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Materials

[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.]

Magnesium alloy VSC Machine successfully begins trial operation at GM China Advanced Technical Center

April 04, 2014

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Magnesium alloy VSC machine. Click to enlarge.

The GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai announced the operation of its magnesium alloy Vertical Squeeze Casting (VSC) machine—the first designed for developing next-generation magnesium castings. GM said that this achievement marks a breakthrough in its lightweight materials research.

Squeeze casting is a process in which molten metal is introduced to casting cavities with minimum turbulence and then solidifies under very high pressure (typically above 100 MPa) within closed dies. The absence of turbulent metal flow, aided by the high applied pressure, can suppress gas porosity, notes Ohio State University Professor Alan Luo in a 2013 review of magnesium casting technologies.

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Heat-conducting polymer cools hot electronic devices at 200 °C; potential for automotive applications

March 31, 2014

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Scanning electron microscope image shows vertical polythiophene nanofiber arrays grown on a metal substrate. The arrays contained either solid fibers or hollow tubes, depending on the diameter of the pores used to grow them. Credit: Virendra Singh. Click to enlarge.

A team led by researchers from Georgia Tech have used an electropolymerization process to produce aligned arrays of polymer nanofibers that function as a thermal interface material able to conduct heat 20 times better than the original polymer. (Polymer materials are usually thermal insulators because the amorphous arrangement of the molecular chains reduces the mean free path of heat-conducting phonons.) The modified material can reliably operate at temperatures of up to 200 °C.

The new thermal interface material could be used to draw heat away from electronic devices in servers, automobiles, high-brightness LEDs and certain mobile devices. The material is fabricated on heat sinks and heat spreaders and adheres well to devices, potentially avoiding the reliability challenges caused by differential expansion in other thermally-conducting materials. A report on the work is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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Toyota and partners develop vehicle-to-vehicle copper recycling technology

March 25, 2014

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Sample vehicle wiring harness. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has developed a world-first technology for recycling the copper contained in wiring harnesses, in collaboration with Yazaki Corporation (Yazaki), Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota Tsusho), and eight other companies. The newly-developed technology produces copper with a purity of 99.96%.

Roughly 40 years’ worth of mineable copper resources remain worldwide, according to a 2013 report by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC). At the same time, global consumption is growing, driven particularly by infrastructure-related demand for wiring in emerging markets. In addition, large amounts of copper are used in the motors of hybrid vehicles, which are becoming increasingly popular.

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GM uses lightweight, advanced materials to reduce weight on 2015 Colorado pickup

March 17, 2014

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Mass comparison, 4x4 crew cabs. Click to enlarge.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado uses engineering techniques and lightweight materials to create fuel-efficient pickup capability in a mass-efficient mid-size package. The 2015 Colorado 4x4 crew cab, which GM expects to be the most popular version of the new trucks, weighs 880 to 1,400 lbs (363 to 635 kg) less than a full-size truck. Chevrolet expects EPA fuel economy estimates for Colorado this summer.

This weight saving is a result of the slightly smaller overall dimensions of the Colorado, along with extensive use of lightweight materials, including high-strength steels and aluminum.

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President Obama announces two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes; new manufacturing innovation institute competition

February 25, 2014

President Obama announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Department of Defense supported by a $140-million Federal commitment combined with more than $140 million in non-federal resources: (1) a Detroit-area-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, with a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing; and (2) a Chicago-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.

Obama also launched a competition for a new manufacturing innovation institute to build US strength in manufacturing advanced composites, the first of four new competitions to be launched this year.

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DOE to award up to $12M for technologies to produce renewable carbon fiber from biomass

February 04, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award (DE-FOA-0000996) up to $12 million in funding to advance the development of a cost-competitive pathway to produce high-performance carbon fiber for vehicle lightweighting from renewable non-food biomass. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10% can improve fuel economy by 6% to 8%.

Carbon fiber composites are lightweight, yet strong, materials that can greatly improve vehicle fuel efficiency when incorporated into structural and non-structural components. Carbon fibers are polymers that are typically made from petroleum and natural gas feedstocks (propylene and ammonia, respectively) that react to form acrylonitrile (ACN) which is then polymerized and spun into polyacrylonitrile (PAN).

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New ceramic hollow fiber substrate for catalytic converters cuts fuel consumption, size and manufacturing costs

January 28, 2014

A new ceramic hollow fiber substrate for catalytic converters designed by Dr. Benjamin Kingsbury and colleagues at Imperial College London could cut the size and precious metal loading of the devices in automobiles while reducing fuel consumption and and manufacturing costs. Kingsbury has founded MicroTech Ceramics Ltd. as a spin-out to commercialize the technology.

The new structure can achieve a 2-3% fuel saving in engines (through the elimination of backpressure), or offer high performance cars an equivalent increase in engine power. It also enables the size of catalytic convertors to be reduced by around 50%, offering engine and exhaust system designers greater freedom. The new substrate can use up to 80% less rare metal, a development that could significantly reduce costs for vehicle manufacturers.

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Constellium and UACJ plan JV in US to produce Body-in-White aluminium sheet for the automotive industry

January 24, 2014

Constellium N.V, a global aluminum products company formerly known as Alcan Engineered Products and headquartered in Amsterdam, and UACJ Corporation (UACJ), a Japan-based global aluminum manufacturer, are joining forces with a view to supply and market aluminum Body-in-White sheet to the North American automotive industry. To achieve this goal, Constellium and UACJ, through Tri-Arrows Aluminum Inc. (TAA), (UACJ’s subsidiary with Sumitomo Corporation and Itochu Group), intend to create a joint venture company in the United States, as an equal partnership, to serve the North American market.

The JV is expected to include a continuous heat treatment and conversion line with an initial target capacity of 100,000 metric tons supplied by cold rolled coils from both partners’ rolling mills. The planned facility is designed to allow for expansion beyond 100,000 tons. The total joint investment by both parties is expected to amount to approximately $150 million.

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DOE to award $49.4M for advanced vehicle technologies research; meeting Tier 3 emissions

January 22, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $49.4 million to projects to to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies. The new program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000991) (earlier post), was announced by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Washington Auto Show.

The funding opportunity will contains a total of 13 areas of interest in the general areas of advanced light-weighting; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; advanced powertrains (including the ability to meet proposed EPA Tier 3 tailpipe emissions standards); and fuels and lubricants. These areas of interest apply to light, medium and heavy duty on-road vehicles.

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DOE issues $10M incubator FOA for batteries, power electronics, engines, materials, fuels and lubricants

January 18, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) issued an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs) for a total of approximately $10 million. (DE-FOA-0000988)

EERE is focused on achieving well‐defined mid‐to‐long term clean energy goals for the US, and in that context has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.

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Ford unveils next-gen F-150; up to 700 lbs lighter, new 2.7L EcoBoost with stop-start

January 13, 2014

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2015 F-150. Click to enlarge.

Ford introduced the all-new Ford F-150 at its press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The “reinvention” of this critical vehicle for Ford features an improved fully boxed ladder frame that incorporates more high-strength steel than ever, making it stronger and lighter.

Aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight. Overall, up to 700 pounds (318 kg) of weight have been saved. As one of the four engine options, the new F-150 also offers a new 2.7L EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop.

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CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry

January 08, 2014

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Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.

A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.

The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics:

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Computational first-principles approach identifies dozens of new platinum-group alloys

January 07, 2014

Researchers from Duke University, Brigham Young University, and Carnegie Mellon University have used high-throughput first-principles calculations to identify dozens of platinum-group alloys (binary systems of the platinum-group metals—PGMs—with the transition metals) that were previously unknown but that could prove beneficial in a wide range of applications.

