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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.]

New ceramic membrane generates compressed H2 from methane and electricity with near-zero energy loss

November 20, 2017

A team of scientists from CoorsTek Membrane Sciences, the University of Oslo (Norway) and the Instituto de Tecnología Química (Spain) have successfully completed laboratory testing of a ceramic membrane that generates compressed hydrogen from natural gas and electricity in a one-step process with near-zero energy loss.

The research, reported in the journal Nature Energy, builds on 20 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of ceramic membranes at CoorsTek. The membrane—a “protonic membrane reformer” (PMR)—is made from oxides of abundant materials (including barium, zirconia, and yttrium), forming a solid ceramic electrolyte that can transport hydrogen in the form of protons at temperatures from 400 to 900 °C. By applying an electric potential over the ceramic cell, hydrogen is not only separated from other gases but also electrochemically compressed.

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Sumitomo Electric, Univ of Toyama develop magnesium alloy for die casting with superior heat resistance

November 17, 2017

Sumitomo Electric Industries and the University of Toyama have developed a high heat-resistant magnesium alloy for die casting applications. In die casting, a molten metal is injected into a die under high pressure and quickly cooled and solidified into the final part. Owing to its high productivity, die casting is widely used for manufacturing aluminum automotive parts.

One important way the automotive industry is seeking to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles is by reducing their weight. Due to their low castability and heat resistance, high component production cost, and low recyclability, conventional magnesium alloys cannot be used as substitutes for aluminum alloys.

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Researchers discover new structure family of oxide-ion conductors: SrYbInO4

November 06, 2017

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) have discovered a new oxide-ion conductor SrYbInO4 with a CaFe2O4-type structure. SrYbInO4 is the first example of a CaFe2O4-type pure oxide-ion conductors in which the oxide-ion conduction is dominant.

This new material, described in a paper in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry C may lead to the development of new solid oxide fuel cells, batteries, sensors, and oxygen separation membranes.

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Insights from Leoben researchers lead to improved piezo injectors

October 31, 2017

One of the elements modern diesel engines require to become energy-efficient and clean are precisely controllable injection nozzles using piezo crystals. How exactly these crystals work has not been fully understood to date. In a project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, a group of researchers from the Materials Center Leoben (MCL) in Austria has now gained insight into the mechanics of this technology—which can make the systems more reliable and efficient. Their results are also of interest for medical applications or energy harvesting.

Diesel engines are currently the object of strong criticism because of their emissions. While the share of nitrogen oxides can be reduced only by adding chemicals or by lower combustion temperatures, the generation of soot depends on the quality of the combustion process itself. To optimize combustion, injection schemes and timing has become complex. The multiple injections need to happen in a fraction of a second and require high precision injection nozzles. Magnetic valves are often too slow, which is why piezo crystals are used.

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BMW Group adopts new approaches for a more sustainable battery cell supply chain; focus on cobalt

October 27, 2017

Cobalt is one of the key components in production of electrified vehicles and is used in significant quantities in high-voltage batteries for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. The challenge facing companies that work with cobalt as a raw material is that risks related to environmental standards and human rights cannot be completely eliminated in cobalt mining.

The BMW Group has now set itself the goal of enhancing the transparency of its battery cell supply chain and exploring options for model projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Ceramic pump moves molten metal at a record 1,400 ˚C; new avenues for energy storage and hydrogen production

October 12, 2017

A ceramic-based mechanical pump able to operate at record temperatures of more than 1,400 ˚C (1,673 K) can transfer high-temperature liquids such as molten tin, enabling a new generation of energy conversion and storage systems. The pump was developed by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, with collaborators from Purdue University and Stanford University. The research was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and reported in the journal Nature.

The new pump could facilitate high efficiency, low-cost thermal storage, providing a new way to store renewable energy generated by wind and solar power, and facilitate an improved process for generating hydrogen directly from fuels such as methane without producing carbon dioxide. Use of ceramic components, normally considered too brittle for mechanical systems, was made possible by precision machining and seals made from another high-temperature material: graphite.

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Asahi Glass and Toyota co-develop new energy-saving glass structure

October 05, 2017

Asahi Glass (AGC) and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) have jointly started development of a new glass structure they call the “Ceiling-mounted Double Skin System.” This glass unit is designed to enhance energy savings of buildings such as car showrooms, capable of being flexibly opened or closed in response to weather conditions. After finalizing product specifications and safety and performance testing, the companies plan to launch sales of the product in the spring of 2018, mainly targeting car dealership showrooms and office buildings.

Car dealership showrooms and modern office buildings with large glass surfaces are facing challenges of reducing air conditioning load during summer. Conventional countermeasures include use of roll-screen curtains and heat-shielding films. These have drawbacks however. For example, roll-screen curtains have inadequate ability to block sunlight while also reducing visibility when rolled down.

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DSM high-temperature plastics successfully replace metal in charge air cooler end cap application; Volkswagen Crafter

October 03, 2017

Royal DSM, a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials, has partnered with Mahle GmbH to replace metal end caps with high-heat-resistant plastics in charge air cooler (CAC) applications. This change has led to improved engine performance, better fuel efficiency and reduced system costs.

Metal end caps in CAC applications must withstand continuous temperatures up to 230 °C (446 ˚F), which limits the material choices. For this project, DSM leveraged its materials knowledge, paired with the application expertise of Mahle, to enable the use of DSM’s Stanyl Diablo OCD2300 (a PA46 with 50% glass fiber) for Volkswagen’s Crafter light commercial vehicle.

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FDG Electric Vehicles setting up new Li-ion cathode materials factory

China-based FDG Electric Vehicles (FDG) is broadening its upstream supply chain and establishing a new cathode materials factory. FDG Kinetic (FKL), Guizhou Guian Asset Investment and ALEEES (Advanced Lithium Electrochemistry) have entered into an agreement to establish a joint venture in Guizhou Guian New District to build a new production facility for cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries with a preliminary annual production target of 30,000 tonnes.

FDG is a vertically-integrated electric vehicle manufacturer. The Group’s core businesses include researching, designing and developing pure electric vehicles from the ground up, producing lithium-ion batteries, manufacturing cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries, as well as other direct investments. FDG is a partner in US-based Chanje, a start-up targeting the electric truck market. (Earlier post.) In September, FDG announced that its first shipment of electric trucks for Chanje was on its way to the US.

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NSF awards UIC $1.44M to discover new 2D materials for better batteries

September 29, 2017

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $1.44-million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to discover new 2D materials that can be used to manufacture better and cheaper batteries. Two-dimensional materials, of which graphene is the most common, are extremely strong, lightweight, flexible, and excellent conductors of heat and electricity.

