Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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The NanoSteel Company
Complex modern challenges are driving new industrial market demands for metal alloys with properties and performance capabilities outside the known boundaries of existing materials. The NanoSteel Company’s portfolio of proprietary nano-structured steels is new technology designed to solve these challenges while leveraging the inherent benefits of steel.
NanoSteel is a leader in nano-structured steel materials design. NanoSteel partners with major automotive, oil & gas, mining and steel production companies to create new products that meet a number of today’s more critical materials needs. NanoSteel brings new alloys with unique performance properties tailored to specific market requirements from the lab through to commercialization.
NanoSteel represents a successful technology transfer from U.S. government funded research to a commercial going concern. NanoSteel’s original steel material breakthrough in 1996 was the result of a U.S. government funded R&D project at the USDOE’s Idaho National Lab (INL) for hard-metal surface coatings for industrial applications in extreme wear environments. NanoSteel was formed in 2002 with a worldwide exclusive license from INL to this technology.
NanoSteel has a proven track record of innovation and successful development and commercialization of award-winning products. Based on the foundation of its original surface coatings technology, NanoSteel has created progressive generations of iron-based alloys from foils to powder metals to sheet steel. The company has won five prestigious R&D 100 Awards for its nano-structured alloys and its ongoing commitment to R&D is supported by an extensive intellectual property portfolio which includes more than 200 licenses, patents and patents pending.
NanoSteel recently reached a significant product development milestone with a third generation Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) sheet design breakthrough for the automotive industry. NanoSteel’s new AHSS delivers both high strength and high ductility allowing automakers the ability to use thinner gauges of higher strength steel to design parts without compromising safety. Through this unique combination of properties, NanoSteel’s new class of AHSS will light-weight future vehicle designs to help meet U.S. government fuel economy requirements that will increase to 54.5 MPG in 2025. This new AHSS sheet is currently being commercialized.
The continual demand for greater material strength, durability, and longevity in structural applications makes metal a constant focus and challenge for material scientists and engineers. One of the best ways to modify the mechanical and structural properties of metal is through peening, a process that uses surface impaction to produce permanent, compressive residual stress layers within a metal’s surface; once the external impact stress dissipates, the peened material retains its harder, more durable quality. Contemporary peening processes used round metallic or ceramic balls to compress a material and harden its surface. Though this process works, shot peening has less-than-exact control due to the nature of ballistic balls, the limited or sub-surface impaction depths, and the prevalence of pitting throughout the target surface material. To combat these limitations, Metal Improvement Company (MIC)—a subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies—and LLNL partnered to develop the commercial production of a more efficient method to strengthen metal: laser peening.
Although laser peening technology existed in the 1960s, its irregularity undermined the technology’s commercial viability. That is, until LLNL began applying its high-energy, high-repetition-rate, short-pulse laser to peening applications in the 1990s. Since laser-based peening allows for precision control and compaction depths of 5–10 times deeper than shot peening, a perfected laser-peeing process would expand potential applications from gears, coils, and crankshafts to more structurally demanding items such as steam turbine blades, aircraft structures, and high-performance engine components. Leveraging Livermore’s robotic mounts for fast, customized, computer-controlled peening angles, laser peening soon acquired the characteristics of speed, efficiency, and consistent coverage to warrant commercial development. Shot-peening industry leader MIC funded additional research at LLNL to hone the short-pulse laser technology for laser peening and subsequently licensed the patent portfolio covering the LLNL laser system. MIC opened its first laser peening facility in 2002 and now has three peening facilities in the US, one in the UK, and mobile peening systems with the capability to go on-site anywhere in the world.
The commercial laser peening process developed by LLNL and MIC extends the service lifetime of aircraft engines, power turbines, and other critical components of military and civilian systems by a factor of 10. The impacts of this technology are particularly evident in the aerospace industry, where laser peening has improved more than 10,000 jet engine turbine blades and extended the lifespan for components of aircraft for customers ranging from Boeing, Rolls Royce, Siemens, and the Department of Defense. Using LLNL’s technology, MIC now treats blades for steam and gas turbines for all major electric power equipment manufacturers in the U.S.
