Troy, NY, United States
Troy, NY, United States

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Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 485.75K | Year: 2013

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project enables an innovative low cost approach to reaction bonded silicon carbide (RBSC). RBSC is a preferred material for mechanical seals, which are critical, costly components in many major manufacturing lines. The high cost of RBSC limits its use in favor of cheaper, shorter lived materials. A microwave heating process, combined with lower cost raw materials addresses RBSC cost issues. Phase I research identified a process range for producing RBSC with flexural strength above the industry average. The Phase II research will yield reliably high strength RBSC. The key objective for Phase II is optimization of all-carbon preform formation, and microwave infiltration methods, to fabricate prototype mechanical seals for industrial evaluation. The new RBSC will be characterized according to mechanical seal industry approval specifications. Innovative forming processes including 3D printing will be studied for the ability to quickly form complex, custom, near net preforms for infiltration. The anticipated result is a commercially ready, lightweight, high strength RBSC that will be preferred for existing and new applications. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will include significant cost reductions for wear resistant applications. A low-cost, superior performance mechanical seal will improve efficiency, with fewer costly production shut-downs due to pump failures. RBSC provides a longer overall lifetime than tungsten carbide, graphite, or alumina parts, further reducing life cycle costs. Mechanical seals cost on average $750 per inch of diameter, ranging up to 15" across. This research will enable a 50% reduction in RBSC cost, developing a viable, high performance product, along with market demand. Recent consolidation of major silicon carbide suppliers provides an opening in the market to support a new, independent RBSC source. The RBSC process uses a greener microwave process, with time, energy and greenhouse gas reductions of 50 to 80%. The commercial demonstration of microwave RBSC product will provide a needed boost to encourage other manufacturers to uptake cleaner, efficient microwave processing. The project also supports Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education through high school projects and at least four undergraduate engineering co-op students.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 499.86K | Year: 2012

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project addresses the need for breakthrough technologies in the production of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics, including nanograin structures, with improved performance-to-cost ratio. UHT ceramics are often challenging to densify. The development of UHT microwave assist technology (MAT) furnaces will dramatically improve the commercial applicability of UHT ceramic products through lower temperature densification and faster heating cycles. MAT, the combination of microwaves with radiant heat, is proven to enhance diffusion, leading to finer grained microstructures. This project will extend the use of MAT to temperatures above 1700 deg. C, into the range of sintering temperatures for UHT ceramics. A prototype UHT MAT furnace will be designed and built, capitalizing upon in-house MAT system design expertise and research results from Phase I. Proprietary MAT-modeling software will assist with optimizing furnace design and process efficiency. Selected UHT ceramics will be studied to demonstrate sintering with the prototype. Three current industrial UHT ceramic manufacturers, who expressed strong interest in using MAT for sintering products, will collaborate on the project. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes performance enhancements at reduced processing costs, and growth in the use of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics. Expanded uptake of UHT ceramics will benefit a wide array of manufactured products in electronics, automotive, and aerospace applications. The process of sintering UHT ceramics is extremely energy-intensive. UHT microwave-assist technology (MAT) processing will reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions by 50-80% for UHT ceramic production. This process may replace pressure-assisted methods, by combining MAT with techniques such as variable rate sintering. MAT may also decrease the use of sintering aids to improve erosion and wear resistance, and high-temperature strength. This faster process enables just-in-time manufacture and enhances competition with respect to foreign competitors. Finally, the UHT MAT furnace technology will lead to new and value-added products, through property improvements from finer grain sizes and cost reduction. This will position American manufacturers for new revenue opportunities and job growth.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses the need for lower cost ceramic materials, specifically for reaction-bonded silicon carbide (RBSC) products. RBSC is used in a multitude of applications ranging from kiln furniture to body armor inserts to ultra-high purity semiconductor components. Lowering costs would make ceramic materials available for more wide-spread use. Currently, these products are limited in applications due to the high costs associated with expensive raw materials and high-temperature processing requirements. This project addresses these issues though the use of low cost preform materials and an innovative thermal processing technique. In prior work, a new method for producing RBSC was developed, through liquid infiltration of molten silicon by direct microwave heating. This innovative process allows for complete infiltration of porous preforms using microwaves, without the need for a high vacuum environment. However, one of the persistent technical issues is the formation of undesirable silicon veins in the RBSC. This may be caused by in part by a significant exothermic reaction during the infiltration. The veins can detrimentally affect the physical properties of the final RBSC. The anticipated technical results of this work are to identify the origin of silicon vein formation, and to develop methods to mitigate this issue.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to lower the cost of RBSC ceramics, making them more economically viable in current applications, and increasing their use in previously unfeasible applications where RBSC could provide superior performance characteristics. The successful development of low-cost, higher strength, and higher purity RSBC would provide significant benefits to ceramic component manufacturers and end users. Some of the current applications for RBSC include kiln furniture and various burner parts for combustion. Areas targeted for expanded use are: wear resistant components (e.g., slip ring seals), body armor for soldiers, sand blasting nozzles, and diffusion components for the semiconductor industry. The semiconductor industry is of particular interest. As devices continue to get smaller, the purity of diffusion components is becoming a critical issue. The use of this RBSC for high-purity wafer carriers would be advantageous, as preforms in the green state can be heated and purified. Finally, this work will enhance scientific and technological understanding of high temperature exothermic reactions, explore methods to control exothermic rates of reaction, and quantify the energy benefit of microwave processing versus conventional methods.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 663.82K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project addresses the need for breakthrough technologies in the production of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics, including nanograin structures, with improved performance-to-cost ratio. UHT ceramics are often challenging to densify. The development of UHT microwave assist technology (MAT) furnaces will dramatically improve the commercial applicability of UHT ceramic products through lower temperature densification and faster heating cycles. MAT, the combination of microwaves with radiant heat, is proven to enhance diffusion, leading to finer grained microstructures. This project will extend the use of MAT to temperatures above 1700 deg. C, into the range of sintering temperatures for UHT ceramics. A prototype UHT MAT furnace will be designed and built, capitalizing upon in-house MAT system design expertise and research results from Phase I. Proprietary MAT-modeling software will assist with optimizing furnace design and process efficiency. Selected UHT ceramics will be studied to demonstrate sintering with the prototype. Three current industrial UHT ceramic manufacturers, who expressed strong interest in using MAT for sintering products, will collaborate on the project.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes performance enhancements at reduced processing costs, and growth in the use of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics. Expanded uptake of UHT ceramics will benefit a wide array of manufactured products in electronics, automotive, and aerospace applications. The process of sintering UHT ceramics is extremely energy-intensive. UHT microwave-assist technology (MAT) processing will reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions by 50-80% for UHT ceramic production. This process may replace pressure-assisted methods, by combining MAT with techniques such as variable rate sintering. MAT may also decrease the use of sintering aids to improve erosion and wear resistance, and high-temperature strength. This faster process enables just-in-time manufacture and enhances competition with respect to foreign competitors. Finally, the UHT MAT furnace technology will lead to new and value-added products, through property improvements from finer grain sizes and cost reduction. This will position American manufacturers for new revenue opportunities and job growth.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.98K | Year: 2011

