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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.]

GMZ Energy develops new thermoelectric material with lower raw material costs, higher power output; Hafnium-free p-type half-Heusler

October 21, 2014

Researchers at GMZ Energy, a provider of nano-structured thermoelectric generation (TEG) power solutions for mobile and stationary waste-heat recovery (earlier post), with their colleagues at the University of Houston and Bosch, have developed a new Hafnium-free p-type half-Heusler material which offers substantially lower raw material cost than conventional half-Heusler materials. The material also features enhanced performance and mechanical strength due to GMZ’s patented nanostructuring process.

As presented in a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the new material improves thermoelectric power output compared to a conventional Hafnium-based product. Further, by replacing the costly Hafnium element with GMZ’s proprietary formulation, the overall cost-per-watt of the TEG is lowered. Cost reduction is beneficial for vehicle and industrial waste heat recovery applications, the developers noted in their paper.

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NIMS team develops new magnetic compound with lower neodymium content

October 20, 2014

A research group led by Dr. Kazuhiro Hono at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has synthesized a new magnetic compound which requires a lower amount of rare earth element than the currently used neodymium iron boron compound.

The ratio of neodymium, iron and nitrogen in the new compound (NdFe12N is 1:12:1). Its neodymium concentration is 17% of the entire mass compared to 27% for the neodymium iron boron compound known as Nd2Fe14B, the main component used in the strongest permanent magnets. Furthermore, the intrinsic hard magnetic properties of the new material were found to be superior to those of Nd2Fe14B.

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Industry report says steel can deliver weight savings to meet CAFE targets; aluminum growth in LDVs to peak around 2018

October 06, 2014

Steel can easily deliver the weight savings required to meet federally mandated fuel economy targets for most vehicles, according to a new 300-page analysis by the steel-industry information service World Steel Dynamics: “AutoBody Warfare: Aluminum Attack.” The report, based on WSD’s independent consultation with steel, aluminum and automotive experts, is formally being presented to steel executives today at the worldsteel Annual Conference in Moscow.

The report, say the authors, comes in the context of the “high-stakes contest” between the world’s leading steel and aluminum companies instigated by the rise in the US Government’s CAFE standards. Aluminum companies are in an “ebullient mood”, WSD says, due in part to the aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 (earlier post) and an Aluminum Association report, authored by the Ducker Worldwide consulting group, forecasting that by 2025 three-in-four pickup trucks will have an all-aluminum body. (Earlier post.)

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Aleris to invest $350M to upgrade Kentucky aluminum rolling mill for anticipated growth in automotive demand

September 25, 2014

Aleris will invest $350 million to upgrade capabilities at its aluminum rolling mill in Lewisport, Kentucky. The investment positions Aleris to meet anticipated significant growth in North American automotive demand as the industry pursues broader aluminum use for the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Aleris is currently a leading supplier to the European premium auto industry, which has led the transition to aluminum driven by tighter emissions standards.

The company expects to begin construction on the project this fall, with a goal of shipping automotive body sheet material to customers by early 2017. When fully operational, the new facility will allow for the production of 480 million pounds of aluminum auto body sheet annually.

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ArcelorMittal develops two steel solutions to reduce weight of pickups; exploring applications in PHEVs

September 18, 2014

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company, has created two sets of steel solutions to reduce the average weight of pick-ups, following on from the award-winning launch of its S-in motion catalogue for standard, C-segment cars. ArcelorMittal has refined and extended these innovations to help meet the specific challenges facing the North American light truck market.

The first set uses currently available advanced high strength steels and press-hardenable steel grades such as Usibor 1500 and Ductibor 500 and can reduce weight by up to 174 kg (384 lbs) or 23% of the combined weight of a pick-up’s cab, box, frame and closures, compared with a modern (2014) baseline vehicle.

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Europe launches 7-year, €1B R&D program for new metals: “Metallurgy Europe”

September 15, 2014

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Program overview of Metallurgy Europe as presented in a 2012 position paper from the ESF. Click to enlarge.