Since the discovery of graphene in 2004, about 700 2D materials are predicted to be stable; many remain to be synthesized. The global market for 2D materials is expected to reach $390 million within a decade.

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Anticipating increased demand for EVs, Teijin to support World Solar Challenge

September 25, 2017

Teijin Aramid BV, the core company of the Teijin Group’s aramid business, announced that its para-aramid fiber Twaron will be deployed in the solar-powered vehicles being developed by the KU Leuven and University of Michigan http://umich.edu/ teams taking part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, the world’s biggest solar car racing event, taking place in Australia from 8 to 15 October.

Taking advantage of its advanced materials and processing technologies, the Teijin Group intends to further strengthen its ability to deliver innovative technological solutions in fields such as weight reduction and battery efficiency. It plans to do this in order to meet the expected growth in worldwide demand for electric vehicles (EV) leading up to the year 2040, by which time these are expected to become the default mode of transportation.

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ArcelorMittal S-in motion seat study cuts weight by up to 18.3% with AHSS; introduction later this year

September 21, 2017

In 2010, leading global steelmaker ArcelorMittal launched its S-in motion range of lightweight steek solutions. (Earlier post.) Since then, the company has steadily expanded the range of solutions, which now cover many other types of vehicles and vehicle parts, including hybrid and electric vehicles, pick-up trucks, mid-size sedans and SUVs.

Front seats are the latest vehicle component to be examined as part of the ongoing development of lightweight S-in motion solutions, with a reduction in weight of up to 18.3%. The S-in motion Front Seats project identified where advanced high strength steels (AHSS) could be used to optimize and lightweight components while maintaining safety and performance. The scope of the study was a typical front seat for a C-segment passenger vehicle.

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HRL engineers 3D print high-strength aluminum, solve welding problem using nanoparticles of nucleants

HRL Laboratories researchers have developed a technique for successfully 3D printing high-strength aluminum alloys—including types Al7075 and Al6061—that opens the door to additive manufacturing of engineering-relevant alloys. These alloys are very desirable for aircraft and automobile parts and have been among thousands that were not amenable to additive manufacturing—a difficulty that has been solved by the HRL researchers.

An added benefit is that the method can be applied to additional alloy families such as high-strength steels and nickel-based superalloys difficult to process currently in additive manufacturing. A paper on the technique is published in the journal Nature.

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DOE launches new high performance computing initiative to develop materials for severe environments: HPC4Mtls

September 20, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new high-performance computing (HPC) initiative to help US industry accelerate the development of new or improved materials for use in severe environments.

The High Performance Computing for Materials (HPC4Mtls) program will will initially focus on challenges facing the development of new or improved materials that can sustain extreme conditions—including extreme pressure, radiation, and temperature, corrosion, chemical environment, vibration, fatigue, or stress states. Challenges include materials and structures discovery and design; predicting behavior in specific severe environments; scaling up production from grams to kg; and better understanding detailed processes in areas such as oxidation, corrosion, other electrochemical interactions, matter-matter, matter-energy, and matter-plasma interactions, and behavior under multiple fields and loads.

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alpha-En Corporation and Argonne partner on Li metal anodes for EV batteries; $750K award from DOE

September 19, 2017

alpha-En Corporation, a company that has developed a patent-pending process to produce high-purity thin-film lithium metal anodes and associated products sustainably, will receive an award of $750,000 from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transition Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF).

This funding will be used to commercialize Argonne National Laboratory’s proprietary highly conductive solid-state electrolyte coating for alpha-En’s lithium metal anodes. The merger of these technologies further enhances alpha-En’s process and the resulting product. Argonne’s technology in conjunction with alpha-En’s will create an efficient process for a new product allowing for a faster path to market.

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NovCoat consortium develops novel low-cost conductive coatings for PEM fuel cells

September 15, 2017

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a UK-based technology innovation center, Intelligent Energy and coatings supplier Haydale have been collaborating to develop novel, conductive coatings for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell bipolar plates with the goal of further cost reductions.

Intelligent Energy is leading this project in collaboration with CPI and the advanced coatings supplier Haydale to develop new conductive coatings containing nanocarbons to replace the more traditional physical vapor deposition (PVD) methods.

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Jaguar Land Rover seeking to increase the amount of aluminum from scrap for new vehicle production; 3-year, £2M REALITY project

September 11, 2017

Jaguar Land Rover Automotive is expanding the use of recycled aluminum in its car bodies to cut waste and reduce carbon emissions.

A £2-million (US$2.6-million) project, called REALITY, will work to enable the closed-loop recycling of aluminum from end-of-life vehicles back into high-performance product forms for new vehicle body manufacture. The target is to increase the amount of aluminum coming back from scrap. REALITY builds on the REALCAR project (earlier post) allowing tens of thousands of tonnes of aluminum generated in the manufacturing process to be recycled and reused as a closed-loop. Aluminum from other sources, including end-of-life vehicles, can now be graded and used in the manufacture of new cars.

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DSM developing high-pressure composite tanks for hydrogen storage

September 05, 2017

Royal DSM, a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials, has introduced a material solution for high-pressure composite tanks for hydrogen storage. Hydrogen has the highest energy per mass of any fuel. One kg of hydrogen is equivalent to 33.3 kWh—three times more energy than conventional fuel. However, hydrogen’s low ambient temperature density results in a low energy per unit volume. This requires the development of advanced storage methods that have the potential for higher energy density.

DSM is working to apply its materials expertise to make safe, effective and very lightweight hydrogen tanks. The two-part tank design features a proven, blow-molded liner made of Akulon Fuel Lock, a polyamide-6-based engineering plastic with a very high barrier to hydrocarbons.

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WPI team develops sandwiched liquid metal membrane for H2 purification as alternative to Pd; lowering costs for fuel cell vehicles

August 29, 2017

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have developed a novel sandwiched liquid metal membrane (SLiMM) for hydrogen separation. Separation membranes hold the key to making hydrogen fuel cheaper; the researchers have shown that membranes made with liquid metals appear to be more efficient at separating hydrogen than conventional palladium membranes while also being less expensive and more durable.

The WPI team reported that their Ga/SiC SLiMM has a permeability of 2.75 x 10-7 mol/ms·Pa0.5 at 500°C—35 times higher than that for Pd under similar conditions. This promises a potential for application of SliMM in hydrogen purification, they concluded in their paper, published in the AIChE Journal.

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New process for lower-cost steel with high strength and high ductility

August 28, 2017

A Hong Kong-Beijing-Taiwan mechanical engineering team led by Dr Huang Mingxin from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has developed a strategy to develop both high strength and high ductility in inexpensive, medium Mn (Manganese) steel. Its material cost is just one-fifth of that of the steel used in current aerospace and defense applications.

