Highly Efficient Vacuum Smelting of Aluminum

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Exploratory Topics
Lexington, Kentucky
Project Term:
04/15/2020 - 04/14/2022

Critical Need:

This topic seeks to support entrepreneurial energy discoveries, by identifying and supporting disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies within small businesses and collaborations with universities and national labs. These projects have the potential for large-scale impact, and if successful could create new paradigms in energy technology with the potential to achieve significant reductions in U.S. energy consumption, energy-related imports, or energy-related emissions. These specific projects address technology areas across ARPA-E’s mission spaces, with particular focus on: Advanced bioreactors; Approaches and tools to create enhanced geothermal systems; Non-evaporative dehydration and drying technologies; Approaches to significantly enhance the rate and/or potential scale of carbon mineralization; Separation of CO2 from ambient air (direct air capture); High-rate separation of dissolved inorganic carbon from the ocean to produce a CO2 stream; Advanced trees and other engineered biological systems for carbon sequestration; Innovative deep ocean collector designs for mining polymetallic nodules; Environmental sensors capable of operation in deep ocean environments for mining polymetallic nodules; and Non-carbothermic smelting technologies. Awards under this topic are working to support research and establish potential new areas for technology development, while providing ARPA-E with information that could lead to new focused funding programs. The focus of these projects is to support exploratory research to establish viability, proof-of-concept demonstration for new energy technology, and/or modeling and simulation efforts to guide development for new energy technologies.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

UHV Technologies will develop and demonstrate an innovative aluminum smelting technology that will significantly increase the range of aluminum alloys that can be manufactured from recycled scrap aluminum. This will reduce the need for primary aluminum with corresponding energy and environmental benefits. Using UHV’s patented high-throughput sorter, aluminum alloys will be pre-sorted, then melted in an energy-efficient vacuum furnace to avoid the typical 5% metal loss from molten metal oxidation, allowing for lower-cost production of high-value aluminum alloys. Currently ~60% of total U.S. aluminum usage comes from recycling. The proposed technology can be used as a point-of-use smelter at various foundries resulting in almost 50% energy savings during the melting of recycled aluminum to make products.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Zak Fang
Project Contact:
Dr. Nalin Kumar
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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