European industry has launched Metallurgy Europe, a 7-year, €1-billion ($1.3-billion) R&D program in the field of metals research and manufacturing. The program was recently been selected as a new Eureka Cluster, and it will integrate the efforts of more than 170 companies and laboratories from across 20 countries.

Some of the largest engineering companies in Europe have joined forces, including Airbus Group; BP; Siemens; Daimler; Rolls-Royce; BMW; Thales; AvioAero; PSA Group; BAE Systems; Philips; Ruag; Sener; Bombardier; OHB Systems; Linde Group; ESI; Rolex; Richemont; ArcelorMittal; Sandvik; Bruker; SKF; Johnson Matthey; Tata Steel; GKN; Boston Scientific; ThyssenKrupp; Outokumpu; Haldor Topsøe and Fiat. More than 60 small and medium-sized companies are also teaming up.

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Researchers propose new class of high-temperature alloy; eutectic high-entropy alloys with both high ductility and high strength

August 29, 2014

High-entropy alloys (HEAs), which represent an emerging effort in materials science and engineering, are multi-principal-element (at least four) alloys that are promising for high-temperature applications due to their high resistance to softening at elevated temperatures and sluggish diffusion kinetics.

However, HEAs so far have either high strength or high ductility; achieving both has been a challenge. Further, the inferior castability and compositional segregation of HEAs have been obstacles for commercialization. Now, researchers in China are proposing a new strategy for designing high-entropy alloys using the eutectic alloy concept to accomplish both attributes. As reported in a paper in Nature’s open access journal Scientific Reports, an eutectic high-entropy alloy (EHEA) showed an “unprecedented” combination of high tensile ductility and high fracture strength at room temperature. The excellent mechanical properties could be kept up to 700 °C.

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Johnson Controls invests in IHU-TUT project to combine aluminum and steel in laser-welded tailored tubes for seats

August 27, 2014

Johnson Controls is investing in a German automotive research project working to combine steel and aluminum in laser-welded tailored tubes for use in seats for the first time. The result could be a 10 to 20 percent reduction in weight, which would be beneficial for fuel and emissions balance.

Tailored tubes are already used to a great extent in the large series production of vehicle seats, but in this project, they consist of steel and aluminum of various wall thicknesses. As part of the research project “Hydroforming of laser-brazed tailored hybrid tubes of a steel-aluminum blend for automotive lightweight construction” (Innenhochdruckumformen laserstrahlgelöteter Tailored Hybrid Tubes aus Stahl-Aluminium-Mischverbindungen für den automobilen Leichtbau, IHU-TUT), which runs until 31 January 2016, the project partners are researching the opportunity to make use of the significant weight advantages of aluminum by combining it with steel in the hollow components.

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DOE awards $17M for vehicle technologies; batteries, PEEM, engines, materials, fuel

August 21, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $17.6 million in 14 cooperative agreements with small businesses and institutions of higher education to develop and to deploy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will help reduce petroleum use in the United States. The awards made under an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000988) issued in January. (Earlier post.)

The newly selected projects are in five areas: energy storage; power electronics and electric motors (PEEM); advanced combustion engines; materials technologies, and fuels and lubricant technologies. Awardees are:

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3rd generation Audi TT reduces full lifecycle GHGs by 11% compared to predecessor

August 18, 2014

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Lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for 2nd and 3rd generation TTs. Click to enlarge.

Audi’s new third-generation TT reduces life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by 11% compared to its predecessor. This results in a reduction of around 5.5 tonnes of GHGs—CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and halogenated organic emissions—over its entire lifecycle. At the same time, Audi has increased the power output in the new TT by up to 14%.

A number of technologies have contributed towards the positive life cycle assessment of the Audi TT, including lightweight construction. Using an intelligent combination of materials, Audi engineers have, for the second time in a row, succeeded in reducing the car’s unladen weight.

