UDRI to Lead Nat-Gas Fuel Tank R&D Under National Initiative

The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) will lead an Ohio-based research team tasked with developing affordable composite natural-gas vehicle fuel tanks under the new Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), which President Barack Obama announced Friday in Tennessee.

IACMI is a public-private consortium of 122 U.S. manufacturers, universities and nonprofits that will focus on creating better composite materials and process technologies for rapid deployment within the automotive, wind turbine and compressed-gas storage industries.

This new institute, headquartered in Knoxville and led by the University of Tennessee, will receive $70 million in federal funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office. IACMI's six partner states and members have committed a total of $189 million.

The institute is the fifth in the network of so-called ‘innovation hubs’ created under the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. IACMI will focus on lowering the cost of advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composite materials by 50%, reducing the energy used to make composites by 75%, and increasing the recyclability of composites to over 95% within the next decade.

For its part, UDRI says it will lead the initiative for the development of compressed-gas storage vessels for the automotive and trucking industry.

‘The demand for compressed natural gas as a lower-cost, cleaner-burning alternative to diesel and gasoline fuel for vehicles continues to grow,’ says UDRI's Brian Rice. ‘In order for natural gas fuel to be efficiently and safely used to power vehicles, the transportation industry needs an affordable, lightweight but high-strength compressed-gas fuel tank. Our team will work to design and develop tanks and manufacturing processes that can be mass produced at low cost while minimizing energy use and waste production.’

Rice says the research and development through the initiative will target semi-trailer trucks first, followed by commercial box trucks and, eventually, automobiles.

More information about IACMI's various goals, as well as a full list of project participants, is available here.

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