4
Conclusions and Recommendations

The intermetallic alloy development program at ORNL has contributed significantly to the understanding of intermetallic materials and processing technologies. The program has been characterized by outstanding research and effective coordination between basic and applied research organizations. More important, extensive interactions between ORNL and industrial participants interested in the commercial applications of intermetallic alloys have led to the development of critical alloy compositions and processing methods.

The lessons learned from the development of Ni3Al alloys and processes can provide general guidelines to OIT in the implementation of the IOF strategy throughout the OIT program. The conclusions and recommendations discussed in this chapter are primarily applicable to OIT-sponsored intermetallic alloy projects and reflect the goals and vision of the OIT/AIM program, i.e., to support development and commercialization of new or improved materials to improve energy efficiency, productivity, and product quality in the major process industries.

Overall, the ORNL intermetallic alloy development program has been successful in terms of the technical goals and objectives established by the program, i.e., to develop high strength, ductile intermetallic alloys that can be processed and utilized for high-temperature structural applications. However, full commercialization of developed technologies, the ultimate objective of OIT's research strategy, has been slow.



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Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation 4 Conclusions and Recommendations The intermetallic alloy development program at ORNL has contributed significantly to the understanding of intermetallic materials and processing technologies. The program has been characterized by outstanding research and effective coordination between basic and applied research organizations. More important, extensive interactions between ORNL and industrial participants interested in the commercial applications of intermetallic alloys have led to the development of critical alloy compositions and processing methods. The lessons learned from the development of Ni3Al alloys and processes can provide general guidelines to OIT in the implementation of the IOF strategy throughout the OIT program. The conclusions and recommendations discussed in this chapter are primarily applicable to OIT-sponsored intermetallic alloy projects and reflect the goals and vision of the OIT/AIM program, i.e., to support development and commercialization of new or improved materials to improve energy efficiency, productivity, and product quality in the major process industries. Overall, the ORNL intermetallic alloy development program has been successful in terms of the technical goals and objectives established by the program, i.e., to develop high strength, ductile intermetallic alloys that can be processed and utilized for high-temperature structural applications. However, full commercialization of developed technologies, the ultimate objective of OIT's research strategy, has been slow.

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Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation PRIORITIZATION AND METRICS ORNL's intermetallic alloy program was at first curiosity driven and later technology push driven. Promising applications were identified through interactions with industry and collaborations, workshops, and internally-funded market analyses. Although this approach led to advances in the understanding of materials and process technology for the intermetallic alloys under study, it did not lead to commercialization. Since 1995, the program has been in transition to the OIT IOF (Industries of the Future) strategy; business and technology needs identified by the IOF teams are used to establish program priorities. ORNL has already begun analyzing their priorities with respect to the industry visions, but it is still too soon to predict that the IOF strategy will lead to commercial success or that the level of success will repay the research investment. The panel believes that relying solely on industry needs, even with an effective identification strategy, has inherent drawbacks. Important crosscutting or exploratory research programs might not be supported if they are not identified as critical industry needs by any one group. The intermetallic alloy development program, for example, which began as an exploratory research project, might not have been supported. Recommendation. The panel recommends that OIT and the ORNL intermetallic alloy development program use the following approach to identify and prioritize research programs. Identify IOF needs and priorities that may be met through the application of intermetallic alloys. Identify possible new projects that are consistent with the IOF vision documents and identified research and business priorities. (The analysis by ORNL of the forest products industry is an important first step in this process.) Establish, with input from IOF teams interested in the commercial uses of intermetallic alloys, a target level of support for crosscutting research and development programs. Identify projects with the potential to meet identified industry needs. For example, explore the expanded use of Ni3Al for hot metalworking (dies, fixtures, furnace furniture), the use of nickel and iron aluminides for processing equipment in high temperature and corrosive environments in the chemical and refining industries, and the use of Ni3Al for transfer and processing rolls for the steel and paper industries and dies for the glass-making industry. Develop material and process technology goals based on these potential applications. Emphasize crosscutting projects that could lead to commercial application in more than one industrial sector. Increase the interactions between ORNL and industry through the Metals-Processing Laboratory User Center. Use the center to identify industry

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Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation needs and issues that may require further research in the intermetallic program. Explore the use of value-based metrics, such as metrics based on methods of market and cost analysis, to evaluate and prioritize research and development projects and goals. FOCUS FOR THE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM The ORNL intermetallic alloy development program has made significant technical advances in exploratory research and characterization and process development and scaling. The early decision to focus on Ni 3Al and to concentrate on optimizing alloy composition, characterizing material behavior, and developing production-scale processing methods was critical to the success of the program. Technical accomplishments in material characterization and in the development of Ni3Al alloy compositions include the identification of critical material deficiencies, the characterization of important degradation mechanisms, and the optimization of alloying technology to improve structural performance and processibility. ORNL researchers have attempted to apply the lessons learned from these developments to other intermetallic compounds, with limited success. In the panel's judgment, some of the most significant accomplishments of the intermetallic alloy research program have been in the development of manufacturing processes, including the production-volume melting process (Exo-melt process), methods and alloy modifications for low-cost casting processes, and materials and processing methods for structural welds and weld repairs. Industrial participants have been critical in identifying these needs and priorities. Additional work, including welding and machining process development and the development of solidification models for casting and welding processes, may be needed to accelerate the commercial use of Ni3Al alloys. Recommendation. Focus research on alloy optimization and the development of process technologies for a selected number of alloy families for which ORNL has unique expertise and capability. In addition to the Ni3Al-based alloys emphasized in previous characterization and development programs, ORNL has particular experience with the iron aluminides (Fe3Al, FeAl). Recommendation. Continue to emphasize the development of manufacturing process technology for selected alloys to maximize opportunities for commercialization and technology transfer to industry. Recommendation. Emphasize low-cost processes in the development and optimization of intermetallic alloys.

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Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation Recommendation. Develop data bases of materials properties and processing methods to support industrial application and commercialization. In addition to the physical and mechanical properties that were emphasized in previous work on Ni3Al, develop data required to model solidification (casting and welding) processes. Establish production processing standards and methods for machining and welding nickel and iron aluminides. Recommendation. Whenever possible, use alloys and processing in ORNL laboratory equipment to gain experience through operational tests and technology evaluations with developmental materials. For example, use Ni3Al within ORNL for in-furnace fixtures and metalworking tools and dies. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE OFFICE OF INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM The panel believes that the ORNL intermetallics program is an excellent example of a successful scientific and technological program, with effective integration of program elements—from basic research through production-scale demonstrations—and effective coordination of program goals and responsibilities among participating funding and research organizations. Long-term, consistent, collaborative funding by various DOE program offices, effective program integration, flexibility to reorient and refocus research based on promising results or identified needs, and partnerships and collaborations with industry have all contributed to the success of the program. The lessons learned from the development of Ni3Al alloys and processes can provide OIT with general guidelines for coordinating and managing several research organizations and funding from several sources, and for effective industrial collaborations. These guidelines can assist OIT in the implementation of the IOF strategy throughout the OIT program. Throughout the ORNL intermetallic alloy development program, interactions with industrial participants have been critical to identifying the needs and priorities for technology development. However, the profit-based metrics used in are not appropriate for measuring the efficacy of government-funded, long-term research. IOF guidance should be sought to ensure that the program remains relevant, but the panel suggests that short-term (i.e., one to three years) commercial potential should not be the primary “compass” directing the selection of OIT projects. In the panel's judgment, metrics compatible with DOE and OIT organizational objectives for comparing and selecting programs for the OIT IOF program should include: potential for energy conservation, potential for waste reduction, consistency with IOF business objectives and technology road maps, commercial potential/market value, and potential benefits for multiple applications in more than one industrial sector (crosscutting technologies).

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Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation The results of successful use of Ni3Al alloys in a variety of trial production applications, as well as recent commercial orders for furnace transfer rolls in steel mills and heat-treat furnace fixtures, indicate that commercial application of these alloys is likely to expand in the next several years. However, although Ni3Al alloys have performed well in production-scale trials, it is unclear at this time if the level of successful commercial application will repay the research investment. Full commercialization has been slow for a variety of reasons. First, alternative materials are available for all potential applications. To replace an established material, factors other than performance must be considered. These include the cost and supply of raw materials; production capability; cost of materials, fabrication processes, tooling, and facilities; demonstrated reliability; and supplier infrastructure. Second, successful commercialization requires a strong, committed, and in some instances lucky industrial proponent who understands the real hurdles and motivation for industrial acceptance. Finally, the technology, especially the processing technology, must be substantially developed prior to commercialization. These criteria have been incorporated into the commercialization strategy for the ORNL intermetallics program. However, as part of the federal research and development establishment, it is not possible for OIT to participate fully and actively in the commercialization process, especially in the later stages when the product is brought to market. Technologies developed by OIT must be commercialized by industry. Recommendation. Emphasize the early involvement of key industrial participants representing suppliers, producers, and users of particular materials or process technologies. Use collaboration mechanisms, such as cooperative research and development agreements, cofunded research programs, exchanges of personnel, and the laboratory user center. Recommendation. Support projects with potential suppliers and users of the technology to demonstrate and debut the technology. Recommendation. When licensing technology developed within the OIT research and development program, understand the relationship between the technical program and the licensee's business strategy. Avoid making exclusive license arrangements that rely on unrealistic technology development for commercialization (i.e., do not license too early) or that unnecessarily restrict or preclude application of the technology in other fields of use. Recommendation. OIT should develop a mechanism for the orderly termination of (1) projects that have met OIT objectives and have progressed to the final stage of commercialization (market introduction) and (2) projects that do not have sufficient industrial interest to support demonstration, process development, and scale-up.

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