The platinum-group metals (PGMs)—osmium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium, platinum, and palladium—play essential roles in a wide variety of industrial applications. The primary application of PGMs is in catalysis, where they are core ingredients in the chemical, petroleum, and automotive industries. Although are essential, they are also very costly.

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Ford brings cellulose fiber reinforced thermoplastic to 2014 Lincoln MKX

December 20, 2013

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Early version of CRP-based armrest piece under development. Source: Weyerhaeuser. Click to enlarge.

A three-year collaboration between Lincoln, Weyerhaeuser and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls has resulted in the creation of a tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts. (Earlier post.) The 2014 Lincoln MKX features the use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene (called “THRIVE” composites by Weyerhaeuser) in the floor console armrest substrate—a structural piece located within the center console armrest.

Pieces made from CRP are roughly 6% lighter, and decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts. The use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene in the MKX, while relatively small, marks an advancement that has the potential to play a more impactful role in the future, suggested Dr. Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert for Ford Motor Company. Ford engineers are using the company’s development and deployment of soy-based foam as an model—i.e., starting out small, then improving the material and widening the application.

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DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement

The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.

The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.

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EnerG2 develops new carbon adsorbent material for on-board natural gas storage

December 18, 2013

EnerG2, a manufacturer of advanced carbon materials for next-generation energy storage (generally for batteries and ultracapacitors), has leveraged its polymer chemistry technologies to develop materials for adsorbed natural gas (ANG) applications. The ultra-high surface area carbon adsorbent material, which packs at optimal density and has been produced at scale, is compatible with any and all tank geometries and systems, the company says.

Currently, natural gas vehicles are fitted with on-board fuel tanks that are too large, cumbersome, and expensive to properly facilitate the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles in the US and globally. Additionally, the low volumetric density of natural gas (~30% less energy by volume than gasoline) limits range, and makes cost-effective storage solutions a significant challenge. One possible solution is adsorbed storage; the interest is so keen, that ARPA-E awarded a combined $10.875 million in 2012 to four different projects (led by Ford, GTI, Texas A&M and SRI) to develop new sorbent materials for on-board natural gas storage. (Earlier post.)

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SMDI design study produces twist beam concept that reduces mass ~30% relative to baseline assembly

December 06, 2013

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Twist beam assembly mass comparison. Click to enlarge.

Results of a new design study for a lightweight steel proof-of-concept twist beam (used in suspensions) by the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) Automotive Applications Council indicate that the preferred U-Beam Design based on 22MnB5 tubular construction with DP780 and SPFH540 sheet achieves a 30.0% mass reduction relative to the baseline assembly, at a 12–15% premium in manufacturing cost at production volumes of 30,000 to 250,000 vehicles per year, respectively.

An S-Beam Design based on 22MnB5 sheet, DP780 tube and HSLA550 materials was predicted to have a 14.9% mass reduction relative to the baseline assembly. The objective of the study was to develop a twist beam design achieving a 15–25% mass reduction with equivalent structural and elasto-kinematic performance relative to the baseline design at a ≤ 10% cost premium.

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New simple aluminum-based hydride for hydrogen storage

November 11, 2013

Japanese researchers report the development of a simple-structured, aluminum-based interstitial hydride for hydrogen storage in a paper in the AIP Publishing journal APL Materials. Their compound, Al2CuHx, was synthesized by hydrogenating Al2Cu at an extreme pressure of 10 gigapascals (1.5 million pounds per square inch) and a high temperature of 800 °C (1,500 °F).

Lightweight interstitial hydrides with high hydrogen content—such as Mg-based hydrides, alanates, borohydrides, and amino boranes—have been proposed as a safe and efficient means for storing hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles, but so far, none have proven practical as a hydrogen repository.

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JRC study finds 8 metals for low-carbon energy technologies at risk of shortages; EVs, wind and solar, and lighting the applications of most concern

November 04, 2013

A new European Joint Research Centre (JRC) study looking into the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of low-carbon energy technologies found that eight metals were at high risk of shortages. The applications, i.e. technologies, of particular concern as a result are electric vehicles, wind and solar energy, and lighting. The risk arises from EU dependency on imports, growing demand worldwide and geopolitical reasons.