Cold-rolling followed by low-temperature tempering developed steel with metastable austenite grains embedded in a highly dislocated martensite matrix. This deformed and partitioned (D&P) process produced dislocation hardening, but retained high ductility both through the glide of intensive mobile dislocations and by allowing the control of martensitic transformation. The as-developed D&P steel possessed an ultra-high yield strength of 2.21 GPa and 2.05 GPa and uniform elongation of 16%.

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PNNL ShAPE magnesium extrusion process makes lightest automotive metal more economic, useful

August 23, 2017

Magnesium is one of the lightest of all structural metals—75% lighter than steel, 33% lighter than aluminum—and is the fourth most common element on earth behind iron, silicon and oxygen. But despite its light weight and natural abundance, automakers have been stymied in their attempts to incorporate magnesium alloys into structural car parts. To provide the necessary strength has up to now required the addition of rare elements such as dysprosium, praseodymium and ytterbium.

Now, a new process developed at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory should make it more feasible for the auto industry to incorporate magnesium alloys into structural components. The new extrusion process has the potential to reduce cost by eliminating the need for rare-earth elements, while simultaneously improving the material’s structural properties.

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DOE invests $17.4M in projects to advance recovery of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts

August 17, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected four projects to move on to a second phase of research in their efforts to advance recovery of rare earth elements (REE) from coal and coal byproducts. (Earlier post.) DOE will invest $17.4 million to develop and test REE recovery systems originally selected and designed under phase 1 of a prior funding opportunity announcement through DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE).

REEs are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust that are essential components of many technologies, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. The demand for REEs has grown significantly over recent years, stimulating an emphasis on developing economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery. These four selected research projects will further the goals of FE’s Rare Earth Elements Program by focusing on the development and validation of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of REEs.

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Harvard researchers develop tough, self-healing rubber

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new type of rubber that is as tough as natural rubber but can also self-heal. The research is published in Advanced Materials.

Self-healing materials aren’t new—researchers at SEAS have developed self-healing hydrogels, which rely on water to incorporate reversible bonds that can promote healing. However, engineering self-healing properties in dry materials such as rubber has proven more challenging. Rubber is made of polymers often connected by permanent, covalent bonds. While these bonds are incredibly strong, they will never reconnect once broken. In order to make a rubber self-healable, the team needed to make the bonds connecting the polymers reversible, so that the bonds could break and reform.

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New Federal-Mogul Powertrain high thermal conductivity seats and guides keep engine valves cooler; improved combustion, lower emissions

August 14, 2017

Federal-Mogul Powertrain will debut new materials for valve seats and guides with improved thermal conductivity at the 2017 IAA Show in Frankfurt, Germany next month. Suitable for series production, the new High Thermal Conductivity (HTC) materials and Thermal Interface Material (TIM) coating can reduce valve head temperatures by up to 70°C, allowing improved combustion and lower emissions.

HTC can also contribute in obtaining a more even circumferential temperature distribution on the valve seat insert and surrounding cylinder head material, eliminating local hot spots for the benefit of wear reduction and decrease of temperature-related distortion.

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Rice, ORNL team shows growing 2D sheets on cones allows control of defects to optimize properties

August 10, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and their colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have learned to manipulate two-dimensional materials to design in defects that enhance the materials’ properties. Combining theory and experimentation, they showed it’s possible to give 2D materials specific defects—especially atomic-scale seams called grain boundaries. These boundaries may be used to enhance the materials’ electronic, magnetic, mechanical, catalytic and optical properties.

The key is introducing curvature to the landscape that constrains the way defects propagate. The researchers call this “tilt grain boundary topology,” and they achieve it by growing their materials onto a topographically curved substrate—in this case, a cone. The angle of the cone dictates if, what kind and where the boundaries appear. The research is the subject of a paper in the journal ACS Nano.

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Ducker survey finds aluminum expected to represent 16% of total vehicle weight by 2028; transition to a multi-material design

August 03, 2017

Over the next decade, automakers will continue to increase the adoption of high-strength, low weight aluminum in new car and truck construction at a faster pace than ever before. Total aluminum content is expected to grow from 397 pounds (180.1 kg) per vehicle (PPV) in 2015 to 565 PPV (256.3 kg) by 2028, representing 16% of total vehicle weight, according to a survey of automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide. The study was commissioned by the Aluminum Association.

This is consistent with the emerging trend of automakers transitioning to a multi-material vehicle (MMV) design approach, choosing aluminum for doors, hoods and trunk lids, body-in-white, bumpers and crash boxes.

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Army Research Lab discovers aluminum nanomaterial rapidly splits water on contact

Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have discovered that a nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder of their design splits water on contact, producing hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists have known for a long time that hydrogen can be produced by adding a catalyst—such as sodium or potassium hydroxide or an acid—to aluminum. However, these methods take time, elevated temperature, and added electricity.

The ARL powder does not need a catalyst; it is also very fast. “We have calculated that one kilogram of aluminum powder can produce 220 kW of energy in just three minutes. That’s a lot of power to run any electrical equipment. These rates are the fastest known without using catalysts such as an acid, base or elevated temperatures,” said Dr. Anit Giri, a physicist with the lab’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.

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Mercedes-Benz Trucks introduces its first 3D-printed spare part made of metal

August 02, 2017

Mercedes-Benz Trucks has introduced its first 3D-printed spare part made of metal (an aluminum-silicon material), a thermostat cover for truck and Unimog models from older model series.

In contrast to the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process used in plastics 3D printing, 3D printing of metallic components uses Selective Laser Melting (SLM). In the case of the thermostat cover, for example, the powdered aluminium/silicon material (ALSi10Mg) is applied in individual layers and melted by an energy source—usually one or more lasers.

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2017 Chrysler Pacifica wins Altair Enlighten Award for weight reduction in full vehicle category; Toyota, Faurecia and AP&T module, technology winners

July 31, 2017

Altair and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) announced the winners of the 5th annual Altair Enlighten Award, which strives to promote and celebrate innovation in automotive lightweighting. The winner of the Full Vehicle category was the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which is 249 pounds (113 kilograms) lighter than its predecessor.

Toyota’s carbon fiber closure panels for the 2017 Prius Prime and Lexus LC500 (earlier post), and Faurecia’s Adaptive Valve for exhaust systems employed on the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado took the top honors for the module category. Swedish metal forming specialist AP&T claimed the Enabling Technology category for its innovative aluminum forming technology used on several European vehicles.

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Four new LightMAT projects to advance lighter weight vehicle components

The US DOE has selected four new projects designed to overcome technical hurdles in reducing the weight of vehicle components. The projects are part of a first round of industrial assistance opportunities supported by the Department of Energy’s LightMAT, the Lightweight Materials Consortium (earlier post).