MIC integrated LLNL-developed laser technology and peening capability into a viable commercial process that continues having a major global impact. Laser peening improves performance, increases service life, and reduces costs for various industry structures and propulsion, yielding billions of dollars in savings for jet engine fan blades, fuselages, wings, and other components of civil and military aircraft structures, electricity generation steam turbines, and high-performance racing vehicles.
Dexterous robotic hands are expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, due to the cost of components, challenging assembly procedures, and relatively small manufacturing quantities.
In a DARPA-funded project, collaborating with LUNAR and Stanford University, Sandia developed a dexterous robotic hand that would cost significantly less than traditional robotic hands.
Additive manufacturing played two key roles in the development of the hand. In the design and prototype stages, it allowed parts to be quickly fabricated and tested, facilitating rapid design iterations. Approximately 50% of the Sandia-hand components are 3D printed. Additionally, due to the anthropomorphic design of the hand, many of the parts have complex geometries, which are difficult to manufacture using traditional methods, including components of the fingers which were fabricated using a laser powder bed. The inclusion of additive manufacturing permitted the hand to be created at a substantially lower price.
The Sandia Hand itself consists of a frame that supports a set of identical finger modules that magnetically attach and detach from the hand frame. The finger modules consist of several sensor systems that enable the hand to perform complex manipulation tasks and is supported by several imaging systems to increase function and performance.
The hand addresses challenges that have prevented widespread adoption of other robotic hands, such as cost, durability, dexterity, and modularity. 3D printing was a key enabler in cost-effective creation of the hand. Major cost reductions were achieved through a combination of inexpensive components, simplified assembly and maintenance procedures, and additive manufacturing methods.
Graphene, the much-vaunted "super material" that catapulted onto the materials science scene just nine years ago, offers extraordinary opportunities for industries interested in everything from supercomputers to renewable energy. Unfortunately, graphene's singular characteristics come at the price of a challenging synthesis processes—weaving two-dimensional, atom-thin tapestries from carbon atoms requires considerable craft.Armed with just such expertise, physicists Elena Polyakova and Daniel Stolyarov launched a company to provide laboratories and industry with much-needed samples of these remarkable hexagonal structures. Graphene Laboratories, based in Calverton, NY and founded in 2009, works in close collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) to pioneer new synthesis techniques and characterization studies of graphene and other promising two-dimensional materials.
Hadron Technologies, Inc. has signed an exclusive license for a Hybrid Microwave and Off-Gas Treatment System developed by the Savannah River National Laboratory, the Department of Energy's applied science laboratory, to manufacture and sell the SRNL-developed system.
This new form of hybrid microwave is capable of achieving extremely high temperatures by enabling materials that usually do not react to microwave energy to absorb it and rapidly heat up. Metals, which normally cannot be introduced into a microwave, not only can be treated, but they are actually used to help increase the temperature of the lower chamber, enabling faster degradation of waste materials.
Equipment using these technologies could be used to destroy a wide variety of substances ranging from medical wastes to harmful viruses and drugs such as methamphetamine, while still allowing for DNA analysis of the destroyed material.
This innovative microwave technology affords significant solutions within the commercial and government markets. "This is another good example of how laboratory innovation has changed our approach to problems," said Dr. Terry Michalske, Director of SRNL. SRNL puts science to work to support DOE and the nation in the areas of environmental stewardship, national security, and clean energy.
In a world with increasing numbers of chemical and biological hazards, including clandestine drug labs and emerging infectious diseases, safe, effective, easy-to-use decontamination solutions are needed.
