The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation becomes the first Clean Energy Institute to receive a renewal of funding

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation® (IACMI) is receiving a funding renewal from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to continue research and development of composite materials. IACMI becomes the first clean energy institute to be renewed by DOE, the Institute said in a release.

IACMI will be receiving federal funding across five fiscal years, with a first-year investment of $6 million to further technological R&D and accelerate commercialization in the domestic composites manufacturing sector. This federal funding builds upon initial institute funding of $70 million from DOE and more than $130 million from IACMI’s member partners, according to the release.

“IACMI is living, breathing proof that when we connect our nation’s leading experts across the manufacturing value chain to listen, learn, and share ideas and best practices, we can have a big impact,” said DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alejandro Moreno. “The Department is committed to seeing how IACMI will continue to leverage that collaborative spirit into actionable and innovative progress as our partnership continues.”

Since its establishment in 2015, IACMI has emerged as a leader in advanced composite design, manufacturing, technical innovation, and workforce development. During this eight-year period, IACMI has managed more than 60 collaborative and industry-led technical projects, representing more than $200 million in R&D investment; catalyzed more than 25 new composite-based products to commercialization; and supported the creation of 3,000 jobs at composite materials and parts manufacturers. It has also spurred investment of $75 million in five states for R&D and scale up facilities, the release said.

“Composites have the power to improve everyday lives,” said Chad Duty, chief executive officer for IACMI, in the release. “Composite technology will continue to play a crucial role as we develop more sustainable solutions to our country’s energy, transportation, and infrastructure challenges. DOE’s continued investment in IACMI will accelerate our progress toward achieving these goals.”

The funding will be applied to the continued research and development of advanced composites technologies that support U.S. decarbonization and strengthen IACMI’s three strategic pillars: technology, economy, and workforce development.

Since 2015, IACMI, state economic development organizations, and DOE have invested in a shared infrastructure that is said to collectively deliver “a breadth and scale of open-access composites manufacturing R&D capabilities that stand unmatched in the U.S.” These facility and infrastructure investments have been led by IACMI’s core innovation partners in Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Today, these capabilities are said to uniquely position IACMI, along with DOE and its industrial collaborators, to leverage their achievements to advance composites manufacturing innovations that will de-risk and accelerate decarbonization efforts in the United States.

Following are examples of state-of-the-art scale-up facilities:

* Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
* Carbon Fiber Technology Facility at ORNL
* Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility at University of Tennessee, Knoxville
* Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability at Vanderbilt University
* The Composites Laboratory at the University of Dayton Research Institute
* The Composites Manufacturing & Simulation Center at Purdue University
* The IACMI Scale-Up Research Facility (SuRF), managed by Michigan State University
* The Composites Manufacturing Education and Technology Facility (CoMET) at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

IACMI said it has leveraged these facilities to undertake transformational R&D, such as helping Volkswagen of America redesign and validate a liftgate for the VW Atlas with composites. The redesign reduced the weight of the liftgate by 35 percent and lowered its cost by 9 percent compared with steel. Another example is the scaling, manufacture, and testing of novel thermoplastic wind turbine blades that are recyclable and lower in cost, according to the  release.

Today, IACMI Working Groups are said to “provide a robust model to engage in R&D for high rate aerostructures fabrication, digital twins, future mobility, wind energy, infrastructure and construction, and the circular economy through recycling and novel materials.”

IACMI is one of 16 national Manufacturing USA® institutes established to catalyze advanced manufacturing and materials applications, and the first to receive a second round of funding from the DOE.

Composite materials are durable, stronger than concrete, lightweight, corrosion resistant, temperature tolerant, and have a relatively low life-cycle carbon footprint. Advanced composites have shown promise in automotive, aerospace, infrastructure, and renewable energy sectors, and have been identified as one of the top three strategic manufacturing materials by President Biden’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In this next chapter for the institute, IACMI said it will aim to further its mission to convene, connect, and catalyze the composites community by attracting startups and small enterprises and opening doors of opportunity with large enterprises, national labs, and universities.