Ames Lab: Forging Materials with the ‘Right Stuff’ for Tomorrow’s Energy Systems

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Materials are foundational technology, and they will continue to be an important focus of nearly all technology development. The development and deployment of highly flexible and efficient energy systems, such as advanced turbine systems, advanced gasification systems, advanced ultrasupercritical (AUSC) steam cycles, supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO 2) power cycles, and direct power extraction systems, are no exception.

The need to increase operating temperatures and pressures in order to increase efficiency, along with the need for flexible operations, are placing more demands on the materials used in these systems. Thus, there is tremendous need for improved cost-effective materials that can withstand the aggressive service environments involving high temperatures, high pressures, corrosive and oxidizing environments, hydrogen attack, and thermal-cycling conditions to improve efficiency and extend the life of electricity-producing power plants.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is at the forefront in designing and manufacturing advanced alloys used in harsh environments. These efforts, undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL’s High-Performance Materials program, are focused on the development of improved alloys for deployment in both the existing fleet of power systems and new power-generating technology.

NETL alloy development also supports the DOE-FE eXtremeMAT consortium. Launched in 2018, eXtremeMAT consists of NETL and partner national laboratories Ames Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The consortium leverages the world-leading expertise and capabilities in the DOE complex associated with materials design, high-performance computing power, advanced manufacturing, in-situ characterization, and performance assessment in an integrated, collaborative, and coordinated effort to address the materials challenges associated with advanced energy systems.