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DOE, ORNL Helping Industry Use Less Energy

Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory technologies to improve energy efficiency in industry have won funding from the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program.

The projects, ranging from a heat-free heat treatment for industrial steels to less expensive better welds for large oil and gas pipelines, will bring $7.5 million to ORNL and another $3 million to industry partners. ORNL is a partner on a fifth project that will bring $1.5 million to the lab and is worth $4.4 million overall.

Craig Blue, manager of the Industrial Technologies Program for ORNL, noted that the important role the industrial sector plays.

“Industry in the United States accounts for one-fourth of the world’s manufacturing output, employs 14 million people and at 12 percent of the gross domestic product makes the highest contribution to the economy of any sector,” Blue said.

While the U.S. industrial sector supplies over 60 percent of the nation’s exports worth $50 billion/month, the challenge is to reduce the amount of energy – 32 quads, which is about one-third of the total energy consumed in the nation. One quad is equal to 1 quadrillion British thermal units, an amount of energy equal to 170 million barrels of oil.

“Working with industry, we are confident that we can reduce the amount of energy consumed and increase productivity through new technologies,” Blue said.

The following technologies were the winners of DOE Energy Intensive Processes support:

High-magnetic field processing. This is a heat-free heat-treating method that uses magnetic fields to enhance reaction kinetics and shift the phase boundaries targeted by heat treatment. This strategy can eliminate heat treatment steps, saving time and energy and adding a new dimension to materials processing. The project is led by Gail Ludtka of ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division. Partners are American Magnetics, Ajax TOCCO, American Safety Razor, Carpenter Technologies and Caterpillar.

Near net shape manufacturing of low-cost titanium powders for industry. This is a technology that consolidates new titanium and titanium alloy powders into net shape components for energy systems such as aerospace components and heat exchangers. The project is led by Bill Peter of the Materials Science and Technology Division. Partners are Ohio State University, LMC, Ametek, Lockheed Martin and Aqua Chem.

Improved heat recovery in biomass-fired boilers. This project is aimed at developing advanced materials and designs to improve efficiency by enabling boilers to be operated at higher temperatures. The maximum operating temperature is often limited by the corrosion rate of superheater tubes. By learning why these tubes degrade when operated above the melting point of the inorganic deposits, which is necessary for the process, researchers hope to identify alloys or coatings that provide improved resistance.

The project is led by Jim Keiser of the Materials Science and Technology Division. Partners include FP Innovations, Sharp Consultants and the University of Tennessee.

Flexible hybrid friction stir joining technology. This project is aimed at transforming friction stir welding, a specialty process that uses up to 80 percent less energy than standard welding, into a mainstream process. Friction stir welding, a solid-state joining process that produces high-quality welds, is now used primarily for aluminum and other low-melting materials. Despite energy and quality advantages, the technology has seen limited use in steel, complex structures and thick sections applications.

Researchers hope to develop new materials for friction stir welding tools, develop hybrid friction stir welding with auxiliary heating to reduce forge load and develop multi-pass multi-layer technology for very thick sections. Ultimately, this will result in a field-deployable system that provides flexibility and affordability for on-site construction. Initial applications will be for large oil and gas pipelines.

Partners are Exxon Mobil Corp., ESAB Group, MegaStir Technologies and Edison Welding Institute.

Eaton Corp. is the lead on the fifth project, prototyping energy-efficient thermo-magnetic and induction hardening for heat treat and net-shape forming applications. The goal is to extend tool lifetime and enable cost-effective energy-efficient implementation of precision forging across a wide range of industries. This can be done by coupling the advanced high magnetic field and induction heating technologies to post-process lower cost material feedstock and to harden the die. Ludtka will be working with Eaton on this project.

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.

Ron Walli | Newswise Science News
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