QuesTek Innovations LLC (Evanston, Illinois, USA), a global leader in integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) technologies, was recently awarded $1.1 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR) Phase II funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) (Washington, D.C., USA).
According to QuesTek, this Phase II funding will be used to design, develop, and qualify a novel materials solution and process for next-generation molten salt reactors. This new 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 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) certified structural materials.
During the Phase I project, QuesTek used its ICME technologies to design novel molybdenum alloy compositions that combine improved cold spray processability with high molten salt corrosion resistance and strong interfacial bonding to the substrate material. Following initial cold spray trials in which these compositions were successfully deposited on 316 stainless steel, QuesTek plans to explore other refractory alloy designs and cold spray structure evaluations that focus on both the material and the process, and address 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 Dr. Pin Lu, QuesTek materials design engineer and project 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 (Worcester, Massachusetts, USA), a leader in advanced cold spray technology process optimization, additive manufacturing powder development and commercialization, and machine learning process control. In addition, the company is working with Vilupanur Ravi, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona and an expert in materials behavior in molten salt, to achieve concurrent design of both material and process.
“Further development of functionally graded coatings applied via cold spray will augment the commercialization of critical technologies,” says Dr. Aaron Birt, Solvus Global co-founder and CEO. “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 Prof. 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. As reactors are designed to push efficiency limits, novel materials and processes such as those being developed by QuesTek are necessary to function in highly corrosive environments.
For more information, visit www.solvusglobal.com and www.powdersondemand.com.
Source: QuesTek Innovations LLC, www.questek.com.