The study builds on a 2011 effort which looked into the six key applications of the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan: wind, solar, nuclear fission, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the electricity grid. In the new study, these were re-assessed and considered along with 11 other technologies—including fuel cells, electricity storage, electric vehicles and lighting—treated in the new report, this time evaluated on the expected supplies of the metals and not on the current situation as in the first report.

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Canada awards $30M to 10 automotive R&D projects; from electrified powertrains to hot stamping

October 28, 2013

The Government of Canada has awarded C$30 million (US$29 million) through the Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) initiative to 10 university-industry partnerships to advance innovative automotive technologies. With a total project value of more than C$52 million (US$50 million), the funding includes some $22 million from industry and other partners.

The largest award from APC is $8,928,200 to the McMaster University-Chrysler partnership (earlier post) for the development of next generation electrified powertrains. (Earlier post.) However, the selected projects include a range of technologies from hot stamping of parts to hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

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Volvo Car Group testing lightweight structural energy storage material applied in trunk lid and plenum cover

October 17, 2013

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A composite blend of carbon fibers and polymer resin is being developed that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries can. Volvo Cars is the only car manufacturer participating in the EU-funded project, which started in early 2010. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Group—the only automaker participating in a 3.5-year EU-funded project developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts (earlier post)—has created two components for the testing and further development of the technology. These are a trunk lid and a plenum cover, tested within the Volvo S80.

The material combines carbon fibers and a polymer resin, creating a very advanced nanomaterial, and structural supercapacitors. The material can be moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame in locations such as the door panels, the trunk lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space.

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New thermoplastic-graphene nanoribbon composite could offer lighter, more effective natural gas storage for vehicles

October 11, 2013

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An electron microscope image shows graphene nanoribbons embedded in a block copolymer. Image by Changsheng Xiang. Click to enlarge.

A new composite material created at Rice University is nearly impervious to gas and may lead to lighter and more efficient storage of compressed natural gas for vehicles. By adding modified, single-atom-thick hexadecyl-functionalized low-defect graphene nanoribbons (HD-GNRs) to thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the Rice lab of chemist James Tour made the resulting material far more impermeable to pressurized gas and far lighter than the metal in tanks now used to contain the gas.

In an open access paper in the journal ACS Nano, Tour and his colleagues at Rice and in Hungary, Slovenia and India reported that nitrogen gas effective diffusivity of the TPU was decreased by three orders of magnitude with only 0.5 wt% GNRs.

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Chrysler Group files S-1 for IPO; snapshot of R&D priorities; exploring a light-duty hydraulic hybrid

September 24, 2013

Chrysler Group LLC has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a proposed initial public offering of common shares. Details of the offering—i.e., number of shares and price range—are yet to be determined.

However, the document not only provides a detailed look at the finances of the company, it also provides a quick recap of recent technology developments and some insight into the company’s immediate research priorities. Chrysler writes that its has “made the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles a priority to meet retail consumer preferences, comply with future regulations and as part of our commitment to sustainability.

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ORNL study finds aluminum-intensive vehicles can deliver up to 29% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to typical steel-bodied vehicle

September 20, 2013

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Lifecycle energy findings. Source: Sujit Das, ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A lifecycle study of aluminum-intensive vehicles by Sujit Das at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) found that an aluminum-intensive vehicle can achieve up to a 32% reduction in total lifecycle energy consumption, and up to a 29% reduction in CO2 emissions, compared to a typical vehicle on the road today which uses traditional and high-strength steel in the body construction.

The study, underwritten by The Aluminum Association, performed a full cradle-to-grave analysis (primary metal production; autoparts manufacturing and assembly; use; semi-fabrication material production; transportation; and end-of-life metals recycling) on three modeled vehicle types: a baseline steel vehicle; a lightweight steel vehicle (LWSV); and an aluminum intensive vehicle (AIV).

