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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.]

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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Ultrafine jagged Pt nanowires extremely efficient ORR catalysts; 50x more power than current commercial catalyst

November 18, 2016

An international team led by researchers at UCLA and Caltech has demonstrated that altering the form of platinum nanoscale wires from a smooth surface to a jagged one can significantly reduce the amount of precious metal required as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells and thus lower the cost. According to the findings, the newly developed catalyst is so active that the amount of platinum required for a fuel cell could be 1/50 of what is needed today.

In a paper published in Science, the team reports that the jagged Pt nanowires exhibit an ECSA (electrochemical active surface area) of 118 m2 per gram Pt and a specific activity of 11.5 mA per square centimeter for ORR for a mass activity of 13.6 ampere per milligram Pt, nearly doubling previously reported best values. Reactive molecular dynamics simulations suggested that the highly stressed, under-coordinated rhombohedral-rich surface configurations of the jagged nanowire enhanced ORR activity versus more relaxed surfaces.

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DOE to issue $47M FY17 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity

November 17, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will soon issue its FY17 Vehicle Technologies Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001701). The FOA will have estimated funding of $47,150,000; DOE expects to post the full announcement (DE-FOA-0001629) in December.

DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office supports a broad technology portfolio of advanced highway transportation technologies. Research, development, and deployment efforts are focused on reducing the cost and improving the performance of a mix of near- and long-term vehicle technologies including advanced batteries, power electronics and electric motors, lightweight and propulsion materials, advanced combustion engines, advanced fuels and lubricants, and other enabling technologies. The upcoming FOA may include the following areas of interest (AOI):

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Brown team creates patterned metal-oxide films using GO template; 4x charge-carrying capacity in Mn2O3

November 10, 2016

Researchers from Brown University have developed a new method for making ultrathin metal-oxide sheets containing intricate wrinkle and crumple patterns by transferring those patters from graphene oxide templates. In a study published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers show that the resulting textured metal-oxide films have better performance when used as photocatalysts and as battery electrodes.

The new findings build on previous work done by the same research group in which they developed a method for introducing finely tuned wrinkle and crumple textures into sheets of the nanomaterial graphene oxide (GO). The study showed that the process enhanced some of graphene’s properties. The textures made the graphene better able to repel water, which would be useful in making water-resistant coatings, and enhanced graphene’s ability to conduct electricity.

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ORNL-led team developing breakthrough high-temperature, high-strength Al alloy for advanced light-duty engines

November 08, 2016

A team led by researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing a lower-cost cast aluminum (Al) alloy capable of at least a 50 ˚C temperature increase over the current cylinder head alloys 319 and 356 for use in light duty engines. The new alloy is also targeting a better than 25% increase in strength at 300 ˚C compared to the older alloys at 250 ˚C, as well as excellent hot tearing resistance.

The work, led by Dr. Amit Shyam at ORNL, is part of a 4-year project consisting of a CRADA partnership with FCA and foundry giant Nemak. (Earlier post.)

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Roskill forecasts demand for neodymium for magnets to result in supply deficit; substitutions by 2021

In its new rare earths market report with forecasts out to 2026, Roskill, a leader in international metals and minerals research, observes that the permanent magnet and catalyst sectors will continue to provide the largest markets for rare earths in the next ten years to 2026. Catalysts will continue to drive growth in the light rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, while permanent magnets will lead growth in neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium.

However, Roskill also projects that, driven by rapidly increasing demand for neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets (used in traction motors among other applications), neodymium will fall into deficit in 2016, although demand will initially be met by the drawdown of stocks. Roskill forecasts that the deficit will increase to 2021, making continued growth of NdFeB magnets unsustainable, despite efforts by rare earth producers to increase neodymium supply.

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ORNL team shows 3D-printed permanent magnets outperform conventional versions, conserve rare materials

November 02, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and colleagues have demonstrated that permanent magnets produced by additive manufacturing can outperform bonded magnets made using traditional techniques while conserving critical materials. NdFeB magnets are used in a range of applications from computer hard drives and headphones to clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.

The team fabricated isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine. The result, published in an open-access paper in Scientific Reports, was a product with comparable or better magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties than bonded magnets made using traditional injection molding with the same composition.

