities for developing substitutes, and potential for using materials more efficiently in the energy sector. The information received from the RFI will be used to update the analyses in DOE’s Critical Material Strategy Reports that were released in 2010 and 2011.

Building on the work of the 2010 and 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reports, the RFI seeks information on materials used in a variety of energy technologies, from generation to end use, and their manufacturing processes. Topics of interest include material intensity; market projections; technology transitions; primary production; supply chains; and recycling.

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Toho Tenax develops energy-saving, high-productivity carbonizing process and surface treatment technologies for CFRP

January 18, 2016

Toho Tenax Co., Ltd., the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fibers and composites business, has developed innovative microwave carbonization and plasma surface treatment technologies to support the increased production and use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) in automobiles, high-speed railcars and aircraft.

Toho Tenax is now working to commercialize the technologies for mass production in the coming future, when CFRP is expected to be used on an increasingly large scale. For CFRP solutions broadly incorporating everything from raw materials to composite materials, the company has been placing a special emphasis on reducing production-use energy and CO2 emissions by 50% while improving productivity.

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HRL Labs team develops 3D printing process for ceramics; propulsion components, microelectromechanical systems and more

January 01, 2016

Researchers at HRL Laboratories have achieved a new milestone in 3D printing technology by developing a process that overcomes the limits of traditional ceramic parts and enables the development of high temperature, high strength ceramic components. Because ceramics cannot be cast or machined easily, three-dimensional (3D) printing enables a big leap in geometrical flexibility. A paper on their work is published in the journal Science.

The extremely high melting point of many ceramics makes them challenging for additive manufacturing as compared with metals or polymers. The HRL team developed pre-ceramic monomers that are cured with ultraviolet light in a stereolithography 3D printer or through a patterned mask, forming 3D polymer structures that can have complex shape and cellular architecture.

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UCLA researchers develop exceptionally strong and lightweight new metal nanocomposite

December 24, 2015

A team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a super-strong yet light structural metal nanocomposite with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. It could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices.

To create the super-strong but lightweight metal, the team developed a new way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. They also developed a scalable manufacturing method that could pave the way for more high-performance lightweight metals. A paper on their work is published today in Nature.

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Ford and Corning introduce lightweight Gorilla Glass hybrid windshield technology on Ford GT

December 17, 2015

Ford and Corning have developed Gorilla Glass hybrid windshield technology—a light-weighting innovation set to debut on the all-new Ford GT. The Gorilla Glass hybrid is thinner and about 30% lighter than traditional laminate glass, and will improve Ford GT handling by lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity and positively impact acceleration, fuel economy and braking performance. The Gorilla Glass hybrid window will be used on both the windshield and rear engine cover of Ford GT.

When tasked with developing lightweight and advanced material vehicle applications, the Ford team approached Corning, a recognized leader in materials science that introduced light and durable Gorilla Glass to the consumer electronics market in 2007. Interested in further exploring potential automotive applications, Ford engaged Corning to help research and develop a unique formulation for exterior vehicle glass.

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Argonne study shows high-energy X-rays give industry affordable way to optimize cast iron

December 08, 2015

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with Caterpillar, have used high-energy synchrotron X-ray tomography to perform quantitative 3D-characterization of the distribution of graphite particles in high-strength compacted graphite iron (CGI). The size and morphology of graphite particles play a crucial role in determining various mechanical and thermal properties of cast iron.

The study results, published in Scripta Materialia showed that high-energy X-ray tomography can reveal previously unknown behaviors of graphite in cast iron, such as the growth of nodules, as it undergoes various treatments.

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GM applies Gen 3 advanced high-strength steel in new vehicle for China; 1,200 MPa Q&P steel

December 03, 2015

General Motors is applying third-generation advanced high-strength steel to the new Chevrolet LOVA RV from SAIC-GM, thereby reducing the weight of selected body components by approximately 20%. The recreational vehicle (RV) was launched on 19 November 2015.

