Lightweight Materials

Furnaces and Casting

  • Holding Pot Furnace: (40-50 lbs. of Mg)
  • Electric Furnaces: 2’ to 5’ ( up to 1400°C)
  • Custom Built Arc Furnace: (1500 Amps)
  • Induction Furnace: (>100 lbs. of Steel)
  • Vacuum Induction Furnace: (30 lbs. of Steel)
  • Hydraulic Tilt Pour Machine Vacuum Furnace
  • Arc Remelt Furnace: (10,000 Amps and 6” dia. ingots)
  • Electron Beam Melting Furnace (150 kW)
  • Hydrogen Annealing Furnace
  • Brew Vacuum Furnace: (High vacuum or Inert atmosphere up to 2000° C)
  • Flat Bed, Circular, and Boxed Infrared Furnaces
  • Power density = 20-40 W/cm2
  • Heating Rate = 200-300°C/s
  • Max Temp = 1000-1250°C
  • Heat Times = Seconds to minutes
  • 125 Ton Die Casting Machine
  • Microwave Processing
  • 6kW, 2.45 GHz computer controlled
  • 500 L chamber with atmospheric control user subroutines for consolidation and sintering of Ti components.

Rolling Mills

  • Hot and Cold Rolling Mills
  • Fenn Mills - 4-High, Up to 12” width, tungsten carbide and steel rolls
  • Reusch Hot Mill - 8” wide x 10” dia., capable of 100°C - 1500°C
  • Vertical Roll Compaction Mill (17” dia. x 7” wide rolling capacity)
  • Shear Rolling Mill: One of a kind mill with capability of asymmetric rolling, rolls independently driven, heated rolls

Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

The CFTF, with its 390-ft. long processing line, is capable of custom unit operation configuration and has a capacity of up to 25 tons per year, allowing industry to validate conversion of their carbon fiber precursors at semi-production scale.

  • Melt-Spun Precursor Fiber Production
  • Rated capacity 65 tonnes/year based on polyolefins
  • Spins most melt-stable polymers, specifically including polyolefins and lignin; upgradable for melt-spun PAN
  • Tow production up to 2,000 m/min winding speed
  • Melt-blown web production up to 300 mm width, packaged or direct-fed to carbon fiber line; upgradable to include spun-bond
  • Homo- and bicomponent filament production; upgradable to tricomponent
  • 450°C temperature rating
  • Corrosion-resistant wetted surfaces
  • Extrusion screw L/D 30:1; upgradable to 40:1
  • Carbon Fiber Production
  • Rated capacity 25 tonnes/year based on 24k PAN tows
  • Designed for PAN, polyolefins, lignin, and pitch precursors;
  • upgradable for rayon and high-modulus carbon fibers
  • Designed for 3k to 80k tows and web up to 300 mm wide x 12.7 mm loft
  • Oxidation temperature up to 400°C with airflow configurable to be parallel, cross, or downflow
  • Low-temperature carbonization up to 1000°C with capability to produce structural or micro/nanoporous fibers
  • High-temperature carbonization to 2000°C
  • Post treatment system designed for compatibilizing fibers with performance or commodity resins

Other Capabilities

  • test machine for automotive crashworthiness
  • friction stir welding
  • access to neutron imaging for residual stress studies

New Materials Improve Efficiency

Oxidized fibers move into the high temperature furnace where material is converted into carbon fiber through a carbonization process.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Lightweight Materi­als research and development activities focus on the development and validation of advanced materials and manufacturing technologies to significantly reduce light and heavy duty vehicle weight without com­promising other attributes such as safety, performance, recyclability, and cost.

Because it takes less energy to accelerate a lighter vehicle, replacing traditional steel components with lightweight materials can directly reduce fuel consump­tion. It also allows cars to carry advanced emissions control equipment, safety devices, and integrated electronic systems without becoming heavier. Lightweight materi­als are especially important for improving the efficiency and range of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles because they offset the weight of power systems such as batteries and electric motors.

In the short term, vehicle weight reduction can be achieved by replacing heavy steel components with mate­rials such as high-strength steel, aluminum, die cast magnesium or glass fiber polymer composites. In the longer term, wrought magnesium and carbon fiber composites are attractive for greater levels of mass reduction. While the properties of these materi­als are well established, better and more cost effective technologies and processes are needed for manufacturing, joining, modeling, and recycling. To better understand the properties of these materials and the processes required to maximize their benefits, ORNL conducts lightweight materials research in several areas: materials development, properties and manufacturing,  computational materials science, and multi-material enabling. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office and industry partners are the primary sponsors of this research.

Materials Development

ORNL is developing lower cost, more environmentally friendly methods for producing carbon fiber and technologies that enable the use of carbon fiber composites, magnesium alloys, advanced high-strength steels and higher-strength aluminum alloys.

ORNL is presently leading a major DOE initiative to develop disruptive technologies for producing low cost carbon fiber. Major focal areas are (i) alternative precursors, (ii) advanced, energy efficient conversion processes, and (iii) scaling for technology transition. ORNL processing capabilities range from single filament to tens of tons annually, with characterization capabilities at length scales from sub-Angstrom to full tows greater than six hundred thousand filaments.

An ORNL-developed carbonization technology accelerates the carbon fiber production process.

Modeling and Computational Materials Science

ORNL provides supporting technologies such as joining methods, corrosion prevention techniques, and predictive models for full system implementation. Current projects also aid in the development of new, better alloys or composite architectures.

Properties and Manufacturing

Researchers are improving materials properties such as strength, stiffness, and corrosion resistance for a variety of metals and polymer composite materials. Improving manufacturability through increased production rate, ease of materials forming, and greater throughput is another area of focus. Additionally, ORNL is developing robust methods for joining and inspecting similar and dissimilar materials using a variety of processes.

Multi-Material Enabling

New methods for reliably joining dissimilar materials are under development along with the necessary inspection techniques and systems analysis to incorporate new materials into future automotive designs.

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