DOE will provide $1.2 million to advance lightweight vehicles through research on materials and processing. Over the next two years, three DOE national laboratories will provide technical assistance to five industry partners. Each industry partner will match DOE’s investment dollar for dollar at a minimum to boost lightweight materials technology.

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Team uses neutron scattering to investigate new Al-Ce alloy in running engine

July 26, 2017

A team from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has worked with industry partners to use neutrons to probe a running engine at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (earlier post), giving them the opportunity to test an aluminum-cerium alloy under operating conditions. The feat was a first for the Spallation Neutron Source, said Ke An, lead instrument scientist for the facility’s VULCAN instrument. “This was the first time an internal combustion engine has been run on our diffractometer, and, as far as we know, on any other,” he stated.

The unique properties of neutrons allow them to penetrate materials in a nondestructive fashion, revealing fundamental details about a material’s atomic structure. VULCAN uses neutrons to measure strain and stress on large industrial samples, which made it ideal for evaluating a cylinder head cast from an aluminum-cerium alloy ORNL developed in partnership with Eck Industries.

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New low-cost, lightweight magnesium sheet alloy with good formability for automotive applications; 1.5x stronger than aluminum

July 24, 2017

A research team at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Nagaoka University of Technology has developed a new high-strength magnesium sheet alloy (Mg–1.1Al–0.3Ca–0.2Mn–0.3Zn) that has excellent room-temperature formability comparable to that of the aluminum sheet metal currently used in body panels of some automobiles.

The magnesium alloy becomes stronger than aluminum alloy after a heat treatment, uses only common metals, and could be a low-cost, lightweight sheet metal for automotive applications. A paper on the work is published in the journal Scripta Materialia.

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GWU team demonstrates highly scalable, low-cost process for making carbon nanotube wools directly from CO2

July 19, 2017

Researchers at George Washington University led by Dr. Stuart Licht have demonstrated the first facile high-yield, low-energy synthesis of macroscopic length carbon nanotubes (CNTs)—carbon nanotube wool—from CO2 using molten carbonate electrolysis (earlier post).

The resulting CNT wool is of length suitable for weaving into carbon composites and textiles and is highly conductive; the calculated cost to produce the CNTs is approximately $660 per ton, compared to the current $100,000+ per ton price range of CNTs. A paper on the work is published in the journal Materials Today Energy.

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WMG team using ILL neutron beam instrument experimentally correlates spot welding and residual stress in automotive boron steel

July 18, 2017

The correlation between spot welding and residual stress in boron steel was experimentally determined for the first time with neutron diffraction experiments conducted at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). An open-access paper on the work is published in Metallurgical and Materials Transactions.

A partnership led by WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick (UK), with the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Tata Steel, and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) used ILL’s SALSA (Strain Analyser for Large-Scale Applications) neutron beam instrument in a new project to examine the safety-critical welds in cars made with boron steel.

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DOE awarding $19.4M to 22 advanced vehicle technologies projects; Mercedes-Benz, GM Li-S battery projects

July 12, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $19.4 million to 22 new cost-shared projects to accelerate the research of advanced battery, lightweight materials, engine emission control technologies, and energy efficient mobility systems (EEMS). Among the awardees are Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America and GM, with separate projects on Li-sulfur batteries, as two of the fifteen Phase 1 “Battery Seedling” Projects.

The Battery Seedling projects are aimed at innovative battery materials and approaches that complement the Vehicle Technologies Office Battery500 Consortium’s research to more than double the specific energy (to 500 watt-hours per kilogram) of lithium battery technologies. These projects enable smaller, safer, lighter weight, and less expensive battery packs that ultimately will make electric vehicles more affordable. Promising phase 1 awardees will be competitively down-selected at the end of 18 months for a second phase of research.

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Hydro fully acquires Sapa to create a global aluminum company fully integrated across value chain and markets

July 11, 2017

Norsk Hydro will acquire Orkla’s 50% interest in Sapa—a 50/50 joint venture between Orkla and Hydro formed in 2013, and the world’s largest aluminum extrusion company. The transaction gives Sapa a total enterprise value of NOK 27 billion (US$3.24 billion). Sapa will become a new business area in Hydro named Extruded Solutions. Anticipated closing of the transaction is in the second half of 2017.

The combination will make Hydro the only global company in the aluminum industry that is fully integrated across the value chain and markets. Hydro will have strength in technology, R&D, innovation and product development, as well as a product and service offering for more than 30,000 customers throughout the world.

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U Minn seeking to license new process to produce isoprene from biomass at high yield; green tires

July 02, 2017

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have developed a new high-yield process—a hybrid of fermentation followed by thermochemical catalysis—to produce renewable isoprene from biomass.

In the process, fermentation of sugars produces itaconic acid, which undergoes catalytic hydrogenation to produce 3-methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF). The MTHF then undergoes catalytic dehydra-decyclization to isoprene. This catalytic process dehydrates MTHF to isoprene via several combinations of temperatures, pressures, and space velocities (reactant volumetric flow rate per volume of catalyst) and achieves selectivity of MTHF to isoprene.

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RAMSSES project investigating use of lightweight materials in shipbuilding; 70m fiber-reinforced composite hull

July 01, 2017

A new EU-sponsored project—RAMSSES (Realization and Demonstration of Advanced Material Solutions for Sustainable and Efficient Ships)—seeks to bring sustainable construction principles such as lightweight construction and modern materials such as fiber-reinforced composites to shipbuilding. Up to now, freighters have been made exclusively from steel. RAMSSES includes 37 partners from 13 countries; the partners began working together this month.

Among the specific aims of the project is the production of a hull made out of fiber-reinforced composites and roughly 70 meters in length, which they will then test under real-life conditions on the high seas.

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Warwick team develops new technique controlling brittle stages in production of high-strength, lightweight steels

June 21, 2017

A team at the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), University of Warwick (UK) has developed a new processing route which allows low-density steel-based alloys to be produced with maximum strength, while remaining durable and flexible—something which has been largely impossible until now.

The development could enable the production of high-strength, lightweight steels on an industrial scale, and could lead to safer, greener, more fuel-efficient and streamlined cars. A paper on the research is published in the journal Acta Materialia.

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Teijin develops first polycarbonate-resin pillar-less automotive front window; used in EV

June 19, 2017

Teijin Limited has developed the first polycarbonate (PC)-resin pillar-less automotive front window for use in the Tommykaira ZZ, a sporty electric vehicle (EV) produced by GLM Co., Ltd., an EV manufacturer launched by Kyoto University.