The new steel offers a superior balance of strength and ductility as compared to the first generation of high-strength steels. The fuel economy of a vehicle is generally considered to increase by 6 to 8% for every 10% reduction in body weight.

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KIT researchers developing low-pressure carbonitriding process for hardening steel with methylamine; applications in downsized engines

November 23, 2015

A team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is developing a new low-pressure process for hardening steel using methylamine. The new low-pressure carbonitriding (enriching low-alloy steels with carbon and nitrogen) process saves time and process gas. Steels hardened in this way are suited for use in components subjected to high mechanical and thermal loads in downsized, energy-efficient and low-emission engines of the future.

The KIT researchers, along with their colleagues at Bosch, presented the process in a recent paper published in HTM - Journal of Heat Treatment and Materials.

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Tohoku U team produces rare-earth-free high quality Fe-Ni magnet with simple industrial technology

November 22, 2015

Researchers from Tohoku University in Japan have succeeded in producing a completely rare-earth free high-quality Fe-Ni magnet. The team, led by Professor Akihiro Makino as principal investigator is supported by a MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan) project entitled, “Ultra-low Core Loss Magnetic Material Technology Area,” under the framework of the “Tohoku Innovative Materials Technology Initiatives for Reconstruction.”

Currently high quality magnets, which are used in various applications such as automobiles, household appliances, medical equipment etc. are made up of rare earth elements such as Sm (samarium), Nd (neodymium) and Dy (dysprosium). Importing rare earth elements is costly, and has become “too political,” the researchers said, making it increasingly difficult for Japan to maintain industrial superiority and competitiveness in the production of energy-saving technologies for next generation of electrical machines/devices.

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EuroCarBody Award 2015 goes to the Carbon Core body of the new BMW 7 Series

November 12, 2015

The Carbon Core body structure of the new BMW 7 Series has been awarded the EuroCarBody Award 2015 at the 17th Global Car Body Benchmarking Conference. The body of the new BMW luxury sedans was given a rating of 41.87 out of 50 possible points—the best score ever to be obtained in this competition. The EuroCarBody Award has been announced at the annual conference of experts every year since 2002 and is regarded as a leading award for innovations in car body construction.

The Carbon Core used for the body structure is the central element of the BMW EfficientLightweight Technology that was applied particularly consistently in the development of the sixth generation of the BMW 7 Series. For the first time in a volume-production automobile, a composite of CFRP, aluminium and super high-strength steels was created which increases rigidity and stiffness in the passenger cell while at the same time significantly reducing the vehicle weight.

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ORNL, industry partners using high-performance computing to develop new high-temperature aluminum alloys for engines

November 11, 2015

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, FCA US LLC, and Nemak, a specialist in the production of high complex aluminum components for the automotive industry such as cylinder heads and engine blocks, are partnering to create lightweight powertrain materials that will help the auto industry meet the mandated target of 54.5 mpg (4.3 l/100 km) by 2025. Using high-performance computing, ORNL researchers are modeling the atomic structure of new alloys to select the best candidates for physical experimentation.

The ORNL-led project is part of a new initiative from DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office to develop such new high-performance alloys. Ford, General Motors and FCA US are collaborating with national laboratories, universities and the casting industry to develop an affordable, 300 ˚C-capable high-strength cast aluminum alloy.

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Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding technique from OSU uses 80% less energy and delivers bonds 50% stronger; joining dissimilar materials

October 30, 2015

Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique—Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding (VFAW)—that consumes 80% less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates bonds that are 50% stronger. The new technique could have a significant impact on the auto industry, which is poised to offer new cars which combine traditional heavy steel parts with lighter, alternative metals to reduce vehicle weight.

Glenn Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, who helped develop the new technique, explained the new process in a keynote address at the recent Materials Science & Technology 2015 meeting. The Materials Science & Engineering annual meeting is organized by the American Ceramic Society, the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, ASM International, and the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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Acura provides more technical detail on NSX sports hybrid AWD powertrain, body

October 28, 2015

Acura unveiled the production model of the next-generation NSX at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) this past January (earlier post), and now has provided more technical detail on the high-performance hybrid sports car and its new Sport Hybrid-AWD power unit.

