U.S. Department of Energy


Light-Weight Turbocharger Turbine Wheel Challenge

Submit your design concept for a light-weight turbocharger turbine wheel to increase manufacturing energy productivity in the US
Submission Deadline


*Prize eligibility limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents*


Many new engine concepts include a turbocharger to help increase thermal efficiency and increase power density (horse power/liter displacement). The turbine and compressor wheels in the turbocharger rotate at speeds over 100,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The limitations of current turbine designs are largely driven by materials and manufacturing requirements. The mass of these rotating components in the turbocharger can have a negative impact on the efficiency and transient response of the turbocharger. 

The objective of this challenge is to design a light-weight turbocharger turbine wheel that can meet or exceed the performance of an Inconel automotive component at temperature and have the ability to be scaled up to larger turbocharger applications. In order to optimize the efficiency and transient response of these rotating components, the new design should take advantage of innovative manufacturing techniques (such as additive manufacturing) and new material concepts.

This challenge is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Manufacturing Innovator Challenge, a series of challenges that focus on advances in additive manufacturing. The Manufacturing Innovator Challenge offers applicants an opportunity to submit innovative design concepts for additive manufacturing and other topics within several technology areas, including bioenergy, buildings, and vehicle technologies. Individual prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 will be awarded to innovators with the best solutions for today's manufacturing challenges. You can view other challenges from the Manufacturing Innovator Challenge here.


Check out the 'Guidelines' tab to learn more about what is required for challenge submissions.



Applicants should consider the following characteristics of a turbo wheel as a baseline. Submissions should describe designs that will perform better than a turbo with the following characteristics: Turbo wheel made from Inconel alloy, which; 

  • Has a density of 8.4 grams / cubic centimeter (g/cc)
  • Has a tensile strength of 760 Megapascal(MPa) /110,000 pounds per square inch (PSI);
  • Is resistant to oxidation and corrosion and well suited for extreme environments (e.g., pressure, high heat);
  • Has an operational limit of about 760oC and turbine temperatures have been increasing.

If the proposed design is made of ceramic materials the submission should exceed the performance of an existing production ceramic turbine wheel or address how the scale-up beyond a 65 millimeter diameter would be accomplished to address the short comings due to the brittle nature of the materials. Ceramic materials have been used for lightweight small diameter (<65 millimeter) turbocharger turbine wheels but attempts to use these materials in larger turbochargers have had limited success due to the brittle nature of the material.


Required Submission Materials 

Contest submission will consist of a 5 page (maximum) report that must include: 

  1. Clear description of technical approach addressing the problem objectives that include:
    1. Description of materials envisioned for the solution, including mechanical properties,
    2. Description of the manufacturing approaches required for the solution, including any finishing or joining technologies that will be applied,
    3. Description of an existing component for comparison: (e.g.: part numbers, measurements, mechanical drawings, and weights),
    4. Discussion of technical performance expectations and risks: such as projected component weight, coefficients of thermal expansion, creep rupture performance, thermal behavior, and dimensional stability.
  2. Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) drawing or Mechanical Drawings of the new design concept.


Evaluation Criteria 

The submissions that meet eligibility criteria and are responsive to the request described in the contest description will then be scored by a panel of judges on a scale of 0-100 points (one hundred being the highest) in the categories described below. 

More specifically, winning Entrants will describe, in detail: 

  1. Innovation (30/100 points): The degree to which the proposed concept does not currently exist and/or meets an existing need where no other viable solutions are available.
  2. Impact (30/100 points): The amount of impact a technology solution could have on meeting challenges, creating economic impact, providing new solutions to critical problems if it existed as an off-the-shelf capability.
  3. Feasibility (40/100 points): The technical feasibility of the proposed concept as described by the applicant.