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.