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Innovative Process and Materials Technologies

AMO's public-private R&D partnership activities support the development of advanced manufacturing process and materials technologies that will transition scientific innovations into clean-energy manufacturing capabilities.

AMO's direct investments in innovative manufacturing projects foster advanced manufacturing enterprise creation with benefits accruing across a broad section of the U.S. economy. These cost-shared projects are selected through a competitive process from exceptional research teams working on foundational process and materials technologies—technologies that have high impact, use project diversity to spread risk, target nationally important innovation at critical decision points, and contribute to quantifiable energy savings.

Thirteen projects initiated in 2012 are precompetitive R&D ranging from the early stages of applied research (proof-of-concept) through laboratory testing and prototype verification.

Five projects selected for award negotiations in the second round in 2013 include R&D in computational modeling and simulation for automation and equipment, steel fabrication processing, steel heat treatment processing, high value petrochemicals, and waste heat minimization manufacturing.

Projects Initiated in 2012

A New Method for Low-Cost Production of Titanium Alloys for Reducing Energy Consumption of Mechanical Systems (The University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT)

A novel metallurgical process for producing titanium (Ti) components could produce a ten-fold material usage improvement in aircraft and vehicle manufacturing. This technology combines a lower temperature melting process with minimal post-processing steps to achieve part structures with Ti's high strength-to-weight ratio

Development of Energy Efficient Integrated Die Casting Process for Large Thin-Walled Magnesium Applications (General Motors LLC - Warren, MI)

An integrated super-vacuum die casting process uses a new magnesium alloy to potentially achieve a 50% energy savings compared to the multi-piece, multi-step, stamping and joining process currently used to manufacture car doors. By substituting magnesium for steel inner panels, car doors could weigh 60% less, resulting in serious fuel economy improvements and carbon emission savings.

High-Quality, Low-Cost Bulk Gallium Nitride Substrates Grown by the Electrochemical Solution Growth Method (MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. - St. Peters, MO)

Efficient manufacturing of gallium nitride (GaN) could reduce the cost of and improve the output for light–emitting diodes, solid-state lighting, laser displays, and other power electronics. Use of GaN–a semi–conductor material–holds the potential to reduce lighting energy use by 75%, electric drive motor energy use for consumer applications by 50%, electric motor energy used for transportation by 60%, and energy for information technology infrastructure power delivery by 20%.

Catalyst-Assisted Production of Olefins from Natural Gas Liquids: Prototype Development and Full-Scale Testing (Lyondell Chemical Company - Newtown Square, PA)

An innovative catalytic coating material could significantly reduce surface deposits on ethylene steam cracker furnace coils. As ethylene production is the largest user of energy in the chemical industry, a 6 to 10% reduction in energy consumption per plant would save an estimated 20-35 trillion Btu annually. The proposed technology can be installed during the normal maintenance cycle and with the growing availability of shale gas, has the potential to help the United States maintain its global leadership in olefins production.

A Novel Flash Ironmaking Process (American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) - Salt Lake City, UT)

A novel ironmaking process is proposed that reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gases compared with blast furnaces and coke ovens. A falling stream of iron ore particles is directly converted to metal in just seconds using low cost natural gas. This project seeks to demonstrate the scaleup feasibility of the process allowing for new ironmaking capacity at a significantly lower capital cost than with traditional systems.

Advanced, Energy-Efficient Hybrid Membrane System for Industrial Water Reuse (Research Triangle Institute - Research Triangle Park, NC)

A single hybrid system for industrial wastewater treatment and reuse that combines two known processes—forward osmosis and membrane distillation—will be developed and demonstrated. This system will use waste heat to treat a wide variety of waste streams at manufacturing facilities. The process will reuse more than 50% of a facility's wastewater, decrease wastewater discharge, and recover significant amounts of industrial waste heat.

Scale-Up of Novel Low-Cost Carbon Fibers Leading to High-Volume Commercial Launch (The Dow Chemical Company - Midland, MI)

An extrusion process for making carbon fiber uses a novel polyolefin material in place of conventional polyacrylonitrile. Low-cost carbon fiber has widespread application in automobiles, wind turbines, and other industrial applications. This novel process could potentially reduce production costs by 20% and total carbon dioxide emissions by 50%.

Sacrificial Protective Coating Materials that Can Be Regenerated In-Situ to Enable High-Performance Membranes (Teledyne Scientific and Imaging - Thousand Oaks, CA)

A highly durable membrane coating will be developed, optimized, and tested for the pulp and paper industry's black liquor-to-fuel concentration process By eliminating two steps in the conventional five-step black liquor evaporator process, this technology has the ability to save the paper industry roughly 110 trillion Btu per year.

Continuous Processing of High Thermal Conductivity Polyethylene Fibers and Sheets (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Cambridge, MA)

A new, continuous manufacturing process to make high molecular weight, high thermal conductivity polyethylene fibers and sheets will be developed to replace metals and ceramics in heat–transfer devices. Project innovations include using massively parallel nanochannels to align gel molecular chains and arranging closely spaced nanochannels to assist in sheet formation. Because polyethylene density is 35% less than aluminum, the new materials and process steps developed as part of this project could generate fuel savings for transportation applications.

