Advanced Materials

Discovering New Materials

Precursor fibers move from a low temperature furnace into a high temperature furnace, where material is converted into carbon fiber

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.

Demonstrating scalability and producing market-development volumes of carbon fibers

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.