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ARPA-E Projects

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Displaying 1 - 13 of 13
Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) at Virginia Tech
Program: 
Project Term: 
09/01/2010 to 11/30/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 
The Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) at Virginia Tech is developing an extremely efficient power converter that could be used in power adapters for small, light-weight laptops and other types of mobile electronic devices. Power adapters convert electrical energy into usable power for an electronic device, and they currently waste a lot of energy when they are plugged into an outlet to power up. CPES is integrating high-density capacitors, new magnetic materials, high-frequency integrated circuits, and a constant-flux transformer to create its efficient power converter. The high-density capacitors enable the power adapter to store more energy. The new magnetic materials also increase energy storage, and they can be precisely dispensed using a low-cost ink-jet printer which keeps costs down. The high-frequency integrated circuits can handle more power, and they can handle it more efficiently. And, the constant-flux transformer processes a consistent flow of electrical current, which makes the converter more efficient.
Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) at Virginia Tech
Program: 
Project Term: 
09/01/2010 to 07/31/2014
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 
The Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) at Virginia Tech is finding ways to save real estate on a computer's motherboard that could be used for other critical functions. Every computer processor today contains a voltage regulator that automatically maintains a constant level of electricity entering the device. These regulators contain bulky components and take up about 30% of a computer's motherboard. CPES is developing a voltage regulator that uses semiconductors made of gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) and high-frequency soft magnetic material. These materials are integrated on a small, 3D chip that can handle the same amount of power as traditional voltage regulators at 1/10 the size and with improved efficiency. The small size also frees up to 90% of the motherboard space occupied by current voltage regulators.
Program: 
Project Term: 
12/20/2016 to 09/19/2018
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

GeneSiC Semiconductor will lead a team to develop high-power and voltage (1200V) vertical transistors on free-standing gallium nitride (GaN) substrates. Bipolar junction transistors amplify or switch electrical current. NPN junction transistors are one class of these transistors consisting of a layer of p-type semiconductor between two n-type semiconductors. The output electrical current between two terminals is controlled by applying a small input current at the third terminal. The proposed effort combines the latest innovations in device designs/process technology, bulk GaN substrate technology, and innovative metal-organic chemical vapor deposition epitaxial growth techniques. If the proposed design concept is successful, it will enable three-fold improvement of power density in high voltage devices, and provide a low-cost solution for mass market power conversion. Moreover, the device can be processed with significantly lower process complexity and cost, as compared to competing silicon carbide and GaN device technologies. GeneSiC will focus on all device development tasks while its partner, Adroit Materials, will focus on the GaN epitaxial growth on bulk GaN substrates, as well as detailed materials characterization according to specifications generated by GeneSiC.

Program: 
Project Term: 
09/01/2010 to 02/28/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 
GeneSiC Semiconductor is developing an advanced silicon-carbide (SiC)-based semiconductor called an anode-switched thyristor. This low-cost, compact SiC semiconductor conducts higher levels of electrical energy with better precision than traditional silicon semiconductors. This efficiency will enable a dramatic reduction in the size, weight, and volume of the power converters and the electronic devices they are used in. GeneSiC is developing its SiC-based semiconductor for utility-scale power converters. Traditional silicon semiconductors can't process the high voltages that utility-scale power distribution requires, and they must be stacked in complicated circuits that require bulky insulation and cooling hardware. GeneSiC's semiconductors are well suited for high-power applications like large-scale renewable wind and solar energy installations.
Program: 
Project Term: 
10/01/2018 to 03/31/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

HolosGen is developing a transportable gas-cooled nuclear reactor with load following ability. The reactor concept is essentially a closed-loop jet engine (Brayton cycle) with the typical combustor replaced by a nuclear heat source. The nuclear heat source is comprised of multiple subcritical power modules (SPMs) that only produce power when they are positioned in close proximity, allowing sufficient neutron transfer to reach criticality (steady-state). The modules will be positioned using an exoskeletal structure with fast-actuation technologies currently employed by the aviation industry. By controlling the flow of neutrons across the SPM boundaries, reactor output can be controlled. By using a closed Brayton cycle, a high-power-density engine with components connected directly to the reactor core, plant construction will be simplified and the reactor/generator can be packaged in a standard shipping container. This will make the reactor highly portable, leading to lower costs and shorter commissioning times. HolosGen's reactor concept will provide low overnight cost, autonomous operations, rapid deployment, independence from environmental extremes, and easy electrical grid connection with near real-time load following capability. Under this MEITNER project, the ARPA-E/HolosGen team aims to demonstrate the viability of this concept using multi-physics modeling and simulation tools, with the thermal hydraulics validated by testing a non-nuclear simulator. The project will improve the understanding of the turbine efficiencies and the coolant flow within the nuclear reactor.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
Program: 
Project Term: 
08/15/2016 to 08/14/2019
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) will develop GridBallast, a low-cost demand-side management technology, to address resiliency and stability concerns accompanying the exponential growth in DERs deployment in the U.S. electric grid. Specifically, devices based on GridBallast technology will monitor grid voltage and frequency and control the target load in order to address excursions from grid operating targets. The devices will operate autonomously to provide rapid local response, removing the need for costly infrastructure to communicate with a central controller. If the devices are installed with an optional radio, they will be able to support traditional demand response through peer-to-peer collaborative operation from a central operator. The team includes experts from Carnegie Mellon University, Eaton Corporation, and SparkMeter, and will focus development on two specific devices: a water heater controller, and a smart circuit controller. The GridBallast project aims to improve resiliency and reduce the cost of demand side management for voltage and frequency control by at least 50% using a streamlined design and removing the need for extensive communications infrastructure.

