consumption (DOE, 2004a, p. 82). It is unclear why two separate focus areas for smelting R&D have been established. The projects within one smelting focus area are based on the chemistry of the Hall-Héroult process, including new concepts such as inert anode and wetted cathode that would require a different cell design. The one project within the other smelting focus area is based on an alternative to the Hall-Héroult process. The committee recommends that these two focus areas be combined into one area, which might be named, for example, “advanced reduction technologies.”
The term melting technologies refers to the production of secondary aluminum from recycled aluminum products. The selection of efficient melting technologies as a focus area is supported both by its identification as a top priority in the 2003 Aluminum Industry Roadmap and by the bandwidth analysis, which indicates that melting technologies are the second most energy-intensive process.1 It is important to note that although the opportunity for energy savings is larger for smelting than for melting when 2000 data are used, this gap will most likely be significantly narrower in the future as a result of changes in the industry. These changes include the idling or closing of primary smelting capacity, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, and increased growth in recycling.
The fourth focus area, advanced forming technologies, is not well formulated. Forming, in aluminum industry use, refers to downstream product-manufacturing processes, such as sheet forming. Forming, as such, is neither identified as a process step with top-priority R&D needs in the 2003 Aluminum Industry Roadmap, nor is this process identified as having a large opportunity for improvement by the bandwidth analysis. Process steps such as solidification and fabrication are, however, identified by the roadmap as having top-priority R&D needs, while the bandwidth analysis identifies rolling, extrusion, and shape (presumably shape casting) as having some opportunity for improvement. To improve the opportunity for impact, this focus area could perhaps be renamed “advanced fabrication technologies” and could incorporate the specific processes identified in the roadmap and bandwidth analysis. This focus area could also incorporate downstream processes such as joining and forming (used in the conventional industry sense) in end-use industries, where appropriate stretch goals can be identified.
Barriers and pathways have been identified for each of these four focus areas. For the two smelting focus areas, the barriers described in the ITP’s Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) comprehensively identify the key technical issues, and the pathways described in the presentation to the committee are appropriate. However, the committee notes the substantial environmental impact of spent potliner in the Hall-Héroult process and its potential elimination via the carbothermic reduction process. Similarly, the barriers and pathways for the melting technologies focus area are consistent with information from the roadmap.
The barriers and pathways described for the fourth focus area, advanced forming technologies, lack the specificity and connectedness of the barriers and pathways identified for the other three areas. For example, the MYPP for the aluminum subprogram lists a barrier related to a specific in-line characterization technology with relevance to FreedomCAR, but there is no corresponding pathway. The presentation to the committee described barriers related to a lack of models and accurate material data, with pathways of developing models and data. These are very general and could apply to any industry or technology area. Revising these descriptions, perhaps with a view beyond forming as described above, could help focus the subprogram’s efforts.
In FY 2003, the aluminum subprogram portfolio consisted of 25 projects with a total federal budget of $6.4 million and industry funding of $2.7 million, resulting in an industry cost-share of 30 percent.2 In the area of alternative reduction technologies, the major project is the development of a carbothermic reduction process for aluminum. This project is also one of the current grand challenges listed in the MYPP (DOE, 2004a, p. 65). The project is aggressive in its R&D scope, but it currently consists of only