Aluminum Materials For a Carbon-Reduced World

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The term “heavy duty” doesn’t necessarily impress the Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) experts, especially where alloys are concerned. That word usage is meant to connote strength and durability that many times comes at the expense of weight.

However, QuesTek and the materials industry continue to pursue the development of stronger AND tougher materials and new processes–involving advanced additive manufacturing (AM)—to push the envelope for higher performance applications that create efficiencies.

Aluminum is taking center stage in the pursuit of greater energy efficiency, and below we examine how it’s evolution is contributing to a carbon-reduced world.

New Aluminum’s Sustainability

New aluminum is lighter-weight, stronger, and 100 percent recyclable. Aluminum-coated roofs, for example, reflect 95 percent of sunlight, bolstering building efficiency. Beverage makers that use new aluminum for packaging reduce shipping costs and carbon emissions. Additionally, aluminum has a 20 percent smaller life cycle energy consumption than steel in transportation.

The production of new aluminum requires less energy–a decrease of 25 percent since 1995–and the industry’s carbon footprint has been reduced by 40 percent.

Aluminum’s Impact on the Automotive Industry

Cars and Trucks – The automotive industry was the natural place to start with the basic premise that lightweight materials would create better fuel efficiency and ultimately a smaller carbon footprint. This metallurgical journey of a decades-long evolution has recently been chronicled in the ASM publication Advanced Materials and Processing.

In addition, The U.S. Department of Energy began working with manufacturers to replace the conventional iron and steel alloys that comprised car parts with aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber composites.

The Ford F-150 Case Study – Ford turned to aluminum to gain market share and take the lead over leading rivals like Ram and Chevrolet. The frame of the 2014 Ford F-150 pickup truck has 77% aluminum compared to the previous model which had just 23% aluminum.

As a result of using improved aluminum alloys, the F-150 shed 700 pounds and became much more fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly by reducing carbon emissions.

How Will Aluminum Enable Industry 4.0?

Aluminum alloys and their applications continue to evolve through additive manufacturing innovation, and QuesTek is at the forefront.

With the recognition that legacy alloys are not optimized for 3D printing, we are creating novel alloys combining printability with performance. As new applications require increasingly demanding combinations of strength, toughness, corrosion resistance, high temperature performance, etc., ICME based process-structure-property modeling and design is creating the future generation aluminum alloys.

One result is a printable alloy, exceeding the strength and elongation of wrought 7050-T74, demonstrating general corrosion and stress corrosion cracking resistance. We also created an AM aluminum alloy that maintains strength at temperatures >200C allowing for more robust heat exchanger designs

Aluminum alloys have a storied history, enabling energy savings, and these opportunities will continue to explode as ICME design delivers new compositions and processes.

About QuesTek

QuesTek Innovations LLC is a global leader in ICME technologies and has used its proprietary Materials by Design® methodology to rapidly design and deploy a family of commercially-available Ferrium® steels being used in demanding applications. For over 20 years, QuesTek has been selected by all branches of the US government and a growing and diverse industrial client base to understand and resolve their most pressing materials challenges. Contact us today to learn more about our cutting-edge capabilities and how we can leverage our ICME approach to resolve your most pressing materials challenges.