At its core, Cleantech is fundamentally based upon specialized functional materials that determine
the efficacy, impact, and market potential of a given technology. Whether due to their physical, chemical, optical,
electrical, or magnetic properties, advanced materials play a leading role in Cleantech. Whereas materials were once
chosen based on their ready availability, advanced materials are now designed, synthesized, and manufactured at the
molecular level. Computer simulations are being used to accelerate the development cycle for new materials by
allowing for rapid exploration and screening prior to synthesis and testing. Nano-engineering and precision control
of materials and structures have the potential to yield orders of magnitude performance improvements in efficiency,
lifetime, energy density, weight and cost.
The U.S Government sponsors the development of advanced materials for clean energy and environmental technologies
through a variety of financial incentives. Liebman & Associates (L&A) can help you leverage
the investment of the federal government in research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D) of
next-generation materials through agency grants and national laboratory technical assistance. L&A's team has
the capability and technical resources to understand the impact of materials innovations, their application to
clean energy technologies and departmental programmatic objectives to best position you to collaborate with
the federal government.
In its first Critical Materials Strategy, DOE determined that several components of the clean energy technologies
depend on materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term. International market distortions are currently
causing limited supplies of rare earth materials and the manufacture of U.S. clean energy technologies are likely
to be impacted by constrained supplies. According to DOE, as clean energy technologies are deployed more widely
in the decades ahead, their share of global consumption of rare earths are likely to grow from 7% in 2010 to 20%
or more by 2025.
Federal government support for advanced materials span the renewable energy, energy efficiency and modern grid space
- Manufacturing - Novel materials are required to support next-generation manufacturing processes
and clean energy manufacturing. High-performance, highly-functional materials are needed to reduce the embedded energy,
carbon footprint, and cost of finished products while improving product quality and enhancing manufacturing productivity
- advanced ceramics, coatings and nanomaterials that can operate in extreme environments and increase thermal or
degradation resistance of components; advanced composites, hybrid materials, engineered polymers, and low-density,
high-strength metals that can increase the performance of energy production and transfer equipment; thin films and
electrochemicals that require functional surface interactions; inexpensive carbon fibers, new cement technologies,
low-cost titanium fabrication, and biomimetic materials.
- Solar Energy - Photovoltaics (PV) rely upon high performance materials to enable their efficiency,
lifetime, and cost. Thin-film PV technologies such as CdTe and CIGS still have large disparities between champion lab
cell and production module performance that can be closed with a better understanding of the materials and device
structures. Flexible applications such as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) require functional films for
encapsulation. The development of new transparent conductors can enable both higher performance, lower cost,
and improved reliability Beyond improving today's PV technologies, highly functional materials underlie the
development and performance of next generation photovoltaics - plasmonics, organic cells, and multiple exciton
generation technologies. Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies also have the potential for higher efficiency,
lower cost, and improved reliability. Higher temperature operation of critical CSP systems will require material
innovations in receiver materials, selective coatings, high temperature heat exchangers, and new formulations for
molten salts to increase their heat capacity and operating temperature ranges.
- Electric Vehicles - To enable wide scale deployment of electric drive vehicles, materials
development is a critical across the entire vehicle from energy storage and the power train to lightweight body
materials. On board energy storage, namely rechargeable batteries, are required that have higher volumetric
and gravimetric energy densities, have longer deep discharge cycle lives, and are lower cost. Achieving these
objectives may require moving to higher energy couples from today's lithium ion batteries. The move to
lithium-sulfur, lithium-air, magnesium and other battery systems requires development of cathodes, anodes,
electrolytes, catalysts and other system components to enable their reliable performance. High-performance,
cost-effective, lightweight materials are needed to reduce fuel consumption in internal combustion and hybrid
vehicles and to increase range and performance of plug-in electric vehicles.
- Biofuels - Renewable Fuel Standard mandates require steadily increasing annual production
levels of biofuels reaching 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. Thermochemical conversion processes can convert
a wide range of biomass materials into intermediates suitable for further conversion to final fuels. To increase
yield and quality while decreasing the cost of biofuels, R&D is needed to develop catalysts for fuel intermediates
and product upgrading to renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel with a focus on lifetime, activity and selectivity.
- Solid State Lighting - Lighting in the U.S. is expected to have consumed nearly 10 quadrillion
(1015) BTU in 2010. Solid-state lighting for general illumination offers the nation the greatest opportunity in
energy savings among all lighting technologies. Innovation is needed in the materials, device structures and
processing methods throughout the device stack from novel low-cost high performance substrates (e.g., GaN for
nitride-based materials) through to the transparent electrodes used or OLEDs.
- Rechargeable Batteries - Rechargeable batteries are critical elements of the modern smart grid
and the expansion of electric vehicles. Development has focused on lithium-ion technologies while R&D continues
on other systems. New materials and system components are needed to drive down the cost of lithium-ion batteries
while maintaining or improving existing performance. New materials and cells are needed to driver higher levels
of performance - improved volumetric and gravimetric energy density, increased cycle life, increased calendar life,
higher system efficiency and reduced cost.
- Wind Energy - Drivetrains include some of the most expensive components of a wind turbine and
represent a significant portion of the total energy losses. Permanent-magnet generators have the potential to
offer cost, reliability, and performance advantages over conventional induction generators or wound field
synchronous generators. However, permanent magnets typically rely upon expensive rare-earth alloys, consisting
of the lanthanide elements, particularly neodymium and dysprosium. Improvements in energy density and creation
of nano-structured magnets can result in size and weight reductions, particularly important for large diameter
- Fuel Cells - Catalysts are required to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of fuel cells
system. Platinum Group Metal (PGM) catalyst approaches are needed that will increase activity and utilization of
current PGM and PGM alloy catalysts. The development of innovative nanostructured PGM-containing materials can
lead to reduced PGM content, reducing fuel cell costs. PGM-free catalyst approaches, including the development
of viable electrode structures that allow an increase in loading and thickness has the potential to further reduce
system lifetime costs. Further, interactions between the catalyst, support structure, catalyst particle size
and structure can have a meaningful impact of performance. Materials with superior corrosion resistance and with
electrical and structural properties that exceed the properties of conventional carbon supported catalysts are needed.
- Grid-Scale Power Electronics - Silicon-based devices in the form of insulated-gate bipolar
transistors (IGBTs) and gate turn-off thyristors (GTOs) have been the dominant semiconductor switches for high
power applications such as high voltage direct current converter stations and flexible alternating current
transmission systems. However, these devices have not been widely deployed in the modern utility grid due to
the high cost and limited performance. Better power electronics would enable utilities to more effectively
deliver power to their customers through increased transmission and distribution efficiency and improved voltage
and frequency regulation.
Ask L&A to show you how federal government technical and financial support for advanced materials RD&D can
enhance product performance, advance corporate sustainability efforts and improve project return on investment (ROI).
Dare to ask, "What if..."