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ORNL nanotechnologies big winners in DOE call

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 23, 2008 -- Eight Oak Ridge National Laboratory nanomanufacturing technologies have won $8.4 million in funding from the Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program.

The awards, which will bring $6.8 million to the lab and $1.6 million to partners, are the result of a peer-reviewed competitive bid process from a DOE nanomanufacturing call. The awards are for the following projects:

  • Nanostructured superhydrophobic coatings. The goal of this project is to develop commercial powder-based coatings with extreme water repellent properties. Working with industry partners Ross Technology Corp. and Stevens Institute of Technology, ORNL's John Simpson will optimize powder properties and binders to produce more uniform and durable coatings for a variety of substrates. The coatings will be optimized for drag reduction and corrosion resistance.

  • Self-assembled nanostructured carbon. Novel carbon materials developed at ORNL can improve energy storage devices for a variety of renewable energy, transportation and electrical grid technologies. These new materials, which feature controllable nanoscale pore size, can be produced by self-assembly using conventional manufacturing processes. They provide competitive energy and power densities relative to commercial activated carbon materials. Working with Honeywell Specialty Materials and Campbell Applied Physics, lead researcher David DePaoli plans to optimize the materials for energy storage and water treatment applications. Other goals are to lower the cost of the materials, scale up manufacturing processes and test the materials in prototypes.

  • Nanocatalysts for diesel engine emission remediation. While diesel engines offer 30 percent better fuel economy than their gasoline counterparts, emission regulations are limiting their widespread use. Working with John Deere Power Systems, ORNL's Chaitanya Narula plans to develop durable zeolite nanocatalysts able to more effectively reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Zeolites are molecular sieves that are the ultimate nano-catalysts for reducing diesel engine emissions. The goal is to increase hydrothermal durability by 50 degrees Celsius and to improve the operating temperature window.

  • Wear-resistant nano-composite coatings. These iron-based nano-composite coatings with hardness values two to seven times greater than conventional steel can help reduce the estimated $65 billion annual cost of wear to U.S. industry. Field trials of disc cutters in Tunnel Boring Machines have demonstrated a 20 percent improvement in wear resistance. The goal of this project, led by Bill Peter, is to develop low-cost scalable processes to incorporate nano-sized boron-carbon particles into metal matrix coatings and components for a wide range of wear-resistant applications. Carpenter Powder Products is ORNL's partner in this project.

  • Microwave and beam activation of nanostructured catalysts. A potential bottleneck in the heavy crude oil refinery business could be eliminated with the development of this technology, which uses selective heating and activation of catalyst surface sites. This is expected to lower bulk process temperatures and increase product yield. Bill Griffith of ORNL and partners Mach I and Materials Technology Institute plan to perform a bench scale evaluation to delineate process conditions under which microwave activation of nanostructured catalysts enhance performance on compounds that model heavy crude oil.

  • Nanoscale interpenetrating phase composites. The goal of this project is to explore the technical and economic feasibility of producing nano-scale interpenetrating phase composites of a useable size for testing and implementation in real-world applications. While these materials have so far been limited to thin films, they hold great potential for a wide range of applications, including military vehicle and body armor, lightweight components for advanced braking systems and lower-cost high-performance ceramic-based systems that would result in lighter vehicles. This material's advantages include improved mechanical, electrical and thermal properties compared to traditional refractory materials that are subject to corrosion and mechanical degradation. Refractory materials are those that are chemically and physically stable at high temperatures. ORNL's James Hemrick and Michael Hu are teaming with Fireline, TCON on this project.

  • Large-scale nanofermentation of quantum dots. Particles produced by certain strains of thermophilic anaerobic bacteria could lead to the development of materials useful for energy-efficient photovoltaics and an array of other applications. Using a natural fermentation process, lead researcher Lonnie Love can control the size and shape of nanoscale magnetite produced in industrial size fermentors at or near room temperature.

  • Transformational fabrication of nano structural material using plasma arc lamps. This technology, which converts electrical energy from an arc-plasma lamp into radiant energy, has tremendous potential for processing materials. Lead researcher Adrian Sabau notes that the process can potentially significantly increase photovoltaic collection efficiency and the electrical properties of light-emitting diodes while increasing production rates and decreasing production costs. This project will develop a computer model based on first principles and validate the process models based on comparisons between measured and computer data for zinc-oxide as a solid-state lighting application.


Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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