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Distributed Generation

GeneSiC Semiconductor

Novel GaN Transistors for High Power Switching Applications

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.

George Washington University

Micro-Scale Ultra-High Efficiency CPV/Diffuse Hybrid Arrays Using Transfer Printing

George Washington University (GWU) and their partners will develop a hybrid CPV concept that combines highly efficient multi-junction solar cells and low-cost single-junction solar cells. When direct sunlight hits the lens array, it is concentrated 1000-fold and is focused onto the multi-junction solar cells. Diffuse light not captured in this process is instead captured by the low-cost single-junction solar cells. The module design is lightweight, fewer than 10 mm thick, and has a profile similar to conventional FPV. Moreover, the combination of the two types of cells increases efficiency. GWU will use its expertise in micro-transfer printing to fabricate and assemble the multi-junction cells. This process will reduce manufacturing costs and further increase efficiency.

George Washington University

Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates

George Washington University (GWU) will develop a new technique to produce commercial III-V substrates called Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates (TPVS). To reduce costs, the team proposes using a single source substrate to grow numerous virtual substrate layers. The team will use an enabling technology, called micro-transfer printing (MTP), to transfer the layers from the source substrate, in the form of many microscale "chiplets," and deposit them onto a low-cost handle (silicon, for example). Once printed, the clean surfaces of the MTP process allows each chiplet to complete the epitaxial growth process on the lower cost substrate after having been seeded from the initial source and having sacrificial layers in between to release the chiplets from the source wafer. The TPVS process can potentially yield tens to hundreds virtual substrates from a single source wafer. Any micro/nanoscale device grown on III-V substrates, such as sensors, detectors, lasers, power electronics, and high-speed transistors, will experience significant cost reductions as a direct result of TPVS deployment. TPVS can also reduce the demand for rare minerals used for a wide range of critical technological applications due to the greater efficiency with which each initial source substrate is utilized.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

A Novel Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cell Tailored for Efficient Utilization of Methane

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a fuel cell that operates at temperatures less than 500°C by integrating nanostructured materials into all cell components. This is a departure from traditional fuel cells that operate at much lower or much higher temperatures. By developing multifunctional anodes that can efficiently reform and directly process methane, this fuel cell will allow for efficient use of methane. Additionally, the Georgia Tech team will develop nanocomposite electrolytes to reduce cell temperature without sacrificing system performance. These technological advances will enable an efficient, intermediate-temperature fuel cell for distributed generation applications.

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.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Stationary Wide-Angle Concentrator PV System

Glint Photonics in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will develop a stationary wide-angle concentrator (SWAC) PV system. The SWAC concentrates light onto multi-junction solar cells, which efficiently convert sunlight into electrical energy. A sheet of arrayed PV cells moves passively within the module to maximize sunlight capture throughout the day. Two innovations allow this tracking to occur smoothly and without the expense or complexity of an active control system or a mechanical tracker. First, a fluidic suspension mechanism enables nearly frictionless movement of the sheet embedded in the module. Second, a thermal-gradient-driven alignment mechanism uses a tiny fraction of the collected energy to drive the movement of the sheet and keep it precisely aligned. Glint will develop the novel optical and fluidic components of the SWAC, while NREL will develop custom multi-junction solar cells for the prototype modules.

Ideal Power, Inc.

Dual Bi-Directional IGBTs Modules Enables Breakthrough PV Inverter Using Current Modulation Topology

PV inverters convert DC power generated by modules into usable AC power. Ideal Power's initial 30kW 94lb PV inverter reduces the weight of comparable 30kW PV inverters by 90%--reducing the cost of materials, manufacturing, shipping, and installation. With ARPA-E support, new bi-directional silicon power switches will be developed, commercialized, and utilized in Ideal Power's next-generation PV inverter. With these components, Ideal Power will produce 100kW inverters that weight less than 100lb., reducing the weight of conventional 3,000lb. 100kW inverters by more than 95%. The new power switches will cut IPC's $/W manufacturing cost in half, as well as further reduce indirect shipping and installation costs.

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.