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DOE to award more than $55M to 31 projects for plug-in and efficient vehicle technologies; Delphi receives $10M to further GDCI

August 14, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding more than $55 million to 31 new projects to accelerate research and development of vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs under a program-wide funding opportunity announced in January. (DE-FOA-0000991, earlier post.) These new projects are aimed at meeting the goals and objectives of the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge (19 projects), as well as improvements in other vehicle technologies such as powertrains, fuel, tires and auxiliary systems (12 projects).

The largest single award ($10 million) goes to Delphi Automotive Systems to further the development of its Gasoline Direct-Injection Compression Ignition (GDCI) low-temperature combustion technology (earlier post) that provides high thermal efficiency with low NOx and PM emissions. The largest number of awards (9) in a single area of interest goes to developing beyond Li-ion battery technologies.

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Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations reveals new lightweight E-type

August 12, 2014

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Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations’ new Lightweight E-type. Click to enlarge.

Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations unveiled its new Lightweight E-type—the first recreation to come from Jaguar Heritage, which operates within the Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations division. Only 6 will be built. Car Zero has been completed and, on 14 August, will be revealed at the opening reception to the Pebble Beach Automotive weekend. Jaguar announced in May 2014 that it would recreate six new Lightweights, each built by Jaguar Heritage, part of Jaguar Land Rover’s new Special Operations division.

In recreating the Lightweight, Jaguar Heritage has drawn on Jaguar’s engineering and design resources, including the company’s aluminum body technology. The specification includes an aluminum bodyshell with doors, trunklid, hardtop and hood also in aluminum. The six-cylinder XK engine mirrors the original power units, with an aluminum block, wide-angle aluminum cylinder head and dry sump lubrication.

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Mercedes-Benz to use new steel pistons in V6 diesel of E 350 BlueTEC

August 11, 2014

Mercedes-Benz will replace conventional aluminum pistons with a new generation of steel pistons in the V6 diesel engine of the E 350 BlueTEC in September. Combined with the innovative NANOSLIDE (earlier post) cylinder bore coating technology and the aluminum housing, the advantages of the shift include lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Mercedes-Benz has already announced the coming use of steel pistons in the OM 626 four-cylinder diesel produced by Renault and applied in the C-Class Estate. (Earlier post.)

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NSF to award up to $22M for advanced materials research; controlling materials properties through design

August 04, 2014

The US National Science Foundation has issued a solicitation (14-591) for up to $22 million in awards under its Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) program.

DMREF is the primary program by which NSF participates in the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) for Global Competitiveness. (Earlier post.) MGI aims to deploy advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost. DMREF seeks to promote activities that significantly accelerate materials discovery and development by building the fundamental knowledge base needed to progress towards designing and making materials with specific and desired functions or properties from first principles.

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NIST study suggests severe corrosion in underground gasoline storage tanks may require component replacement sooner than expected; 500K USTs in US

July 30, 2014

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Optical micrographs of severe corrosion on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors—conditions typical of underground gasoline storage tanks—after 355 hours, 643 hours, and 932 hours. Source: NIST. Click to enlarge.

In recent years, field inspectors in nine states have reported many rapidly corroding underground gasoline storage tank (UST) components such as sump pumps. These incidents are generally associated with use of gasoline-ethanol blends and the presence of bacteria, Acetobacter aceti, which convert ethanol to acetic acid, a component of vinegar. Corrosion can result in failures, leaks and contamination of groundwater, a source of drinking water.

Following up on the inspectors’ findings, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratory study has demonstrated severe corrosion—rapidly eating through 1 millimeter of wall thickness per year—on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors. Based on this finding, NIST researchers suggest gasoline stations may need to replace submersible pump casings, typically made of steel or cast iron, sooner than expected.

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Jaguar: aluminum-intensive XE will feature fuel consumption lower than 4L/100km; structure is 75% aluminum

July 29, 2014

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The aluminum body of the XE. Click to enlarge.

