DOE grants $28 million funding for R&D on Ultra-high Temperature Materials

April 23, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced up to $28 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programme called ULtrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency (ULTIMATE), reports the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). The programme will reportedly develop and demonstrate ultra-high temperature materials that can operate in the high-temperature and high-stress environments of a gas turbine blade. Projects will specifically target gas turbine applications in the power generation and aviation industries.

According to the DOE, gas turbines are used for a variety of applications, from aerospace engines to industrial power generation, and natural gas turbines currently produce an estimated 35% of the electricity generated across the USA. Improving turbine efficiency is expected to create opportunities to generate more energy savings, lower carbon emissions, and benefit the economy in these sectors as well as across a range of other sectors.

The ULTIMATE programme aims to improve the efficiency of gas turbines by increasing the temperature capability of the materials used in the most demanding environments, such as the turbine blade. The temperature capability of current state-of-the-art blade materials has improved steadily over the last few decades to 1,100 ºC, through incremental microstructure and chemistry refinement. 

However, there exists a new opportunity to discover, develop, and implement novel materials that work at temperatures significantly higher than industry standard superalloys, to further increase efficiency and economic gains. 

ULTMATE projects will reportedly address this need by developing novel ultra-high temperature metal alloys and coatings integrated with advanced manufacturing processes. The ULTIMATE programme will target enabling gas turbines blades to operate continuously at 1,300 ºC in a material test environment or with coatings, with turbine inlet temperatures of 1,800 ºC or higher.

“Gas turbines are a major generator of electricity, and have significantly contributed to the cleaner generation of electricity over the past several years,” stated Mark W Menezes, Under Secretary of Energy. “Developing new, innovative technologies under the ULTIMATE programme will allow us to better utilise gas turbines across multiple power sectors, from electricity generation to transportation and aviation, making all of these industries more efficient.”

Lane Genatowski, ARPA-E Director, commented, “The development of novel ultra-high temperature alloys in conjunction with coatings and advanced manufacturing will help to increase the efficiency of our nation’s power generation and aviation industries. Enabling turbines to operate at higher temperatures for longer sustained periods will result in significant reductions of both wasted energy and carbon emissions across many crucial power generation applications.”

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