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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.]

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

August 21, 2015

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

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

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

August 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 13, 2015

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

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

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

August 11, 2015

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

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

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

August 06, 2015

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

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

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Purdue team discovery could reduce energy required to machine annealed metals by >50%

July 28, 2015

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a previously unknown type of metal deformation—sinuous flow—and a potentially simple method to suppress it. The results, reported in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could lead to more efficient machining and other manufacturing advances by significantly reducing the force and energy required to process metals by more than 50%.

Annealing is a heat-treatment process used to soften metals for machining. Counterintuitively, however, annealed metals are surprisingly difficult to cut, the Purdue team noted, involving high forces and an unusually thick “chip.” The conventional explanation for this anomaly has used a model of smooth plastic flow with uniform shear to describe material removal by chip formation. In their study, the Purdue team showed that the phenomenon is actually the result of a fundamentally different collective deformation mode: sinuous flow. Using in situ imaging, they found that chip formation occurs via large-amplitude folding, triggered by surface undulations of a characteristic size.

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GM using Continental Structural Plastics’ TCA Ultra Lite in Corvette for 20 lb weight savings

July 22, 2015

Continental Structural Plastics (CSP), a global provider of lightweight composite solutions, announced that its Tough Class A (TCA) Ultra Lite material, introduced in September 2014, is now in production on the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette. The use of TCA Ultra Lite, a Class A body panel material, results in a 20 lb (9 kg) weight savings on the Stingray Coupe model. This is the first production use of CSP’s Ultra Lite advanced composite.

Ultra Lite technology uses treated glass bubbles to replace some of the CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) filler, allowing the resin to adhere to the matrix and increase the interfacial strength between the bubble and the resin. This is a patented treatment technology that results in a more robust resin mix that makes molded parts more resistant to handling damage, and prevents the micro-cracks that cause paint pops, pits and blistering. The treated bubbles also help with paint adhesion and bonding characteristics.

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NIST calculates H2 pipeline can cost up to 68% more than nat gas pipeline; proposes code change to reduce cost

July 20, 2015

Pipelines to carry hydrogen cost more than other gas pipelines because of the measures required to combat the damage hydrogen does to steel’s mechanical properties (e.g., hydrogen embrittlement, HE) over time. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have now calculated that hydrogen-specific steel pipelines can cost as much as 68% more than natural gas pipelines, depending on pipe diameter and operating pressure.[1] By contrast, a widely used cost model[2] suggests a cost penalty of only about 10%.

However, according to the new NIST study, hydrogen transport costs could be reduced for most pipeline sizes and pressures by modifying industry codes[3] to allow the use of a higher-strength grade of steel alloy without requiring thicker pipe walls.

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China Zhongwang and Brilliance Bus partner to develop all-aluminum new energy public buses

China Zhongwang Holdings Limited, the second largest industrial aluminum extrusion product developer and manufacturer in the world and the biggest one in Asia, has successfully designed, manufactured and developed all-aluminum new energy electric buses for Brilliance Bus (Dalian) Company Limited. This co-operation marks China Zhongwang’s inauguration as the first and only aluminum processing enterprise in China to have the capability of undertaking both the design and manufacturing of all-aluminum new energy public buses.

The frame and body of this new public bus model use aluminum alloy as the key material. Its weight is reduced by 40% compared to its steel counterparts. Aluminium-bodied vehicles are more durable, corrosion resistant and have better vibration absorption capabilities. The lighter auto bodies increase the vehicles’ driving range, thereby conserving energy and reducing operating costs.

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Syntactic foam composite for lightweight yet strong materials; bending strength for automotive applications

July 17, 2015

A team of researchers reports success in pioneering tests of a layered material with a lightweight metal matrix syntactic foam core that holds significant potential for automobiles, trains, ships, and other applications requiring lightweight structural components that retain their strength even when bent or compressed. (Syntactic foams are materials with pre-formed hollow spheres as a main constituent. “Syntactic” refers to the “ordered structure” provided by the hollow spheres.)

The research team of Nikhil Gupta, a NYU School of Engineering associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, working with the Toledo, Ohio, company Deep Springs Technology and the US Army Research Laboratory, published their findings in Materials Science and Engineering: A.

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Ford’s first mass-produced carbon fiber wheels

July 12, 2015

To source the new lightweight track-capable carbon fiber wheels that are standard on the new Shelby GT350R Mustang, Ford partnered with Australia-based Carbon Revolution. Carbon Revolution first began delivering composite wheels in 2004 for Formula SAE campaigns. The company now is producing its “CR-9” wheel series in limited numbers for Porsche, BMW M3, Audi R8, Lamborghini and McLaren MP4-12C within Europe, Japan and North America. Ford, however, wanted more of a mass-production solution.

The one-piece carbon fiber wheels for the Mustang weigh nearly half that of an equivalent aluminum wheel (18 pounds versus 33 pounds), and handling and acceleration performance see serious benefits. The wheels also provide a reduction in rotational inertia of more than 40%, which positively impacts acceleration and braking performance. The wheels are so light, the springs and MagneRide dampers had to be recalibrated because the suspension can respond considerably faster to road inputs.

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BMW Group and NTU Singapore launch US$965K electromobility research program; Electromobility in Asia and Smart Materials

July 01, 2015

BMW Group and Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) launched a new electromobility research program, involving the all-electric BMW i3 and plug-in hybrid sports car BMW i8. This new research program will be conducted at the Future Mobility Research Lab located on the NTU campus, which is the BMW Group’s first joint lab in Southeast Asia.

Both parties will be injecting a combined S$1.3 million (US$965,000) to drive the new research projects, on top of the initial S$5.5 million (US$4.1 million) funding allocated to the joint lab in 2013. The new research program will focus on two new areas, Electromobility in Asia and also Smart Materials. This is in addition to the original three research topics on which the joint lab is already working: Advanced Battery; Driver Enhancement; and Intelligent Mobility.

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Toho Tenax’s prepreg helps to cut 1.1MW Tajima Rimac electric racer’s weight

June 22, 2015

Teijin Limited announced that carbon fiber sheet pre-impregnated with matrix resin, or prepreg, made by Toho Tenax Co., Ltd., the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fibers and composites business, is used in the lightweight body of a new 1.1 MW electric racecar operated by Team APEV with Monster Sport. The Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One—driven by Tajima CEO Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima—will race in the Electric Modified Division in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb from June 22 to 28.

The racer, developed by Rimac Automobili in collaboration with Monster Sport and Team APEV, is based on an aluminum space frame covered with the carbon fiber composite body panels. A 57 kWh Rimac battery pack powers four Rimac permanent magnet synchronous motors, delivering combined maximum output of 1,100 kW (1,475 hp) and 1,500 N·m (1,106 lb-ft) of torque.

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Oak Ridge Lab, Hyundai Motor collaborating through new R&D agreement

June 09, 2015

Hyundai Motor Company and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have signed an agreement intended to strengthen the automaker’s US research and development portfolio. The MOU is an expression of intent and does not create a legally binding obligation, nor does it commit funds from either party.

Hyundai Motor Company and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. will be identifying and providing R&D needs of the automotive industry; providing feedback and evaluation technology concepts; consulting with ORNL on R&D topics related to the industry; and developing potential Hyundai-sponsored projects to be carried out under separate, legally binding agreements.

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Ricardo supporting Detroit Materials in commercialization of innovative lightweight steels

June 04, 2015

Ricardo Strategic Consulting, the global management consulting subsidiary of Ricardo plc, is providing support to start-up Detroit Materials (DM) for strategy and supply chain development to assist in the commercialization of its ultra-high performance structural materials into the automotive, truck and transportation sectors in support of structural lightweighting initiatives.

Detroit Materials has developed extremely strong, castable low-alloy steel. The DM steel offers the performance advantages of exotic-alloy steels (1300 MPa UTS, 16% elongation) with the ability to cast thin wall sections (3mm wall) and complex geometries at comparable cost per performance to ADI (Austempered Ductile Irons) and GJS ductile irons.

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Stanford team develops new ultrahigh surface area 3D porous graphitic carbon material for improved energy storage

June 01, 2015

Stanford University scientists have created a new ultrahigh surface area three-dimensional porous graphitic carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are presented in an open access paper published in the journal ACS Central Science.

The multivalent cross-linker and rigid conjugated framework help to maintain micro- and mesoporous structures, while promoting graphitization during carbonization and chemical activation. The design results in a class of hierarchically porous graphitic (HPG) carbons at temperature as low as 800 °C with record-high surface area (4,073 m2 g–1); large pore volume (2.26 cm–3), and hierarchical pore architecture. The maximum surface area achieved with conventional activated carbon is about 3,000 m2 g–1

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Researchers develop high-speed friction stir welding technique for aluminum joining at high volume production speeds

May 24, 2015

In partnership with General Motors, Alcoa and TWB Company LLC, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a high-speed friction stir welding (FSW) process (earlier post) to join aluminum sheets of varying thicknesses—a key to producing auto parts that are light yet retain strength where it’s most needed—at speeds required for high volume production. The PNNL-developed process is ten times faster than current FSW techniques, representing production speeds that, for the first time, meet high-volume assembly requirements. The advancement is reported in an open-access paper in JOM, the member journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

To create door frames, hoods and other auto parts, sheets of metal are welded together end-to-end into a “tailor-welded blank” (TWB) which is then cut into appropriate sizes before being stamped into the final shape. This process allows a high degree of customization. For example, a thicker gauge of metal can be used on one side of a car part, where extra strength is needed, joined via a weld to a thinner gauge on the side where it’s not.

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Sandia researchers demonstrate thermoelectric behavior in a MOF

May 20, 2015

Sandia National Laboratories researchers, with colleagues at the University of Virginia, have made the first measurements of thermoelectric behavior by a nanoporous metal-organic framework (MOF), a development that could lead to an entirely new class of materials for such applications as cooling computer chips and cameras and energy harvesting. “These results introduce MOFs as a new class of thermoelectric materials that can be tailored and optimized,” said Sandia physicist François Léonard.

This work, published in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, builds on previous research in which the Sandia team realized electrical conductivity in MOFs by infiltrating the pores with a molecule known as tetracyanoquinodimethan (TCNQ), as described in a 2013 paper in Science (Talin et al. 2013). (Earlier post.)

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Cooper Tire completes work on $1.5M DOE project to develop fuel efficient tires, exceeding targets

May 04, 2015

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company completed work under a $1.5-million government grant to develop advanced tire technology aimed at increasing vehicle fuel efficiency. The grant, awarded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, called for Cooper to develop technology for light vehicle tires that delivered a minimum 3% improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency while lowering average tire weight by at least 20%, all without sacrificing performance.

Cooper was successful in developing technologies that exceeded the project’s goals, delivering an average fuel efficiency improvement of 5.5% and weight reduction ranging from 23% to 37% in concept tires.

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Argonne supercomputer helped Rice/Minnesota team identify materials to improve fuel production

April 29, 2015

Scientists at Rice University and the University of Minnesota recently identified, through a large-scale, multi-step computational screening process, promising zeolite structures for two fuel applications: purification of ​ethanol from fermentation broths and the hydroisomerization of alkanes with 18–30 carbon atoms encountered in petroleum refining. (Earlier post.)

To date, more than 200 types of zeolites have been synthesized and more than 330,000 potential zeolite structures have been predicted based on previous computer simulations. With such a large pool of candidate materials, using traditional laboratory methods to identify the optimal zeolite for a particular job presents a time- and labor-intensive process that could take decades. The researchers used Mira, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s (ALCF) 10-petaflops IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, to run their large-scale, multi-step computational screening process.

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Jaguar bringing XE diesel to US in 2016

The Jaguar US lineup will expand in 2016 with the addition of the all new, aluminum-intensive Jaguar XE compact sports sedan in 20d (diesel) and 35t models each in Premium, Prestige and R-Sport trim levels and available in RWD or AWD. The Jaguar XE will be offered with a lighter version of the ZF 8-speed automatic used in the rest of the Jaguar range.

