According to the Materials Genome Initiative, it generally requires more than 20 years to develop and implement a new or improved material for automotive applications. To accelerate this process, the Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports research to develop and implement new or improved application-specific materials through Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME). This approach combines advanced characterization, computational simulations, and experimental validation.
In addition, these efforts help identify gaps in:
- Tools used for materials characterization
- Materials models at different scales, from atomic level to bulk properties
- The ability to transmit information between existing computational tools
Researchers are using materials by design approaches to improve fundamental understanding and develop tools that they can apply to critical materials issues in the transportation industry. This approach can help improve research on a variety of technologies, such as:
- Magnetics for electric motors
- Thermoelectric materials for energy recovery
- Improved catalysts for exhaust after-treatment
For example, ORNL has created a high-temperature, reactive gas environment similar to that in an exhaust pipe that scientists can use in combination with an electron microscope. Using ultra-high-resolution electron microscopy, researchers can observe catalysts' behavior in real-world conditions at the atomic level. Coupled with modeling tools and advanced theory, research tools like these may lead to catalysts that are less expensive and operate at lower temperatures with higher efficiency. When combined with other technologies in the VTO research portfolio, these catalysts could improve the affordability of environmentally-friendly vehicles.