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Efficiency

Northeastern University

A New Class of Soft-Switching Capacitive-Link Universal Converters for Photovoltaic Application

Northeastern University will develop a new class of universal power converters that can be used in a wide range of applications including renewable energy systems, automotive, and manufacturing technologies. Northeastern will focus the project on the design, simulation, prototyping, and experimental evaluation for PV systems. This project proposes a new class of converters that can both step up and step down the voltage. This converter uses a very small film capacitor for transferring the power from the input to the output. The proposed technology eliminates the need for electrolytic capacitors, and can double the lifetime and reliability of power converters. The power density of this class of power converters is also high since it can use an integrated, single-phase, high-frequency transformer instead of heavy and bulky low-frequency transformers. In this project, two 3kW prototypes will be fabricated and tested. The first will use silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistors and its switching frequency will be below 10kHz. The second prototype will employ silicon carbide (SiC) metal oxide semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors (MOSFETs) with the target switching frequency at 50kHz. Significant reduction (6X) in inverter weight and improvement in inverter efficiency (> 1.5%) is expected in the proposed solution that combines the novel circuit topology and the SiC transistors over traditional PV inverters.

Northeastern University

A Universal Converter for DC, Single-phase AC, and Multi-phase AC Systems

Northeastern University will develop a new class of universal power converters that use the fast switching and high breakdown voltage properties of silicon carbide (SiC) switches to significantly reduce system weight, volume, cost, power loss, and failure rates. Northeastern's proposed 10 kW SiC based high-frequency converter topology minimizes the size of passive components that are used for power transfer, and replaces electrolytic capacitors with short lifetimes with film capacitors. The proposed universal converter can be used for transferring power from any type of source to any type of load. It can be used when the instantaneous values of input and output power do not match even without having large passive components, or increasing the number of passive components. If successful, the proposed converter and innovative control strategy has the potential to create a new paradigm in power electronics that could influence numerous applications, such as electric vehicles, wind energy systems, photovoltaic systems, industrial motor drives, residential variable frequency drive systems, and nanogrid applications.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

High Performance CO2 Scrubbing Based on Hollow Fiber-Supported Designer Ionic Liquid Sponges

The team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Georgia Institute of Technology is developing a new technology that will act like a sponge, integrating a new, alcohol-based ionic liquid into hollow fibers to capture CO2 from the exhaust produced by coal-fired power plants. Ionic liquids--salts that exist in liquid form--are promising materials for carbon capture and storage, but their tendency to thicken when combined with CO2 limits their efficiency and poses a challenge for their development as a cost-effective alternative to current-generation solutions. Adding alcohol to the mix limits this tendency to thicken in the presence of CO2 but can also make the liquid more likely to evaporate, which would add significantly to the cost of CO2 capture. To solve this problem, ORNL is developing new classes of ionic liquids with high capacity for absorbing CO2. ORNL's sponge would reduce the cost associated with the energy that would need to be diverted from power plants to capture CO2 and release it for storage.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Low Cost, Multilayer, Highly Transparent and Thermally Insulating Hybrid Silica-Polymer Film

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and its partners are creating a highly transparent, multilayer window film that can be applied onto single-pane windows to improve thermal insulation, soundproofing, and condensation resistance. The ORNL film combines four layers. Low-cost, nanoporous silica will be used to improve thermal insulation. A layer of a sound-absorbing polymer, which is commonly applied to windows for soundproofing, will be added between the silica sheets to reduce outside noise infiltration. A final outside superhydrophobic coating layer will minimize the condensation. A low-emissivity film will be added to minimize heat transfer out from the conditioned interior.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

New High Temperature, Corrosion-Resistant Cast Alloy For Operation in Industrial Gaseous Environments

The team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will develop new cast alumina-forming austenitic alloys (AFAs), along with associated casting and welding processes for component fabrication. ORNL and its partners will prototype industrial components with at least twice the oxidation resistance compared to current cast chromia-forming steel and test it in an industrial environment. These innovations could allow various industrial and chemical processing systems and gas turbines to operate at higher temperatures to improve efficiencies and reduce downtimes, thus providing cost and energy reductions for a wide range of energy-intensive applications.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Temperature Self-Regulation for Large-Format Li-Ion cells

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing an innovative battery design to more effectively regulate destructive isolated hot-spots that develop within a battery during use and eventually lead to degradation of the cells. Today's batteries are not fully equipped to monitor and regulate internal temperatures, which can negatively impact battery performance, life-time, and safety. ORNL's design would integrate efficient temperature control at each layer inside lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery cells. In addition to monitoring temperatures, the design would provide active cooling and temperature control deep within the cell, which would represent a dramatic improvement over today's systems, which tend to cool only the surface of the cells. The elimination of cell surface cooling and achievement of internal temperature regulation would have significant impact on battery performance, life-time, and safety.

