Heavyweight Contenders: LightMAT Awards Round Three Funding for Lightweight Materials Technologies

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Four American-based organizations will receive $2.25M worth of technical assistance for five projects under the Department of Energy's LightMAT Consortium. Access to national laboratory capabilities will further the development of lightweight materials technologies in another step towards meeting DOE Vehicle Technologies Office program objectives.

The four organizations include FCA U.S. LLC, General Motors LLC (two awards), Arconic, and Cummins—all of which will partner with national laboratories to address the following technical challenges during the next two years.

Development of a Novel Magnesium Alloy for Thixomolding of Automotive Components

FCA US LLC will partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a novel magnesium alloy suitable for thixomolding automotive structural components with increased durability and ductility. The new alloy could replace current low-strength steel and aluminum materials, such as those found in door inner panels. This would enable production of larger and higher-volume structural magnesium components with superior mechanical properties.

Laser Powder Bed Fusion Parameter Development for Novel Steel and Aluminum Powders Using In Situ Synchrotron Imaging and Diffraction

General Motors LLC and Argonne National Laboratory are partnering to explore a set of new aluminum and steel alloys. The alloys were developed at General Motors LLC for the express purpose of vehicle lightweighting with additive manufacturing. Argonne's unique instrumentation will be used for additive manufacturing parameter optimization—to provide a quantitative understanding of laser material interaction and defect formation.

New Technologies for High-Performance Lightweight Aluminum Castings

General Motors LLC will also partner with the National Energy Technology Laboratory to develop new technologies for high-performance lightweight aluminum shape casts. By combining integrated computational materials engineering tools with advanced experimental approaches, the team will develop a new casting process—pressure-assistant precision sand casting—for producing flawless aluminum cylinder heads with the desired multiscale microstructure and mechanical performance.

Variable Thickness High-Strength Aluminum Tubes for Structural Applications

Arconic and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are partnering to improve both vehicle performance and efficiency through modern automotive body-in-white architectures, which aim to be as lightweight as possible. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion technology will be used to produce a high-strength aluminum that meets formability requirements and costs associated with body-in-white architectures.

Lightweight and Highly-Efficient Engines through Aluminum and Silicon Alloying of Martensitic Materials

Cummins will partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to modify existing martensitic steel 4140 using small alloying additions of primarily light metals—aluminum and silicon—to achieve improved mechanical, physical, and thermal properties. The new material will be deployed in Cummins' portfolio of light, medium, and heavy-duty diesel engines to enable significantly improved efficiency and weight reduction while maintaining manufacturability and limiting cost increases.

LightMAT is a network of 11 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 DOE's national laboratories.