A handful of American-based organizations are receiving $2.25M in technical assistance from Department of Energy national laboratories—including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory—to further develop lightweight materials technologies and more efficient vehicles. The awarded projects are part of a second round of industrial assistance opportunities through the PNNL-led LightMAT — the Lightweight Materials Consortium, which is supported by DOE.
The industry-national laboratory teams will collaborate to address the technical challenges during the next two years. PNNL—which will participate in four of the projects—will provide technical assistance as follows:
- PNNL will team up with Magna Services of America to fabricate a non-rare earth magnesium bumper beam using PNNL’s ShAPE™ technology. ShAPE™, or Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion, is a new technology that fabricates bumper beams with sufficient strength, ductility, and energy absorption properties without the need for costly rare earth additives and elevated temperature processing. A magnesium alloy bumper beam offers a 35 percent weight savings compared to aluminum alloys, and 60 percent compared to high strength steels. The bumper component offers commercial value by providing reduction of mass in the front of the vehicle, providing an improved ride and handling benefit, in addition to mass reduction.
- General Motors will leverage PNNL’s unique capabilities to develop a predictive performance model of dissimilar metallic spot-welds for joining aluminum to steel. Currently, automotive researchers are unclear about the factors that are most critical for predicting joint failures when welding aluminum and steel metals together. This uncertainty translates to significant development time required to test and retest different alloy combinations and processing techniques. Providing the ability to model a given joint structure and accurately predict lifetime performance could lead to a 25 percent reduction in development time, yielding cost savings and a superior product for consumers. This would also significantly improve time-to-market for multi-material vehicles and implement weight-saving technology.
- PNNL will partner with a Wisconsin company, Eck Industries, to lower costs and address mechanical property issues in aluminum castings. There is a chemical difference between primary and recycled aluminum. The additional iron content found in recycled aluminum limits the usability in performance applications via reduced overall strength and durability. The team will investigate ways to break up and evenly disperse iron-rich elements in the aluminum using a novel heat-treatment technique—resulting in a lower cost aluminum with increased overall strength and castability.
- PNNL will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Mallinda LLC to characterize microscopic structural defects and evaluate the high-speed impact on the company’s malleable thermoset Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic technology. Validating and adopting this special and emerging class of lightweight materials will be critical to reducing the overall weight of on-highway vehicles as well as ultimately increasing fuel efficiency—while still meeting consumer performance demands.
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LightMAT is a network of 10 national laboratories with unique state-of-the-art technical capabilities and experts highly relevant to lightweight materials development and utilization. LightMAT provides straightforward access to resources and capabilities in this network via a single point of contact and works to match industry research teams with expertise and equipment found only at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.