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America's Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge

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Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies, Inc.

Ames Laboratory

Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies, Inc. (IPAT) aims to become a leading domestic titanium powder producer allowing for a paradigm shift in the cost of titanium powders for metal injection molding (MIM) feedstock.  Decreasing this cost will create vast opportunities for aerospace, military, biomedical, and consumer applications.  Titanium and its fabrication by MIM can become one of the United States’ most advanced processing technologies and help jump-start many corresponding manufacturing sectors, spurring job creation and economic growth throughout the United States.

Titanium is viewed as one of the most strategic metals of our future.  Its high-strength, lightweight, and good corrosion resistance makes it superior in many demanding applications, such as aerospace components.  Dr. Randall German reported in 2009 that saving 2.2 pounds of weight on an aircraft is valued at $500 dollars in annual fuel savings, so the implementation of titanium into many of its components could contribute to significant fuel savings over time.  Titanium is also the material of choice due to its bio-inertness for biomedical implants allowing them to be useful for a much longer period of time than the current standard, stainless steel, thus preventing multiple invasive replacement surgeries.

However, titanium’s extreme reactivity with casting mold materials and machining cutting tools makes fabrication of components with a complex final-shape rather expensive and inefficient.  Generally, the “buy-to-fly” ratio for titanium aerospace parts is at least 10:1, with 90 percent of the original weight being converted to machining chips and scrap.  An attractive solution to these inefficient fabrication methods is to use a powder metallurgy processing route, which has many advantages over other manufacturing methods and is much more energy and material efficient.  One of the greenest manufacturing technologies within powder metallurgy is metal injection molding (MIM). 

MIM is a series of steps of making large numbers of relatively small, but geometrically complex parts very efficiently.  Metal powders are mixed with a low melting plastic and injected into reusable molds, the plastic is then removed and the remaining metallic parts are exposed to high temperatures to densify the parts.  Typically the number of parts made by MIM can be from the thousands to millions per year.  Since this is a near-net-shape process, very little scrap is generated (nearly a 1:1 “buy-to-fly” ratio).  Reducing waste and energy costs have allowed the global MIM market to grow approximately 14 percent annually since 2002.  Significant research has been conducted on titanium MIM (Ti-MIM) within the last five years and the technology for production of high quality Ti-MIM products exists in industry.  The main hurdle to Ti-MIM is quality MIM powder at an affordable price.

As companies have seen the need for Ti-MIM powder, many technologies have been utilized to produce titanium powder.  However, to date all powders are either too expensive or the properties of the powder are not suitable to Ti-MIM.  One of the main ways powders of stainless steel are produced for MIM is by close-coupled gas atomization (CCGA).  IPAT will utilize the economically viable method of CCGA with advanced processing technologies, unlocking CCGA’s potential for titanium powder production.  This processing route allows for a tenfold increase in the yields of fine powder suitable for Ti-MIM compared to other atomization routes.  Costs are not only reduced by increasing yields of suitable powder, but CCGA also utilizes the most cost-effective starting material.

Innovators

7AC Technologies, Inc.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
498 likes

7AC Technologies, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is developing Liquid Desiccant HVAC systems for Commercial and Industrial buildings using technology from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These Liquid Desiccant HVAC systems deliver a 50 to 75 percent reduction in energy usage over conventional HVAC units. The system consists of a membrane conditioner responsible for drying and cooling the air and a heat-driven regenerator. The liquid desiccant design allows for the utilization of solar or waste heat sources, paving the way for net-zero energy retrofits to existing buildings with costs comparable to conventional HVAC.

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Teknikem, A Division of RockinBoat LLC
Y12 National Security Complex
17256 likes

Teknikem is developing a chemical blend platform technology invented by the Y12 National Security Complex that is known as RonJohn. RonJohn is a safer, more eco-friendly alternative to dangerous chemicals and processes used to strip paints and adhesives from parts and equipment. RonJohn is not toxic, not flammable, not carcinogenic but is biodegradeable and very effective on many plastics, paints, and adhesives. Market segments and channels are being developed including the military, aerospace, shipping construction/maintenance, ground transportation, general industry, and consumer retail.

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Woodmont Enterprises LLC
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
703 likes

Woodmont Enterprises, based in Nashville, Tennessee, is creating a top-coat solution moisture barrier product for oriented-strand board (OSB), an engineered wood product formed by layering flakes of wood, by using technology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The primary focus is to create a moisture barrier on OSB during transportation and after installation. One net benefit to moisture protected OSB after installation is mold resistance.