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Divergent 3D partners with Altran to deploy 3D printing for car manufacturing

October 25, 2016

Divergent 3D, a manufacturing technology company focused on the automotive sector, has entered into a global development partnership with engineering research and development (ER&D) firm Altran. The partnership comes shortly following Divergent 3D’s signing a strategic partnership letter of intent with top-ten global automaker PSA Group. Divergent 3D is commercializing a software-hardware platform for manufacturing that leverages 3D metal printing.

Under the agreement, Altran has invested in Divergent 3D and will provide support to accelerate implementation and licensing of its manufacturing technology platform across the continent as part of Altran’s new vehicle architecture initiatives. Together, the companies intend to help automakers leverage 3D printing to unleash design innovation while cutting costs, time-to-market and environmental impact.

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DOE’s $10M Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium accelerating development of green hydrogen production

October 24, 2016

The Energy Department (DOE) recently announced $10 million, subject to appropriations, to support the launch of the HydroGEN Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium (HydroGEN). (Earlier post.) This consortium will utilize the expertise and capabilities of the national laboratories to accelerate the development of commercially viable pathways for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources.

HydroGEN is being launched as part of the Energy Materials Network (EMN) that began in February of this year, crafted to give American entrepreneurs and manufacturers a competitive edge in the global development of clean energy in support of the President’s Materials Genome Initiative and advanced manufacturing priorities.

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BASF and Hyundai Motor showcase RN30 concept at K Fair; new lightweight and performance materials

October 14, 2016

Hyundai Motor unveiled the RN30 high-perfromance concept at the Paris Motor Show in September. At the upcoming 2016 K Fair—the leading global trade fair for plastics and rubber—in Düsseldorf from 19-26 October, BASF and Hyundai will showcase some of the new lightweighting and high-performance materials technology that went into the car.

The RN30, jointly developed by BASF and Hyundai Motor Company, combines key solutions from the chemical industry with purposeful aerodynamic design and specialized high-performance technologies.

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CarboSax: new joint venture for more sustainable carbon fiber production forms in Germany

October 13, 2016

PD Glasseiden, a Germany-based producer of fiberglass; European Carbon Fiber GmbH; and the ForschungsCampus Open Hybrid LabFactory e.V., established under the auspices of the Lower Saxony Research Centre for Vehicle Technology at the TU Braunschweig and Volkswagen AG have formed a joint venture—CarboSax GmbH—to pursue developing, manufacturing and distributing more sustainable carbon fibers in Germany.

In the first step at a location in Chemnitz, Saxony, CarboSax will build a pilot line for the sustainable production of carbon fibers. The objective of this carbon fiber pilot line production is a significant reduction in production costs by 30% over currently available commercial carbon fibers. This cost reduction is required to further enable the use of carbon fiber in mass production in the automotive industry, mechanical engineering and wind power. An equal objective is a reduction of at least 50% in CO2 emissions from carbon fiber production.

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Cooper Tire and BRDI consortium partners report significant progress on grant to develop guayule polymer for tires

September 20, 2016

At its recent annual meeting in Albany, Calif., the public-private consortium behind the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—an American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule,” reported several key advancements emerging from the group’s work over the past year.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, working as the lead agency in the grant, announced that its scientists have reached a key milestone toward the goal of producing, by mid-2017, a concept tire in which all of the natural and synthetic rubber is replaced by guayule-based polymers. Guayule is a shrub that is grown primarily in the southwestern United States and contains rubber that can be processed for use in tires. (Earlier post.)

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Liverpool team develops better material for PEM fuel cells; porous organic cage solids with 3D protonic conductivity

September 14, 2016

Proton conduction is key to devices such as proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs); the performance-limiting component in PEMFCs is often the proton exchange membrane (PEM). In the search for more effective PEMs, reseachers have looked to porous solids such as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) or covalent organic frameworks. With these, the proton conduction properties can be fine-tuned by controlling crystallinity, porosity and chemical functionality. To maximize proton conduction, three-dimensional conduction pathways are preferred over one-dimensional pathways, which prevent conduction in two dimensions.

Researchers led by a team at the University of Liverpool (UK) now report in an open-access paper in the journal Nature Communications that they have developed crystalline porous molecular solids where the proton transport occurs in 3D pathway by virtue of the native channel structure and topology. The development could lead to the design of more effective fuel cell materials, including high-temperature PEMFCs.

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Kiel nanoscale-sculpturing makes metal surfaces strong, resistant, and multifunctional; multi-material joining

September 08, 2016

Researchers at the University of Kiel (Germany) have developed a new process—which they call “nanoscale-sculpturing”—for the surface preparation of metals.