Automotive front windows must satisfy a variety of regulations, including for light transmission, abrasion resistance and crash safety. While A-pillars provide protection in the event of a frontal collision, thicker A-pillars obstruct the driver’s view. Japan’s new automotive safety standards will require plastics-glazed windows in models released from July to offer enhanced resistance to abrasion and weather.

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Eck Industries exclusively licenses cerium-aluminum alloy co-developed by ORNL; high-temperature automotive and aerospace applications

June 08, 2017

Eck Industries has signed an exclusive license for the commercialization of a cerium-aluminum (Ce-Al) alloy co-developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that is ideal for creating lightweight, strong components for advanced vehicles and airplanes.

Aluminum alloys at present are limited to applications below 230 °C due to the rapid loss of mechanical characteristics at higher temperatures; however there is a need for aluminum alloys that have good castability and maintain mechanical characteristics above that temperature. Scientists at ORNL, working with Eck Industries and researchers at DOE’s Ames and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, developed the Ce-Al alloy that is easy to work with, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and exceptionally stable at high temperatures—making it ideal for automotive, aerospace, power generation, and other applications.

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DOE: automotive use of lightweight materials has increased over last 20 years even as weight increases

June 06, 2017

As automakers strive to improve fuel economy, they have turned increasingly to lightweight materials to reduce overall vehicle weight—even though the average weight of materials in North American light vehicles has increased from 3,694 lbs (1,675.57 kg) in 1995 to 3,994 lbs (1,811.65 kg) in 2014, according to figures from the US Department of Energy (DOE).

Use of regular steel has declined by more than 250 lbs (113.4 kg) per vehicle from 1995 to 2014 from 1,630 lbs (739.36 kg) to 1,379 lbs (625.5 kg). At the same time, the use of high- and medium-strength steels has doubled, increasing by 325 lbs (147.42 kg) per vehicle—from 324 lbs to 649 lbs (294.38 kg).

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Fujitsu develops new Li iron pyrophosphate cathode material with abnormally high voltage for LIBs

May 29, 2017

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has successfully developed a high-voltage cathode material for lithium iron phosphate rechargeable batteries. Using a proprietary materials design technology as well as a technology that precisely controls the composition of raw materials and the formation process of materials, Fujitsu Laboratories has successfully synthesized lithium iron pyrophosphate (Li5.33Fe5.33(P2O7)4). This phosphate-based material has a voltage of 3.8 V, comparable to that of existing cobalt-based materials.

The new Fe-based cathode has a potential for Fe2+/3+ redox couple approaching to 3.8—the highest among those of all Fe-based phosphate materials and pyrophosphate materials reported so far, including LiFePO4, Li3Fe2(PO4)3, LiFeP2O7, Li2FeP2O7 and LiFe1.5P2O7. Fujitsu engineers is announcing details on the material at the 231st ECS Meeting in New Orleans this week.

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Researchers find that high pressure is key to high-entropy alloys

May 26, 2017

Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Tennessee report that high pressure could be the key to making advanced high-entropy alloys (HEAs, near-equiatomic solid solutions of multi-principal-elements that are promising for high-temperature applications, earlier post) that are lighter, stronger and more heat-resistant than conventional alloys.

In an open access paper in Nature Communications, the team described the high-pressure synthesis of a hexagonal close-packed (hcp) phase of the prototypical high-entropy alloy CrMnFeCoNi. They found that the hcp phase was retained following decompression to ambient pressure, yielding metastable mixtures. This demonstrated a means of tuning the structures and properties of high-entropy alloys in a manner not achievable by conventional processing techniques.

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Brunel, Sarginsons developing high-performance cast aluminum alloys for energy-absorbing structures; better bumpers without steel

May 22, 2017

The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), a global leader in metallurgical casting research, is working closely with foundry partner Sarginsons Industries and others on the development of high-performance cast aluminum alloys as part of the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures for Transport (LEAAST) project.

Advanced aluminum automotive body designs still depend on steel for bumper beams; in rail applications, steel-based crash systems predominate. LEAAST is working to design, manufacture and demonstrate lightweight aluminium systems based on the use of a novel high strength aluminium extrusion alloy that can replace the incumbent steel systems while providing at least a 25% weight reduction using alloys formulated from recycled end of life scrap.

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Researchers develop microwave-driven, energy-efficient process for magnesium production

May 18, 2017

Magnesium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of the structural metals; as such, it is attractive for use in transportation as well as in sustainable battery technologies (e.g, earlier post). However, its current production through ore reduction using the conventional Pidgeon process emits large amounts of CO2 and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Now, researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and colleagues at Oricon Energy have developed a novel Pidgeon process driven by microwaves to produce Mg metal with less energy consumption and no direct CO2 emissions. In an open-access paper on the work published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team reports that the microwave Pidgeon process made it possible to produce Mg with an energy consumption of 58.6 GJ/t, corresponding to a 68.6% reduction when compared to the conventional method.

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AK Steel receives $1.8M from DOE to develop next-generation electrical steels for hybrid and electric vehicle motors

AK Steel has accepted an award of up to $1.8 million from the US Department of Energy (DOE) under the Advanced Manufacturing Office’s Next Generation Electric Machines (NGEM) program to develop the next generation of advanced, non-oriented electrical steels (NOES) for motors used in a wide variety of industrial and automotive applications, including hybrid and electric vehicles.

The three-year project will be conducted in collaboration with the DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Research Center, and Regal Beloit Corporation, a leading manufacturer of electric motors and motion control products.

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Audi puts steel back in the new A8

May 12, 2017

The new Audi A8, scheduled for release in 2018, features a multi-material body structure (earlier post) consisting of more than 40% steel. That’s a marked turnaround from the all-aluminum body-in-white which Audi developed for the A8 in 1994, in which steel was essentially used for the B-pillars alone, and accounted for about 8% of the body structure.

Since then, steel has evolved significantly. Steel’s strength has multiplied by almost 10 times over the past 20 years, from 270 to 2000 MPa tensile strength. More than 80 new steel products are under development at steelmaker ArcelorMittal, with an automotive steel grade portfolio of almost 200 unique steel grades, half of which were introduced in just the past decade.

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DOE awards $3.9M to 13 projects using high performance computing in manufacturing; Ford, LanzaTech

May 09, 2017

The US Department of Energy is awarding nearly $3.9 million for 13 projects designed to stimulate the use of high performance supercomputing in US manufacturing. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office’s High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program enables innovation in US manufacturing through the adoption of high performance computing (HPC) to advance applied science and technology relevant to manufacturing. (Earlier post.)

The 13 new project partnerships include application of world-class computing resources and expertise of the national laboratories including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Among the awardees were Ford Motor Company and LanzaTech.