Sandia National Laboratories developed the Sandia Decon Formulation, a non-toxic, non-corrosive chemistry for neutralization of chemical and biological warfare agents. It was initially used in federal office buildings during the anthrax attacks in 2001, and later was deployed by the military as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then it has been used by first responders, including at the Dallas Ebola incident and Boston Marathon bombings.
Although the Sandia Decon Formulation was first licensed over 10 years ago, many potential market segments remained unserved. A new strategy to more fully realize the technology’s potential has resulted in licensing of the Decon Formulation patent portfolio by eight additional companies in 2013 and 2014.
By tailoring the chemistry, deployment methods, and packaging, the Sandia Decon Formulation is now available for use in a wide variety of applications. Focused chemistries allow production costs to be reduced for higher volume applications such as agriculture and laundry disinfection. Powder versions reduce shipping costs. New deployment methods such as charged aerosols enable rapid decontamination of spaces such as aircraft and transportation centers.
Use for mold and meth-lab remediation is ongoing, and greater use as a disinfectant for agricultural (Salmonella, E-coli, Listeria) and human health (influenza, norovirus, MRSA) pathogens is gaining traction. Applications such as bedbug remediation are being developed, and testing against emerging infectious agents such as Ebola continues.
New products incorporating these approaches provide improved ways to disinfect medical facilities, agricultural processing plants, sports facilities, transportation vehicles and hubs, and housing.
One licensee, SpectraShield Technologies, is targeting the healthcare market with a disinfectant product. In testing by Dr. Kelly Reynolds of the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, SpectraKill™ was proven effective against bacteria, viruses, molds, and spores occurring in hospital environments, eradicating these organisms “below detectable levels.”
Another licensee, Decon7 Systems, has developed specific chemistries for agricultural processing facilities and clothing decontamination.
High volume markets are now being opened up, enabling broader utilization and reducing costs. With additional licensees and manufacturers, the Decon Formulation is now even more widely available to protect people from the dangers of chemical and biological hazards.
Molecular dynamics simulations are used to create new or improved materials, increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes, develop new medicines, and create approaches to protect against chemical and biological threats.
These simulations require immense amounts of computational power and speed. Although computer hardware and software continue to improve, ever more realistic simulations are required in many disciplines.
High Performance Computing (HPC) is moving towards exascale, or systems that are able to make a quintillion calculations per second, at least 50 times faster than the most powerful computers today. Yet many technical challenges remain. Computer applications must be optimized to work on the latest multicore computer processors so that simulations can keep up with research needs.
Sandia National Laboratories is a leader in the development of massively parallel codes such as the Large-scale Atomic/Molecular Massively Parallel Simulator (LAMMPS). An open-source code developed and maintained by Sandia, LAMMPS has become popular for a large community of researchers at DOE facilities, as well as in academia and industry.
As Intel engineers new computer hardware solutions, they are working with Sandia to optimize LAMMPS code to run simulations faster with the newest technologies in the Intel Scalable System Framework. Intel’s programming model helps in the development of code that enables scientists to perform research that has been previously inaccessible due to computing limitations.
Collaboration between Sandia and Intel has led to optimized LAMMPS software that can exploit the newest Intel technologies including fast and energy-efficient processors, network fabric connecting many processors for HPC, and storage solutions that can house complex simulation data.
For some types of simulations the new hardware and software solutions facilitate simulation rates that can be over nine times faster than those achieved only two years ago. These faster computing rates enable scientists to investigate new problems.
Results of the Sandia-Intel collaboration are helping to maintain U.S. leadership in HPC in the face of global competition. They are also moving the country closer to achieving the goals of the DOE Exascale Computing Project, which is designed to address challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security. This project is helping discover insights and answers to crucial scientific and technology challenges in areas including nuclear energy, climate, wind energy, combustion, chemical science, precision medicine for cancer, cosmology, astrophysics, and more.