In the second of four technology previews leading up to the introduction of the new Jaguar XE on 8 September, Jaguar outlined its extensive use of aluminum in the new model. Designed around Jaguar’s modular vehicle architecture, the XE is the only car in the class to use an aluminum-intensive monocoque, with lightweight aluminum accounting for 75% of the structure.

The new aluminum-intensive SE will be paired with engines from the new Ingenium family of efficient diesel and gasoline engines (earlier post)—powertrains specifically designed and calibrated to complement reduced-weight vehicles. Jaguar projects that the resulting XE will achieve fuel consumption of less that 4.0 l/100 km (59 mpg US) on the NEDC combined cycle (subject to certification) and CO2 emissions of less than 100 g/km.

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SABIC’s polycarbonate rear window in Ford MMLV reduces window weight by 35%; improved thermal insulation

July 17, 2014

Among the technologies Ford incorporated into its drivable multi-material lightweight vehicle (MMLV) (earlier post) is an advanced polycarbonate (PC) glazing solution from SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business that makes possible a 35% weight reduction compared to the same window on a 2013 model year Ford Fusion production vehicle. The weight savings total 7.4 pounds (3.36 kg), even though the rear window is more than one millimeter thicker than the production glass window it replaces. The PC material has approximately half the density of glass.

The advanced PC solution used in the concept’s rear window combines LEXAN resin, a PC material characterized by its light weight, high optical clarity and impact resistance, with EXATEC E900 plasma coating for glass-like scratch and UV resistance. (The LEXAN plasma-coated windows are also used in Volkswagen’s ultra-efficient XL1 plug-in hybrid, earlier post.)

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Alcoa unveils first aluminum alloy fan blade forging for jet engines; $1.1B supply agreement w/ Pratt & Whitney

July 14, 2014

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Click to enlarge.

Under a new 10-year, $1.1-billion agreement, Alcoa will supply key parts for Pratt & Whitney’s jet engines, including the forging for the first aluminum fan blade for jet engines. The forging was developed for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower engines using an advanced aluminum alloy and a proprietary manufacturing process. Also for the PurePower engines, Alcoa is developing a fan blade forging using its most advanced aluminum-lithium alloy.

Under the $1.1 billion deal, Alcoa will supply components for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1000G, V2500, GP7000 and several other regional jet and military engines. The unique Geared Turbofan architecture of the PurePower engine allows for aluminum alloys to be used in the Pratt & Whitney designed fan blades, making the engine lighter, as well as more fuel and cost efficient.

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Bio-inspired gradient structure approach for delivering stronger, tougher metals

July 12, 2014

Drawing inspiration from the structure of bones and bamboo, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and North Carolina State University have found that by gradually changing the internal structure of metals to a gradient structure (GS), they can make stronger, tougher materials that can be customized for a wide variety of applications—from body armor to automobile parts.

In a pair of open access papers, one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the other in Materials Research Letters, the researchers, led by Yuntian Zhu at NC State and Xiaolei Wu at CAS, report that gradient structures in engineering materials such as metals produce an intrinsic synergetic strengthening, which is much higher than the sum of separate gradient layers; the gradient structure renders a unique extra strain hardening, which leads to high ductility.

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Researchers develop efficient technique to develop new materials with desired coefficient of friction

July 11, 2014

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) have developed a highly efficient method for developing friction materials with a desired frictional property. Using the new method, it would be possible to find the appropriate crystal preferred orientation for coatings with the desired value of the coefficient of friction.

The method, described in a paper in the journal Tribology Letters, could thus significantly accelerate the development of materials that have a friction coefficient suited to the purpose of use, such as low-friction materials for reducing energy loss and high-friction materials required for high-performance brakes.

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European consortium investigating graphene-based materials for lightweight cars; energy-efficient and safe vehicles

June 30, 2014

The University of Sunderland (UK), working with a consortium of five other research partners from Italy, Spain and Germany, has been selected for funding by the €1-billion (US$1.4-billion) Graphene Flagship research initiative in Europe (earlier post) for their iGCAuto proposal. The researchers will explore the properties of graphene to determine how it behaves when used to enhance advanced composite materials used in the production of cars. The other partners are Centro Ricerche FIAT (Italy); Fraunhofer ICT (Germany); Interquimica (Spain); Nanesa S.r.l. (Italy); and Delta-Tech S.p.A. (Italy).