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ARPA-E selects 33 projects for $66M in awards; advanced biocatalysts for gas-to-liquids and lightweight metals

September 19, 2013

The US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding around $66 million to 33 projects under two new programs. One program, Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE, earlier post), provides $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

The other program, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems (METALS, earlier post), provides $32 million to 18 projects to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles. The funding opportunity announcements for both programs were released earlier this year in March.

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Jaguar announces new advanced aluminium monocoque architecture; C-X17 concept

September 09, 2013

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The C-X17 concept is the first revealed implementation of the new iQ[Al] architecture. Click to enlarge.

Along with the unveiling of its C-X17 concept car on the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show, Jaguar announced a new advanced aluminium monocoque architecture. The C-X17 concept sports crossover is a study to demonstrate the capabilities of this new architecture.

Codenamed iQ[Al], the architecture will form the basis for a new range of future Jaguars, the company said; the first product will be a mid-size premium C/D segment sedan on sale in 2015. This will be the first aluminium monocoque product in the segment. Using the new architecture, Jaguar expects to deliver vehicles with class-leading performance, including top speeds of more than 300 km/h (186 mph), and emissions lower than 100g of CO2 per km.

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DOE awards $45M to 38 advanced transportation technology projects; $3M from the Army

September 04, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award more than $45 million to 38 new projects that accelerate the research and development of advanced vehicle technologies. Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance between the Energy Department and the Department of the Army, the Army is contributing an additional $3 million in co-funding to support projects focused on lightweighting and propulsion materials, batteries, fuels, and lubricants.

The 38 projects span five major areas: advanced lightweighting and propulsion materials; advanced batteries; power electronics; fuels and lubricants; and efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

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Integral Technologies and BASF jointly to explore North American market for automotive applications of Electriplast conductive thermoplastics

August 28, 2013

Integral Technologies, Inc. and wholly owned subsidiary ElectriPlast Corp. (earlier post) signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with BASF Corporation jointly to explore the North American market for ElectriPlast’s conductive thermoplastics.

BASF and ElectriPlast will jointly explore the potential to utilize ElectriPlast materials as a lightweight solution for applications requiring electrical shielding, while reducing weight to help meet CAFE requirements initially targeting a broad array of automotive applications. ElectriPlast is non-corrosive and weather-resistant.

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ORNL finding on surface properties of complex oxides films could lead to better batteries and catalysts

August 14, 2013

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fudan University, have discovered that key surface properties of complex oxide films are unaffected by reduced levels of oxygen during fabrication—an unanticipated finding with possible implications for the design of functional complex oxides.

The discovery, which may result in better batteries, catalysts, electronic information storage and processing devices, is reported in a paper published in the RSC journal Nanoscale.

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Researchers demonstrate that bottom-up self-assembly of active materials for batteries can improve performance

August 10, 2013

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Cycle performances of MIONCs, RAIONs, and CBIOs at a current density of 0.1 A g−1. Credit: ACS, Lee et al. Click to enlarge.

A team in South Korea has developed a bottom-up self-assembly approach for the preparation of mesoporous iron oxide (Fe3O4) nanoparticle clusters (MIONCs) for use as an anode material in Li-ion batteries. The unique structure endowed the MIONCs with enhanced capacity retention, rate capability, and Coulombic efficiency, the researchers reported in a paper published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

More importantly, they noted, the work showed that changing the geometric configuration of the material can result in stable battery performance through the confinement of SEI (solid−electrolyte interphase) layer formation. They suggested that their strategy can be considered a model framework and applied to other metal oxide nanoparticles (NPs) such as Co3O4 and NiO with high specific capacities. These findings further confirm that bottom-up self-assembly of active materials can improve battery performance, they concluded.

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BMW Group presents prototype of i8 plug-in hybrid; first use of new 3-cylinder engine

August 07, 2013

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Prototype BMW i8 at the track. Click to enlarge.