The oil and gas industry pumps proppant, materials like sand or man-made ceramics, down wellbores and into formations to keep created hydraulic fractures open when producing petroleum fluids. Oil and gas flow from wherever the proppant is located in a formation back to the wellbore. Knowing the proppant location would help operators maximize oil and gas production.
But where is the proppant going in large, horizontally drilled wells? Engineers have been using models and microseismic technology for years to infer the location of proppant. But those methods only show the location of the fractures, not where the proppant is in those fractures.
CARBO is a proppant manufacturer and production enhancement solutions provider. They help clients optimize hydrocarbon recovery from oil and gas wells. Although they had a product that could locate proppant near the wellbore, the industry lacked the ability to locate proppant that had traveled long distances away from the wellbore.
For help solving this challenge, CARBO turned to Sandia National Laboratories. The company knew that Sandia had experience with both advanced materials and subsurface geophysical detection and modeling. Sandia proposed several possible solutions and CARBO chose electromagnetic detection. This method injects an electric current into a well and measures the electromagnetic fields returning from the subsurface with sensors located at the surface.
Once a detection method was chosen, CARBO worked with Sandia to develop a compatible proppant and the methods to locate it. Sandia researchers used their capabilities in geophysical modeling, as well as the capabilities of the University of New Mexico’s Advanced Materials Laboratory, to help CARBO investigate an electrically conductive proppant. Sandia also developed the geophysics-based algorithms that would be used to convert the collected electromagnetic data into an image showing where the proppant was located deep inside fractures.
CARBO has jointly developed patented technology with Sandia and published two papers with the Society of Petroleum Engineers about proppant detection using electromagnetic methods. The methodology has been tested on several wells to date and continues to be refined.
QUANTUM™, CARBO’s propped reservoir volume imaging service which locates their newly developed iON™ proppant, is planned for introduction in 2018. There is already tremendous client interest in using the new methodology which promises to help optimize oil and gas production. The data and images from this service will help CARBO clients better understand how their wells are producing, and where the oil and gas are coming from. This will improve how oil and gas wells are planned, developed, and completed.
According to the DOE, doubling the efficiency of single-pane windows can save roughly the amount of energy needed to power 32 million U.S. homes for a year. The associated investments in energy efficient window films could return about $12 billion/year to energy consumers. Yet this would require breakthrough thermal management materials that are low-cost and easy to apply.
The Materials Science Center and Physical, Chemical and Nano Science Center at Sandia National Laboratories are working with IR Dynamics (IRD) on thermochromic materials. Together, they’re developing nanoparticles that are tunable and triggered by the environment. These nanomaterials transition to let the heat through when it’s cold outside and reflect heat when it’s warm. The technology can be incorporated into a variety of products where controlling solar heat gain and infrared reflectivity is a significant advantage.
IRD brings industry experience to the partnership, particularly with energy efficient products for the building industry. Sandia brings experience in materials science and the physics of optical materials. The company is now licensing two technologies from Sandia and has developed joint intellectual property with the Labs.
After working with Sandia under two NMSBA projects to test the feasibility of creating products based on thermally dynamic materials invented at the Labs, work continues under a CRADA to further develop these materials for applications including window films, architectural membranes, and performance clothing.
For windows, this new technology may double the energy efficiency of single pane glass. The new window film contains technologies developed at Sandia, including thermochromic pigments which reject >50% of infrared radiation above 85°F.
IRD was awarded $1.95 million from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2016 to fund further development of the window film application of the nanomaterial technology. Currently the company is raising $2 million in A-round funding and building out new offices and laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.
Madico, one of the largest providers of window films worldwide, is working with IRD to develop window film products and laminated ETFE structural film (an architectural membrane). The company also has a joint development agreement with HeiQ, a fabric finishing company that provides modified performance materials to major apparel brands.
This partnership between Sandia and IRD can help improve the performance of products in industries from apparel to aerospace, and increase energy efficiency in structures from greenhouses to skyscrapers by bringing new technology to market.