Iowa State University

Low Cost, Safe, and Efficient All Solid State Sodium Batteries for Grid-scale energy Storage and Other Applications

The team led by Iowa State University (ISU) will develop an All Solid-State Sodium Battery (ASSSB) that will have a high energy content, can easily be recycled, and rely on highly abundant and extremely low cost starting materials. Commercially available sodium-based batteries operate at elevated temperatures, which decreases the efficiency and safety of the system. The team seeks to improve all three of the main components of a sodium-based battery: the anode, cathode, and electrolyte separator. The team's anode is a porous carbon nanotube layer that will serve as a framework on which sodium metal will be deposited. The separator will be made of a novel oxy-thio-nitride glass solid electrolyte, and the cathode will be composed of a polymer in which reversible sodium insertion and removal takes place. The team will need to overcome several challenges, including reducing interfacial resistance between the organic electrode and the solid electrolyte. The proposed sodium battery can operate at room temperature, uses a benign and scalable solid-stack design for a long cycle life, and expects to achieve an energy density eqivalent to state-of-the-art Li-ion cells.

Kohana Technologies, Inc.

Adaptive Turbine Blades: Blown Wing Technology for Low-Cost Wind Power

Kohana Technologies is developing wind turbines with a control system that delivers compressed air from special slots located in the surface of its blades. The compressed air dynamically adjusts the aerodynamic performance of the blades, and can essentially be used to control lift, drag, and ultimately power. This control system has been shown to exhibit high levels of control in combination with an exceptionally fast response rate. The deployment of such a control system in modern wind turbines would lead to better management of the load on the system during peak usage, allowing larger blades to be deployed with a resulting increase in energy production.

MAHLE Powertrain

Advanced Lean Burn Micro-CHP Genset

MAHLE Powertrain with partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Louthan Engineering, Kohler Company, and Intellichoice Energy will design and develop a CHP generator that uses an internal combustion engine with a turbulent jet ignition (TJI) combustion system. Similar to an automotive internal combustion engine, the proposed system follows the same process: the combustion of natural gas fuel creates a force that moves a piston, transferring chemical energy to mechanical energy used in conjunction with a generator to create electricity. The TJI combustion system incorporates a pre-chamber combustor, enabling the engine to operate in ultra-lean conditions (i.e. high air to fuel mixture), which results in significant improvement in engine thermal efficiency. The team will further increase the system's efficiency by using low friction engine components, while a low-temperature after-treatment system will reduce exhaust emissions.

Makani Power, Inc.

Airborne Wind Turbine

Makani Power is developing an Airborne Wind Turbine that eliminates 90% of the mass of a conventional wind turbine and accesses a stronger, more consistent wind at altitudes of near 1,000 feet. At these altitudes, 85% of the country can offer viable wind resources compared to only 15% accessible with current technology. Additionally, the Makani Power wing can be economically deployed in deep offshore waters, opening up a resource which is 4 times greater than the entire U.S. electrical generation capacity. Makani Power has demonstrated the core technology, including autonomous launch, land, and power generation with an 8 meter wingspan, 20 kW prototype. At commercial scale, Makani Power aims to develop a 600 kW, 28 meter wingspan product capable of delivering energy at an unsubsidized cost competitive with coal, the current benchmark for low-cost power.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Integrated Micro-Optical Concentrator Photovoltaics with Lateral Multijunction Cells

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Arizona State University will develop a new concept for PV power generation that achieves the 30% conversion efficiency associated with traditional concentrated PV systems while maintaining the low cost, low profile, and lightweight of conventional FPV modules. MIT aims to combine three technologies to achieve their goals: a dispersive lens system, laterally arrayed multiple bandgap (LAMB) solar cells, and a low-cost power management system. The dispersive lens concentrates and separates light that passes through it, providing 400-fold concentration for direct sunlight and 3-fold concentration for diffuse sunlight. The dispersive lens is a thin layer consisting of inexpensive, lightweight materials that can be manufactured at low cost using plastic molding, an improvement over traditional methods. The lens focuses the direct light onto the array of LAMB solar cells, while also focusing the diffuse light onto common PV cells integrated beneath the LAMB array. The power management system combines power from multiple cells into a single output so that the power from a panel of LAMB arrays can be processed with grid-interface power electronics, enabling as much as 20% additional energy capture in applications where the roof is partially shaded.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spectrum Splitting for High-Efficiency Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy Generation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a high-efficiency solar cell grown on a low-cost silicon wafer, which incorporates a micro-scale heat management system. The team will employ a novel fabrication process to ensure compatibility between the indium gallium phosphide (InGaP) solar cell and an inexpensive silicon wafer template, which will reduce cell costs. MIT will also develop a color-selective filter, designed to split incoming concentrated sunlight into two components. One component will be sent to the solar cells and immediately converted into electricity and the other will be sent to a thermal receiver to be captured as heat. This will allow the simultaneous availability of electricity and heat. By leveraging the InGaP system, MIT's solar cells will be more tolerant to high temperature operation than today's PV cells and allow recovery of more useful higher temperature waste heat through the micro-scale heat management system. The solar cell and heat recovery system will enable more efficient use of the entire solar spectrum to produce dispatchable renewable electricity.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Full-Spectrum Stacked Solar-Thermal and PV Receiver

