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


Access to national laboratory capabilities, expertise will further the development of lightweight materials technologies

Five American-based organizations are receiving $2.25 million in technical assistance from Department of Energy national laboratories to further develop lightweight materials technologies and more efficient vehicles. The awarded projects are part of a second round of industrial assistance opportunities supported by DOE’s LightMAT—the Lightweight Materials Consortium.

The five industry-national laboratory teams will collaborate to address the following technical challenges during the next two years.

Putting Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic to the Test
Sandia National Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will partner with 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.

Bumpers ShAPE Up Using Non-Rare Earth Magnesium
Magna Services of America will team up with PNNL to fabricate a non-rare earth magnesium bumper beam using PNNL’s ShAPEtechnology. 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, affording an improved ride and handling benefit in addition to mass reduction.

A Model to Join Dissimilar Materials
General Motors will leverage unique capabilities available at PNNL 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.

A Way to Low-Cost, Yet High-Performing Aluminum
A Wisconsin company, Eck Industries, will partner with PNNL 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.

Modeling Meets Welding for Improved Magnetic Pulse Welding
The computational capabilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory will be used to help the Edison Welding Institute improve the robustness of a manufacturing method—called Magnetic Pulse Welding, or MPW—that can effectively join different metals together. However, the use of MPW is currently limited by the tooling designed to make the process work. High pressures are created during the process that result in rapidly forcing the two different metals together so they stick properly. However, this high pressure affects the durability of the tools, causing them to fail. Los Alamos National Laboratory will model and assess better designed tooling produced by the Edison Welding Institute that will combat current limitations so it can be adopted as a more common manufacturing option.

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 DOE’s national laboratories.

For more information about LightMAT, including future opportunities to leverage the collective national laboratory capabilities, join the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter.