Questek Earns U.S. Funding to Develop Cold Sprayable Alloys

QuesTek Innovations LLC (Evanston, Illinois, USA) was recently awarded $1.1 Million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). The funding will be used to design, develop, and qualify a novel materials solution and process for next-generation molten salt reactors, according to the company.

This new Phase II project will focus on efficient and cost-effective cold spray processing of bimetallic structures, with refractory-based alloys (such as molybdenum) as a surface layer to provide corrosion resistance and high-temperature stability on the surface of ASME-certified structural materials.

During the Phase I project, QuesTek used its integrated computational materials engineering technologies to design novel molybdenum alloy compositions. These compositions combined improved cold spray processability with high molten salt corrosion resistance and strong interfacial bonding to the substrate material, according to the company. Initial cold spray trials successfully deposited these compositions on Type 316 stainless steel.

Going forward, QuesTek plans to further explore additional refractory alloy designs beyond molybdenum (such as niobium, tungsten, tantalum) and more extensive functionally graded, cold spray structure evaluations. These evaluations will focus on both the material and process, while also addressing scale-up considerations.

“Cold spray is one of the most effective and economical coating technologies to greatly extend the lifetime of next-generation nuclear reactors,” says Pin Lu, materials design engineer and the project’s principal investigator. “We are excited for this opportunity to apply our proven computational materials design approach to design novel high performance cold sprayable refractory materials, improving the economic feasibility and performance of future clean energy.”

QuesTek is partnering with Solvus Global, a leader in advanced cold spray technology process optimization, AM (additive manufacturing) powder development and commercialization, and machine learning process control. They are working to achieve the concurrent design of material and process with Vilupanur Ravi, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona and an expert in materials behavior in molten salt.

“Further development of functionally graded coatings applied via cold spray will augment the commercialization of critical technologies,” says Aaron Birt, co-founder and CEO of Solvus Global. “This project team combines all the key facets needed to successfully transfer a materials solution out of the lab and into industry, from modeling to production scale up. We look forward to continued project involvement and we are ready to deliver this materials solution at scale to the nuclear industry.”

“This project covers the full gamut - materials design, novel coatings development, and environmental stability,” adds Ravi. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to evaluate the stability of these novel coatings in molten salt environments through innovative and careful testing protocols accompanied by detailed characterization.”

This research supports the DoE’s clean energy initiative of enabling more efficient electricity generation. Current ASME code-approved materials for metallic nuclear molten salt reactors have adequate temperature and oxidation resistance but lack the required corrosion resistance, according to the company. As reactors are designed to push efficiency limits, novel materials and processes such as those being developed by QuesTek are needed to function in the highly corrosive environment.

Source: QuesTek,