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In 2004, the U.S. Advanced Ceramics Association (USACA) developed three initiatives-the Advanced Ceramics Technology Transition Initiative for Defense, the Ceramic Materials for Energy Independence Initiative, and the Ultra-High-Temperature Ceramics Initiative for Defense and Aerospace. Since that time, concerns regarding the ever-increasing costs of energy and the uncertainty of energy sources have escalated.
In fact, according to the recent Labor Day Report from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), escalating energy costs have resulted in a decrease in workers' incomes. "Over the past year, energy prices have risen 23% due to increased global demand, limited domestic supplies, natural disasters and global instability," says John Engler, NAW president. "As a result, real wages have fallen by 0.5% over the past year when they should have gone up by 1.2%."
The U.S. government has taken some action. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law in August of that year, promoted investments in energy conservation and efficiency by supporting the development of new energy-efficient technologies. In addition, in his January 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush outlined the Advanced Energy Initiative, which aims to increase research on energy-efficient technology for homes/ businesses and automobiles. The Initiative calls for a 22% increase in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) spending on clean-energy research. (The U.S. has spent almost $10 billion on alternative energy development since 2001.)
According to Frank Kuchinski, Ph.D., director of materials at Extreme Composite Products, Inc. and USACA's director of government programs, the increased government focus on the importance of energy coincided with USACA's realization that a sharper focus could better benefit the industry. "Trying to tell three different stories around these three different initiatives watered down our message," he says. "Energy is becoming increasingly important for us as a country, and USACA began to formulate the more unifying single message that advanced ceramics could lead to energy independence and better security for our country."
Refined StrategyUSACA has subsequently refocused the original three initiatives into one-the National Advanced Ceramics Technology Transition Initiative (NACTTI): Accelerating Product Validation and Manufacturing Readiness for Energy Dependence. Targeted for initial funding in 2008, the new initiative will focus on ways in which advanced ceramics can have a positive impact on U.S. energy independence and security.
USACA envisions a five-year, $100 million program with multiple energy product goals, including:
- Higher-temperature turbines for power generation and vehicle (air and ground) propulsion
- High-temperature gas separation technologies for utilizing U.S. coal reserves with carbon capture and management
- High-temperature fuel cells for electric generation using hydrogen and coal gasification products
- Clean coal technologies for combusting and gasifying coal at higher temperatures with greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact
- Advanced nuclear fuels and structural materials that improve the efficiency of nuclear power and enable new high-temperature reactors for hydrogen production
- New glass ceramics for photovoltaic power
- Diesel engine and truck components, including exhaust treatment components for reduced emissions and improved fuel economy
In support of NACTTI, USACA has identified several key benefits:
- Increased U.S. competitiveness in advanced ceramic materials, thus reversing the trend toward foreign commercial development of U.S. technologies and research
- Development and retention of U.S. jobs for new product manufacturing
- Substantial reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions in markets served by the target products over the next 20 years
- Significant reduction in the normal 15- to 20-year product development and introduction cycle for advanced materials
- Achievement of military and aerospace objectives through the coordinated application of these advanced materials in personnel body armor, leading edges of hypersonic and surveillance aircraft, and other mission-critical requirements
Developing a FrameworkUSACA has gathered information from available scientific literature, the Internet, and personal interviews to solidify the details of the initiative and develop more specific targets and benefits. The goal is to have a framework in place by January 2007.
"We are bringing together data to convert those general targets and benefits into projected, measurable items. For example, we need to be able to tell the government, 'If you invest $100 in government funds over the next five years, it will create X number of American jobs, or save jobs, or reduce energy consumption by X%,'" explains Kuchinski. "We are planning to go to members of Congress and ask them to help support the initiative financially, so we need to provide them with measured, quantitative projections."
The association also held a briefing on "Ceramics and Security: The Role of Advanced Materials in Energy, Defense and International Trade" on Capitol Hill in September 2006. A summary of the briefing is available on the USACA website.
Making a DifferenceOnce the framework is finalized, USACA will work aggressively to push it forward, not only within the government, but in the scientific community as well. "Through presentations, conferences and speaking engagements, we will provide useful, well-documented information that's been generated by USACA," says Kuchinski. "We can deliver details that will be met with more credibility than an individual company, which could be viewed as making a marketing pitch."
As the largest consumer of energy in the country-and the major potential investor in NACTTI-the U.S. government could be considered the ultimate customer. USACA has begun the process of communicating with key committee members and others within both the House and Senate to create interest and increase awareness of the many benefits advanced ceramics can offer to help address the country's energy concerns.
"This is part of what USACA's always done, taking the issues, objectives, goals and benefits of industry-particularly the ceramic industry-to the decision makers," says Kuchinski. "We've begun the process of educating the government and telling them we're developing ideas that could help the country. As more specific and quantitative information develops, we'll continue to bring that information to them."
For more information regarding NACTTI, contact USACA at 1800 M St., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036-5802; (202) 293-6253; fax (202) 223-5537; e-mail email@example.com; or visit www.advancedceramics.org.
NAM's full Labor Day Report is available at www.nam.org/labordayreport.
SIDEBAR: USACA MembershipUSACA members play an important role in determining the direction of the organization's efforts. The association holds two board meetings per year, in the spring and fall, and most of the membership also attends the annual International Cocoa Beach Conference & Exposition on Advanced Ceramics and Composites. "We formally come together as a USACA organization and have various face-to-face meetings and dialogues at least those three times each year," says Kuchinski. Members also participate through workshops, teleconferences and e-mail exchanges in smaller groups on an as-needed basis.
A list of current members is included here, and, like most organizations, USACA continually strives to expand its ranks. Membership details and an online application form are available at www.advancedceramics.org.
- COI Ceramics, Inc.
- Corning, Inc.
- Deere & Co.
- GE Energy
- Goodrich Corp.
- Saint-Gobain High Performance Materials
- UT-Battelle, represented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Ceramic Tubular Products, LLC
- Extreme Composite Products, Inc.
- KiON Defense Technologies, Inc.
- KiON Specialty Polymers (A Clariant Business)
- Refractron Technologies Corp.
- Starfire Systems, Inc.
- Surmet Corp.
- Synterials, Inc.
- National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining