January 21, 2016
News Release

Research Collaboration for Lightweight Materials No Longer a Heavy Lift

Access to National Laboratories' Capabilities Streamlined

PNNL in partnership with General Motors, Alcoa and TWB Company LLC, have transformed a joining technique called friction stir welding for expanded use of lightweight aluminum in vehicles, such as this door panel. This is an example of National Laboratory research and development support to industry that LightMat can help facilitate.

Image courtesy of TWB Company LLC

There is now a one-stop shop for industrial researchers who want to use the unique capabilities and talents found at select Department of Energy national laboratories in a quest to develop lighter materials. DOE is establishing a new consortium to support a vision of developing and deploying materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost, while increasing U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing.

DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will manage the Lightweight Materials National Lab Consortium or LightMAT — a network of nine national labs with technical capabilities that are highly relevant to lightweight materials development and use. LightMAT will provide a single point of contact which will match industry led research teams with specific expertise and equipment found only at the national labs.

"The major perceived impediments to U.S. companies working with national laboratories are the complexity and time required to identify research and development capabilities at numerous institutions throughout the country, and the difficulty of formalizing teaming agreements," said Yuri Hovanski, senior researcher at PNNL and LightMAT program director. "LightMAT will provide a more productive experience for companies that want to engage the national laboratories to accelerate deployment of lightweight materials."

PNNL, in collaboration with eight other DOE national laboratories, is developing a virtual storefront to showcase the capabilities of participating laboratories. Industry partners will now be able to engage LightMAT assistance through the LightMAT website.

Who's eligible?

Any U.S. company, large or small, is able to seek assistance to locate and use strategic resources to accelerate lightweight materials research & development. LightMAT will help with laboratory access and materials development by:

  • Assisting companies to understand the unique lightweight materials capabilities housed within the consortium
  • Connecting industry with laboratory technology experts to establish approaches for using these capabilities to address specific clean energy manufacturing challenges
  • Aiding industry to more quickly and easily develop agreements to access national laboratory capabilities
  • Providing a data repository for industry to access and leverage data and tools developed by the LightMAT consortium for expanded application and implementation.

Along with access to national laboratory capabilities, all industrial partners will be able to use collaboration tools and data aggregation tools that are being developed as part of LightMAT. This includes simplified work and technology transfer agreements, and a LightMAT non-disclosure agreement that allows access to all participating laboratories through a single document. This means additional cost and time savings for industrial participants.

"It can take as long as 20 years to get a lightweight material from concept to market," said Reuben Sarkar, deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation in DOE's office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. "If DOE can help cut that by 10 years, the savings and boost to U.S. industry will be substantial. With our national laboratories' expertise in lightweight materials built on a framework of industry engagement and support, LightMAT can put more of DOE's resources to work and have a real impact."

To date, the LightMAT network includes:

Capabilities include:

  • Processing & manufacturing
  • Computational tools
  • Materials characterization

Short-term goals of the consortium include creating a comprehensive online portal for industry access and participation, partnering with at least two new industry-led programs per year, and hosting or meeting with at least 10 automotive light metals companies per year to describe opportunities for accessing the resource network.

LightMAT is sponsored by DOE's Vehicle Technologies Office, which aims to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions in vehicles. VTO is part of EERE.

For more information please visit LightMAT, email or call (509) 375-3822.


About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: January 21, 2016