Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) released a report that assessed opportunities for global export of high-performance materials that are often used in power plants and the aerospace industry.

The report, “Assessing the Export Potential for High-Performance Materials,” looked at the export potential and economic impacts that could come from both primary and potential secondary applications of high-performance materials (HPM) research at the laboratory.

The report looked at the potential international demand for HPMs in advanced ultra-supercritical and natural gas combined cycle power plants, as well as the aerospace sector. It also estimated the potential economic impacts within the U.S. associated with HPM exports in each market.

The NETL said that potential markets are large and could support a "significant" number of jobs if the U.S. successfully becomes a global leader in HPMs and products.

The European Union, China, India and Japan were identified as regions that could see deployment of the advanced power plants. Europe and Asia were said to be likely to emerge as large export markets for aerospace products.

Advanced ultra-supercritical technology refers to power plant systems capable of operating at or above 760° C in the U.S. or above 700° C in the European Union, Japan, China and India. The technologies have the potential to increase efficiencies and bolster efforts to keep coal as a fuel option for power generation. NETL said that because these systems operate at higher temperatures and pressures, they result in more corrosive and harsher environments than traditional power plants. As a result, advanced coal power technologies require alloys and high-performance materials suitable for these extreme environments.

NETL’s research in HPMs includes development of improved steel, superalloys and other advanced alloys. Attributes of NETL-developed HPMs could make them potential candidates for use in international aerospace, mining, electronics and medical equipment markets, the report said.