As part of the work, a novel graphene-based polymer material will be investigated, modeled, and designed to enhance both vehicle and occupant safety while remaining very light. This material will provide benefits such as improved strength, dimensional stability, and superior durability.

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LLNL/MIT team creates ultralight, ultrastiff metamaterials; possible applications for automotive and aerospace

June 20, 2014

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The new materials designed with additive manufacturing techniques exhibit high stiffness and low density, occupying a previously unpopulated area (upper left) of the Ashby material selection chart for Young’s modulus (stiffness) vs. density. The octet truss structure recently fabricated by Livermore researchers is a stretch-dominated lattice. Source: LLNL Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed materials with the same weight and density as aerogel (“frozen smoke”) but with 10,000 times more stiffness using additive micro-manufacturing processes. The research team’s findings are published in an article in the journal Science.

The micro-architected metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit mass density, even at ultralow density. This performance derives from a network of nearly isotropic microscale unit cells with high structural connectivity and nanoscale features, the structural members of which are designed to carry loads in tension or compression, the researchers said. Materials with these properties could someday be used to develop parts and components for aircraft, automobiles and space vehicles.

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The technology behind Ford’s Lightweight Concept Vehicle; prospects for Mach-II with 50% mass reduction difficult

June 18, 2014

Earlier this month, Ford unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing CO2 emissions. The Ford Lightweight Concept reduces the weight of a 2013 Fusion to that of a Ford Fiesta, resulting in a nearly 25% weight reduction. (Earlier post.)

The Ford vehicle is based on the first phase (Mach-I) of work of the DOE-supported Multi-Material Lightweight Vehicles project (Award DE-EE0005574) by Vehma International (an engineering and prototype division within the Cosma International operating unit of Magna) and Ford. The $20.3-million project ($10 million from DOE, $10.3 million from Vehma/Ford) has two main objectives. First, to design and build the “Mach-I” prototype vehicle maintaining donor vehicle architectural space and using commercially available or demonstrated materials and processes while delivering a 22% reduction compared to the baseline vehicle. The result of this is reflected in the Ford concept.

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Washington State/Boeing SOFC shows promise for aviation and automotive applications

June 17, 2014

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MoO2-based SOFC using a fuel mixture consisting of n-dodecane, CO2 and air. Kwon 2013. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Washington State University, with colleagues at Kyung Hee University and Boeing Commercial Airplanes, have been developing liquid hydrocarbon/oxygenated hydrocarbon-fueled solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) for aviation (the “more electric” airplane) and other transportation applications, such as in cars. These fuel cells first internally—i.e., no external reformer—reform a complex liquid hydrocarbon fuel into carbon fragments and hydrogen, which are then electrochemically oxidized to produce electrical energy without external fuel processors. The SOFCs feature a MoO2 (molybdenum dioxide) anode with an interconnecting network of pores that exhibit excellent ion- and electron-transfer properties.

In a new paper in the journal Energy Technology, the team reports that this novel fuel cell, when directly fueled with a jet-A fuel surrogate (an n-dodecane fuel mixture), generated an initial maximum power density of 3 W cm-2 at 750 °C and maintained this high initial activity over 24 h with no coking. The addition of 500 ppm of sulfur into the fuel stream did not deactivate the cell.

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Ducker: automotive aluminum content to hit explosive growth from 2015 to 2025; 50 years of uninterrupted growth “guaranteed”

June 10, 2014

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NA aluminum sheet demand for auto body and closure parts. Click to enlarge.

By 2025, more than 75% of all new pickup trucks produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied, according to a survey of automakers conducted by global consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide and commissioned by The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG). The study surveyed all major automakers and forecasts that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler will become the biggest users of aluminum sheet in the next decade.

