SBIR Phase I: Low-Cost Low-Impact Magnesium Production by Solid Oxide Membrane Electrolysis

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0912743
Agency Tracking Number: 0912743
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: BC
Solicitation Number: NSF 08-548
Small Business Information
One Apple Hill Dr. Suite 316, Natick, MA, 01760
DUNS: 828189923
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Y
Principal Investigator
 Adam Powell
 (617) 290-8831
Business Contact
 Adam Powell
Title: PhD
Phone: (617) 290-8831
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a mathematical model of the Solid Oxide Membrane (SOM) electrolysis process for producing magnesium metal from its oxide. This model will simulate fluid flow and heat and mass transfer in the SOM process in order to provide a design tool for an industrial-scale SOM reactor for magnesium production. Experiments performed by the subcontractor at Boston University will validate the model and help to tune its parameters. The mathematical model will also couple to a cost model in order to predict various costs including energy, capital and raw materials and determine the most cost-effective size and configuration of the industrial-scale process. If successful, this will be the first industrial process to produce metal and oxygen from metal oxides in one step with no carbon or chlorine anywhere in the process. This model will also be useful for assessing the fitness of the SOM process to producing other metals. Magnesium is the lowest-density engineering metal and third most abundant metal in the earth's crust with good strength and stiffness. But high and fluctuating prices have prevented its broad utilization in motor vehicles and other applications. Auto makers led by the U.S. Big Three are seeking to increase the magnesium alloy content of vehicles from 10-15 lbs/vehicle to 350 lbs/vehicle by 2020, replacing 650 lbs/vehicle of steel and aluminum parts. This will increase fleet fuel economy by 1.5-2 miles per gallon, reducing annual petroleum import expenditures by about $20 billion. In addition to magnesium's impact on vehicle efficiency, the straightforward and efficient SOM process will likely use much less energy than is used to produce aluminum, and its magnesium product may rival the raw material cost of the steel and aluminum which it replaces. This could lead to a new magnesium economy taking full advantage of its light weight and ease of manufacturing in products from bicycles to refrigerators to trucks. Furthermore, the SOM process can likely reduce the cost and environmental impact of producing other metals such as titanium, copper, and tantalum leading to a new primary metals industrial ecology. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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