The fuel economy leader will be the Jaguar XE 20d, powered by the company’s new Ingenium 2.0 liter diesel (earlier post) delivering 180 hp (134 kW) and 318 lb-ft (431 N·m) of torque. Mated with the eight-speed automatic transmission, the Jaguar XE 20d will be the brand’s most fuel efficient model (EPA figures to be released at later date).

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Ames Lab team replaces Dysprosium in permanent magnets with Cerium for lower-cost, high performance solution

April 24, 2015

Researchers led by a team at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have created a new lower-cost magnetic alloy that is an alternative to conventional NdFeB-based permanent magnets. The new alloy—a potential replacement for high-performance permanent magnets found in EV motors and wind turbines—replaces dysprosium (Dy), one of the scarcest and costliest rare earth elements.

The new alloy of neodymium, iron and boron co-doped with cerium and cobalt is a less expensive material with properties that are competitive with traditional sintered magnets containing dysprosium. As reported in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, the Ce, Co co-doped alloys have excellent high-temperature magnetic properties with an intrinsic coercivity being the highest known for T ≥ 453 K (180 ˚C).

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ENGEL to equip Open Hybrid LabFactory with v-duo 3600 for integrated composites research

Injection moulding machine manufacturer ENGEL is currently building an ENGEL v-duo 3600 machine for the Open Hybrid LabFactory (OHLF) public/private collaborative research partnership in Wolfsburg, Germany where the machine will support research into functionally integrated composite technologies. (BMW uses ENGEL duo injection moulding machines to manufacture car body shell components for the BMW i3 electric vehicle. Earlier post.)

With a clamping force of 36,000 kN, the ENGEL v-duo 3600 is the largest machine in its series. One machine in the same clamping force class is installed at BMW’s Landshut factory, where large structural components of fibre-reinforced plastic composites are manufactured using the HP-RTM process.

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DOE awards U-Mich team $1.2M to synthesize and characterize promising MOFs for high-density H2 storage

April 23, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a multidisciplinary team at the University of Michigan $1.2 million to investigate further highly promising metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that the team had identified earlier as more efficient materials for high-density on-board hydrogen storage for fuel cell vehicles. (Earlier post.)

The U-M team’s efforts to develop such materials began in 2012 with researchers from multiple disciplines: Mike Cafarella, assistant professor of computer science and engineering; Antek Wong-Foy, associate research scientist in chemistry; Don Siegel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and postdoctoral researcher Jacob Goldsmith.

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“WaterBone” design wins grand prize in ARPA-E LITECAR Challenge

April 20, 2015

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The winning design: “WaterBone”. Click to enlarge.

Local Motors, in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), announced the winner of the LIghtweighting Technologies Enabling Comprehensive Automotive Redesign (LITECAR) Challenge. The design challenge served to accelerate innovative ideas by using novel material technologies, structural designs, energy absorbing materials and unique methods of manufacturing to reduce vehicle curb weight while maintaining current US automotive safety standards. 254 conceptual designs were submitted. (Earlier post.)

The winning design, Aerodynamic Water Droplet with Strong Lightweight Bone Structure (“WaterBone”), was created by Andres Tovar, a mechanical engineering assistant professor at the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and his group of graduate students. The proposed design—which makes innovations in the structural layout, use of multi-materials, and the 3D printing manufacturing process—has the outer shape (envelope) of a water droplet with an embedded trabecular (graded porous) bone-like structure (spaceframe). The water droplet shape provides a low drag coefficient, while the spaceframe provides the mechanical strength and energy absorption capabilities (crashworthiness) required to protect the occupant in the event of a collision.

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Carbon Core of next-gen BMW 7 Series helps reduce sedan’s weight by up to 130 kg; remote control parking

April 18, 2015

BMW presented an initial selection of technology highlights for the next generation of the BMW 7 Series model range featuring developments in lightweight design, driving dynamics, comfort, intelligent connectivity and operation.

Due to the BMW EfficientLightweight strategy, the new BMW 7 Series line-up will weigh up to 130 kilograms (287 lbs) less than the outgoing generation of models. At its heart is a body structure with a Carbon Core based on the transfer of technology from the development of the BMW i models. The use of CFRP for structural elements of the passenger cell based on hybrid construction with ultra-high-strength steels—such as the B-pillars—increases both the overall strength and the torsional and bending stiffness of the passenger cell. To this end, the configuration of sheet metal elements can be adjusted as required, allowing for a significant reduction in the weight of the body.

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Ford, DowAksa jointly to develop carbon fiber for high-volume automotive light-weighting applications

April 17, 2015

Ford and DowAksa signed a joint development agreement (JDA) formally to advance research on cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing of automotive-grade carbon fiber, a material poised to play a significant role in the drive to make vehicles lighter. (Earlier post.)

The agreement, between Ford Motor Company, Ford Global Technologies and DowAksa (a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş.) will combine DowAksa’s feedstock capacity, carbon fiber conversion and downstream intermediates production capabilities with Ford’s expertise in design, engineering and high-volume manufacturing. The goal is to produce materials that make cost-effective carbon fiber composite parts that are much lighter than steel but meet automotive strength requirements.

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S. Korean/US team develops new production method for inexpensive and more efficient thermoelectric materials

April 03, 2015

Researchers in South Korea at IBS Center for Integrated Nanostructure Physics along with Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the Department of Nano Applied Engineering at Kangwon National University, the Department of Energy Science at Sungkyunkwan University, and Materials Science department at CalTech have developed a new method for creating a novel and much more efficient thermoelectric bismuth antimony telluride (Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3) alloy.

In tests reported in a paper in the journal Science, the efficiency (zT) reached 2.01 at 320 K (46.85 ˚C) within the range of 1.86 ±0.15 at 320 K for 30 samples, nearly doubling the industry standard. When the melt spun alloy is used in a Peltier cooler, the results are also significant. The new material was able achieve a temperature change of 81 K at 300 K (26.85° C).