At the core of this new hybrid power unit is a bespoke, mid-mounted twin-turbocharged, 75-degree 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine with dry sump lubrication, mated to an all-new 9-speed dual clutch transmission (9DCT) and Direct-Drive Motor. This is augmented by the front Twin Motor Unit (TMU) driving the front wheels. The NSX Sport Hybrid power unit offers exceptional horsepower and torque with a broad powerband for tremendous throttle response and acceleration. Total system peak output is estimated at 573 horsepower—500 horsepower from the gasoline engine and 73 horsepower from the front TMU.

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New flexible MOF for enhanced adsorbed natural gas storage on vehicles

October 27, 2015

An international team of researchers led by a group at the University of California, Berkeley has developed a flexible metal-organic framework (MOF) material for enhanced adsorption and desorption of natural gas (CH4). The material, described in a paper in the journal Nature, could bolster the development of on-board adsorbed natural gas (ANG) systems that don’t require the high pressures or cold temperatures of today’s compressed or liquefied natural gas vehicles.

The “flexibility” is the result of a reversible phase transition. The iron and cobalt compounds Fe(bdp) and Co(bdp) (bdp2− = 1,4-benzenedipyrazolate) undergo a structural phase transition in response to specific methane (CH4) pressures, resulting in adsorption and desorption isotherms that feature a sharp step. Such behavior enables greater storage capacities than have been achieved for classical adsorbents, the team found, while also reducing the amount of heat released during adsorption and the impact of cooling during desorption.

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DOE issues RFI on advanced thermal insulation for cold/cryogenic compressed gas on-board fuel storage

October 21, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001420) on advanced thermal insulation for sub-ambient temperature alternative fuel onboard storage systems. Alternative fuels could include hydrogen or natural gas stored onboard the vehicle at sub-ambient temperatures as a compressed gas, liquefied gas or adsorbed onto a porous material.

DOE is requesting information on how to maintain vacuum stability of systems; use of advanced composites within the systems; and accelerated test methods to determine performance and applicability of materials and systems for long-term cold and cryogenic based alternative fuel storage systems for onboard vehicle applications.

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Berkeley Lab findings should bolster future application of black phosphorous nanoribbons in electronic, optoelectronic and thermoelectric devices

October 19, 2015

A team led by a group of researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has experimentally confirmed strong in-plane anisotropy—i.e., directional dependence—in thermal conductivity, up to a factor of two, along the zigzag and armchair directions of single-crystal black phosphorous nanoribbons.

This new experimental revelation about black phosphorus nanoribbons should facilitate the future application of this highly promising material to electronic, optoelectronic and thermoelectric devices.

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Argonne study finds lightweight material substitution increases vehicle-cycle GHGs, but results in total life-cycle benefit

October 12, 2015

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has taken a closer look at vehicle-cycle (all processes related to vehicle manufacturing) and vehicle total life-cycle (vehicle-cycle plus fuel cycle—i.e., the use phase) impacts of substituting lightweight materials into vehicles.

In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that while material substitution can reduce vehicle weight, it often increases vehicle-cycle greenhouse gas emissions GHGs—for example, replacing steel with wrought aluminum, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CRFP), or magnesium increases the vehicle-cycle GHGs. However, lifetime fuel economy benefits often outweigh the vehicle-cycle, resulting in a net total life-cycle GHG benefit, they found. This is the case for steel replaced by wrought aluminum in all assumed cases, and for CFRP and magnesium except for high substitution ratio and low fuel reduction value.

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GM planning to “own” the customer relationship beyond the vehicle; autonomous Volts, car sharing and fuel cells

October 01, 2015

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and her leadership team outlined the company’s plans to capitalize on the future of personal mobility by owning the customer relationship beyond the vehicle, building upon nearly two decades of connectivity leadership.