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Toyota using Mitsubishi Rayon’s carbon fiber SMC for hatch door frame of new Prius PHV

April 24, 2017

Mitsubishi Rayon (MRC) (which is now consolidated into Mitsubishi Chemical, along with Mitsubishi Plastis and the former Mitsubishi Chemical) recently announced that its carbon fiber sheet molding compound (SMC) has been adopted for the rear hatch frame of the new Toyota Prius PHV. SMC is a form of thermoset chopped fiber composite; glass fiber reinforced SMC is already commonly in use in the automotive industry.

SMC developed by MRC is a type of intermediate material for CFRPs and a sheet-shaped material in which carbon fibers cut into several-centimeter lengths are dispersed in resin. The SMC can be processed into components in a short period of time—roughly 2 to 5 minutes—by press molding. In contrast to prepreg intermediate materials (uncut carbon fiber fabric impregnated with resin), this SMC features high formability for molding complicated shaped parts.

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DOE SBV Pilot selects 38 small business for labs partnerships; 2 fuel cell and 4 vehicle projects

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot has selected eight DOE national labs for collaborations with 38 small businesses in the third round of funding. Among these are two projects in the fuel cells area and four projects in the vehicle area. Other projects address advanced manufacturing, bioenergy, buildings, geothermal, solar, water and wind technologies.

In the first two rounds of the program, 12 DOE national labs received funding to partner with 76 small businesses. With the latest announcement, SBV will have awarded approximately $22 million to support partnerships between 114 US small businesses and the national labs.

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U Minn researchers develop bio-based elastomers from recoverable methyl valerolactone; tires, gaskets, seals, etc.

April 18, 2017

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed and demonstrated at laboratory scale a novel process to synthesize low-cost, polymeric valerolactones with tunable mechanical properties and low glass transition temperatures.

The glass transition temperature is the temperature region in which a polymer transitions from a hard, glassy material to a soft, rubbery material. In other words, when the polymer is cooled below the glass transition temperature, it becomes hard and brittle. The low glass transition temperature allows these polymers to be used at lower temperatures than other biodegradable polymers; applications could include tires, gaskets, seals adhesive, sealant and damping products.

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UK APC awards US$77M to seven low-carbon transportation R&D projects

April 11, 2017

The UK Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) has awarded £62 million (US$77 million) from its sixth round of funding to projects led by BMW Motorsport, New Holland Agriculture, Jaguar Land Rover, Williams Advanced Engineering, Penso Consulting, Ford Motor Company and Westfield Sportscars, to develop innovative low carbon transportation technology in the UK.

Projects cover a wide range of innovations, which will are intended to help the UK to become a global leader in low emissions technology. They include the development of an affordable hybrid powertrain for niche vehicle applications, such as autonomous pods, as well as a project to address significant gaps in the UK electrification supply chain. Projects include:

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Next-gen Audi A8 introduces new four-material space frame; light weight and rigid

April 06, 2017

For the next generation of the Audi A8, an intelligent mix of four materials—aluminum, steel, magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP)—is being used for the first time in the weight-bearing body structure—more materials than in any of the brand’s previous production models.

The resulting low weight and impressive rigidity—the upcoming flagship’s torsional rigidity surpasses the predecessor model’s rigidity value by up to 24%—from the multi-material construction of the Audi Space Frame (ASF) offer greater performance, efficiency and safety.

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MIT teams receiving $10M from TRI for next-gen battery materials

April 04, 2017

Three MIT-affiliated research teams will receive about $10M in funding as part of a $35M materials science discovery program launched by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). (Earlier post.) Provided over four years, the support to MIT researchers will be primarily directed at scientific discoveries and advancing energy storage.

MIT’s Martin Bazant, joined by colleagues at Stanford University and Purdue University, will lead an effort to develop a novel, data-driven design of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Leveraging a nanoscale visualization technique that revealed, for the first time, how Li-ion particles charge and discharge in real time, in good agreement with his theoretical predictions, Bazant, the E. G. Roos (1944) Professor of Chemical Engineering and a professor of mathematics, will use machine learning to develop a scalable predictive modeling framework for rechargeable batteries.

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Toyota Research Institute launches $35M effort to use AI to accelerate design & discovery of advanced materials; focus on batteries and fuel cells

March 30, 2017

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) will collaborate with research entities, universities and companies on materials science research, investing approximately $35 million over the next four years in research that uses artificial intelligence to help accelerate the design and discovery of advanced materials. Initially, the program will aim to identify new advanced battery materials and fuel cell catalysts that can power future zero-emissions and carbon-neutral vehicles.

Initial research projects include collaborations with Stanford University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Michigan; the University at Buffalo; the University of Connecticut; and the UK-based materials science company Ilika. TRI is also in ongoing discussions with additional research partners.

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NIST team develops new probe to observe behavior of composite materials under stress

March 19, 2017

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a way to embed a nanoscale damage-sensing probe into a lightweight composite. The probe, known as a mechanophore (MP), could speed up product testing and potentially reduce the amount of time and materials needed for the development of many kinds of new composites.

The NIST team created their probe from a dye known as rhodamine spirolactam (RS), which changes from a dark state to a light state in reaction to an applied force. In an experiment described in a paper published in the journal Advance Materials Interfaces, the molecule was attached to silk fibers contained inside an epoxy-based composite. As more and more force was applied to the composite, the stress and strain activated the RS, causing it to fluoresce when excited with a laser.

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Novelis enters supply agreement with NIO to provide aluminum solutions for next-gen EVs

March 16, 2017

Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, has expanded its automotive supply capabilities by signing an agreement with EV company NIO (earlier post), to provide innovative aluminum solutions for its fleet of smart, high-performance, premium electric vehicles. NIO will use Novelis Advanz aluminum alloys to create a wide range of structural components and parts for its aluminum-intensive NIO electric SUV models to be launched over the next five years.

The NIO partnership marks Novelis’ first major commitment in the premium electric vehicle space. Supply for NIO will come from Novelis’ Changzhou plant, China’s first facility dedicated to manufacturing heat-treated automotive sheet. The plant is an example of Novelis’ long-term commitment and capability to supply product in Asia for auto manufacturers based in that region and globally.

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Magna and Ford developing prototype carbon fiber composite subframe; mass reduction of 34%

March 14, 2017

In pursuit of lower vehicle weight to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, Magna International Inc., in cooperation with Ford Motor Company, developed a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe which reduces mass by 34% compared to making a stamped steel equivalent. The subframe is a key part of a vehicle’s structure, typically providing a place to attach the engine and wheels while also contributing rigidity and crash management.