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HRL developing a new material for hypersonic vehicles; proof-of-concept for DARPA MDP program

HRL Laboratories, LLC (formerly Hughes Research Labs) will be developing new materials for hypersonic vehicles under the Materials Development for Platforms (MDP) program through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA-BAA-14-52). These new materials aim to reduce the weight and cost of vehicle aeroshells while withstanding the extreme environment encountered during hypersonic flight.

Currently, the applied material development sequence takes 10+ years. This is out of step with vehicle programs with much shorter design cycles, limiting new aerospace platforms from using new materials until they are proven. The goal of DARPA’s MDP program is to connect designers and material developers together more effectively and to compress this applied material development process by at least 75% to 2.5 years using a hypersonic vehicle’s aerodynamic outer shell (boost-glide hot structure aeroshell) as the initial test case.

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BASF and Floatility partner on ultra-lightweight solar-powered electric scooter: 12kg e-floater

March 26, 2015

BASF and Floatility have partnered for the development of an ultra-lightweight and solar-powered electric scooter. Weighing less than 12 kilograms (26.5 lbs) and consisting of more than 80% composite and plastic materials from BASF, the scooter will give commuters the sensation of floating and thus has been named ‘e-floater’. The e-floater is designed to bridge the gap on the last mile between home or city center and the nearest public transport.

BASF will provide versatile plastic materials and support the project with its extensive development capabilities. Molding multiple parts to create complex shapes with plastic materials enables design freedom and the streamlined construction of the ‘e-floater’.

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DOE announces conditional commitment for $259M loan to Alcoa for automotive aluminum production

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a conditional commitment for a $259-million loan to Alcoa Inc. If finalized, the loan would support the company’s Alcoa, Tennessee, manufacturing facility (Tennessee Operations), where the company will produce high-strength aluminum for North American automakers looking to lightweight their vehicles. (Earlier post.)

This conditional commitment is the first issued by the Department under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program since Secretary Moniz announced a number of improvements to the program last year, and is the first step toward issuing a final loan to Alcoa.

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Cadillac CT6 mixed-material body structure saves 90 kg over predominantly steel construction

March 15, 2015

Cadillac will use an advanced mixed-material approach for the lightweight body structure of the upcoming CT6 range-topping full-size sedan, which will debut 31 March at the New York International Auto Show. The structure is aluminum-intensive, but the new Cadillac also includes 13 different materials customized for each area of the car to advance driving dynamics, fuel economy and cabin quietness; the mixed material approach saved 90 kg (198 pounds) compared to a predominately steel construction.

Sixty-four percent of the CT6 body structure is aluminum, including all exterior body panels. Thirteen complex high-pressure die cast components make up the lower structure of the CT6 body, along with aluminum sheets and extrusions. The vehicle underbody uses steel close-out panels on the lower structure to create a bank vault-quiet cabin without the added weight of extensive sound-deadening material, often used to compensate for aluminum panels in the occupant compartment.

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Penn and ExxonMobil researchers uncover mechanisms behind performance of major antiwear additive in lubricants

March 13, 2015

One of the main modern antiwear lubricant additives is zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP)—widely used in automotive lubricants—which forms crucial antiwear tribofilms at sliding interfaces. However, despite its importance in prolonging machinery life and reducing energy use, the mechanisms governing its tribofilm growth are not well-understood. This limits the development of replacements with better performance and catalytic converter compatibility.

Now, in a study published in the journal Science, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and ExxonMobil, have uncovered the mechanisms governing the growth of ZDDP antiwear tribofilms at sliding interfaces. The study provides a way forward for scientifically testing new anti-wear additives. Being able to pinpoint the level of stress at which they begin to break down and form tribofilms allows researchers to compare various properties in a more rigorous fashion.

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New diamine-appended MOFs can capture CO2 for half or less of the energy cost of current materials

March 12, 2015

UC Berkeley chemists have developed a new material that can efficiently capture CO2 and then release it at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials, potentially cutting by half or more the energy currently consumed in the process.

The material, a metal-organic framework (MOF) modified with nitrogen compounds called diamines, can be tuned to remove carbon dioxide from the room-temperature air of a submarine, for example, or the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) flue gases from a power plant. A paper elucidating the mechanism of what the researchers are calling “phase-change” adsorbents is published in the journal Nature.

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Sub-micrometer carbon spheres as oil additives reduce engine friction up to 25%

March 06, 2015

Researchers at Purdue University have shown that adding ultra-smooth submicrometer carbon spheres to motor oil can reduce friction and wear typically seen in engines by up to 25%. The researchers also have shown how to potentially mass-produce the spheres, making them hundreds of times faster than previously possible using ultrasound to speed chemical reactions in manufacturing.

In a paper in the ACS journal Advanced Materials & Interfaces, they reported that the new lubricant composition—3% carbon spheres suspended in a reference SAE 5W30 engine oil—exhibited a substantial reduction in friction and wear (10 to 25%) compared to the neat oil, without change in the viscosity. Friction reduction was dependent on the sliding speed and applied load, and maximum reduction was achieved at the highest sliding speed in the boundary lubrication regime.

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NanoSteel expands material capabilities for additive manufacturing powder portfolio

March 04, 2015

The NanoSteel Company (earlier post) has expanded its additive manufacturing (AM) material capabilities to support metal 3D printing of complex high-hardness parts and the ability to customize properties layer-by-layer through gradient material design. The company’s targeted markets for its AM powder portfolio are tool & die, energy, auto, and agriculture.

In September 2014, Nanosteel announced the expansion of the company’s engineered powders business into additive manufacturing. By leveraging the uniform metal matrix microstructures in the laser-sintering process, the company was able to build a crack-free, fully dense bulk sample. The company then leveraged this breakthrough in AM wear materials to print a bearing and impeller using the powder bed fusion process.

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POSTECH researchers develop new high-strength, lightweight steel

February 27, 2015

Researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea have developed a new type of steel with improved tensile strength and lightness. In their approach, they effectively utilized a brittle intermetallic compound (B2) that metallurgists usually try to suppress by modifying B2 morphology and dispersion in the steel matrix.