BMW i presented a prototype of its second production vehicle, the i8 (earlier post), at a driving event at the BMW Group’s Miramas test track in France. Following the world debut of the first production model, the battery-electric urban-focused BMW i3 (earlier post), the BMW Group’s next step will be to address the sports car segment with the plug-in hybrid BMW i8. The BMW i8 will make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month and arrive in BMW showrooms in 2014.

Calculated using the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles, the average fuel efficiency of the BMW i8 at model launch will be less than 2.5 liters/100 km, which equates to approximately 95 miles per US gallon, with CO2 emissions of less than 59 grams per kilometer.

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EDAG study finds NanoSteel sheet steels can achieve up to 30% weight reduction in automotive structures

August 05, 2013

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NanoSteel body-in-white using the three grades of steel. Click to enlarge.

The NanoSteel Company released the results of an automotive light-weighting study it had commissioned from EDAG, Inc., an independent engineering firm, demonstrating the potential for the company’s Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) (earlier post) to enable a 30% reduction of weight in the BIW (body-in-white) structure of a baseline mass-market sedan.

EDAG used methodology in the study consistent with recent similar studies, including NHTSA’s “Light Weight Vehicle (LWV)” study in 2012, and WorldAutoSteel’s “Future Steel Vehicle” design in 2011. The NHTSA LWV study was a comprehensive redesign of the 2011 Honda Accord that met North American competitive targets for safety and other significant vehicle attributes while optimizing for weight savings. EDAG duplicated the criteria and methods used then have been duplicated in that study to investigate NanoSteel’s materials.

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New high-temperature ceramic capacitor could reduce cooling needs in power electronics for hybrids and EVs

August 02, 2013

Scientists from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK have developed a new lead-free, high-temperature ceramic capacitor that could improve the efficiency and reliability of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Hybrid and electric vehicles rely on high efficiency power conversion and management, with automotive power electronics representing an emerging £40-billion (US$61-billion) global market, NPL noted. The power electronics found in vehicles today require cooling because of limitations in the temperature rating of components such as capacitors, which are used to store electrical energy. This is a disadvantage as the extra cooling systems add weight to the vehicles, reducing efficiency and reliability.

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BYU friction bit joining process bonds aluminum to cast iron

July 15, 2013

Engineers at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah and the University of Ulsan in South Korea have used friction bit joining (FBJ) to bond dissimilar combinations of aluminum alloy A356 and grey cast iron.

The process of friction bit joining uses a small, consumable bit to create a solid-state joint between metals. The method was invented by BYU manufacturing engineering technology professor Michael Miles and retired BYU professor Kent Kohkonen, in their collaboration with local Orem-based company MegaStir Technologies, a joint venture between Schlumberger and Advanced Metal Products. MegaStir provides both low- and high-temperature friction stir welding (FSW) systems.

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UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas

July 12, 2013

The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.

The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

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Renault makes public its lifecycle study of Fluence ICE vs Fluence EV

July 11, 2013

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Renault’s comparison of the carbon footprint of EV and ICE vehicles over production, operation and end of life. The EV footprint (Fluence Z.E.) is shown with both UK and French grid mixes. Click to enlarge.

Renault recently made public the findings of an internal study, published first in October 2011, detailing and comparing the lifecycle assessments (LCAs) of the battery-electric and two internal combustion engined versions (gasoline and diesel) of the Renault Fluence. The study used the series production versions launched in 2011, with the assumption of operation for 150,000 km (93,205 miles). (Since the BEV version has a shorter range, Renault noted, the way in which the miles are accumulated could differ from that of the ICE vehicles.)

The publication gives the opportunity for an “apples-to-apples” comparison between the environmental impacts of the two types of powertrains: same manufacturer, same model, same boundary conditions. Nevertheless, Renault noted, the study is contrasting a new technology (EVs) with a well-developed one; “environmental progresses are expected in a short term thank to key process improvement and massification of the production.”

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Ford advancing rapid freeform sheet metal forming technology; CAD-driven tool may reduce costs and delivery time for parts

July 03, 2013

Ford Motor Company is developing a new form of manufacturing technology—rapid freeform sheet metal forming—that has the potential to reduce costs and delivery time for sheet metal parts needed in smaller quantities. The project is part of a three-year, $7.04-million US Department of Energy grant to advance next-generation, energy-efficient manufacturing processes. (Earlier post.)

Led by Ford, other collaborators include Northwestern University, The Boeing Company, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Penn State Erie. Five innovative manufacturing projects were awarded a total of $23.5 million by DOE in March to advance clean manufacturing and help US companies increase their competitiveness.

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New ArcelorMittal lightweight car door solutions; up to 34% weight savings over existing steel doors in medium-term

June 25, 2013

Ultra Lightweight Car Door Solutions demonstrator_copyrightArcelorMittal
ArcelorMittal lightweight door. Click to enlarge.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company, unveiled its new ultra-lightweight car door solutions. Using steels and technology currently available, ArcelorMittal’s global R&D automotive team has demonstrated that a 27% weight and cost saving can be achieved without compromising safety and structural requirements.

By looking ahead to new advanced high strength steels and technology that will come to market over the next few years, the team has identified additional solutions that will deliver even greater weight savings of up to 34% compared to existing steel car door solutions.

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White House announces new commitments in support of Materials Genome Initiative

June 24, 2013

The Obama Administration and academic and industry partners announced a series of commitments in support of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI, earlier post), a public-private endeavor that aims to cut in half the time it takes to develop novel materials that can fuel advanced manufacturing.

The MGI, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, helps to coordinate Federal materials science research across multiple agencies and encourages private-sector and academic researchers to develop and share basic materials science discovery data to speed innovation—much as geneticists accelerated the Human Genome Project by openly sharing basic DNA sequence data. Newly announced commitments are:

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Ford LCA harmonization study clarifies benefits of lightweighting for vehicle life cycle energy use and GHG emissions

May 29, 2013

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Correlation between weight reduction and life cycle primary energy demand for (a) component and (b) total vehicle scenarios. Credit: ACS; Kim and Wallington. Click to enlarge.

While reducing vehicle weight (lightweighting) by replacing steel and iron with alternatives such as aluminum, magnesium, and composites decreases fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions during vehicle use, it can increase energy consumption and GHG emissions during vehicle production.

Hyung Chul Kim and Timothy J. Wallington at Ford Motor’s Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department set out to clarify the lifecycle benefits of vehicle lightweighting in a meta-analysis of previously published life cycle assessments (LCAs). While numerous studies assay the benefits of lightweighting, the wide variety of assumptions used makes it difficult to compare results from the studies, the pair noted in their paper, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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New MOF could enable more efficient and cost-effective production of high octane gasoline

May 24, 2013

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The new MOF contains triangular channels running through the material. The walls of these channels trap the lower-octane components while allowing the higher-octane molecules to pass through, potentially providing a more efficient and cost effective way to refine high-octane gasoline. Credit: Science/AAAS. Click to enlarge.

An international team of researchers has developed a new metal-organic framework (MOF) that might provide a significantly improved method for separating hexane isomers in gasoline according to their degree of branching. A paper on the work is published in the journal Science.

Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the MOF features triangular channels that selectively trap only the lower-octane hexane isomers based on their shape, separating them easily from the higher-octane molecules in a way that could prove far less expensive than the industry’s current method for producing high-octane fuel. The Long laboratory and UC Berkeley have applied for a patent on the MOF Fe2(bdp)3. (BDP2– = 1,4-benzenedipyrazolate)

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MIT team devises approaches for practical carbon-nanotube-coated carbon fiber; stronger, more electrically conductive

May 20, 2013

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MIT scientists demonstrated two approaches for growing CNTs on carbon fiber without degrading the fiber strength. Credit: ACS, Steiner et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at MIT have demonstrated two approaches for producing carbon fibers coated in carbon nanotubes without degrading the underlying fiber’s strength. A paper on the work, which could result in carbon-fiber composites that are not only stronger but also more electrically conductive, is published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Hierarchical carbon fibers (CFs) sheathed with radial arrays of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are promising candidates for improving the intra- and interlaminar properties of advanced fiber-reinforced composites (such as graphite/epoxy) and for high-surface-area electrodes for battery and supercapacitor architectures, the authors note.