Ohio State University

GaN MOCVD Growth on Native Substrates For High Voltage (15-20 KV) Vertical Power Devices

The Ohio State University will develop GaN semiconductor materials suitable for high voltage (15-20 kV) power control and conversion. The team will develop a unique photon-assisted metal organic chemical vapor deposition (PA-MOCVD) method to grow thick GaN films with low background impurity contamination, necessary to allow high-voltage operation with high efficiency. The thick GaN layers will be deposited by PA-MOCVD on high-quality bulk GaN base materials with reduced defects, critical to the growth of high-quality GaN films. High-voltage GaN devices will be designed, fabricated, and tested to provide feedback for further GaN material growth improvement and optimization.

Oregon State University

Freshwater Recovery System for Hydraulic Fracturing (FRESH-Frac) Using a Thermally-Actuated Nozzle-Demister

Oregon State University (OSU) is developing a system for extracting clean irrigation water from hydraulic fracturing wastewater using low-grade solar or industrial waste heat. The system would efficiently separate, condense, and reclaim water vapor from wastewater using a heat-activated swirling nozzle combined with an in-line demister. OSU's technology would be modular, portable, scalable, and deployable at a fraction of the cost of existing treatment systems. If successful, the treated water would be suitable for agricultural use, providing an abundant new water source and easing competition for this vital resource.

Otherlab, Inc.

Passive Thermo-Adaptive Textiles with Laminated Polymer Bimorphs

Otherlab will develop thermally adaptive materials that change their thickness in response to temperature changes, allowing the creation of garments that passively respond to variations in temperature. In contrast to existing garments that have a constant insulation value whether conditions are hot or cold, thermally adaptive materials change shape as temperature changes, leading to a change in insulation. The material change is a physical response, passively operating and requiring no input from the wearer or any control system. Garments made from thermally adaptive fabrics will enable the wearing of fewer layers of clothing for comfort over a broader temperature range, effectively lowering the heating and cooling requirements for buildings. Beyond apparel, this advanced insulation may find applications in drapery and bedding.

Otherlab, Inc.

An Open-Source Tool for Visualizing Energy Flow Data to Identify Opportunities, Inform Decisions, and Increase Energy Literacy

Otherlab will develop an open-source tool to enable higher resolution investigation and visualization of energy flows throughout the country. The core visual component is an interactive Sankey diagram with an intuitive interface that will allow users to examine the flows of energy and materials by industry, region, and economic sector. Behind the visualizations, sophisticated algorithms will aggregate and reconcile data from a wide variety of publically available sources in various formats to present an integrated view of energy and material imports, exports, and flows in the U.S. economy. The project's aim is to characterize these flows to an unprecedented resolution of 0.1% of the U.S. energy economy. The tool will incorporate both the specificity and comprehensiveness necessary to aid decision makers across the energy industry in identifying opportunities and planning energy research and technology development. By maintaining the tool in an open-source format, developers from across the country can assist in providing additional input on data sources, processing algorithms, and visualizations to improve accuracy and usability. Producing the open-source visualization tool will require three interdependent tasks. First, energy data will be collected, verified, and prepared for use. Next, the team will conduct user interface work and usability studies to ensure that the output reaches the broadest audience in the most useful manner. Finally, the team will pursue its final implementation as a web-based tool.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Catalyzed Organo-Metathetical (COMET) Process for Magnesium Production from Seawater

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing a radically new process to produce magnesium from seawater. Today's methods are energy intensive and expensive because the magnesium concentration in seawater is so low that significant energy is needed to evaporate off water and precipitate magnesium chloride salt. Further, conventional technologies involve heating the salt to 900°C and then using electric current to break the chemical bond between magnesium and chlorine to produce the metal. PNNL's new process replaces brine spray drying with a low-temperature, low-energy dehydration process. That step is combined with a new catalyst-assisted process to generate an organometallic reactant directly from magnesium chloride. The organometallic is decomposed to magnesium metal via a proprietary process at temperatures less than 300°C, thus eliminating electrolysis of magnesium chloride salt. The overall process could be significantly less expensive and more efficient than any conventional magnesium extraction method available today and uses seawater as an abundant, free resource.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