The specific tensile strength and ductility of the developed steels improve on those of the lightest and strongest metallic materials known, titanium alloys, the researchers said. The results, reported in a paper in the journal Nature, demonstrate how intermetallic compounds can be harnessed in the alloy design of lightweight steels.

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Magna unveiling lightweight plug-in hybrid sportscar at Geneva show

Global automotive supplier Magna International Inc. will debut MILA Plus, an two-seat plug-in hybrid sports car, at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show. The lightweight (1,520 kg, 3,351 lb) concept vehicle, the latest member of the MILA family of concept vehicles (earlier post), offers an all-electric range of 75 km with reduced CO2 emissions of 32g/km.

System power output is 200 kW (272 hp), with 580 N·m of peak torque. The MILA Plus accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 4.9s; electric acceleration from 0-80 km/h takes 3.6s. The performance of the three-cylinder gasoline engine is enhanced by the addition of two electric motors—one between the internal combustion engine and transmission to drive the rear axle, and one on the electric front axle. This arrangement results in an electric all-wheel-drive system which transmits more torque to the road and results in improvement of vehicle maneuverability and dynamics.

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Lux: carbon fiber to go mainstream in automobiles by 2025

February 22, 2015

Driven by a faster-than-expected pace of technology development, carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) will be poised to gain widespread adoption for automotive lightweighting by 2025, according to a new report from Lux Research, “Scaling Up Carbon Fiber: Roadmap to Automotive Adoption.”

Advances already underway in fiber, resin and composite part production will lead to a $6 billion market for automotive CFRPs in 2020, more than double Lux’s earlier projection. (Earlier post.) Even this figure is dwarfed by the full potential for CFRPs in automotive if they can become affordable enough for use in mainstream vehicles, Lux posits.

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Ricardo and Albany Engineering Composites to explore use of advanced aerospace composites in automotive; 3D composites

February 09, 2015

Aerospace composite supplier Albany Engineered Composites (AEC) and automotive engineering and consulting company Ricardo have entered into a collaborative partnership to provide composite body, chassis and other structural components to the automotive industry.

Albany Engineered Composites has demonstrated expertise in the advanced design and manufacturing of composite parts noted for their impact and damage tolerance in the aerospace market. Under the terms the agreement, Ricardo and AEC will jointly explore the use of AEC technologies such as 3D composites for providing the stiffness, strength, durability and energy absorption necessary to lightweight applications such as crash structures. Often these structures are made of metal and are difficult to replace with a lighter weight material while still maintaining performance requirements.

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Lintec licenses UTD carbon nanotube technology, opens center to spur commercialization

Lintec of America has licensed novel fabrication methods for carbon nanotube (CNT) macrostructures, including sheets, yarns and ribbons, developed at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) by Dr. Ray Baughman, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry, and his colleagues at the University’s Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, which he directs.

Lintec has trademarked the technology as DryDraw and cSilk, and is forming the Nano-Science and Technology Center (NSTC) in Richardson, TX, to focus on scaling up the manufacturing and commercialization of nano-engineered applications.

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Extensive materials genome modeling study suggests best adsosrbent materials for natural gas storage already designed; 70% of ARPA-E target

February 03, 2015

Using a materials genome approach, a collaboration between EPFL, the University of California at Berkeley, Rice University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has searched for high-performance adsorbent materials to store natural gas in a vehicular fuel tank.

In their study, published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, they simulated more than 650,000 designs for nanoporous materials. They found that the best candidates for natural gas storage have already been designed—but that those best materials meet only 70% of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) targets for natural gas storage on vehicles. (Earlier post.)

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Rice, Minnesota scientists use predictive modeling to identify optimized zeolites to aid ethanol, petroleum production

January 23, 2015

Scientists at Rice University and the University of Minnesota have identified, through a large-scale, multi-step computational screening process, promising zeolite structures for two energy-related applications: the purification of ​ethanol from fermentation broths and the hydroisomerization of alkanes with 18–30 carbon atoms encountered in petroleum refining.

The results, presented in a paper published in Nature Communications, demonstrate that predictive modeling of synthetic zeolites—a technique pioneered by Rice bioengineer Michael Deem—and data-driven science can be applied to solve some of the most challenging problems facing industries that require efficient ways to separate or catalyze materials.

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DOE to award $55.8M for advanced vehicle technologies; $35M for fuel cell and hydrogen

January 22, 2015

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a new Vehicle Technologie program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001201) for $55.8 million. DOE also announced up to $35 million to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, including enabling the early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles. This new funding opportunity announcement will be available in early February.

The Vehicle Technologies funding is targeted at a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects that aim to reduce the price and improve the efficiency of plug-in electric, alternative fuel, and conventional vehicles. Topics addressed include: advanced batteries (including manufacturing processes) and electric drive R&D; Lightweight materials; Advanced combustion engine and enabling technologies R&D; and Fuels technologies (dedicated or dual-fuel natural gas engine technologies).

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UQM Technologies granted patent on permanent magnet electric motor design using non-rare earth magnets

January 20, 2015

UQM Technologies Inc. has been granted a US patent (8,928,198, “Brushless PM machine construction enabling low coercivity magnets”) for an electric and hybrid electric vehicle motor design using non-rare earth magnets. The patent covers the unique magnet geometry and the method of manufacturing the motor.

The majority of electric and hybrid electric vehicles produced today use permanent magnet (PM) motors with rare-earth magnet materials because of the high coercivity of the rare earth materials. Coercivity is a measure of the reverse field needed to drive magnetization to zero after being saturated—i.e., it is a measure of the resistance to demagnetization. The new UQM design enables the use of low coercivity magnets, such as Aluminum Nickel Cobalt (AlNiCo) or Iron Cobalt Tungsten (FeCoW), in PM machines.

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EPA, ECOS and Motor Vehicle Industry Associations to sign memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the reduction of copper in brake pads

On Wednesday 21 January, representatives of the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and motor vehicle industry associations will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the agency and the motor vehicle industry for the reduction of copper in brake pads. The signing will take place in conjunction with the SAE 2015 Government/Industry Meeting.

