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OPEN 2012

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Ultra High-Performance Supercapacitor by Using Tailor-Made Molecular Spacer Grafted Graphene

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a supercapacitor using graphene--a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms--to substantially store more energy than current technologies. Supercapacitors store energy in a different manner than batteries, which enables them to charge and discharge much more rapidly. The Georgia Tech team approach is to improve the internal structure of graphene sheets with 'molecular spacers,' in order to store more energy at lower cost. The proposed design could increase the energy density of the supercapacitor by 10-15 times over established capacitor technologies, and would serve as a cost-effective and environmentally safe alternative to traditional storage methods.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

High-Efficiency Solar Fuels Reactor Concept

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a high-efficiency concentrating solar receiver and reactor for the production of solar fuels. The team will develop a system that uses liquid metal to capture and transport heat at much higher temperatures compared to state-of-the-art concentrating solar power facilities. This high temperature system will be combined with the team's novel reactor to produce solar fuels that allow the flexibility to store and transport solar energy for later use or for immediate power production. Higher temperatures should result in much higher efficiencies and therefore lower costs of produced fuel or electricity. Additionally, plant operators would have the flexibility to match electricity or fuel production with the changing market demand to improve the cost effectiveness of the plant.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Power Generation Using Anchored, Buoyancy-Induced Columnar Vortices: The Solar Vortex (SoV)

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a method to capture energy from wind vortices that form from a thin layer of solar-heated air along the ground. "Dust devils" are a random and intermittent example of this phenomenon in nature. Naturally, the sun heats the ground creating a thin air layer near the surface that is warmer than the air above. Since hot air rises, this layer of air will naturally want to rise. The Georgia Tech team will use a set of vanes to force the air to rotate as it rises, forming an anchored columnar vortex that draws in additional hot air to sustain itself. Georgia Tech's technology uses a rotor and generator to produce electrical power from this rising, rotating air similar to a conventional wind turbine. This solar-heated air, a renewable energy resource, is broadly available, especially in the southern U.S. Sunbelt, yet has not been utilized to date. This technology could offer more continuous power generation than conventional solar PV or wind. Georgia Tech's technology is a, low-cost, scalable approach to electrical power generation that could create a new class of renewable energy ideally suited for arid low-wind regions.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Self-Tracking Concentrator Photovoltaics

Glint Photonics is developing an inexpensive solar concentrating PV (CPV) module that tracks the sun's position over the course of the day to channel sunlight into PV materials more efficiently. Conventional solar concentrator technology requires complex moving parts to track the sun's movements. In contrast, Glint's inexpensive design can be mounted in a stationary configuration and adjusts its properties automatically in response to the solar position. By embedding this automated tracking function within the concentrator, Glint's design enables CPV modules to use traditional mounting technology and techniques, reducing installation complexity and cost. These self-tracking concentrators can significantly decrease the cost of solar power modules by enabling high efficiency while eliminating the additional costs of precision trackers and specialized mounting hardware. The concentrator itself is designed to be manufactured at extremely low-cost due to low material usage and compatibility with high-speed fabrication techniques. Glint's complete module costs are estimated to be $0.35/watt-peak.

Grid Logic, Inc.

Development of a New Generation High-Temperature Superconducting Composite Conductor Delivered at $20/(kA m) with Low AC Loss

Grid Logic is developing a new type of electrical superconductor that could significantly improve the performance (in $/kA-m) and lower the cost of high-power energy generation, transmission, and distribution. Grid Logic is using a new manufacturing technique to coat very fine particles of superconducting material with an extremely thin layer--less than 1/1,000 the width of a human hair--of a low-cost metal composite. This new manufacturing process is not only much simpler and more cost effective than the process used to make today's state-of-the-art high-power superconductors, but also it makes superconductive cables easier to handle and improves their electrical properties in certain applications.

Harvard University

Small Organic Molecule Based Flow Battery for Grid Storage

Harvard University is developing an innovative grid-scale flow battery to store electricity from renewable sources. Flow batteries store energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, permitting larger amounts of stored energy at lower cost per kWh. Harvard is designing active material for a flow battery that uses small, inexpensive organic molecules in aqueous electrolyte. Relying on low-cost organic materials, Harvard's innovative storage device concept would yield one or more systems that may be developed by their partner, Sustainable Innovations, LLC, into viable grid-scale electrical energy storage systems.

HexaTech, Inc.

