Project Name: High-Toughness Cermets for Molten Salt Pumps
Funding Opportunity: Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar Power
Location: Euclid, OH
SETO Award Amount: $1,658,111
Awardee Cost Share:  $331,727
Principal Investigator: Joseph D. Hensel

This project team will build and operate a molten salt pump made from cost-effective ceramic-reinforced metals to carry molten salt in concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) systems. Ceramic-reinforced metals, known as cermets, offer resistance to corrosion from hot molten salt, as well as strong, long-lasting pump components, including bearing, impeller, and sealing elements.  


Using a novel cermet and a Sulzer Pump design, Powdermet will build and test a corrosion-resistant pump and components for the pump. The team will work with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to gather data on how the cermet and pump will perform in high temperatures. They will then validate manufacturing processes for the pump and estimate the cost of a pilot CSP plant that uses it. The component-testing methodology and fixtures built during this project will allow the awardees to better evaluate the economics of using cermets and predict wear upon exposure to molten salt.


The ceramic-reinforced metal can be tailored for chemical resistance and expansion from heat exposure while increasing its strength. It can be used as a coating as well as for creating molded parts. The resulting durability of the material and improved manufacturability will enable the production of economical pumps for molten salt CSP plants. Under Topic 2A of this funding program, this project will provide component-level research and development that may be integrated into Topic 1 projects focusing on system design.