The MOU will provide the motor vehicle industry with consistent copper reduction guidelines, eliminate disparate state regulations and create a level playing field for brake product manufacturers. The MOU is the result of a collaborative effort between the regulatory agency and the motor vehicle industry.

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Researchers suggest hybrid graphene oxide/cellulose microfibers could supersede carbon fibers

January 16, 2015

Researchers from Nanjing Forestry University and the University of Maryland have designed high-performance microfibers by hybridizing two-dimensional (2D) graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets and one-dimensional (1D) nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) fibers. The resulting well-aligned, strong microfibers have the potential to supersede carbon fibers due to their low cost, the team suggests in an open access paper published in the journal NPG Asia Materials.

The hybrid microfibers are much stronger than microfibers composed of 1D NFC or 2D GO alone. In their paper, they reported that experimental results and molecular dynamics simulations reveal the synergistic effect between GO and NFC: the bonding between neighboring GO nanosheets is enhanced by NFC because the introduction of NFC provides the extra bonding options available between the nanosheets.

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Johnson Controls displays 40% lighter CAMISMA seat prototype at NAIAS; planned availability in 2019

January 15, 2015

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CAMISMA seat prototype is 40% lighter than conventional seats. Click to enlarge.

Johnson Controls and its partners are working to reduce the use of metals in vehicle seat structures by replacing them with multi-material systems in the CAMISMA (carbon-amide-metal-based interior structure using a multi-material system approach) research project. (Earlier post.)

The company is displaying the CAMISMA seat prototype, which achieves a more than 40% weight reduction against conventionally manufactured seat structures without compromising safety properties, at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Johnson Controls received this year’s CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers) Innovation Award in the “Green” category for this work. According to the jury, the project represents an “outstanding, future-oriented solution for sustainable carbon dioxide reduction.

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Ford puts the pedal down on performance … but not with electric drive technology right now

January 14, 2015

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The new Ford GT on display in the Ford stand at NAIAS. Click to enlarge.

In December, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said Ford would focus on five key areas of innovation, one of them being performance. He said that more than 12 new performance vehicles would be introduced through 2020. (Earlier post.) At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this week, Ford delivered first proof of that focus with the reveal of the new Ford GT carbon-fiber supercar, as well as the new F-150 Raptor based on the new aluminum F-150 and the Shelby GT350R Mustang.

The stunning Ford GT—which received the EyesOn Design Award at NAIAS for best production vehicle—serves as a technology showcase for top EcoBoost engine performance, aerodynamics and lightweight carbon fiber construction. Beginning production late next year, the GT will the road in select global markets in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ford GT race cars placing 1-2-3 at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, unlike today’s hybrid drive Le Mans racers, or the new Acura NSX hybrid supercar, also revealed at NAIAS (earlier post), the GT—nor any of the other Ford performance vehicles unveiled at NAIAS—makes no use of electric drive technology.

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ASG life-cycle study finds aluminum Ford F-150 “Best Full-size Truck of 2015” from environmental and economic perspective

According to the latest annual life-cycle study from the Automotive Science Group (ASG), the all-new lightweight aluminum 2015 Ford F-150 leads the full-size light-duty truck competition in all environmental and economic performance areas; accordingly, ASG selected the F-150 as its Best Full-size Truck of 2015. According to ASG and the principles of ecological economics, environmental and economic considerations are equally important in determining a vehicle’s overall value. ASG’s proprietary vehicle rating platform—the Automotive Performance Index—analyzes both performance areas for a comprehensive vehicle assessment. ASG’s 2015 Study assessed 225 light-duty truck models.

Although the gasoline-fueled F-150 with 2.7L EcoBoost delivers 22 mpg (10.68 l/100 km) combined—1 mpg shy of RAM’s EcoDiesel—the F-150’s life-cycle environmental and economic performance “leaves RAM and others in the dust,” according to ASG. According to ASG, the 2015 F-150 holds the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint and lowest cost of ownership of any full-size truck in the North American market today. Ford has produced a lightweight aluminum-intensive truck that costs less and performs better than its conventional truck counterparts over the vehicle’s life-cycle, says Colby Self, managing director of ASG.

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Local Motors 3D printing a Strati at NAIAS; announces two micro-factories to open

January 13, 2015

Local Motors is 3D printing and assembling a Strati—the first 3D-printed car—live from the show floor at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). (Earlier post.)

The design was chosen in May 2014 from more than 200 submitted to Local Motors by the company’s online co-creation community after launching a call for entries. The winning design was submitted by Michele Anoè who was awarded a cash prize plus the opportunity to see his design brought to life. Less than a year after the original design was chosen, Local Motors will premiere a mid-model refresh, which began its inaugural print on Monday, 12 January on the show floor during NAIAS.

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University of Tennessee to head $250M advanced composites manufacturing institute; Ford, Honda and Volkswagen members

January 09, 2015

The Department of Energy and a consortium of 122 companies, nonprofits, and universities led by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville will invest more than $250 million—$70 million in federal funds and more than $180 million in non-federal funds—to launch a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Composites—the fifth institute to be awarded of the eight national institute competitions launched earlier (earlier post).

The new Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced today by President Obama, will focus on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites that combine strong fibers with tough plastics to yield materials that are lighter and stronger than steel. While advanced composites are used in selective industries such as aircraft, satellites and cars, these materials remain expensive, require large amounts of energy to manufacture and are difficult to recycle. IACMI is dedicated to overcoming these barriers by developing low-cost, high-production, energy-efficient manufacturing and recycling processes for composites applications.

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ARPA-E issues $125M open solicitation for energy R&D; transportation and stationary applications

January 07, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a $125-million open Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). OPEN 2015 (DOE-FOA-0001261) will support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies in all areas of energy research and development, for both transportation and stationary applications.

