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CMI to feature award-winning aluminum alloy for additive manufacturing at Defense Techconnect

Contacts:                                                                                                                                             For Release: Oct. 7, 2019

Chris Haase, Critical Materials Institute Director, 515-296-4500
Laura Millsaps, Ames Laboratory Communications, 515-294-3474

A new Al-Ce additive manufacturing alloy invented by the Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, will be featured at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo Oct. 8-10, National Harbor, Maryland. “Al-Ce Alloys for Additive Manufacturing” received a TechConnect 2019 Innovation Award at its June 2019 Exposition for the development and commercialization of powder feedstocks for 3D printing of high temperature Al alloys. Awards are presented to the top 15% of submitted technologies to the TechConnect Corporate & Investment Partner Committee. Innovation rankings are based on the potential positive impact the submitted technology will have on a specific industry sector.

Al-Ce alloy development arose from the need to help balance the rare earth supply chain, in which elements in high demand for green technology, such as neodymium and dysprosium, result in a vast overabundance of cerium, which has relatively little demand. Because these elements always occur together, this supply imbalance has a negative effect on the economics of rare earth mining. Al-Ce alloys were originally designed for sand casting and die casting to stimulate a large demand for Ce. The CMI team--consisting of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ames Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Eck Industries--found that the alloys develop internal structures that are extremely resistant to change at high temperature, making them ideal for the demanding thermal cycling that metal additive manufacturing causes. Even more promising, these alloys develop nanoscale structures during the rapid solidification inherent to additive manufacturing and retain high strength at temperatures up to 300 °C (572 °F).

“This exciting transitional research bridging fundamental discovery and application-based science was catalyzed by alloy development within CMI and is expected to enjoy broad commercial uptake in the upcoming years,” said CMI Director Chris Haase. “The project fits well with CMI’s goals to deliver technology options that better diversify the supply, deliver substitutes, and improve the recycling of materials and minerals that are critical for energy and national security.”

Several Al-Ce-based alloys for additive manufacturing, designed by the CMI team and commercialized by Eck Industries, have been provided for evaluation at a number of other commercial entities in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

The development of the Al-Ce alloy system was awarded a R&D 100 Award in 2017.

The alloys, which include Al-Ce-Mg, Al-Ce-Mn, Al-Ce-Ni, Al-Ce-Cu, and Al-Ce-Zn, are now manufactured by Eck Industries, Inc. and are expected to make a significant impact on both aluminum additive manufacturing and rare earth supply chains.

For more information about the technology licensing opportunities, contact Stacy Joiner at joiner@ameslab.gov, 515-294-5932; Jennifer Caldwell at caldwelljt@ornl.gov, 865-574-4180; or David Weiss at david.weiss@eckindustries, 920-682-4618.

The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, which supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science National Laboratory operated by Iowa State University. ORNL is a U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory operated by UT-Battelle LLC. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration. Eck Industries produces premium aluminum castings for transportation markets and develops specialty alloys used for castings, extrusions, forgings and additive manufacturing.