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SynchroPET LLC
Brookhaven National Laboratory
665 likes

SynchroPET, based in Shoreham, New York, is a start-up biotech firm with the next generation of PET Scanners, which have superior imaging capabilities to what is currently available on the market today. SynchroPET's technology was developed at Brookhaven National Laboratory and it enabled SynchroPET to miniaturize the typical PET Scanner while improving its image. SynchroPET's technology can be paired with an existing MRI machine for a simultaneous image. These advances will accelerate the creation of new pharmaceuticals to treat cancers, and Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases. SynchroPET currently has four prototypes built, and each have been used by researchers from labs in New York.

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Element One, Inc.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
191524 likes

Element One, based in Boulder, Colorado, has created the only available coatings that change color when detecting hydrogen and other hazardous gas leaks, either reversibly or non-reversibly, to provide both current and historical information about leaks. Element One’s patented gas indicators and sensors use catalyzed thin films or nanoparticles of a transition metal oxide to create very low cost sensors for use in industrial and consumer environments, greatly reducing the potential for undetected leaks and their cost and safety implications. This technology is also being integrated for use in refineries, industry gas and fuel cells systems and was developed using technology from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions, Inc.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
333 likes

Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions, Inc., based in Belmont, California, uses Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscopes (DTEM) to enable imaging of nanoscale objects, such as proteins, thin films and nanoparticles at unprecedented time scales and frame rates. By utilizing a laser-driven electron source, DTEMs are able to produce short bursts of electrons that can form an image with nanometer resolution in as little as 10 nanoseconds. This enables observation of dynamics in material systems that play an important role in a wide range of energy technologies, including battery electrodes, petroleum catalysts, solar cell materials, and organisms for bio fuel growth. Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions uses technology developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Vorbeck Materials Corp.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
45458 likes

Vorbeck Materials, based in Jessup, Md., is using a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)-developed method for building tiny chemical structures to greatly improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that are widely used in portable devices such as laptops and power electric vehicles. Vorbeck is using PNNL’s method to develop better lithium air and lithium sulfur batteries. The new material in Vorbeck’s batteries stores twice as much electricity at high charge and discharge rates as current lithium-ion batteries, and creates increased battery capacity and a longer cycle life.

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Umpqua Energy, Inc.
Argonne National Laboratory
142564 likes

Umpqua Energy, based in Medford, Oregon, is using an Argonne National Laboratory technology to develop a system that allows a gasoline engine to operate in an extreme lean burn mode in order to increase gasoline mileage. One negative side effect of a lean burn engine, whether powered by gasoline or diesel fuel, is an increase in the amount of harmful gases released to the environment. The company expects to both increase fuel economy and simultaneously reduce emissions with its system.

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TrakLok Corporation
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
463 likes

TrakLok, Inc., based in Knoxville, Tenn., intends to use an Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)-developed, technology for tagging, tracking, locating and communicating with cargo containers and trailers in transit. The ORNL technology provides an avenue to meet increasing requirements for shipping containers to be "smart boxes" that can be tracked electronically. TrakLok uses GPS technology and satellite communications as part of its tracking and warning capability and international container locking technology to protect against container tampering, theft, vandalism and smuggling. Shipments can be tracked through a web-accessible, information technology-based global tracking system to provide real time visibility of cargo.

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US e-Chromic
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
828 likes

US e-Chromic LLC, based in Boulder, Colorado, will use electrochromic technology developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to create a new thin film window material that reflects sunlight on demand, making windows more energy efficient while reducing cooling costs for consumers.

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Borla Performance Industries, Inc.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
1830 likes

Borla Performance Industries, based in Johnson City, has an option to license a novel, nano-pore membrane technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Combining this innovation with Borla’s exhaust technology will lead to a low cost, unique exhaust system that will double as an energy neutral device to recover and reclaim clean water from engines powered by diesel, gasoline or natural gas. Military and commercial applications include transport and stationery power plants, marine, cars and trucks.

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SH Coatings LP
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
10147 likes

SH Coatings, based in Dallas, Texas, employs Super Hydrophobic Coating (SHC) technology that protects power systems by preventing ice accumulation on power lines in ice storm threatened areas and contamination of power lines from salt on the coasts. In order to successfully utilize and commercialize the SHC technology for this application, tools to apply the coating onto new and existing lines must be developed. SH Coatings is developing these tools with the help of technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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California Lithium Battery, Inc.
Argonne National Laboratory
626 likes

California Lithium Battery (CaLBattery), based in Los Angeles, California, is developing a low-cost, advanced lithium-ion battery that employs a novel silicon graphene composite material that will substantially improve battery cycle life. When combined with other advanced battery materials, it could effectively lower battery life cycle cost by up to 70 percent. Over the next year, CALBattery will be working with Argonne National Laboratory to combine their patented silicon-graphene anode material process together with other advanced ANL cathode and electrolyte battery materials.

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