OPEN 2015 is the third open funding solicitation issued by the agency. Open solicitations ensure that ARPA-E does not miss opportunities to support potentially transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E programs. The projects selected under OPEN 2015 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation and support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

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ORNL teams embeds crown ethers in graphene for increased performance; potential for separations, sensors, batteries, biotech & more

December 28, 2014

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This sheet of graphene contains an array of crown ethers that can strongly bind select guest ions or molecules. Image credit: ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a way to increase significantly the selectivity and binding strength of crown ethers by embedding them within a rigid framework of graphene. The results, published in Nature Communications, may enable broader use of crown ethers in diverse applications. Their strong, specific electrostatic binding may advance sensors, chemical separations, nuclear-waste cleanup, extraction of metals from ores, purification and recycling of rare-earth elements, water purification, biotechnology, energy production in durable lithium-ion batteries, catalysis, medicine and data storage.

Ethers are simple organic molecules in which an oxygen atom bridges two carbon atoms. When linked together in crown-shaped large molecular rings, they have the ability selectively to incorporate various atoms or molecules within the cavity formed by the ring. The size and shape of the cavity formed within a crown ether molecule confers selectivity for complementary ions and small molecules that fit it, like a lock and key. Crown ethers come in different sizes, so they can accommodate ions of different diameters.

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Rice U team uses new computational methodology to identify high capacity MOFs for on-board natural gas storage

December 18, 2014

Researchers from Rice University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have developed a computational methodology to support the experimental exploration of potential high-capacity metal organic frameworks (MOFs) for use in on-board storage of natural gas. The advantages to using MOFs as a storage medium are many and start with increased capacity over the heavy, high-pressure cylinders in current use.

In a paper in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry C, they report identifying 48 materials with higher predicted deliverable capacity (at 65 bar storage, 5.8 bar depletion, and 298 K) than MOF-5—the currently best available for the natural gas storage application. The best material identified by the researchers has a predicted deliverable capacity 8% higher than that of MOF-5.

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New high-entropy alloy is as light as aluminum, stronger than titanium alloys

December 11, 2014

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Ashby plot of strength vs. density for engineering materials. (Yield strength for metals and polymers, tear strength for elastomers, compressive strength for ceramics, and tensile strength for composites.) The low-density HEA is indicated with the star. Youssef et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Qatar University have developed a new high-entropy alloy that has a higher strength-to-weight ratio that they say is unmatched by any other metallic material. The researchers used mechanical alloying to combine lithium, magnesium, titanium, aluminum and scandium to make a low-density, nanocrystalline alloy (Al20Li20Mg10Sc20Ti30) with an estimated strength-to-weight ratio that is significantly higher than other nanocrystalline alloys and is comparable to ceramics. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Materials Research Letters.

High-entropy alloys (HEAs) are a new class of multi-component alloy systems in which the design of the alloys is based not on adding to a single base element, but on choosing elements that will form solid solutions when mixed at near-equiatomic concentrations. (Earlier post.) HEAs

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Consultancy looks to aggressive weight reduction in major powertrain components for CO2 savings; metal and polymer matrix composites

UK automotive engineering consultancy Drive System Design (DSD) suggests the next breakthrough in CO2 emissions reduction will come from more aggressive weight reduction in major powertrain components. Analysis by the company has identified both near-term and medium-term solutions for the manufacture of items such as transmission casings using advanced composite materials, but favors modern hybrid materials such as metal and polymer matrix composites (MMCs and PMCs) over conventional carbon composite solutions.

Continual pressure on the automotive industry to reduce carbon emissions is leading to weight reduction initiatives throughout the vehicle. Currently, several of the heaviest individual components in the powertrain, such as the main casings for the transmission, are still metal (e.g., aluminum alloys, magnesium alloys and iron) castings despite the widespread use of lighter materials elsewhere on the vehicle.

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New Mazda bio-based engineering plastic features high-quality finish without paint; suitable for exterior parts

December 10, 2014

Mazda Motor Corporation, in conjunction with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, has developed a new bio-based engineering plastic that can be used for exterior design parts for automobiles. The new plastic will help Mazda to reduce its impact on the environment in a number of ways.

As the plastic is made from plant-derived materials, its adoption will help to curb the use of petroleum resources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, the material can be dyed and emissions of volatile organic compounds associated with the painting process reduced. Dyed parts made from the bio-based engineering plastic feature a finish of higher-quality than can be achieved with traditional painted plastic. The deep hue and smooth, mirror-like finish of the surface make the newly-developed plastic suitable for external vehicle parts with a high design factor.

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Alcoa unveils major advance in aluminum manufacturing technology; new Micromill targeting future automotive aluminum products

December 06, 2014

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Alcoa’s Micromill has a much smaller footprint than conventional direct casting technology, and produces automotive aluminum alloys with 40% greater formability and 30% greater strength. Click to enlarge.

Alcoa has developed new manufacturing technology—the Micromill—that will produce what the company says is the most advanced aluminum sheet on the market. The Micromill will enable the next-generation of automotive aluminum products, and equip Alcoa to capture growing demand from automakers for lighter-weight, yet durable and formable materials.

The Alcoa-patented Micromill process significantly changes the microstructure of the metal, allowing the production of an aluminum alloy for automotive applications that has 40% greater formability and 30% greater strength than the incumbent aluminum used today while meeting stringent automotive surface quality requirements. The Alcoa Micromill technology and the differentiated metal it will produce are covered by more than 130 patents around the world.

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EnerG2 and BASF in strategic partnership to improve and scale-up carbon materials for supercaps and start-stop PbA batteries

November 18, 2014

EnerG2, a Seattle-based company manufacturing advanced carbon materials for next-generation energy storage devices (earlier post), and BASF have entered a strategic partnership to collaborate to improve and to scale-up the production of EnerG2’s proprietary carbon materials for use in supercapacitor electrodes and as a performance additive in start-stop lead-acid batteries.

Engineered carbons enhance storage performance by providing higher voltage and energy in supercapacitors and by significantly increasing the charging rate of lead-acid batteries at a partial-state-of-charge. EnerG2’s patented carbon technology platform enables large-scale production of carbon materials that surpass the limitations of the carbons traditionally used in energy storage.

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DOE reports progress on development of hydrogen storage technologies

November 17, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office’ (FCTO) 2014 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Progress Report (earlier post)—an annual summary of results from projects funded by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program—described a number of advances in the field of hydrogen storage.

