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Department of Energy Announces $98 Million for 40 Transformative Energy Technology Projects

ARPA-E’s OPEN 2018 Program Selects Innovative Technologies to Advance Energy Security and Competitiveness

November 15, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $98 million in funding for 40 new projects as part of OPEN 2018, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA‑E) latest open funding opportunity. These funds will support some of America’s top energy innovators’ R&D projects as they seek to develop technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.

“ARPA-E’s open solicitations serve a valuable purpose. They give America’s energy innovators the opportunity to tell us about the next big thing,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Many of the greatest advances in human history started from the bottom up with a single person or idea, and OPEN 2018 provides a chance to open our doors to potentially the next great advancement in energy.”

OPEN solicitations are an open call to scientists and engineers for transformational technologies across the entire scope of ARPA-E’s energy mission. The selected OPEN 2018 projects are in 21 states and fall into 9 technical categories, including transportation, electricity generation and delivery and energy efficiency. Of those selected, approximately 43% of OPEN 2018 projects will be led by universities, 35% by small businesses, and the remainder by large businesses, non-profit organizations or federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs).

The 40 projects announced today are just the beginning, as OPEN applications have seeded other small new program areas that ARPA-E will roll out over the coming weeks.

To view the complete list of selected OPEN 2018 projects, click HERE.

Selected examples of the new projects are below:

Homopolar Machines Enabled with Brushless Field Electron Emission Current Transfer
Advanced Magnet Lab, Inc. | Melbourne, FL | $541,184
Advanced Magnet Lab (AML) is developing a reliable, contact-free current transfer mechanism from a stationary to a rotating electrode to allow direct current (DC) electrical machines, motors, and generators to achieve unprecedented power and torque density. This technology, a reimagining of the first electric “homopolar” motor invented by Michael Faraday, would provide current transfer without the need for the costly sliding contacts, brushes, and liquids that have limited DC electrical engine efficiency and lifetime. AML’s contact-free current transfer would achieve 99% efficiency in DC electrical motors with 5-10 times the power and torque densities available in existing DC technologies.

Sensor Enabled Modeling of Future Distribution Systems with Distributed Energy Resources
Arizona State University | Tempe, AZ | $2,800,000
Arizona State University will develop learning-ready models and control tools to maintain sensor-rich distribution systems in the presence of high levels of distributed energy resources (DER) and storage. The approach will include topology processing algorithms, development of load and DER models for system planning and operation, distribution system state estimation, optimal DER operational scheduling algorithms, and system-level DER control strategies that leverage inverter controls’ flexibility. The project will alter distribution system operation from today’s reactive, load-serving, and outage mitigation-focused approach to an active DER, load, and outage-managed, market-ready approach.

Efficient Hydrogen and Ammonia Production via Process Intensification and Integration
Colorado School of Mines | Golden, CO | $2,047,676
The Colorado School of Mines will develop a more efficient method of generation of high purity hydrogen from ammonia for fuel cell fueling stations. Used primarily as a fertilizer, ammonia is the world’s highest volume commodity chemical. Having 17.6% hydrogen, it also shows potential as a hydrogen carrier and carbon-free fuel. The team will develop a new technology to generate fuel cell quality hydrogen from ammonia using a membrane based reactor. The similar technology will be also developed for synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen at reduced pressure and temperature.

Grid-Scale Electricity Storage at Lowest Possible Cost: Enabled by Pumped Heat Electricity Storage
Southwest Research Institute | San Antonio, TX | $2,000,000
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is developing an advanced pumped heat electricity storage system based on a novel thermodynamic cycle to store energy in hot and cold fluids. This large energy storage system will help integrate renewables with the electric grid. This technology relies on system simplification, high round-trip conversion efficiencies, and low plant costs to surpass existing state-of-the-art energy storage technologies. At full scale the technology would provide greater than 10 hours of electricity at rated power. SwRI will build a small kW-scale electric demonstrator to validate this novel technology.

Low-Cost, Easy-to-Integrate, and Reliable Grid Energy Storage System with 2nd Life Lithium Batteries
University of California San Diego | La Jolla, CA | $1,894,705
The University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) is developing a universal battery integration system that utilizes second-life batteries from electric vehicles. Over the next decade, millions of electric vehicle batteries will be retired worldwide. These batteries can be utilized in a “second life” to provide inexpensive stationary storage for homes, businesses, and the electricity grid. It is challenging, however, to combine batteries with different ages and usage histories. In this project, UC San Diego will develop a modular power converter matrix to control power flow to connected battery modules. UC San Diego will also incorporate advanced life cycle control modeling and optimization algorithms to condition batteries for resale and create a scalable, low-cost stationary storage system.

A Persistence Meter for Nimble Alarming using Ambient Synchrophasor Data
University of Wisconsin-Madison | Madison, WI | $648,396
The University of Wisconsin-Madison will develop an online monitoring tool to assess the stability of the power grid. The tool will determine options to increase grid stability as well as detect and isolate forced oscillations, which are often indicative of faulty control actions at plants and can be potentially dangerous if they excite a natural mode of the system. To accomplish this, the team will fine-tune the underlying computations, develop alarm and notification procedures, and design a user-friendly and practical tool interface. This approach could dramatically transform grid stability monitoring by increasing system confidence and economic efficiency in a nearly $400 billion U.S. industry.

Electrode Technology Development for the Sheared-Flow Stabilized Z-Pinch Fusion Reactor
Zap Energy Inc. | Seattle, WA | $6,767,334
Zap Energy will advance the fusion performance of the sheared-flow stabilized (SFS) Z-pinch fusion concept. SFS Z-pinch drives electrical current through a plasma to create magnetic fields that compress and heat the plasma toward fusion conditions. Under this project, the team will raise the electrical current, reduce physics risks relating to plasma stability and confinement, and develop the electrode technology and plasma-initiation techniques necessary to enable the next steps toward a functional SFS Z-pinch fusion power plant. This could provide nearly limitless, on-demand, emission-free energy with negligible fuel costs.

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