High Efficiency Adsorption Cooling Using Metal Organic Heat Carriers

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is designing more efficient adsorption chillers by incorporating significant improvements in materials that adsorb liquids or gases. An adsorption chiller is a type of air conditioner that is powered by heat, solar or waste heat, or combustion of natural gas. Unlike typical chillers, an adsorption chiller has few moving parts and uses almost no electricity to operate. PNNL is designing adsorbent materials at the molecular level that have at least 3 times higher refrigerant capacity and up to 20 times faster kinetics than adsorbents used in current chillers. By using the new adsorbent, PNNL is able to create a chiller that is significantly smaller, has twice the energy efficiency, and lower material and assembly costs compared to conventional adsorption chillers. PNNL received a separate award of up to $2,190,343 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Machine Learning for Natural Gas to Electric Power System Design

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will apply multiple machine learning tools to develop next-generation natural gas to electric power conversion system designs. The project leverages a physics-informed machine learning tool for automated reduced order model (ROM) construction. This will significantly reduce prediction errors compared to traditional approaches. Machine learning will also leverage a superstructure-based mathematical optimization tools combined with reinforcement learning and graph network methods to explore and optimize component connections in fuel to electric power conversion systems.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Manganese-Based Permanent Magnet with 40 MGOe at 200°C

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is working to reduce the cost of wind turbines and EVs by developing a manganese-based nano-composite magnet that could serve as an inexpensive alternative to rare-earth-based magnets. The manganese composite, made from low-cost and abundant materials, could exceed the performance of today's most powerful commercial magnets at temperature higher than 200°C. Members of PNNL's research team will leverage comprehensive computer high-performance supercomputer modeling and materials testing to meet this objective. Manganese-based magnets could withstand higher temperatures than their rare earth predecessors and potentially reduce the need for any expensive, bulky engine cooling systems for the motor and generator. This would further contribute to cost savings for both EVs and wind turbines.

Palo Alto Research Center

Probing Alloys for Rapid Sorting Electrochemically (PARSE)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing an advanced diagnostic probe that identifies the composition of light metal scrap for efficient sorting and recycling. Current sorting technologies for light metals are costly and inefficient because they cannot distinguish between different grades of light metals for recycling. Additionally, state-of-the-art electrochemical probes rely on aqueous electrolytes that are not optimally suited for separating light metal scrap. PARC's probe, however, uses a novel liquid, which enables a chemical reaction with light metals to represent their alloy composition accurately. A probe that is more accurate than existing methods could separate scrap based on alloy quality to obtain low-cost, high-quality aluminum.

Palo Alto Research Center

Large-Area Thermoelectric Generators (LATEGs) for Low-Grade Waste Heat Harvesting

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing high performance, low-cost thermoelectric devices on flexible substrates that will enable the capture of low-temperature waste heat (100°C to 250°C), an abundant and difficult-to-harness energy resource. PARC's innovative manufacturing process is based on their co-extrusion printing technology which can simultaneously deposit different materials at high speed thereby facilitating fast, large-area production at low cost. Flexible thermoelectric devices will broaden their utility to applications on non-flat surfaces such as wrapping heat transfer piping. Additionally, since thermoelectrics can be applied directly onto most waste heat sources, expensive heat exchangers to transfer heat to a generator are unnecessary. PARC's existing co-extrusion printing technology, paired with partner Novus Energy's nanomaterials, is uniquely suited for the development of Large Area Thermoelectric Generator (LATEG) technology on flexible substrates, as it allows for the optimization of microscale device structures while maintaining the nanoscale properties of the materials through a process that is scalable to low cost, large-area manufacturing. If successful, development and deployment of efficient flexible thermoelectric technologies would enable recapture of a large amount of wasted energy in the U.S. industrial sector.