The DOE Hydrogen Storage sub-program has developed a dual strategy. For the near-term, the focus is on improving performance and lowering the cost of high-pressure compressed hydrogen storage systems. For the long-term, the effort is on developing advanced cold/cryo-compressed and materials-based hydrogen storage system technologies.

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Vanderbilt/ORNL team discovers new form of crystalline order that could be attractive for thermoelectric applications

A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has discovered an entirely new form of crystalline order that simultaneously exhibits both crystal and polycrystalline properties, which they describe as “interlaced crystals.”

The interlaced crystal arrangement has properties that could make it ideal for thermoelectric applications. The discovery of materials with improved thermoelectric efficiency could increase the efficiency of electrical power generation, improve automobile mileage and reduce the cost of air conditioning. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers reported finding this unusual arrangement of atoms while studying nanoparticles made from the semiconductor copper-indium sulfide (CIS), which is being actively studied for use in solar cells.

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Federal-Mogul expands powertrain materials portfolio for more efficient heavy-duty diesel engines

November 16, 2014

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A heavy-duty exhaust valve guide with thermal deformation and temperature color scaling demonstrates high side load at high temperatures in contact with the exhaust gas. Federal-Mogul is developing powertrain materials to address conditions such as these. Source: Federal-Mogul. Click to enlarge.

Federal-Mogul Holdings Corporation’s Powertrain Division has expanded its range of high performance materials for valve guides, seats and turbocharger bushings that support the commercial vehicle industry’s drive towards more efficient engines. Providing superior wear resistance at elevated temperatures, the new materials use Federal-Mogul’s well-proven powder metal (PM) technology to add other benefits, such as greater corrosion resistance and mechanical strength, depending upon the application.

Downsized, heavily turbocharged engines with high levels of aftertreatment such as particulate filter systems and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) run hotter than their predecessors, explained Frank Zwein, Federal-Mogul’s global application engineering director, Valve Seats and Guides.

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DSM wins SPE Automotive Innovation Award for bio-based EcoPaXX integrated crankshaft cover for Volkswagen Group diesels

November 14, 2014

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EcoPaXX crankshaft cover. Click to enlarge.

A lightweight multi-functional crankshaft cover in Royal DSM’s EcoPaXX high-performance polyamide 410 was top in the Powertrain category at the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division Innovation Awards Competition and Gala in Detroit. The 70% bio-based EcoPaXX is made principally from topical castor beans and is 100% carbon neutral from cradle to gate. Castor oil is obtained from the Ricinus Communis plant, which grows in tropical regions on relatively poor soil, and does not compete with the food-chain.

The EcoPaXX crankshaft cover is produced by DSM’s automotive component specialist partner KACO in Germany for the latest generation of MDB-4 TDI diesel engines developed by the Volkswagen Group. The engines are fitted to various car models made by VW, Audi, Seat and Škoda. Dr. Lutz Wohlfarth from Volkswagen, and Marcio Lima from KACO were both at the Gala in Detroit to collect the SPE award.

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Volkswagen outlines a range of near-term technologies for reducing fuel consumption and emissions; stop-start 2.0, 10-speed DSG

November 11, 2014

Volkswagen presented its latest technologies for reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions—which includes the first 10-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG)—in an Innovation Workshop for the media at the Ehra-Lessien test track facility near Wolfsburg.

Volkswagen AG has set the goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable carmaker by the year 2018. Compared to baseline figures for 2010, the Group wants to reduce energy and water consumption, waste generation and emissions (including CO2 emissions) by 25% in all of its business areas. (I.e., VW’s “Strategy 2018”, earlier post.) To achieve this, the Volkswagen brand—the highest volume brand of the Group—is counting on electric mobility (zero-emission and plug-in hybrid models); on continually more fuel-efficient combustion engines and gearboxes; progressive lightweight design; aerodynamics; and efficiency “in every conceivable area”.

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New Unipiston clutch piston technology in series production; enables better fuel economy

November 06, 2014

Federal-Mogul Powertrain’s new high-modulus injection-molded Unipiston clutch pistons are now in series production at the company’s facility in Chivasso, Italy. The technology was a 2013 Automotive News PACE Award Winner in the process category.

Unipiston is a one-piece, rubber-to-metal bonded piston that hydraulically engages clutches to activate the gearshift. The compact one-piece design reduces the number of leak paths while improving reliability and simplifying assembly, and allows transmission designers more flexibility, including increased clutch apply pressures, higher rotational clutch speeds, and larger diameter clutches. This flexibility enables transmissions with additional clutches to be packaged in a smaller space, while providing improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and enhanced vehicle performance.

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Rice University researchers create dual-purpose edge-oriented MoS2 film for energy storage, hydrogen catalysis

November 03, 2014

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A new material developed at Rice University based on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) exposes as much of the edge as possible, making it efficient as both a catalyst for hydrogen production and for energy storage. Courtesy of the Tour Group. Click to enlarge.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s two-dimensional form into a edge-oriented nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage as part of a supercapacitor device.

The versatile chemical compound, classified as a dichalcogenide, is inert along its flat sides; however, previous studies determined the material’s edges are highly efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), a process used in fuel cells to pull hydrogen from water. Tour and his colleagues found a cost-effective way to create flexible films of the material that maximize the amount of exposed edge and have potential for a variety of energy-oriented applications. A paper on the research appears in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Mercedes-Benz wins MATERIALICA awards for diesel passenger car steel pistons and CFRP struts

October 25, 2014

Mercedes-Benz received two MATERIALICA Design and Technology Awards at the MATERIALICA 2014 trade fair for materials applications, surface technology and product engineering in Munich. The first was for the new steel pistons for diesel engines (earlier post), the second for high-strength carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) struts.

The MATERIALICA Award 2014 comprised five categories: Material; Surface & Technology; Product; CO2 Efficiency; and Student. The MATERIALICA Design + Technology Award focuses on product and technological developments in all sectors which implement a successful bundling of competencies.

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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

Metallurgy europe
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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