NASA has identified polymer matrix composites (PMCs) as a critical need for launch and in-space vehicles, but the significant costs of such materials limits their use. This proposal addresses the need for lower cost PMCs through the development of discontinuous fiber reinforced polymer composites with an in-situ grown carbon nanotube 3-D network that will translate to less expensive components with properties approaching those of continuous fiber reinforced polymers. The use of microwave processing will further reduce costs and improve the properties such that the Phase I and 2 efforts could lead to the implementation of these composites for a multitude of applications for which they are currently deemed too expensive. Ceralink will team with Florida International University, who will perform the in-situ growth of carbon nanotubes, and HITCO Carbon Composites, who will evaluate the developed materials and provide an assessment of technical and commercial viability. It is anticipated that a technology readiness level of 4 will be achieved by the end of the Phase I program.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 598.90K | Year: 2013

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project enables an innovative low cost approach to reaction bonded silicon carbide (RBSC). RBSC is a preferred material for mechanical seals, which are critical, costly components in many major manufacturing lines. The high cost of RBSC limits its use in favor of cheaper, shorter lived materials. A microwave heating process, combined with lower cost raw materials addresses RBSC cost issues. Phase I research identified a process range for producing RBSC with flexural strength above the industry average. The Phase II research will yield reliably high strength RBSC. The key objective for Phase II is optimization of all-carbon preform formation, and microwave infiltration methods, to fabricate prototype mechanical seals for industrial evaluation. The new RBSC will be characterized according to mechanical seal industry approval specifications. Innovative forming processes including 3D printing will be studied for the ability to quickly form complex, custom, near net preforms for infiltration. The anticipated result is a commercially ready, lightweight, high strength RBSC that will be preferred for existing and new applications.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will include significant cost reductions for wear resistant applications. A low-cost, superior performance mechanical seal will improve efficiency, with fewer costly production shut-downs due to pump failures. RBSC provides a longer overall lifetime than tungsten carbide, graphite, or alumina parts, further reducing life cycle costs. Mechanical seals cost on average $750 per inch of diameter, ranging up to 15 across. This research will enable a 50% reduction in RBSC cost, developing a viable, high performance product, along with market demand. Recent consolidation of major silicon carbide suppliers provides an opening in the market to support a new, independent RBSC source. The RBSC process uses a greener microwave process, with time, energy and greenhouse gas reductions of 50 to 80%. The commercial demonstration of microwave RBSC product will provide a needed boost to encourage other manufacturers to uptake cleaner, efficient microwave processing. The project also supports Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education through high school projects and at least four undergraduate engineering co-op students.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses the need for lower cost ceramic materials, specifically for reaction-bonded silicon carbide (RBSC) products. RBSC is used in a multitude of applications ranging from kiln furniture to body armor inserts to ultra-high purity semiconductor components. Lowering costs would make ceramic materials available for more wide-spread use. Currently, these products are limited in applications due to the high costs associated with expensive raw materials and high-temperature processing requirements. This project addresses these issues though the use of low cost preform materials and an innovative thermal processing technique. In prior work, a new method for producing RBSC was developed, through liquid infiltration of molten silicon by direct microwave heating. This innovative process allows for complete infiltration of porous preforms using microwaves, without the need for a high vacuum environment. However, one of the persistent technical issues is the formation of undesirable silicon veins in the RBSC. This may be caused by in part by a significant exothermic reaction during the infiltration. The veins can detrimentally affect the physical properties of the final RBSC. The anticipated technical results of this work are to identify the origin of silicon vein formation, and to develop methods to mitigate this issue. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to lower the cost of RBSC ceramics, making them more economically viable in current applications, and increasing their use in previously unfeasible applications where RBSC could provide superior performance characteristics. The successful development of low-cost, higher strength, and higher purity RSBC would provide significant benefits to ceramic component manufacturers and end users. Some of the current applications for RBSC include kiln furniture and various burner parts for combustion. Areas targeted for expanded use are: wear resistant components (e.g., slip ring seals), body armor for soldiers, sand blasting nozzles, and diffusion components for the semiconductor industry. The semiconductor industry is of particular interest. As devices continue to get smaller, the purity of diffusion components is becoming a critical issue. The use of this RBSC for high-purity wafer carriers would be advantageous, as preforms in the green state can be heated and purified. Finally, this work will enhance scientific and technological understanding of high temperature exothermic reactions, explore methods to control exothermic rates of reaction, and quantify the energy benefit of microwave processing versus conventional methods.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.82K | Year: 2010