By replacing 45 steel parts with two molded and four metallic parts, the prototype subframe achieves an 87% reduction in the number of parts. The moldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.

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IACMI launches project to optimize resins and sizings for vinyl ester / carbon fiber composites; targeting automotive adoption

March 13, 2017

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a Manufacturing USA institute driven by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the US Department of Energy, in partnership with Ashland, Zoltek, Michelman, University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), JobsOhio, and Michigan State University (MSU) has launched a project focused on the optimization of vinyl ester resins and fiber sizings for the fabrication of carbon fiber composites.

The effort will identify styrene-free prepreg formulations with longer room temperature shelf life, shorter cycle times, and reduced cost. Advancements in these areas will increase productivity, decrease scrap and material costs, and enable adoption into the automotive industry.

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Teijin develops new hard-coating technology for automotive plastics glazing

March 10, 2017

Teijin Limited has developed a new hard-coating technology that can be applied evenly on large or complex-shaped automotive windows made of resin to achieve the same level of abrasion resistance as glass windows and double the weather resistance of conventional plastics glazing.

Teijin initially will produce small-lot samples of actual windows for selected car models at a pilot plant in Matsuyama. Going forward, it will gradually verify production technologies for the manufacture of a wider range of windows on a mass-production basis, aiming at an early launch of full-scale commercial manufacturing operations.

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3D printing with high-performance carbon fiber

March 01, 2017

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have become the first to 3D-print aerospace-grade carbon fiber composites, opening the door to greater control and optimization of the lightweight, yet stronger than steel material.

The research, published by the journal Nature Scientific Reports, represents a “significant advance” in the development of micro-extrusion 3D printing techniques for carbon fiber, the authors said.

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Sandia, Lawrence Livermore team improves solid-state H2 storage using nano-confinement; new paradigm for hydrogen storage

February 25, 2017

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Mahidol University in Thailand and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have leveraged nano-confinement to develop an efficient solid-state hydrogen storage system that could be a boon for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The researchers examined the high-capacity lithium nitride (Li3N) hydrogen storage system under nanoconfinement. Using a combination of theoretical and experimental techniques, they showed that the pathways for the uptake and release of hydrogen were fundamentally changed by the presence of nano-interfaces, leading to significantly faster performance and reversibility. The research appears on the cover of the 23 Feb. edition of the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.

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IACMI launches new technical collaboration project for advanced compressed natural gas storage

February 21, 2017

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI)—a 100+ member, University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Department of Energy led consortium committed to increasing domestic production capacity and manufacturing jobs across the US composites industry—launched the first technical collaboration project in the compressed gas storage focus area.

The project will combine partnership efforts from DuPont Performance Materials (DuPont), the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), Composite Prototyping Center (CPC) and Steelhead Composites. The target objective of the project is to provide unique advantages to the storage of compressed natural gas with the use of thermoplastic composite technologies to achieve better durability, weight reduction and recyclability.

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Strong honeycomb cargo shelf in new Ford EcoSport SUV made of recycled paper; 6lb floorboard holds ~700 lbs of cargo

February 18, 2017

The adjustable cargo floorboard in the all-new 2018 Ford EcoSport is made of high-strength 100% recycled paper honeycomb. Constructed from all-natural paper and water-based glue, the six-pound honeycomb floorboard is both eco-friendly and strong enough to handle nearly 700 pounds of cargo across its 38.5-inch by 25.25-inch surface.

Ford introduced the EcoSport for North America in November 2016 (via the first Snapchat reveal). The EcoSport is intended to combined space-saving convenience, SUV capability and connectivity. The adjustable floorboard will debut as an all-new feature when EcoSport arrives early next year.

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Government of Canada awards $18.2M for aluminum autoparts and better Li-ion battery management

February 17, 2017

The Government of Canada is awarding a total of $18.2 million to two companies that have developed innovations with the potential to make cars lighter, more fuel efficient and, in the case of electric cars, better performing due to a longer battery life.

Astrex Inc. of Lakeshore will receive a repayable contribution of up to $17 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency’s (FedDev Ontario) Advanced Manufacturing Fund. The investment will enable Astrex, a manufacturer of auto parts, to establish a facility that produces lightweight, high-strength aluminum components. The parts manufactured at this plant will reduce fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions.

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POSCO begins lithium production for first time in Korea; domestic supply for Samsung, LG; investing $261M in anode materials by 2020

February 12, 2017

Korea-based steel-maker POSCO has begun commercial production of lithium in Korea for the first time. On 7 February, POSCO held a ceremony for the completion of a PosLX (POSCO Lithium Extraction) plant with an annual capacity of 2,500 tons at its lithium plant at Gwangyang Works.

At the opening ceremony—the attendees of which included Ung-beom Lee, president of LG Chem, and Nam-seong Cho, president of Samsung SDI—Jong-joo Kim, the director of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy noted that Korea currently imports all lithium carbonate for batteries despite being a world-class producer of secondary batteries. “Today’s completion of the plant will empower POSCO to produce lithium carbonate for batteries on its own, relieving secondary battery makers of worries about securing quality raw materials.

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Siemens reports successful full load tests of additively manufactured CM247 gas turbine blades

February 07, 2017

Siemens has achieved a breakthrough by finishing its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades completely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions—the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Siemens tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry manufactured using the AM technology. The project team used blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, in Worcester, UK. Siemens acquired a majority stake (85%) in Materials Solutions in August 2016. (The remaining 15% is held by the founder, Carl Brancher.)

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MIT study finds lithium sulfide solid electrolyte more brittle than ideal for batteries

February 02, 2017

Researchers at MIT have probed the mechanical properties of Li2S–P2S5—thought to be a promising amorphous lithium-ion-conducting solid electrolyte—to determine its mechanical performance when incorporated into batteries.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, found that the material is more brittle than would be ideal for battery use. However, suggests Frank McGrogan, lead author of the paper, as long as its properties are known and systems designed accordingly, it could still have potential for such uses.

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Northwestern team devises new computational design framework for optimized coatings for Li-ion cathodes to prolong cycle life

January 23, 2017

Researchers at Northwestern University, with a colleague from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have developed a new computational design framework that can pinpoint optimal materials with which to coat the cathode in lithium-ion batteries. The optimized coatings have the potential to prolong the cycle-life of Li-ion batteries and surpass the performance of common coatings based on conventional materials.

The high-throughput density-functional-theory-based framework, presented in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications, consists of reaction models that describe thermodynamic and electrochemical stabilities, and acid-scavenging capabilities of materials.

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FLAC project seeks 40-80% weight reduction in automotive components through 3D printing

January 22, 2017

Engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions as part of the Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project. FLAC aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80%) and optimized thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components.

