Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced up to $28 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, ULtrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency (ULTIMATE). The ULTIMATE program will develop and demonstrate ultrahigh temperature materials that can operate in high temperature and high stress environments of a gas-turbine blade. Projects will specifically target gas turbine applications in the power generation and aviation industries.
“Gas turbines are a major generator of electricity, and have significantly contributed to the cleaner generation of electricity over the past several years,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “Developing new, innovative technologies under the ULTIMATE program will allow us to better utilize gas turbines across multiple power sectors, from electricity generation to transportation and aviation, making all of these industries more efficient.”
Gas turbines are used for a variety of applications, from aerospace engines to industrial power generation. Natural gas turbines currently produce an estimated 35% of the electricity generated across the United States. Improving turbine efficiency will create opportunities to generate more energy savings, lower carbon emissions, and benefit the economy in these sectors as well as across a breadth of other sectors.
“The development of novel ultrahigh-temperature alloys in conjunction with coatings and advanced manufacturing will help to increase the efficiency of our nation’s power generation and aviation industries,” said ARPA-E Director Lane Genatowski. “Enabling turbines to operate at higher temperatures for longer sustained periods will result in significant reductions of both wasted energy and carbon emissions across many crucial power generation applications.”
The ULTIMATE program will improve the efficiency of gas turbines by increasing the temperature capability of the materials used in the most demanding environments, such as the turbine blade. The temperature capability of current state-of-the-art blade materials has improved steadily over the last few decades to 1100 ºC, through incremental microstructure and chemistry refinement. However, there exists a new opportunity to discover, develop, and implement novel materials that work at temperatures significantly higher than industry standard superalloys, to further increase efficiency and economic gains. ULTMATE projects will address this need by developing novel ultrahigh temperature metal alloys and coatings integrated with advanced manufacturing processes. The ULTIMATE program will target enabling gas-turbines blades to operate continuously at 1300 ºC in a material test environment—or with coatings, with turbine inlet temperatures of 1800 ºC or higher.