Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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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.
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.
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.