The Nottingham team will construct components using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers. Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component. SLM helps increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency.

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Georgia Tech team develops simple, low-cost process for oxide nanowires; superior separators for Li-ion batteries

January 20, 2017

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a simple technique for producing oxide nanowires directly from bulk materials under ambient conditions without the use of catalysts or any external stimuli. The process could significantly lower the cost of producing the one-dimensional (1D) nanostructures, enabling a broad range of uses in lightweight structural composites, advanced sensors, electronic devices—and thermally-stable and strong battery membranes able to withstand temperatures of more than 1,000 ˚C.

In a paper in the journal Science, the team reported the transformation of multimicrometer-sized particles of aluminum or magnesium alloys into alkoxide nanowires of tunable dimensions, which were converted into oxide nanowires upon heating in air. Fabricated separators based on aluminum oxide nanowires enhanced the safety and rate capabilities of lithium-ion batteries.

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ASTM International launches group to create standards for recovered carbon black (rCB)

January 18, 2017

The ASTM International Board of Directors approved the launch of a new technical committee dedicated to developing standards for the growing field of recovered carbon black (rCB). The Committee on Recovered Carbon Black (rCB) (D36) will focus on creating and updating standards in areas such as: the decomposition of scrap tires, other scrap-rubber components, sustainability, and material characterization.

Carbon black is a form of paracrystalline carbon, produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products, and features a high surface area-to-volume ratio (although lower than that of activated carbon). Carbon black is used as a reinforcing additive in rubber products—notably tires—where tensile and abrasion wear properties are critical. There is also increasing interest in using conductive carbon black additives for Li-ion batteries.

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Researchers call for integration of materials sustainability into battery research; the need for in situ monitoring

In a review paper in the journal Nature Materials, Jean-Marie Tarascon (Professor at College de France and Director of RS2E, French Network on Electrochemical Energy Storage) and Clare Gray (Professor at the University of Cambridge), call for integrating the sustainability of battery materials into the R&D efforts to improve rechargeable batteries. The pair argue for the selection of chemistries that have a minimum footprint in nature and that are more readily recycled or integrated into a full circular economy.

Concerns over sustainability as well as cost directs that battery lifetimes must be greatly improved, and second-life applications considered during the development phase. As part of this, Gray and Tarascon suggest, the state of health of batteries must be monitored continuously during operation to minimize their degradation. This requirement, in turn, pushed the boundaries of operando techniques to monitor increasingly complex processes.

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Renault Trucks working with metal 3D printing to reduce engine size and weight

January 12, 2017

The Renault Trucks Lyon Powertrain Engineering department is developing metal additive manufacturing—i.e., 3D metal printing—as a future engine manufacturing process. The aim of this project is to demonstrate the positive impact of metal additive manufacturing on the size and weight of an engine, said Damien Lemasson, project manager at Renault Trucks.

Renault has designed a prototype DTI 5 4-cylinder Euro 6 step C engine for 3D printing production; the ability of additive manufacturing to produce complex forms resulted in a 25% reduction in the number of components in the DTI 5 engine—a total of 200 fewer parts. The Renault engineers have also manufactured rocker arms and camshaft bearing caps by metal 3D printing and successfully bench-tested these for 600 hours inside a Euro 6 engine.

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On the road to solar fuels and chemicals

December 27, 2016

In a new paper in the journal Nature Materials (in an edition focused on materials for sustainable energy), a team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has reviewed milestones in the progress of solid-state photoelectrocatalytic technologies toward delivering solar fuels and chemistry.

Noting the “important advances” in solar fuels research, the review team also noted that the largest scientific and technical milestones are still ahead. Following their review, they listed some of the scientific challenges they see as the most important for the coming years.

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Stanford, SLAC researchers use diamondoids to synthesize three-atom-wide nanowires

December 26, 2016

Scientists at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered a one-pot synthesis process using diamondoids—the smallest possible bits of diamond—to assemble atoms into hybrid metal–organic chalcogenide nanowires with solid inorganic cores having three-atom cross-sections, representing the smallest possible nanowires.

By grabbing various types of atoms and putting them together LEGO-style, the new technique could potentially be used to build tiny wires for a wide range of applications, including fabrics that generate electricity, optoelectronic devices that employ both electricity and light, and superconducting materials that conduct electricity without any loss. The scientists reported their results in Nature Materials.

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DOE to award almost $20M to new research and development projects for advanced vehicle technologies

December 15, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is issuing a program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001629) for the Vehicle Technologies Office of up to $19.7 million, subject to appropriations, to support research and development of advanced vehicle technologies, including batteries, lightweight materials, and advanced combustion engines, as well as innovative technologies for energy efficient mobility.

The funding opportunity seeks projects in four areas of interest that apply to light, medium, and heavy-duty on-road vehicles, energy efficient mobility, and transportation infrastructure systems Battery500 Seedling Projects; Integrated Computational Materials Engineering Predictive Tools for Low-Cost Carbon Fiber; Emission Control Strategies for Advanced Combustion Engines; and Energy Efficient Mobility Research and Development.

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Daimler/Secar CRP hybrid struts receive AVK Innovation AWARD; intelligent material mix allows large-scale production

December 01, 2016

As part of a development project, researchers at Daimler AG and the Austrian CRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastics) applications specialist Secar Technologie GmbH have developed an innovative new CRP composite pultrusion process enabling carbon fibers and metal to be pultruded in profile form in larger volumes.

Pultrusion is a continuous molding process in which reinforcing fibers are saturated with a liquid polymer resin and then carefully formed and pulled through a heated die to form a part. Pultrusion results in straight constant cross section parts of virtually any shippable length.

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Stanford team uses battery electrode materials to boost platinum catalytic performance for fuel cells

November 25, 2016

A team at Stanford University has developed a method for using battery electrode materials directly and continuously to control the lattice strain of a platinum (Pt) catalyst, thereby boosting catalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells by up to nearly 90%. A paper on their work is published in Science.

Modifying the electronic structure of catalysts can improve their performance; lattice strain (either compressive or tensile) modifies the distances between surface atoms and hence modifies catalytic activity. However, the common approach of using metal overlayers to induce strain has some control issues, such as introducing ligand effects.

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Saint Jean Carbon building a high performance lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material

Saint Jean Carbon Inc., a carbon science company engaged in the design and build of energy storage carbon materials, and a battery manufacturing partner will build a high-powered full-scale lithium-ion battery with recycled/upcycled material from an electric car power pack and upcycled anode material from Saint Jean Carbon.

Saint John said that this project—a first—is intended to provide results showing that the battery materials can be re-used over and over again, greatly reducing the demand for continued mining and helping the environment significantly. The project will take a three-stage approach:

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