This SBIR project addresses the need for a system that will provide automated lunar surface stabilization via hybrid microwave heating. Surface stabilization is paramount to future lunar missions due to severe complications from dust on the Apollo space missions. This project focuses on development of a microwave surface solidification device, which could be incorporated into a roving system, to provide adequate working planes for robotic and manned operations. Phase I will demonstrate microwave system feasibility using advanced computer modeling and sophisticated laboratory experimentation with lunar simulant. Research will target surface heating of deep powder beds to best simulate in-situ use. Microwaves coupled with radiant heat sources will maximize heating efficiency. Hybrid microwave heating models will provide process optimization, direct correlations to lunar regolith heating, and a foundation for advanced automated control systems. Ceralink has assembled a team including research partner Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and commercialization partner Gerling Applied Engineering to successful bring this technology from a TRL 2 to a TRL 4 in Phase I. The team is well positioned to achieve TRL 6 with prototype demonstrations by the completion of Phase II, and ultimately deliver a fully functioning system.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2010

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop microwave thermal containment packages for processing of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) nanomaterials using microwave energy. The Phase I work will also assess the strength and wear resistance of key materials processed with this method. Microwave work above 1800


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2013

Unprecedented reserves of natural gas have recently been unlocked from previously uneconomical shale formations in the United States, leading to a rapid decline in the price of this fossil fuel energy source. In the U.S., natural gas vehicle utilization has been limited by several factors, including the lack of refueling locations and plentiful mass-produced CNG vehicle models. A significant limiting factor is the non-fuel costs associated with the requirement to incorporate expensive high pressure (3600 psi) on- board storage tanks that are heavy and bulky, along with the resulting requirement for high pressure refueling equipment. Overcoming these barriers will allow the massive transportation infrastructure that is so heavily dependent on petroleum fuels the opportunity to be quickly and economically converted to natural gas fuel. The solution to widespread natural gas fueled passenger cars is adsorbed natural gas (ANG). Instead of compressing the natural gas to high pressures up to 3600 psi, the option exists to utilize engineered, high surface area materials that can physically adsorb and desorb methane molecules when needed, and thus offer comparable storage densities at only 500 psi. This study will involve research into the optimum pore size and surface conditions needed for both methane storage AND delivery. This proposed effort will seek to investigate the performance capabilities of new classes of activated carbon aerogels through a system integration study, aerogel blending and packing density study, filling/discharging performance, and effects of thermal changes on performance. Overall goal is to develop a carbon aerogel based sorbent to be sold to natural gas vehicle manufactures. ANG storage tanks are lighter, cheaper, safer, and more easily conformable to vehicles. The DOE storage target for ANG has been set at 180 V/V in order to make ANG competitive with compressed natural gas. Ceralinks carbon aerogel sorbent will have a highly engineered microstructure, enabling higher amounts of adsorbed natural gas storage than previously possible, with a target of 235 V/V, while maintaining economic viability. Projections for U.S. on-road heavy-duty natural gas vehicles would reduce petroleum consumption by approximately 1.2 million barrels of oil per day, while another 400,000 barrels of oil per day reduction could be achieved with significant use of natural gas off-road vehicles. This scenario would reduce daily oil consumption in the United States by about 8%, which represents a savings of 15.8 billion BTU, through less energy expenditure on oil refining.

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