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NETL Forges Ahead With Internationally Recognized Innovation in Materials
Metallurgist Paul Jablonski works with an induction furnace at NETL’s Albany site.

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

NETL has long been a leader in materials development. Researchers at the Northwest Electrodevelopment Laboratory, which would become NETL’s Albany lab, pioneered the process for producing ductile zirconium, leading to the birth of both the titanium and zirconium industries. They also tested and produced zirconium needed for the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. Today, our materials scientists are world-renowned for their innovation in designing, developing and deploying advanced materials for use in energy applications and extreme service environments. 

Highly efficient, next-generation power systems operate under some of the harshest environments on the planet. For these systems to function, advanced materials are needed that withstand these conditions. Our talented team of researchers is answering this call.  

Our materials specialists are hard at work designing, characterizing and testing the innovative materials needed for next-generation energy technologies like carbon capture, solid oxide fuel cells and chemical sensing. They’re developing alloys that improve the performance of power convertors and the electric grid. And, they’re investigating corrosion, wear, oxidation and fatigue resistance to expand our knowledge base, leading to materials that can resist degradation and models that can better predict service life. 

Throughout January, NETL is featuring our leading-edge materials research. Check our website through the month to read more about: 

  • How NETL scientists are advancing high-entropy alloys that can withstand significantly higher temperatures and extreme stress to enable greater efficiency in gas turbines, generating cleaner electricity using abundant domestic energy sources. These materials could also enable the manufacture of components to build next-generation jet engines that require less fuel and produce fewer emissions.  
  • How NETL experts are advancing harsh environment sensing technologies while investigating new approaches such as quantum information science, artificial intelligence  and machine learning techniques that could help further increase power plant efficiencies, limit outages, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, improve pipeline safety and more. 
  • How NETL harnessed big data to optimize development of high-performance alloys as part of the eXtremeMAT consortium’s drive to address the materials challenges associated with the harsh environments of advanced energy systems. Such systems will increase efficiency, lower costs and reduce emissions from fossil-fired power cycles, ensuring affordable and reliable energy for the nation well into the future.

These are just a few of the advances NETL is leading in our work to develop energy technologies to our nation’s energy challenges. Visit our website to learn more.