Nanoscale-sculpturing, which is based on knowledge from semiconductor etching, turns surfaces of everyday metals into their most stable configuration, but leaves the bulk properties unaffected. Thus, nanoscale-sculpturing ensures stronger, reliable joints to nearly all materials, reduces corrosion vastly, and generates a multitude of multifunctional surface properties. An open-access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Nanoscale Horizons.

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SLAC, Utrecht Univ. team visualize poisoning of FCC catalysts used in gasoline production; seeing changes in pore network materials

August 31, 2016

Merging two powerful 3-D X-ray techniques, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Utrecht University in the Netherlands revealed new details of the metal poisoning process that clogs the pores of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst particles used in gasoline production, causing them to lose effectiveness.

The team combined their data to produce a video that shows the chemistry of this aging process and takes the viewer on a virtual flight through the pores of a catalyst particle. More broadly, the approach is generally applicable and provides an unprecedented view of dynamic changes in a material’s pore space—an essential factor in the rational design of functional porous materials including those use for batteries and fuel cells. The results were published in an open access paper in Nature Communications.

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LeMond Composites licenses ORNL low-cost carbon fiber manufacturing process; transportation, renewable energy, & infrastructure

August 30, 2016

LeMond Composites, founded by three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, has licensed a low-cost, high-volume carbon fiber manufacturing process developed at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). (Earlier post.) The agreement will make Oak Ridge-based LeMond Composites the first company to offer carbon fiber produced by the process to the transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure markets.

Invented by LeMond CEO Connie Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF), the process is projected to reduce production costs by more than 50% relative to the lowest-cost industrial-grade carbon fiber.

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Opinion: Could A Lithium Shortage De-Rail The Electric Car Boom?

August 26, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

We’ve gone electric, and there’s no going back at this point. Lithium is our new fuel, but like fossil fuels, the reserves we’re currently tapping into are finite—and that’s what investors can take to the bank.

You may think lithium got too popular too fast. You may suspect electric vehicles are too much buzz and not enough real future. You may, in short, be a lithium skeptic, one of many. And yet, despite this skepticism, lithium demand is rising steadily and sharply, and indications that a shortage may be looming are very real.

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AK Steel introduces NEXMET family of next generation high strength steels for automotive lightweighting

August 22, 2016

AK Steel launched NEXMET, an new family of high strength steels for use in automotive lightweighting applications. These products are specifically designed to assist automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in meeting 2025 US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets.

AK Steel’s NEXMET family of products will offer high strength, greater ductility (elongation), and improved formability solutions for a range of needs for structural and exterior automotive body lightweighting uses.

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New approach for synthetic rubber for degradable tires: converting cyclopentene to polypentenamers

A team from the Texas A&M University campus in Qatar (TAMU-Qatar) and Caltech has developed a new way to make synthetic rubber; once this material is discarded, it can be easily degraded back to its chemical building blocks and reused in new tires and other products. The researchers will present their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia.

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, nearly 270 million tires were discarded in the US in 2013—more than one tire per adult living in the country. Many of the non-degradable scrap tires get stockpiled in landfills. More than half go on to become tire-derived fuel—shredded scrap tires that get mixed with coal and other materials to help power cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and other plants. But environmentalists are concerned that the emissions from this practice could be adding harmful pollutants to the air.

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IACMI, DuPont and Purdue partner on automotive carbon-fiber composites

August 18, 2016

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, IACMI, in partnership with DuPont Performance Materials, Fibrtec Inc. and Purdue University, has launched the first project selected with a dual focus on decreasing the cost of manufacture and increasing design flexibility for automotive composites. Advancements in both areas can open up new opportunities and become an enabler for large-scale deployment of composite parts.

Multiple factors, including cost and design constraints, present barriers to the adoption of composites in high volume automotive applications. This new IACMI project will address both of these critical areas through a fundamentally different approach to the manufacturing of carbon fiber composites versus those currently in use today.

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DOE to invest $16M in computational design of new materials for alt and renewable energy, electronics and other fields

August 17, 2016

The US Department of Energy will invest $16 million over the next four years to accelerate the design of new materials through use of supercomputers.

Two four-year projects—one team led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the other team led by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)—will leverage the labs’ expertise in materials and take advantage of lab supercomputers to develop software for designing fundamentally new functional materials destined to revolutionize applications in alternative and renewable energy, electronics, and a wide range of other fields. The research teams include experts from universities and other national labs.

