Advanced Materials

Discovering New Materials

New materials fuel the creation engine that powers development of innovative products. Building upon a rich 60-year history in materials science, ORNL is discovering and developing advanced materials that will help reinvigorate existing manufacturing industries and result in creative new products. Stronger, more corrosion-resistant and lower cost steel alloys are being developed and commercialized to enable higher temperature and more energy-efficient operation in a variety of energy and industrial applications. New carbon materials are enabling cleanup of contaminated water produced while drilling to release vast new natural gas resources. ORNL is developing affordable new surface treatments and coating materials with wear and corrosion performance four to eight times that of heat-treated steels.

Storing Energy

Effective deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar requires energy storage to overcome their intermittent nature. Advanced batteries will be critical to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation. ORNL’s unparalleled expertise and capabilities in materials characterization and analysis are leading the development of a new generation of batteries that can store energy generated by solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars.

Reducing Weight

Weight reduction is the key to energy efficiency in transportation and rapid deployment and maneuverability for our military forces. A reduction of 1,000 lb in vehicle weight will alone increase fuel economy more than 5 mpg. Combined with efforts to increase engine performance, such a reduction could allow cars of the future to achieve 100 mpg with no compromise of safety or performance. ORNL researchers are developing a new generation of carbon fiber composite materials and lightweight metal alloys to meet the weight-reduction challenge.

Capabilities (Sidebar)

  • Advanced Structural Materials
  • Aluminum
  • Batteries
  • Bioderived Materials
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Catalyst
  • Coatings
  • Fuels
  • Lightweight Materials
  • Magnesium
  • Mesoporous Carbon
  • Nanomaterials
  • Polymers
  • Refractory Metals: High Temperature Applications
  • Refractory Metals: High Wear Applications
  • Refractory Metals: Penetrators
  • Solar
  • Solid State Lighting
  • Titanium
  • Thermal Management

Automation & Controls

Modeling and Simulation

Modeling, simulation, and automation reduce the manufacturing design, production cycle, and cost of manufacturing. ORNL's world-leading supercomputing facilities and broad modeling capabilities allow scientists and engineers to accelerate product design from concept to commercialization.

Sensing, Tracking, and Measurement

Advanced sensors and sensor networks will revolutionize manufacturing by providing industry the tools necessary to understand and optimize efficiency and lower operational costs. ORNL's research priorities in sensing are focused on biochemical, environmental, robotics, advanced logistics and process control systems, and intelligent sensor technologies for applications that advance science, improve energy efficiency, or enhance national security.

Communicating Wirelessly

Robust wireless communication networks offer rapid technology insertion and minimum cost of retrofit for reliable process control to improve energy savings, process efficiencies, and raw material utilization. From one-of-a-kind processes to intelligent robotics for manufacturing, the development and deployment of process automation and control are critical for productivity improvement in industry. ORNL leads the industry effort to establish wireless communication protocols and demonstrate the application of high-payoff wireless communication in industrial settings.

Capabilities (Sidebar)

  • Computational Manufacturing
  • Electronic and Embedded Systems
  • Imaging, Signals, and Machine Learning
  • Materials Behavior Under Severe Environments
  • Microstructure Modeling During Phase Transformations
  • Nanosystems and Structures for Physical and Chemical Sensing
  • Process Modeling and Simulation: Energy Transport
  • Robotics
  • Sensors
  • Sensors and Data Acquisition Techniques
  • Thermomechanical Properties
  • Thermophysical Properties
  • Wireless Communications

Processing Technology

Reducing Costs

Two materials of great promise, titanium and carbon fiber, are restricted in application due to high material cost. New titanium powder and near-net shape consolidation processes offer the potential to reduce manufacturing energy intensity and cost up to 50%, as well as increase yields from 12% to near 90%. New low-cost precursor development and conversion technologies hold the key for reducing the cost of carbon fiber. ORNL is the recognized leader in these advanced processing technologies, which will enable broader deployment of these critical lightweight materials.

Increasing Performance

Use of magnetic fields to complement or eliminate conventional heat treatments can produce enhanced properties in a variety of materials including steel, titanium, magnesium, and other material systems. ORNL's groundbreaking research in magnetic field processing is revealing a new domain of formerly unattainable material properties. ORNL's concerted investment in pulsed thermal processing, spanning most of a decade, is now paying large dividends as it enables manufacturing innovation in flexible electronics and next-generation solar photovoltaic devices.

Minimizing Lead Time

Additive manufacturing combines digital design, powder materials, and efficient energy sources to manufacture complex, near-net shape components. These technologies enable a paradigm shift in how we design and manufacture components of complex geometry. We are no longer constrained by limitations imposed by forming, casting, or machining processes. ORNL is employing its capabilities in ultrasonic, electron beam, and laser deposition to realize the full potential of this adaptive technology.

Capabilities (Sidebar)

  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Carbon Materials
  • Continuous Reel to Reel
  • Conventional Metals Casting
  • Ceramic Machining
  • Magnetic Field Processing
  • Materials Processing
  • Nanofermentation
  • Photonics
  • Powder Consolidation
  • Printed Electronics
  • Process Intensification
  • Pulse Thermal Processing
  • Welding