GM also said it plans to strengthen its core business through global growth initiatives and an aggressive product launch cadence, while continuing to focus on driving cost efficiencies. As a result, the company expects to increase its earnings per share and generate significant shareholder value. The company shared its plans with investors during a conference at its Milford Proving Ground.

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WPI team develops process to recover rare earth elements from discarded motors of electric and hybrid vehicles

In an effort to help develop a sustainable domestic supply of rare earth elements and lessen US dependence on China for materials that are vital to the production of electronics, wind turbines, and many other technologies, two researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have developed a method of extracting rare earths from the drive units and motors of discarded electric and hybrid cars.

The process offers a recovery rate of more than 80%. While heat treatment is required for processing, all other steps can be performed at room temperature, thus resulting in a process designed for energy efficiency. Overall, the established process applies green chemistry principles for designing a hydrometallurgical process.

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Alcoa splitting into two companies; expecting 2.4x increase in automotive revenues to $1.8B in 2018

September 28, 2015

The Board of Directors of Alcoa has unanimously approved a plan to split the lightweight metals leader into two independent, publicly-traded companies. The globally competitive Upstream Company will comprise five business units that today make up Global Primary Products: Bauxite, Alumina, Aluminum, Casting and Energy.

The Value-Add Company will include Global Rolled Products, Engineered Products and Solutions, and Transportation and Construction Solutions. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016. At that point Alcoa shareholders will own all of the outstanding shares of both the Upstream and Value-Add Companies. The separation is intended to qualify as a tax-free transaction to Alcoa shareholders for US federal income tax purposes.

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DOE awards nearly $55M to advance fuel efficient vehicle technologies in support of EV Everywhere and SuperTruck

September 18, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding nearly $55 million for 24 projects to develop and deploy advanced vehicle technologies, supporting the Energy Department’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge to make plug-in electric vehicles as affordable to own and operate as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.

Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance with the Energy Department, the Department of the Army is contributing an additional $2.26 million in co-funding to support projects focused on battery modeling technologies and computational fluid dynamics.

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New Mahle piston ring coating for high-output GTDI engines; chromium nitride using high-velocity oxygen fuel process

September 16, 2015

Mahle has developed a new thermal spray coating for modern high-output direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engines (GTDI). Under development since 2011 at Mahle’s thermal spray development labs in Michigan, the new process initially was designed for high-output GTDI engines currently in production by two US domestic automakers. The market for high-output turbocharged engines is expected to achieve a market share of 30% or more by 2020.

The new top ring coating, also referred to as MSC312, uses chromium nitride applied through a high-velocity oxygen fuel (HVOF) thermal spray process. MSC312 improves upon the scuff-and-wear capabilities of Mahle’s MSC385 chrome carbide HVOF coating because of the chromium nitride composition.

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SLAC’s new electron camera visualizes ripples in 2-D material; support for future solar cells, electronics and catalysts

September 10, 2015

New research led by scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University reveals how individual atoms move in trillionths of a second to form wrinkles on a three-atom-thick material. Visualized by a new “electron camera,” one of the world’s speediest, this unprecedented level of detail could guide researchers in the development of efficient solar cells, fast and flexible electronics and high-performance chemical catalysts.

As described in a paper published in the ACS journal in Nano Letters, the study was made possible with SLAC’s instrument for ultrafast electron diffraction (UED), which uses energetic electrons to take snapshots of atoms and molecules on timescales as fast as 100 quadrillionths of a second.

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Federal-Mogul Powertrain develops new high strength aluminium alloy material for automotive diesel pistons

September 03, 2015

Federal-Mogul Powertrain has developed a new premium diesel piston aluminium alloy: DuraForm-G91. In benchmarking tests, the new alloy—which will be on display at the IAA show later this month—provides between three and five times the component life of established as-cast materials in modern, highly loaded, diesel engines. The increased strength of the new material also supports higher mechanical loads, allowing engines to operate at higher specific power and more efficiently.

The enhanced alloy properties facilitate piston designs with a lower compression height and reduced mass. The resulting benefits of less reciprocating mass and smaller, lighter cylinder blocks contribute to vehicle CO2 emissions reduction.

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GWU team develops low-cost, high-yield one-pot synthesis of carbon nanofibers from atmospheric CO2

August 21, 2015

A team led by Dr. Stuart Licht at The George Washington University in Washington, DC has developed a low-cost, high-yield and scalable process for the electrolytic conversion of atmospheric CO2 dissolved in molten carbonates into carbon nanofibers (CNFs.) The conversion of CO2 → CCNF + O2 can be driven by efficient solar, as well as conventional, energy at inexpensive steel or nickel electrodes.

The structure is tuned by controlling the electrolysis conditions, such as the addition of trace transition metals to act as CNF nucleation sites; the addition of zinc as an initiator; and the control of current density. An open access paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters; the work was also presented at ACS’ 250th National Meeting & Exposition this week in Boston.

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Novelis introducing high-strength 7000-series aluminum alloys for automotive industry

August 18, 2015

Novelis is introducing the Advanz 7000-series of high-strength aluminum alloys designed for safety-critical components of vehicle structures. Two to three times stronger than any automotive aluminum used in high volumes today, Novelis Advanz 7000-series products can be used to manufacture components such as bumper systems, crash ring components and door intrusion beams.

Very high strength 7000-series aluminum alloys have been in development for and in use in aerospace applications for decades, said Duane Bendzinski, Novelis Global Director of Technology, Automotive. Novelis has been looking at ways to make the alloys more useful and specific for automotive applications, he said.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Autodesk partner on next-generation 3D printed materials; generative design

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Autodesk are partnering to explore how design software can accelerate innovation for three-dimensional printing of advanced materials. Under an 18-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), LLNL will use Autodesk software for generative design as it studies how new material microstructures, arranged in complex configurations and printed with additive manufacturing techniques, will produce objects with physical properties that were never before possible.

In the project, LLNL researchers will bring to bear several key technologies, such as additive manufacturing, material modeling and architected design (arranging materials at the micro and nanoscale through computational design).

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NSF funds new center for advanced 2-D coatings; energy conversion and storage

August 13, 2015

A new NSF-funded Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) at Penn State and Rice University will study the design and development of advanced coatings based on two-dimensional (2D) layered materials to solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges that include: corrosion, oxidation and abrasion, friction and wear, energy storage and harvesting, and the large-scale synthesis and deposition of novel multifunctional coatings.

The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings, (ATOMIC), is one of more than 80 Industry/University Cooperative Research Program centers established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage scientific collaboration between academia and industry. It is the only NSF center dedicated to the development of advanced 2-D coatings.

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DOE Critical Materials Institute rare-earth recycling invention licensed to US Rare Earths

August 11, 2015

A new technology developed by the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) that aids in the recycling, recovery and extraction of rare earth minerals has been licensed to US Rare Earths, Inc. The membrane solvent extraction system, invented by CMI partners Oak Ridge and Idaho national laboratories, is the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.

The technology uses a combination of hollow fiber membranes, organic solvents and neutral extractants selectively to recover rare-earth elements such as neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium. These elements have a key function in permanent magnets used in cars, cell phones, hard disk drives, computers and electric motors.

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Ford working with OSU on sustainable alternative rubber sources for non-tire vehicle applications

August 06, 2015

While there are a number of efforts underway exploring the use of sustainable, natural rubber alternatives for use in tires (earlier post, earlier post, earlier post), cars use a great deal of rubber for non-tire applications as well; the Ford Fiesta, for example, contains about 3 kg of the material, excluding the tires.

Ford Motor Company is thus investigating alternative sustainable sources of rubber for automotive use in these non-tire applications. The company is working closely with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC’s) Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives (PENRA) on researching the use of latex from guayule and Russian dandelion root in applications such as the car’s interior (cup holders), floormats, suspension bushings, engine mounts and so on, said Janice Tardiff, Elastomer Technical Expert at Ford.

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