Project Name: Mechanically, Thermally, and Chemically-Robust High-Temperature Ceramic Composites
Funding Opportunity: Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Program (SETO FY2018)
SETO Team: Concentrating Solar Power
Location: West Lafayette, IN
SETO Award Amount: $400,000
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Planned Timeline: 2019-2021

-- Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations --

This project is evaluating the corrosion and heat resistance of new ceramic-metal composite materials for use in components in concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) plants. It is also evaluating low-cost manufacturing techniques for generating molds of these materials for use in plant components. Molten chloride salts are currently being investigated to transfer and store the heat generated by next-generation CSP plants, but at high temperatures, they have the potential to rapidly corrode their containers and other components, like heat exchangers, typically made of metal alloys. Corrosion is the major source of failure for chloride salt heat-transfer fluids in CSP systems and preventing corrosion may allow CSP plants to operate at higher temperatures, improving efficiency and lowering the cost of CSP electricity.


Composite materials made of metals mixed with ceramics have particular properties, including thermal conductivity and high-temperature strength, which make them appropriate for use in mechanical components that come into contact with hot molten salts. The project team aims to develop composites that will be stiffer and stronger than nickel-based superalloys. This project is testing the heat- and corrosion-resistance of these composite materials to evaluate their use in CSP plants. It will also evaluate less expensive methods of manufacturing components from these materials.


Developing a better performing composite materials and collecting data on their thermal, physical, and chemical properties will help scientists evaluate their use in CSP plants. Finding more robust and cost-effective materials for mechanical components is essential for increasing the thermal-to-electrical conversion efficiency and reducing the cost of CSP plants.