Ultrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency

Manufacturing Efficiency
Resource Efficiency
Transportation Energy Conversion

Release Date:
Project Count:

Program Description:

The ULTIMATE program targets gas turbine applications in the power generation and aviation industries. ULTIMATE aims to develop ultrahigh temperature materials for gas turbines, enabling them to operate continuously at 1300 ºC (2372 ºF) in a stand-alone material test environment—or with coatings, enabling gas turbine inlet temperatures of 1800 ºC (3272 ºF) or higher. The successful materials must be able to withstand not only the highest temperature in a turbine but also the extreme stresses imposed on turbine blades. This program will concurrently develop manufacturing processes for turbine components using these materials, enabling complex geometries that can be seamlessly integrated in the system design. Environmental barrier coatings and thermal barrier coatings are within the scope of this program.

ULTIMATE consists of two separate phases, which may be proposed for a maximum of 18 and 24 months, respectively. In phase I, project teams will demonstrate proof of concept of their alloy compositions, coatings, and manufacturing processes through modeling and laboratory scale tensile coupon (sample) testing of basic properties. In phase II, approved project teams will investigate selected alloy compositions and coatings to evaluate a comprehensive suite of physical, chemical, and mechanical properties as well as produce generic small-scale turbine blades to demonstrate manufacturability.

Innovation Need:

Today, natural gas turbines produce approximately 35% of the total electricity production in the U.S. Improving their efficiency is important for reducing energy usage and carbon emissions, as well as improving the economics of aviation power generation and other industrial sectors. Gas turbine efficiency largely depends on the temperature of the gas at the inlet; the higher the temperature, the higher the efficiency. The operational temperature of gas turbines is currently limited by its component materials, particularly those in the path of the hot gas such as turbine blades, vanes, nozzles, and shrouds. Turbine blades experience the greatest operational burden because they must concurrently withstand the highest temperatures and stresses. Currently, turbine blades are made of single crystal nickel (Ni)- or cobalt (Co)-based superalloys. After many years of refinements, their development has plateaued. There is a strong need to discover, develop, and implement novel materials that work at temperatures significantly higher than that of the Ni or Co superalloys if further efficiency gains are to be realized. ARPA-E believes this is the right time to leverage and integrate recent advances in alloy design and modeling, refractory alloys, advanced manufacturing technologies, and high-throughput testing to realize significant improvements in the operational capability of gas turbines.

Potential Impact:

The development of new ultrahigh temperature materials with compatible coatings and manufacturing technologies has the potential to increase gas turbine efficiency up to 7%, which will significantly reduce wasted energy and carbon emissions.


Electricity generation, coal, and nuclear markets are currently saturated with gas generation units well past their useful life. Increasing gas turbine efficiency is critical to ensuring that the plants can effectively deploy their capacity to the grid, increasing energy security.


Improving gas turbine efficiency can significantly reduce carbon emissions from air travel, which represents 2% of all global carbon emissions.


By 2050, a 7% efficiency improvement in the natural gas turbines used for U.S. electricity generation could save up to 15-16 quads of energy; in civilian aircraft turbines, 3-4 quads could be saved for U.S. air travel.


Program Director:
Dr. Philseok Kim
Press and General Inquiries Email:

Project Listing

• General Electric (GE) Global Research - ULTIMATE Refractory Alloy Innovations for Superior Efficiency (RAISE)
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Additive Manufacturing of Oxidation-Resistant Gradient Refractory Composites
• National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) - Rapid Design and Manufacturing of High-Performance Materials for Turbine Blades Applications above 1300°Celsius
• Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) - Development of Niobium-Based Alloys for Turbine Applications
• Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) - Facility for Evaluating High Temperature Oxidation and Mechanical Properties
• Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) - Selective Thermal Emission Coatings for Improved Turbine Performance
• Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) - Design and Manufacturing of Ultrahigh Temperature Refractory Alloys
• QuesTek Innovations - Concurrent Design of a Multimaterial Niobium Alloy System for Next-generation Turbine Applications
• Raytheon Technologies Research Center - Computationally Guided ODS Refractory HEAs via Additive Manufacturing
• Raytheon Technologies Research Center - Environmental Protection Coating System for Refractory Metal Alloys (EPCS for RMAs)
• Texas A&M University - Batch-wise Improvement in Reduced Design Space using a Holistic Optimization Technique (BIRDSHOT)
• Texas A&M University - Phase II: Batch-wise Improvement in Reduced Design Space using a Holistic Optimization Technique (BIRDSHOT)
• The Boeing Company - Ultra-High Performance Metallic Turbine Blades for Extreme Environments
• The Boeing Company - Phase II: Ultra-High Performance Metallic Turbine Blades for Extreme Environments
• University of Maryland (UMD) - New Environmental-Thermal Barrier Coatings for Ultrahigh Temperature Alloys
• University of Maryland (UMD) - Phase II: New Environmental-Thermal Barrier Coatings for Ultrahigh Temperature Alloys
• University of Utah - Designing Novel Multicomponent Niobium Alloys for High Temperature: Integrated Design, Rapid Processing & Validation Approach
• University of Virginia (UVA) - High Entropy Rare-earth Oxide (HERO) Coatings for Refractory Alloys
• University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) - Additive Manufacturing of Ultrahigh Temperature Refractory Metal Alloys
• West Virginia University - High-Throughput Computational Guided Development of Refractory Complex Concentrated Alloys-based Composite