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DOE to award up to $137M for SuperTruck II, Vehicle Technology Office programs

August 16, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest up to $137 million in two programs, subject to appropriations, to develop next-generation technologies that will support industry in going beyond the newly announced Phase II standard for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (earlier post) and also accelerating technology advances for passenger cars and light trucks.

One initiative, SuperTruck II (earlier post), will award $80 million to four projects to develop and to demonstrate cost-effective technologies that more than double the freight efficiency of Class 8 trucks. Through the other initiative, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (earlier post)selections, 35 new projects will receive $57 million to develop and deploy a wide array of cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce carbon emissions and petroleum consumption in passenger cars and light trucks.

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Researchers gain better insight into transformation of steel; managing nucleation could limit need for alloying elements

August 10, 2016

Researchers at TU Delft have shed new light on the process of nucleation in the polymorphic transformation of solid materials—specifically, steel. Polymorphism is the ability of a solid material to exist in more than one phase or crystal structure. Polymorphism may occur in metals, alloys, ceramics, minerals, polymers, and pharmaceutical substances.

In an open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the team presented in-situ three-dimensional x-ray diffraction (3DXRD) microscopy measurements of the ferrite (α) to austenite (γ) transformation in steel during heating, which the team performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

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CNT nanostiches strengthen laminated composites

August 03, 2016

A team from MIT and Saab AB has found a way to bond composite layers in such a way that the resulting material is substantially stronger and more resistant to damage than other advanced composites. Their results are published this week in the journal Composites Science and Technology.

The team reinforced aerospace-grade unidirectional carbon fiber laminate interfaces with high densities (>10 billion fibers per cm2) of aligned carbon nanotubes (A-CNTs) that act as nano-scale “stitches”. Such nano-scale fiber reinforcement of the ply interfaces has already been shown to increase interlaminar fracture toughness; the MIT researchers showed that laminate in-plane strengths are also increased via the technique.

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Federal-Mogul Powertrain develops upgraded coating for heavy-duty piston rings

Federal-Mogul Powertrain has developed an upgrade to its GOETZE Diamond Coating (GDC) for piston rings, a technology that has been meeting heavy-duty diesel engine requirements for more than a decade. The new coating, GDC60, features higher diamond content than the established GDC50 to further reduce wear and has demonstrated lower friction and greater scuff resistance during testing.

The upgraded coating will be shown this September alongside other Federal-Mogul heavy-duty technologies at IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hanover.

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Pitt engineers using LLNL electron microscope to study rapid solidification of aluminum alloys

August 02, 2016

University of Pittsburgh engineers will utilize a unique transmission electron microscope developed and housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to better understand how microstructures form in metals and alloys as they solidify after laser beam melting.

Under a three-year, $500,000-grant from the National Science Foundation, Jorg Wiezorek, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, and his team will continue to use the Lab’s dynamic transmission electron microscope (DTEM) to study the rapid solidification of aluminum alloys associated with laser or electron beam processing technologies, including welding, joining and additive manufacturing.

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SMDI releases steel roadmap for automotive; Gen3 AHSS

Over the past 10 years, new steel innovations have reduced automotive component and sub-system mass by nearly 25%; some studies have shown mass savings up to 29% versus traditional mild steel benchmarks. The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI)—a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)—has now released its 2016 Steel Industry Technology Roadmap for Automotive.

The roadmap outlines the long-term technology needs to support future automotive material selection decisions with advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) including, optimized design, fuel economy, strength and durability, environmental performance and value.

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

July 29, 2016

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

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

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Study: Overall automotive aluminum recycling rate above 90%

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

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

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

July 27, 2016

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

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

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

July 21, 2016

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

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

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

July 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

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

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

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

July 06, 2016

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

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

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

June 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 21, 2016

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

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

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

June 10, 2016

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

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

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

June 08, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 06, 2016

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

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

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

June 03, 2016

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

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

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

June 01, 2016

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

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

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

May 28, 2016

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

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

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

May 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2016

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

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

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

May 19, 2016

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

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

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

May 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 13, 2016

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

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

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Hemming of thin-gauge AHSS achieves 30% weight savings

May 12, 2016

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

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

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Novelis supplying aluminum for Cadillac CT6 in N America and China

May 10, 2016

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

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

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

April 29, 2016

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

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

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LLNL 3D-printed foam outperforms standard materials

April 27, 2016

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

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

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

April 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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