The new research projects will be funded in three areas of materials R&D: predictive modeling of carbon fiber composites, predictive modeling of advanced steels, and developing advanced alloys for automotive and heavy-duty engines.
Projects selected in the first area will involve developing and validating modeling tools to optimize carbon fiber composite performance and cost-effectiveness for use in vehicle bodies, chassis, and interiors. Carbon fiber composites can reduce the weight of vehicle components by up to 50 percent over conventional automotive steel structures.
The second R&D area will concern developing modeling tools to help optimize performance and cost-effectiveness of third-generation high-strength steels to be used in vehicle bodies and chassis. The DOE stated that such advanced steels can reduce the weight of vehicle components by more than 25 percent.
The third area of research has a different goal: to develop low-cost, high-strength alloys for manufacturing engine blocks and cylinder heads used in automotive and heavy-duty trucks. Cast engine components must be strong enough to withstand higher cylinder pressures caused by more efficient engines that also run hotter.
As much as $8.2 million of the funding will be made available in fiscal 2012. An additional $6 million will be available the following year, assuming Congress gives its approval. The projects are expected to take between two and four years to be completed. The Energy Department is accepting applications from a variety of sources, including national laboratories, university led-teams, and industry.
Maybe it's the lens in which I look at these things given my beat area for Design News, but it stuck me as interesting that predictive modeling and simulation endeavors are factoring so prominently into DOE funding. Now predictive modeling is different than the simulation (CAE) stuff we talk about here quite a bit. Any intel on what role exactly the predictive models are going to play in the work being done to advance lightweighting and new materials?
I think one way to help with this goal would be a new safety class, for light weight vehicles intended for city use, at lower speeds. The vehicle can be lighter, the safety equipment reduced. Lighter weight, lower cost, better fuel efficiency, all without the need for new materials (though such materials would also help with this class).
@TJ: That's an interesting idea. But, would it work in the US given that our car culture is centered on independence and mobility. Could another possibility be to beta test newer technologies in public transportation or partner with delivery companies, such as UPS or FedEx?
I haven't been following this issue closely. Why is it interesting that the DOE's announcement came the day after the American Iron and Steel Institute released its industry profile?
This doesn't seem like much money for R&D, especially since it is spread out of a number of years. This may simply be the most the White House could put together without congressional approval. The load for the company in Dearborn woud have been massive. But in our current political climate, I can see why it didn't get through.
Beth, I also noticed the emphasis on predictive modeling. The announcement (link given in the article) is quite brief and doesn't give any more details. Having covered this subject before a little, I suspect it might be aimed at discovering which materials perform best, according to certain specs, for which specific applications, meaning, in different components of the car. I would guess that those specs would combine the required material performance characteristics (toughness, strength, impact resistance, chemical resistance, etc.) of that component with weight saved. To date, AFAIK there's no such automotive materials database, at least for composites or for composites vs metals, only many different manufacturers' claims and specs and tests. If anyone knows any different, please chime in.
The one thing I already worry about with small city cars is, what about all those huge trucks and buses they could run into? The safety standards would have to protect against low-speed crashes with huge vehicles, as well as with other small cars.
Well, if there isn't yet a database compiling all of that data, there needs to be, hence why it makes sense that predictive modeling and simulation eat up a sizeable chunk of the funding. Given how easy it is to slant performance metrics and position claims, there needs to be some trusted record of data to draw on so engineers in these fields, using these new materials, can make the best, most informed design choices.
I agree, we need such a database. Although I think the need is less a slanting problem than it is simply having all performance data, apples for apples and bananas for bananas, for specific components, in one place. I'd hate to try to gather all that now just for evaluating different materials for a single component.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.