Aluminum Nitride-Based Devices for High-Voltage Power Electronics

HexaTech is developing new semiconductors for electrical switches that will more efficiently control the flow of electricity across high-voltage electrical lines. A switch helps control electricity: switching it on and off, converting it from one voltage to another, and converting it from an Alternating Current (A/C) to a Direct Current (D/C) and back. Most switches today use silicon or silicon-based semiconductors, which are not able to handle high voltages, fast switching speeds, or high operating temperatures. HexaTech has developed highest quality, single crystalline Aluminum Nitride (AlN) semiconductor wafers. HexaTech AlN wafers are the enabling platform for power converters which can handle 50 times more voltage than silicon, as well as higher switching speeds and operating temperatures.

Integral Consulting

Cost Effective Real Time Wave Assessment Tool

Integral Consulting is developing a cost-effective ocean wave buoy system that will accurately measure its own movements as it follows the surface wave motions of the ocean and relay this real-time wave data. Conventional real-time wave measurement buoys are expensive, which limits the ability to deploy large networks of buoys. Data from Integral Consulting's buoys can be used as input to control strategies of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices and allow these controlled WECs to capture significantly more energy than systems that do not employ control strategies. Integral Consulting's system will also enable assessment of the optimal locations and designs of WEC systems. Integral Consulting's ocean wave buoy system could measure and relay real-time wave data at 10% the cost of commercially available wave measurement systems.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scalable, Self-Powered Purification Technology for Brackish and Heavy Metal-Contaminated Water

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a water treatment system to treat contaminated water from hydraulic fracking and seawater. There is a critical need for small to medium-sized, low-powered, low-cost water treatment technologies, particularly for regions lacking centralized water and energy infrastructure. Conventional water treatment methods, such as reverse osmosis, are not effective for most produced water clean up based on the high salt levels resulting from fracking. MIT's water treatment system will remove high-levels of typical water contaminants such as salt, metals, and microorganisms. The water treatment system is based on low-powered generation enabling efficient on-demand, on-site potable water production. The process allows for a 50% water recovery rate and is cost-competitive with conventional water treatment technology. MIT's water treatment device would require less power than competing technologies and has important applications for mining, oil and gas production, and water treatment for remote locations.

MicroLink Devices

High-Efficiency, Lattice-Matched Solar Cells Using Epitaxial Lift-Off

MicroLink Devices is developing low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells to capture concentrated sunlight in an effort to increase the amount of electricity generated by concentrating solar power plants. The continued growth of the CPV market depends strongly on continuing to reduce the cost of CPV solar cell technologies. MicroLink will make an all-lattice-matched solar cell that can achieve greater power conversion efficiency than conventional CPV technologies, thereby reducing the cost of generating electricity. In addition, MicroLink will use manufacturing techniques that allow for the reuse of expensive solar cell manufacturing templates to minimize costs. MicroLink's innovative high-efficiency solar cell design has the potential to reduce PV electricity costs well below the cost of electricity from conventional non-concentrating PV modules.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Negating Energy Losses in Organic Photovoltaics Using Photonic Structures

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado (CU) are developing a way to enhance plastic solar cells to capture a larger part of the solar spectrum. Conventional plastic solar cells can be inexpensive to fabricate but do not efficiently convert light into electricity. NREL is designing novel device architecture for plastic solar cells that would enhance the utilization of parts of the solar spectrum for a wide array of plastic solar cell types. To develop these plastic solar cells, NREL and CU will leverage computational modeling and advanced facilities specializing in processing plastic PVs. NREL's plastic solar cell devices have the potential to exceed the power conversion efficiencies of traditional plastic solar cells by up to threefold.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

High-Temp, High-Efficiency Solar-Thermoelectric Generators

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is developing a solar thermoelectric generator to directly convert heat from concentrated sunlight to electricity. Thermoelectric devices can directly convert heat to electricity, yet due to cost and efficiency limitations they have not been viewed as a viable large-scale energy conversion technology. However, new thermoelectric materials have dramatically increased the efficiency of direct heat-to-electricity conversion. NREL is using these innovative materials to develop a new solar thermoelectric generator. This device will concentrate sunlight onto an absorbing surface on top of a thermoelectric stage, the resulting temperature difference between the top and bottom of the device will drive the generator to produce electricity at 3 times the efficiency of current systems. NREL's solar thermoelectric generator could reduce the cost associated with converting large amounts of solar energy into electricity through a much simpler and scalable process which does not rely upon moving parts and transfer fluids.

Otherlab, Inc.

