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Clarkson And GM Receive DOE Grant For Research

Potsdam, N.Y. - Clarkson University, Potsdam, and General Motors Powertrain, Massena, have been awarded $525,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research on improvements to the lost foam casting process. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) has also committed $125,000 in cost sharing to this project.

The funding is through a DOE program known as NICE3 (National Industrial Competitiveness through Energy, Environment, and Economics), which supports research to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts in industrial processes. Out of 59 grant applications submitted nationwide to the Department of Energy, only 14 were funded.

For the past two years, GM has funded research into the lost foam process conducted by Dayakar Penumadu, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP). During this time, Penumadu developed new technologies in the lab that showed promise for application on a larger scale.

Encouraged by NYSERDA, Penumadu and GM submitted a proposal to the Department of Energy to receive funding for further research into the lost foam casting process. Ross M. Johnson, GM Powertrain, will be the project director of the grant.

The lost foam casting process is environmentally friendly and cost-effective. A foam pattern of the desired end-product is made out of fused expanded polystyrene beads. The pattern is then coated with a thin refractory film and placed into compacted sand. When molten metal is poured into the sand casting, the foam evaporates and a metal casting is produced in the form of the pattern.

Lost foam casting uses nearly one-quarter less energy and one-third less molten metal than conventional casting and enables joining of several components during one casting, which reduces the need for machining of parts and reduces the amount of scrap produced.
With cost sharing from all the partners included, the total dollars committed to this research effort are over $1.3 million. The funding will allow Penumadu and two Ph.D. students to take the new lost foam technologies to full scale, as well as purchase equipment and make further improvements and innovations to the process.

Industries frequently contact Clarkson with requests to study particular processes or materials in an effort to make them more efficient, environment-friendly, or cost-effective. Often a research breakthrough using a new material or an innovative process ends up as an industrial application several years down the road.
This type of research at Clarkson has a direct impact on economic development. In a news release about the DOE grant award, Governor George E. Pataki noted that, “This cooperative effort will allow GM Powertrain in Massena to become even more energy efficient and environment-friendly – while also helping to create and retain jobs in Upstate New York.”

Others involved in the DOE grant for lost foam casting process research are Calvin K. Johnson, C. Johnson and Associates, Lockport, Illinois, and Nag Patibandla and Dana Levy, both research program managers with NYSERDA.

The Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) at Clarkson University receives support from the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research for research and operating expenses as one of 14 Centers for Advanced Technology (CAT). CAMP is built on Clarkson's recognized expertise in colloid and surface science and fine particle technology.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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