Lead Performer: Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Oak Ridge, TN
-- Eck Industries Inc. – Manitowoc, WI
-- University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland
DOE Total Funding: $1,386,000
Project Term: October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2021
Funding Type: Lab Call

Project Objective

Manufacturing conventional aluminum (Al) microchannel heat exchangers (<2 mm) is expensive because the sizes of the channels and the manufacturing Al parts require slow, costly, energy-intensive multistage heat treatments.

An aluminum-cerium alloy (Al-Ce) invented at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) under DOE’s Critical Materials Institute can have a large impact on the production of Al microchannel heat exchangers. The advantages of the Al-Ce alloy are many:

  • Exceptional castability, making it ideal for microchannel components and high-throughput manufacturing
  • High-temperature stability (up to 500°C)
  • High ductility compatible with cold forming and cold working
  • Casting with the alloy can be accomplished using standard aluminum foundry practices and without a protective atmosphere.
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Low cost, with no requirement for additional post-casting thermal processing as with conventional Al alloys (potential reduction of 30–60% in casting cost compared with conventional)

ORNL has shown structures smaller than 1 mm can be cast from this alloy, making it a perfect candidate for advanced microchannel heat exchangers. This project will leverage this opportunity to develop advance Al-Ce cast heat exchanger. Large-scale production cost of Al-Ce alloy heat exchangers is expected to be $1.50–$1.80/lb.

Project Impact

The state-of-the-art technology is microchannel heat exchangers manufactured from Al via injection molding. This project will develop cast Al-Ce microchannel heat exchanger that enables:

  • Reduced microchannel heat exchanger manufacturing cost by eliminating post-thermal treatments and allowing the whole heat exchanger to be cast (including manifolds), thus eliminating joints and minimizing long-term leaks
  • Increased operating temperature
  • Increased corrosion resistance
  • Minimized risk for refrigerant leak by eliminating the joints

Microchannel heat exchangers have the potential to save 0.31 Quad/yr. Additionally, the technology can reduce the microchannel manufacturing cost by 50%.


DOE Technology Manager: Antonio Bouza
Lead Performer: Ayyoub Momen, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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