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Roskill forecasts increasing dependence of Li market on batteries; switch from portable electronics to hybrids

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Consumption of lithium in rechargeable batteries by end use, 2012-2017, kt LCE. Source: Roskill. Click to enlarge.

In a forecast of the Lithium market through 2017, Roskill Information Services estimates that rechargeable batteries will, in the base-case growth scenario, contribute 75% of the growth in forecast lithium demand to 2017, when total demand for lithium is expected to reach slightly more than 238,000t lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Roskill is an international metals and minerals market research firm.

Batteries accounted for 27% of global lithium consumption in 2012, up from 15% in 2007 and 8% in 2002. This end-use was responsible for 44% of the net increase in lithium consumption over the last ten years, and 70% over the last five years.

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DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX polyamides used in SIM-CEL electric concept car to reduce weight

May 15, 2013

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DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX are used in the new SIM-CEL EV prototype. Click to enlarge.

The latest prototype electric car from Japan-based SIM-Drive Corporation (earlier post) features parts based on DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX polyamides that make the car lighter and more sustainable.

SIM-Drive Corporation, founded by Hiroshi Shimizu and based in Kawasaki City, Japan, unveiled the SIM-CEL on 27 March—the third prototype of an advanced all-electric car incorporating in-wheel motors that the company has developed since it was founded in 2009. SIM stands for Shimizu In-wheel Motor, and CEL stands for Cool Energy Link.

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Obama Administration launches $200M competition for three new manufacturing innovation institutes; WBG power electronics, lightweight metals and digital manufacturing

May 09, 2013

The Obama Administration is launching competitions to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes with a Federal commitment of $200 million across five Federal agencies: Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. The effort is part of President Obama’s proposed $1-billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country. (Earlier post.)

The Department of Energy will lead one of the new institutes on “Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing” for wide bandgap semiconductors such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) (DE-FOA-0000683). The Department of Defense will lead the other two, focused on “Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing” and “Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation”.

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Rennovia demonstrates production of HMD from renewable feedstocks; enabling production of 100% renewable nylon-6,6

April 25, 2013

Rennovia, Inc., a privately held company that develops novel catalysts and processes for the cost-advantaged production of chemical products from renewable feedstocks, has successfully demonstrated production of hexamethylenediamine (HMD) from widely available, renewable feedstocks. Coupled with Rennovia’s previously announced renewable adipic acid, this enables for the first time the production of 100% bio-based nylon-6,6 from monomers derived from bio-renewable feedstocks using chemical catalytic technology.

Nylon-6,6 is used extensively in automotive applications, where it is especially prized for its heat resistance, enabling under-the-hood applications. Nylon-6,6 is also widely used in fiber applications, including textiles, carpet, technical fiber, and tire cord.

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EDAG study finds aluminum BIW can deliver mass savings of 35-40% over steel; fuel economy boost

April 17, 2013

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Material selection for the Venza aluminum BIW. Click to enlarge.

A new study by EDAG Group, commissioned by the Aluminum in Transportation Group of the US Aluminum Association, finds that an all-aluminum body in white (BIW) can deliver potential mass savings in the 35 – 40% range over a base steel BIW. This, when combined with secondary mass savings and other design changes, could boost fuel economy by around 18%.

The study built upon research EDAG performed last year for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examining mass reduction, safety and cost variables in a mid-size crossover Toyota Venza. The EPA study aimed to reduce vehicle mass by 20% while meeting all NHTSA and IIHS safety standards, and maintaining or improving performance, handling and braking.

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