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ARPA-E to award $28M to develop ultrahigh-temperature materials for gas turbine applications

ARPA-E announced up to $28 million in funding (DE-FOA-0002337) for a new program, ULtrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency (ULTIMATE). The ULTIMATE program will develop and demonstrate ultrahigh-temperature materials that can operate in high temperature and high stress environments of a gas turbine blade. Projects will specifically target gas turbine applications in the power generation and aviation industries.


Temperature capability of the current SOA and the ARPA-E target for novel gas turbine-blade alloy base metals. Source: ARPA-E

Gas turbines are used for a variety of applications, from aerospace engines to industrial power generation. Natural gas turbines currently produce an estimated 35% of the electricity generated across the United States.

The development of new ultrahigh-temperature materials with compatible coatings and manufacturing technologies has the potential to increase gas turbine efficiency up to 7%, which will significantly reduce wasted energy and carbon emissions.

The ULTIMATE program will improve the efficiency of gas turbines by increasing the temperature capability of the materials used in the most demanding environments, such as the turbine blade.

The temperature capability of current state-of-the-art blade materials has improved steadily over the last few decades to 1100 ºC, through incremental microstructure and chemistry refinement. However, there exists a new opportunity to discover, develop, and implement novel materials that work at temperatures significantly higher than industry standard superalloys, to further increase efficiency and economic gains.

The proposed program aims to develop refractory metal alloys (such as Mo, Nb etc.) for high-temperature components in gas turbines. Refractory metals typically have melting points above 2000 °C, high intrinsic strength at high temperatures, and good thermal conductivity.

ULTMATE projects will develop novel ultrahigh-temperature metal alloys and coatings integrated with advanced manufacturing processes.

The ULTIMATE program will target enabling gas-turbines blades to operate continuously at 1300 ºC in a material test environment—or with coatings, with turbine inlet temperatures of 1800 ºC or higher.

The successful materials must be able to withstand not only the highest temperature in a turbine but also the extreme stresses imposed on turbine blades. This program will concurrently develop manufacturing processes for turbine components using these materials, enabling complex geometries that can be seamlessly integrated in the system design. Environmental barrier coatings and thermal barrier coatings are within the scope of this program.

ULTIMATE consists of two separate phases, which may be proposed for a maximum of 18 and 24 months, respectively. In phase I, project teams will demonstrate proof of concept of their alloy compositions, coatings, and manufacturing processes through modeling and laboratory scale tensile coupon (sample) testing of basic properties.

In phase II, approved project teams will investigate selected alloy compositions and coatings to evaluate a comprehensive suite of physical, chemical, and mechanical properties as well as produce generic small-scale turbine blades to demonstrate manufacturability.


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