Sustainable Manufacturing via Multi-Scale Physics-Based Process Modeling and Manufacturing-informed Design (Third Wave Systems, Inc. - Minneapolis, MN)

Micro-structural modeling tools for metals will be developed and used to demonstrate a design framework to improve the understanding of dynamic response and statistical variability. This project will enable design engineers to evaluate the effects of design changes and material selection; anticipate quality and cost prior to implementation on the factory floor; and enable low-waste, low-cost manufacturing.

Bio-electrochemical Integration of Waste Heat Recovery, Waste-to-Energy Conversion, and Waste-to-Chemical Conversion with Industrial Gas and Chemical Manufacturing Processes (Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. - Allentown, PA)

A microbial reverse electrodialysis technology will be combined with waste heat recovery to convert effluents into electricity and chemical products, including hydrogen gas. This technology, which uses salinity gradients to overcome the thermodynamic barriers and over potential associated with hydrogen production, will be broadly applicable in U.S. industry, including the chemical, food, pharmaceutical, and refining sectors. By providing onsite electricity generation, the technology could save 40 trillion Btu annually and avoid 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Innovative Manufacturing of Protected Lithium Electrodes for Ultra High Energy Density Batteries (PolyPlus Battery Company - Berkeley, CA)

A protected lithium electrode, solid electrolyte, and scaled-up manufacturing process will be developed for high-energy-density lithium batteries. This project will scale up production from a batch mode to a high-volume process. Commercial introduction of this manufacturing process could extend the driving range of electric vehicles, in turn saving 100 trillion Btu of energy annually.

High Metal Removal Rate Process for Machining Difficult Materials (Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC - Rochester, NY)

Fast lasers will be developed that use micro precision ablation in a single-step manufacturing process and verify this operation for producing flow control openings for gasoline direct-injection fuel injectors. This improved process will reduce re-work and scrap rates; eliminate secondary processes such as etching, surface cleaning, or deburring; and increase laser machining energy efficiency by up to 20%–25% over standard practice.

Projects Selected for Award Negotiations in March 2013

Rapid Freeform Sheet Metal Forming: Technology Development and System Verification (Ford Motor Company - Dearborn, MI)

An innovative, programmable metal forming tool capable of simultaneously indenting metal sheets from both sides will be developed. It eliminates the need for hundreds of fixed-shape forming dies typically required as part of the prototyping process in automotive and aerospace design. The new technology is projected to reduce material scrap by 70%, energy consumption by 70%, and production costs by up to 90%.

Industrial Scale Demonstration of Smart Manufacturing Achieving Transformational Energy Productivity Gains (University of Texas at Austin - Austin, TX)

A Smart Manufacturing (SM) platform can integrate information technology, performance metrics, and models and simulations driven by real-time plant sensor data. This integrated platform allows manufacturers to optimize energy productivity in real-time, and, in turn, reduce waste and improve energy efficiency up to 30%. The SM platform would allow manufacturers to evaluate and assemble a rigorous system of monitoring and process control regardless of company size or industry type.

Quenching and Partitioning Process Development to Replace Hot Stamping of High Strength Automotive Steel (Colorado School of Mines - Golden, CO)

Quenching and Partitioning (Q&P) processing allows room-temperature stamping to replace hot stamping (typically 900°C) for making advanced high strength, light-weight steels. The estimated energy savings associated with producing 10 million cars annually with Q&P steels is nearly 30 trillion Btu. Additional benefits include lower capital investments associated with room temperature forming lines and reduced manufacturing times due to the elimination of the cooling step.

Conversion of Waste CO2 and Shale Gas to High Value Chemicals (Novomer - Ithaca, NY)

Waste CO2 from industrial sources and ethane-derivatives from shale gas can be converted into high value chemical intermediates (e.g. acrylic acid) using combustion-assisted solid oxide electrolysis and 99% selective catalytic carbonylation chemistry. Preliminary estimates suggest a 20-40% reduction in both cradle to grave energy usage and cost compared to current production technologies.

Waste Heat-to-Power in Small-Scale Industry Using Scroll Expander for Organic Rankine Bottoming Cycle (TIAX LLC - Lexington, MA)

Medium-grade waste heat can be converted to electric power using a novel, scalable scroll expander having an isentropic expansion efficiency of 75% to 80% for a broad range of organic Rankine cycle boiler pressures, condensing temperatures, and speeds. Estimates suggest the system would generate net income in three years and provide national energy savings of 0.90 TBtu/year just for natural gas from coffee roasting applications alone.

 

Innovative Process and Materials Technologies was formerly called the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative (IMI)

The AMO News for June 12, 2012, includes the initial IMI project selection announcement.

The AMO News for March 26, 2013, includes the announcement of the second-round projects.

Funding Opportunity Announcement (IMI DE-FOA-0000560) for the IMI is archived at the EERE eXCHANGE.

Changes are made frequently to these listings. Please check back for updates.

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