Adaptive Fluidic Solar Collectors

Otherlab is developing an inexpensive small mirror system with an innovative drive system to reflect sunlight onto concentrating solar power towers at greatly reduced cost. This system is an alternative to expensive and bulky 20-30 foot tall mirrors and expensive sun-tracking drives used in today's concentrating solar power plants. In order for solar power tower plants to compete with conventional electricity generation, these plants need dramatic component cost reductions and lower maintenance and operational expenses. Otherlab's approach uses a smaller modular mirror design that reduces handling difficulty, suffers less from high winds, and allows the use of mass manufacturing processes for low-cost component production. These mirrors can be driven by mechanisms that utilize simpler, more readily serviceable parts which decreases system downtime and efficiency. The incorporation of low-cost and highly-scalable manufacturing approaches could significantly reduce the cost of solar electricity generation below conventional solar tower plant technologies.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Non-Wire Methods for Transmission Congestion Management through Predictive Simulation and Optimization

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing innovative high-performance-computing techniques that can assess unused power transmission capacity in real-time in order to better manage congestion in the power grid. This type of assessment is traditionally performed off-line every season or every year using only conservative, worst-case scenarios. Finding computing techniques that rate transmission capacity in real-time could improve the utilization of the existing transmission infrastructure by up to 30% and facilitate increased integration of renewable generation into the grid--all without having to build costly new transmission lines.

Palo Alto Research Center

Printed Integral Batteries

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing a new way to manufacture Li-Ion batteries that reduces manufacturing costs and improves overall battery performance. Traditionally, Li-Ion manufacturers make each layer of the battery separately and then integrate the layers together. PARC is working to manufacture a Li-ion battery by printing each layer simultaneously into an integrated battery, thereby streamlining the manufacturing process. Additionally, the battery structure includes narrow stripes inside the layers that increase the battery's overall energy storage. Together, these innovations should allow the production of higher capacity batteries at dramatically lower manufacturing costs compared to today's Li-ion batteries.

Plant Sensory Systems

Development of High-Output, Low-Input Energy Beets

Plant Sensory Systems (PSS) is developing an enhanced energy beet that will provide an improved fermentable feedstock. A gene that has been shown to increase biomass and soluble sugars in other crop species will be introduced into beets in order produce higher levels of non-food-grade sugars and use both nutrients and water more efficiently. These engineered beets will have a lower cost of production and increased yield of fermentable sugars to help diversify feedstocks for bioproduction of fuel molecules.

PolyPlus Battery Company

A Revolutionary Approach to High-Energy Density, Low-Cost Lithium-Sulfur Batteries

PolyPlus Battery Company is developing an innovative, water-based Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) battery. Today, Li-S battery technology offers the lightest high-energy batteries that are completely self-contained. New features in these water-based batteries make PolyPlus' lightweight battery ideal for a variety of military and consumer applications. The design could achieve energy densities between 400-600 Wh/kg, a substantial improvement from today's state-of-the-art Li-Ion batteries that can hold only 150 Wh/kg. PolyPlus' technology--with applications for vehicle transportation as well as grid storage--would be able to transition to a widespread commercial and military market.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

Continuous Detonation Engine Combustor for Natural Gas Turbines

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is developing a new combustor for gas turbine engines that uses shockwaves for more efficient combustion through a process known as continuous detonation. These combustors would enable more electricity to be generated from a given amount of natural gas, increasing the efficiency of gas turbine engines while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. PWR will design and build continuous detonation combustors and test them in a simulated gas turbine environment to demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating the technology into natural gas-fueled turbine electric power generators.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

Rocket Engine Derived High Efficiency Turbomachinery for Electric Power Generation / Turbo-Pox for Ultra-Low Cost Gasoline

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is developing two distinct--but related--technologies that could revolutionize how we convert natural gas. First, PWR will work with Pennsylvania State University to create a high-efficiency gas turbine which uses supercritical fluids to cool the turbine blades. Allowing gas turbines to operate at higher temperatures can drive significant improvements in performance, particularly when coupled with the recapture of waste heat. This advancement could reduce the cost of electricity by roughly 60% and resulting in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing upon lessons learned from this technology, PWR will then work with the Gas Technology Institute to build a system that partially oxidizes natural gas in the high-temperature, high-pressure combustor of a natural gas turbine, efficiently facilitating its conversion into a liquid fuel. This approach could simultaneously improve the efficiency of gas conversion into fuels and chemicals, and also generate high-quality waste heat in the process which could be used to generate electricity.

RamGoss, Inc.

Development of High-Performance Gallium Nitride Transistors

RamGoss is using innovative device designs and high-performance materials to develop utility-scale electronic switches that would significantly outperform today's state-of-the-art devices. Switches are the fundamental building blocks of electronic devices, controlling the electrical energy that flows around an electrical circuit. Today's best electronic switches for large power applications are bulky and inefficient, which leads to higher cost and wasted power. RamGoss is optimizing new, low-cost materials and developing a new, completely different switch designs. Combined, these innovations would increase the efficiency and reduce the overall size and cost of power converters for a variety of electronic devices and grid-scale applications, including electric vehicle (EV) chargers, large-scale wind plants, and solar power arrays.

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