Lightweight. Fuel-efficient. Despite political debate, changeable government regulations, and factors like fluctuating fuel prices,
materials researchers, engineers, manufacturers and designers continue to pursue the economically and environmentally sound goals of solving technical challenges to reduce the weight of vehicle components.
Four new projects designed to overcome those hurdles are part of a first round of industrial assistance opportunities supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's LightMAT--the Lightweight Materials Consortium.
The next two years will see three DOE national laboratories collaborating with five industry partners, each of which will match DOE's investment dollar for dollar at a minimum to advance lightweight materials technology.
Among the announced projects is one to develop strategies to join magnesium to other dissimilar metals, while at the same time mitigating corrosion. Magna-Stronach Centre of Innovation joins PNNL (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of DOE's nine multiprogram national laboratories) in efforts to manipulate the chemistry of magnesium to make it less corrosive, and to methods to apply specialized isolating barriers between the lightweight metal and the other metals so that magnesium can be used to make corrosion resisting and smooth surface body panels.
Magnesium parts would ideally be bolted or welded to another part in automotive applications (like interior door beams), but if the joined area is exposed to moisture, magnesium will interact with most other metals and cause corrosion.
Magna is a leading global automotive supplier with 321 manufacturing operations and 102 product development, engineering and sales centers in 29 countries.
The other DOE/industry projects involve: developing a metal-ceramic composite brake system that could replace current cast iron brake components to reduce vehicle mass;
reinforcing thin sheets of advanced high strength steel with a carbon fiber epoxy coating to enable the steel to meet stiffness performance required by automotive manufacturers; and developing improved tooling design and optimizing extrusion processes to produce more cost effective components of strong aluminum alloys, of the type used in a vehicle's inner structure, among other applications.
Industrial partners participating in these projects are intent on producing lightweight and strong materials at better cost- and energy-efficiency, so these materials will be more readily applied in vehicle manufacture. As global-suppliers, these firms would be able to provide lightweight components to multiple vehicle producers and increase the U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing generally.
"LightMAT enables DOE's national laboratories to assist industry with very fundamental scientific research that will make even lighter vehicles possible," said LightMAT director Darrell Herling, who is also an engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "We asked industry applicants to bring us their biggest technical challenges in implementing lightweight materials, and we'll bring the right capabilities and know-how, not available outside the national lab system, to bear on the problem."
LightMAT is a network of 10 national laboratories with technical capabilities pertaining to lightweight materials development and utilization. It is
managed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the participating National Laboratories and sponsored by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
For more information visit https://lightmat.org/
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