Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in partnership with Magna, have developed a Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE) process that transforms scrap aluminum from automotive manufacturing into material for new vehicle parts without the need for newly mined aluminum.
This process reduces over 50% of embodied energy and over 90% of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the cost of recycling aluminum. This advancement could allow manufacturers to reduce the overall cost of aluminum components, replacing steel and making lightweight vehicles for improved efficiency. The new process is also expected to help extend electric vehicle driving range.
The ShAPE process is versatile, creating square, trapezoidal, and multi-cell parts that meet automotive industry standards for strength and energy absorption.
“We showed that aluminum parts formed with the ShAPE process meet automotive industry standards for strength and energy absorption,” said Scott Whalen, a PNNL materials scientist and lead researcher. “The key is that ShAPE process breaks up metal impurities in the scrap without requiring an energy-intensive heat treatment step. This alone saves considerable time and introduces new efficiencies.”
“Sustainability is at the forefront of everything we do at Magna,” said Massimo DiCiano, Manager Materials Science at Magna. “From our manufacturing processes to the materials we use, and the ShAPE process is a great proof point of how we’re looking to evolve and create new sustainable solutions for our customers.”
The research team is now examining even higher-strength aluminum alloys typically used in battery enclosures for electric vehicles.
“This innovation is only the first step toward creating a circular economy for recycled aluminum in manufacturing,” said Whalen. “We are now working on including post-consumer waste streams, which could create a whole new market for secondary aluminum scrap.”