It also forecasts that the number of vehicles with complete aluminum body structures will reach 18% of North American production, from less than 1% today. Vehicle segments revealed as emerging aluminum content leaders are pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and both mid-sized and full-size sedans.

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Chrysler/McMaster lightweight materials project focusing on door side impact beam; Al and Mg casting

June 04, 2014

In October 2013, Chrysler entered a $3.9-million research project supported by the Canadian government to explore ways to leverage the weight-saving properties of aluminum and magnesium alloys for vehicle production. (Earlier post.) The primary academic partner in the project is McMaster University in Ontario, with Ryerson University and CANMET, an agency of Natural Resources Canada, as other partners in the project.

In an update on the progress of the project, Steve Logan, responsible for Advanced Lightweight Programs in Chrysler’s Materials Engineering Group, said that the team is looking at components for body and chassis, and specifically focusing on a door side impact beam.

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Ford introduces Lightweight Concept vehicle to showcase ongoing light-weighting and advanced materials work; nearly 25% weight reduction

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Ford Lightweight Concept. Click to enlarge.

Ford Motor Company unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing CO2 emissions. The Ford Lightweight Concept reduces the weight of a 2013 Fusion to that of a Ford Fiesta, resulting in a nearly 25% weight reduction.

The vehicle represents the latest phase of Ford’s research into developing sustainable technology solutions that are affordable for consumers and can be produced in large volumes across the product lineup. This research has also led to the significant weight reduction of up to 700 pounds (318 kg) in the all-new F-150 through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum. (Earlier post.)

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IBM Research discovers new class of industrial polymers; cheaper, lighter, stronger and recyclable thermosets for aerospace, automotive and others

May 16, 2014

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The IBM-led researchers show that the formation of a trifunctional cross-link point through reaction of a diamine and paraformaldehyde leads to a thermally stable and mechanically ductile thermoset. Low pH triggers the reversal of the thermoset architecture to the corresponding monomers. Credit: K. Zhang/Virginia Tech. Click to enlarge.

Using a novel computational chemistry hybrid approach, scientists from IBM Research have successfully discovered a new class of polymer materials—the first new class of polymers discovered in more than 20 years—that could potentially transform manufacturing and fabrication in the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics. The new family, formed by condensation of paraformaldehyde with bisanilines, can form hard thermoset polymers or, when more oxygenated, produce self-healing gels.

Developed by combining high performance computing with synthetic polymer chemistry, these new materials are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking; strength higher than bone; and the ability to reform to their original shape (self-healing), all while being completely recyclable back to their starting material—strong acid digestion allows the recovery of the bisaniline monomers.

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BMW and SGL to triple production capacity at Moses Lake carbon fiber plant with $200M expansion; world’s largest carbon fiber plant

May 09, 2014

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A production line for carbon fiber takes the PAN precursor through two stages (stabilization/oxidation and carbonization) and then to winding. Source: SGLACF. Click to enlarge.

Due to the high demand for carbon fiber in automotive production, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW Group and the SGL Group, will triple the capacity of the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, Washington. SGL and BMW made the announcement at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned site expansion. The expansion will be funded by an investment of US$200 million, on top of the previously invested US$100 million.

The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by early 2015, will make the plant in Moses Lake the world’s largest carbon fiber plant. At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with an annual output of approx. 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. The expansion of the site in Moses Lake will make it possible for the BMW Group to apply carbon fiber material also in other model series in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities.

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Ames Lab researchers observe rare-earth-like magnetic properties in iron

April 29, 2014

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have observed magnetic properties typically associated with those observed in rare-earth elements in iron, albeit at cryogenic temperatures. These properties are observed in a new iron-based compound that does not contain rare earth elements, when the iron atom is positioned between two nitrogen atoms.

The discovery opens the possibility of using iron to provide both the magnetism and permanence in high-strength permanent magnets, such as those used in direct-drive wind turbines or electric motors in hybrid cars. The results appeared in Nature Communications.

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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

Mass
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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