Program: 
Project Term: 
08/09/2019 to 08/08/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 
The University of Virginia (U.Va.), in collaboration with C-Crete Technologies, is developing a new approach for making cement by leveraging the ways in which certain mineral silicates react with carbon dioxide and water. These reactions produce mineral phases that are much stronger and more stable than commercial cements, thereby reducing CO2 emissions and energy use over time. Chemically, the products of these reactions share more in common with ancient Roman cements than they do with OPC. Because of the temperatures and pressures required to make these materials, the project will initially target the pre-cast structures market, which represents 10-20% of the global cement market. This project's objectives are to identify inexpensive mineral feedstocks and industrial waste materials (e.g., flue gas from coal-fired power production, fly ash, and slag from municipal solid waste incineration) to produce these novel cementitious materials at scale, and optimize their reaction and curing conditions to result in strong, durable pre-cast structures.
University of Virginia (UVA)
Program: 
Project Term: 
04/01/2016 to 07/31/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

The team led by the University of Virginia (UVA) will design the world's largest wind turbine by employing a new downwind turbine concept called Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR). Increasing the size of wind turbine blades will enable a large increase in power from today's largest turbines - from an average of 5-10MW to a proposed 50MW system. The SUMR concept allows blades to deflect in the wind, much like a palm tree, to accommodate a wide range of wind speeds (up to hurricane-wind speeds) with reduced blade load, thus reducing rotor mass and fatigue. The novel blades also use segmentation to reduce production, transportation, and installation costs. This innovative design overcomes key challenges for extreme-scale turbines resulting in a cost-effective approach to advance the domestic wind energy market. The team includes world's experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Labs (SNL) working with world-class faculty and students at the Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado (Boulder), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), and UVA.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
Program: 
Project Term: 
02/01/2017 to 07/31/2019
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will develop innovative methods to produce aerogel-on-glass windowpanes for window retrofits. Silica aerogels are porous materials that can be used to control heat transfer across windows. However, widespread use of silica aerogels in windows has been limited by their mechanical fragility, difficulties with transparency, and high manufacturing costs. The team will use newly developed cross-linked aerogels that significantly improve the mechanical strength and durability of aerogels. Aerogels are typically produced through either air drying or supercritical drying. Air drying is inexpensive, but induces stresses that can lead to fragmentation. Supercritical drying is superior, but is expensive. VCU will employ an alternative drying method, freeze drying, in which the material is frozen and ice is sublimated off. VCU estimates that aerogel production using freeze drying can cut production costs by about 40% compared to supercritical drying. VCU's aerogel material would be placed between a glass pane and polycarbonate films to produce an effective windowpane for single-pane window retrofits.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
Program: 
Project Term: 
01/01/2012 to 12/31/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is developing a new magnet for use in renewable power generators and EV motors that requires no rare earth minerals. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to process, but they make electric motors and generators smaller, lighter, and more efficient. VCU would replace the rare earth minerals in EV motor magnets with a low-cost and abundant carbon-based compound that resembles a fine black powder. This new magnet could demonstrate the same level of performance as the best commercial magnets available today at a significantly lower cost. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate this new magnet in a prototype electric motor.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Program: 
Project Term: 
09/01/2019 to 08/31/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Program: 
Project Term: 
12/15/2017 to 12/14/2020
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) will develop a wide-bandgap-based, high power (100 kW) DC-to-AC inverter that can receive power from sources like batteries or solar panels and transfer it directly to the medium voltage level of the utility grid. The team will also integrate the device with an existing medium voltage AC-to-DC converter to build a bidirectional solid-state transformer that converts low-voltage AC to high-voltage AC without using heavy, low-frequency materials such as copper and iron in its design. The hardware prototype will be packaged with a high power density design, having the potential to reduce size by two orders of magnitude over the current solid-state transformers. The cooling system is minimized due to the high efficiency and implementation of a convection-cooled heat sink. If successful, the project could lead to the first commercially viable medium voltage solid-state transformer, using just a single-stage process to obtain high efficiency power conversion.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Program: 
Project Term: 
02/26/2018 to 02/25/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Project State: 
Virginia
Technical Categories: 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and its project team will develop high power, high voltage AC-to-DC and DC-to-DC modular power converters with a circuit configuration optimized for silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors. In medium voltage and high voltage applications, multilevel modular converters are the favored architecture that overcomes the limitations of Si. Such architecture requires high frequency galvanic isolation to attain higher operating voltages. This project seeks to develop modular power converters optimized for SiC devices without any galvanic isolation, by harnessing two unique circuit operating modes of this power converter, transforming its intrinsic operation into one that favors high switching frequency. The team will pursue three primary applications for their proposed 2 MW, high-efficiency (99%) power converter: 1) electric motor drives, 2) power inverters for grid-scale use, and 3) a DC-to-DC converters for microgrid applications. If successful, the project's optimized circuit designs could open the door for more SiC-based, high power, medium-voltage converters.