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a hybrid solar converter that integrates a thermal absorber and solar cells into a layered stack, allowing some portions of sunlight to be converted directly to electricity and the rest to be stored as heat for conversion when needed most. MIT's design focuses concentrated sunlight onto metal fins coated with layers that reflect a portion of the sunlight while absorbing the rest. The absorbed light is converted to heat and stored in a thermal fluid for conversion to mechanical energy by a heat engine. The reflected light is directed to solar cells and converted directly into electricity. This way, each portion of the solar spectrum is directed to the conversion system where it can be most effectively used. The sunlight passes through a transparent microporous gel that also insulates each of the components so that the maximum energy can be extracted from both the heat-collecting metal fins and the solar cells. This unique stack design could utilize the full solar spectrum efficiently and enable the dispatch of electricity at any time of the day.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wafer-Level Integrated Concentrating Photovoltaics

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Sandia National Laboratories will develop a micro-CPV system. The team's approach integrates optical concentrating elements with micro-scale solar cells to enhance efficiency, reduce material and fabrication costs, and significantly reduce system size. The team's key innovation is the use of traditional silicon PV cells for more than one function. These traditional cells lay on a silicon substrate that has etched reflective cavities with high-performance micro-PV cells on the cavity floor. Light entering the system will hit a primary concentrator that then directs light into the reflective cavities and towards the high performance micro-PV cells. Diffuse light, which most CPV technologies do not capture, is collected by the lower performance silicon PV cells. The proposed technology could provide 40-55% more energy than conventional FPV and 15-40% more energy than traditional CPV with a significantly reduced system cost, because of the ability to collect both direct and diffuse light in a thin form factor.

Materials & Systems Research, Inc.

Intermediate-Temperature Electrogenerative Cells for Flexible Cogeneration of Power and Liquid Fuel

Materials & Systems Research, Inc. (MSRI) is developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell capable of electrochemically converting natural gas into electricity or liquid fuel in a single step. Existing solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) convert the chemical energy of hydrocarbons--such as hydrogen or methane--into electricity at higher efficiencies than traditional power generators, but are expensive to manufacture and operate at extremely high temperatures, introducing durability and cost concerns over time. Existing processes for converting methane to liquid transportation fuels are also capital intensive. MSRI's technology would convert natural gas into liquid fuel using efficient catalysts and a cost-effective fabrication process that can be readily scaled up for mass production. MSRI's technology will provide low-cost power or liquid fuel while operating in a temperature range of 400-500ºC, enabling better durability than today's high-temperature fuel cells.

Metis Design Corporation

Advanced Microturbine Engine for Residential CHP

Metis Design Corporation (MDC) with Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory will develop a Brayton cycle engine for residential use to produce heat and electricity. To begin the cycle, air is drawn into the system where it is compressed and pressurized. This compressed air is then heated in a recuperator and introduced in to the combustion chamber. Fuel is injected in to the combustion chamber and subsequently the air-fuel mixture is ignited. The high temperature exhaust gases then expand through a turbine, providing some of the work that drives the original compressor and the remainder produces electricity in a generator. Other innovations include adding a rotating vaneless diffuser to the compression process to reduce viscous losses that would normally reduce the efficiency of small compressors. The design also includes a high-efficiency recuperator to capture waste heat from the turbine exhaust and a low swirl burner to reduce emissions.

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