Palo Alto Research Center

Metamaterials-Enhanced Passive Radiative Cooling Panels

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), working with SPX Cooling Technologies, is developing a low-cost, passive radiative cooling panel for supplemental dry cooling at power plants. PARC's envisioned end product is a cooling module, consisting of multiple radiative cooling panels tiled over large, enclosed water channels that carry water from an initial cooling system, such as a dry-cooling tower. The cooling panel consists of a two-layer structure in which a reflective film sits atop a unique metamaterial-based emitter. In this architecture, the top layer completely reflects sunlight while the bottom layer effectively emits infrared radiation through a spectral window in the earth's atmosphere. This combination enables radiative cooling of the water even in full illumination by the sun. The cooling panel will be made using a lithography-free process compatible with roll-to-roll fabrication. In a large-scale system, the water temperature at the outlet of the cooling module is expected to be 8oC cooler than the temperature of the water at the inlet, which will result in a 3% efficiency gain for the power plant.

Palo Alto Research Center

System of Printed Hybrid Intelligent Nano-Chemical Sensors (SPHINCS)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) will work with BP and NASA's Ames Research Center to combine Xerox's low-cost print manufacturing and NASA's gas-sensing technologies to develop printable sensing arrays that will be integrated into a cost-effective, highly sensitive methane detection system. The system will be based on sensor array foils containing multiple printed carbon nanotube (CNT) sensors and supporting electronics. Each sensor element will be modified with dopants, coatings, or nanoparticles such that it responds differently to different gases. Through principal component analysis and machine learning techniques, the system will be trained for high sensitivity and selectivity for components of natural gas and interfering compounds. The goal is to be able to detect methane emissions with a sensitivity of 1 ppm and localize the source of emissions to within 1 meter, offering enhanced precision when compared to current equipment. By using low-cost printing techniques, the project team's system could offer an affordable alternative to more expensive optical methane detectors on the market today.

Palo Alto Research Center

Scalable Transparent Thermal Barriers Fof Single-Pane Window Retrofits

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its partners are developing a low-cost, transparent thermal barrier, consisting of a polymer aerogel, to improve insulation in single-pane windows. The proposed high-performance thermal barrier is anticipated to achieve ultra-low thermal conductivity, while offering mechanical robustness and the visual appearance of clear glass. Additionally, the thermal barrier's synthesis is scalable and thus amenable to high volume manufacturing. The envisioned replacement windowpane is a tri-layer stack consisting of the aerogel, glass, and a low-emissivity coating - an architecture designed to improve the window's energy efficiency, condensation resistance, user comfort, and soundproofing. In this project, PARC will optimize the transparent polymer aerogel synthesis process; Blueshift will scale up fabrication to a 12-inch roll-to-roll pilot process; and Pilkington will evaluate the windowpane performance and durability. At the completion of the project, the aerogel will be integrated in a 12" x 12" windowpane prototype with commercial-off-the-shelf float glass, adhesives, and coatings. The final product will be a windowpane of similar weight and thickness to existing single panes. Based on current raw material and manufacturing costs, PARC foresees that this integrated windowpane can be manufactured at a low cost of $9/ft2.

Pennsylvania State University

DEEPER: An Integrated Phenotyping Platform for Deeper Roots 

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) will develop DEEPER, a platform for identifying the traits of deeper-rooted crops that integrates breakthroughs in nondestructive field phenotyping of rooting depth, root modeling, high-throughput 3D imaging of root architecture and anatomy, gene discovery, and genomic selection modeling. The platform will be deployed to observe maize (corn) in the field under drought, nitrogen stress, and non-stressed conditions. Their key sensor innovation is to measure leaf elemental composition with x-ray fluorescence, and use it as a proxy for rooting depth. This above-ground, high throughput measurement for root depth will enable plant breeders to screen large populations and develop deep rooted commercial varieties. The team will also develop an automated imaging system for excavated roots that, with associated computer vision software, will identify architectural traits of roots. Lastly, they will greatly enhance a laser-based imaging platform to determine root anatomy. The combination of these technology platforms with advanced computational models developed for this program will allow Penn State to determine the depth of plant roots, enabling better quantification of root biomass. As a full system platform, they aim to enable the breeding of maize with deeper roots that sequester more carbon and are more efficient in their utilization of nitrogen and water. The team will also contribute data to a nationwide dataset that seeks to study the interactions between genes and the environment. The dataset will include extensive plant data across multiple environments, a breeding toolkit of major genes regulating root depth, and genomic selection models for root depth, drought tolerance, and nitrogen use efficiency.

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