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Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies

The projects that comprise ARPA-E's REACT program, short for "Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies", are developing cost-effective alternatives to rare earths, the naturally occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used in electric vehicle (EV) motors and wind generators. The REACT projects will identify low-cost and abundant replacement materials for rare earths while encouraging existing technologies to use them more efficiently. These alternatives would facilitate the widespread use of EVs and wind power, drastically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
  For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.    

Rapid Encapsulation of Pipelines Avoiding Intensive Replacement

Cast iron, wrought iron, and bare steel natural gas distribution pipes—legacy pipes—make up 3% of  the nearly 2 million miles of utility pipes in use, but account for a disproportionate number of gas leaks and pipe failures compared to more recently replaced infrastructure. REPAIR seeks to reduce natural gas leaks from these pipes by developing a suite of technologies to enable the automated construction of new pipe inside existing pipe. The new pipe must meet utilities’ and regulatory agencies’ requirements, have a minimum life of 50 years, and have sufficient material properties to operate throughout its service life without reliance on the exterior pipe. REPAIR will advance the state of gas distribution pipelines by incorporating smart functionality into structural coating materials and developing new integrity/inspection tools. It will also create three-dimensional (3D) maps that integrate natural gas pipelines and adjacent underground infrastructure geospatial information with integrity, leak, and coating deposition data. The cost target is $0.5-1 million per mile, including gas service disruption costs.        The Department of Transportation (DOT) and state regulatory agencies oversee gas distribution pipes. The suite of technologies developed under REPAIR will require coordination among multiple stakeholders and collaboration within research programs to achieve commercial success.

Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration

America's vast terrestrial resources (over 520 million hectares of crop, range and forestland) are strategic assets essential for sustainable economic growth. While advances in technology have resulted in a ten-fold increase in crop productivity over the past hundred years, soil quality has declined, incurring a soil carbon debt equivalent to 65 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The soil carbon debt also increases the need for costly nitrogen fertilizer, which has become the primary source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, a greenhouse gas. The soil carbon debt also impacts crop water use, increasing susceptibility to drought stress, which threatens future productivity. Given the scale of domestic (and global) agriculture resources, there is tremendous potential to reverse these trends by harnessing the photosynthetic bridge between atmospheric carbon, plants, microbes and soil. Development of new root-focused plant cultivars could dramatically and economically reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations while improving productivity, resilience and sustainability. To this end, projects in the ARPA-E Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) program seek to develop advanced technologies and crop cultivars that enable a 50 percent increase in soil carbon accumulation while reducing N2O emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.    

Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition

The projects of ARPA-E's SENSOR (Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition) program will develop user-transparent sensor systems that accurately quantify human presence to dramatically reduce energy use in commercial and residential buildings. SENSOR projects will focus on one or more of four areas: 1) human occupancy sensors for residential use, 2) occupant-counting sensors for commercial buildings, 3) CO2 sensors to enable the use of variable building ventilation based on data from occupant-counting sensors, and 4) real-world testing and energy savings validation of these technologies. Projects in the SENSOR program seek to reduce energy used by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems by 30% in both residential and commercial buildings, potentially producing savings of 2-4 quadrillion BTU (quads) across the U.S. power system. SENSOR projects will develop sensing technologies that minimize or eliminate the need for human intervention while pursuing aggressive cost, performance, privacy, and usability requirements in order to gain the acceptance and penetration levels needed to achieve this 30% reduction in HVAC energy consumption.

Single-Pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs

The SHIELD Program, short for "Single-Pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs," aims to develop innovative materials that will improve the energy efficiency of existing single-pane windows in commercial and residential buildings. Technologies created through the SHIELD program seek to cut in half the amount of heat lost through single-pane windows in cold weather. These materials would improve insulation, reduce cold weather condensation, and enhance occupant comfort. The technologies could also produce secondary benefits, such as improved soundproofing, that will make retrofits more desirable to building occupants and owners. The program will focus on three technical categories: products that can be applied onto existing windowpanes; manufactured windowpanes that can be installed into the existing window sash that holds the windowpane in place; and other early-stage, highly innovative technologies that can enable products in the first two technical categories.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here. 

Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology

The projects that make up ARPA-E's Solar ADEPT program, short for "Solar Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology," aim to improve the performance of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems, which convert the sun's rays into electricity. Solar ADEPT projects are integrating advanced electrical components into PV systems to make the process of converting solar energy to electricity more efficient.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Strategies for Wide Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems

The projects in ARPA-E's SWITCHES program, which is short for "Strategies for Wide-Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems," are focused on developing next-generation power switching devices that could dramatically improve energy efficiency in a wide range of applications, including new lighting technologies, computer power supplies, industrial motor drives, and automobiles. SWITCHES projects aim to find innovative new wide-bandgap semiconductor materials, device architectures, and device fabrication processes that will enable increased switching frequency, enhanced temperature control, and reduced power losses, at substantially lower cost relative to today's solutions. More specifically, SWITCHES projects are advancing bulk gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor devices, the manufacture of silicon carbide (SiC) devices using a foundry model, and the design of synthetic diamond-based transistors. A number of SWITCHES projects are small businesses being funded through ARPA-E's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  


Passive Radiative Cooling Film

3M will develop a film that passively radiates heat away from an engineered surface for use in cooling applications. Using a unique, weather resistant polymer composition, the team will improve the film's ability to reflect sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light, thus boosting performance while also increasing its lifespan. This film builds upon radiative cooling technology developed in prior ARPA-E awards to Stanford University and SkyCool Systems, a partner in this project. These cooling films are aimed at reducing electricity consumption for air conditioning, refrigeration systems, transportation, and data centers.

Adaptive Surface Technologies, Inc

Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Conversion and Environmental Monitoring Technology Advancement

Adaptive Surface Technologies is developing a slippery coating that can be used for a number of technology applications including oil and water pipelines, wastewater treatment systems, solar panels (to prevent dust accumulation), refrigeration (to prevent ice buildup), as well as many other energy-relevant applications. Contamination, build-up of microorganisms, and corrosion of untreated surfaces can lead to inefficiencies in the system. Adaptive Surface Technologies' liquid-based coating is tailored to adhere to and then spread out evenly over a rough surface, forming a completely smooth surface that inhibits buildup. Since it is liquid-based, it can easily repair itself if scratched or damaged, resulting in a stable coating with the potential to significantly outperform conventional technologies, such as Teflon, in friction and drag reduction and in repelling a broad range of contaminants.

ADMA Products, Inc.

High-Efficiency, On-Line Membrane Air Dehumidifier Enabling Sensible Cooling for Warm and Humid Climates

ADMA Products is developing a foil-like membrane for air conditioners that efficiently removes moisture from humid air. ADMA Products' metal foil-like membrane consists of a paper-thin, porous metal sheet coated with a layer of water-loving molecules. This new membrane allows water vapor to permeate across the membrane at high fluxes, at the same time blocking air penetration and resulting in high selectivity. The high selectivity of the membrane translates to less energy use, while the high permeation fluxes result in a more compact device. The new materials and the flat foil-like nature of the membrane facilitate the mass production of a low-cost compact dehumidification device. ADMA received a separate award of up to $466,176 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Adroit Materials Inc

Selective Area Doping for Nitride Power Devices

Adroit Materials will develop a gallium nitride (GaN) selective area doping process to enable high-performance, reliable GaN-based, high-power switches which are promising candidates for future high efficiency, high power electronic applications.. Specifically, doping capabilities that allow for the creation of localized doped regions must be developed for GaN in order to reach its full potential as a power electronics semiconductor. Adroit's process will focus on implantation of magnesium ions and an innovative high temperature, high pressure activation anneal, or heat treatment, process to remove implantation damage and control performance-reducing defects. By developing an in-depth understanding of the ion implantation doping process, the team will be able to demonstrate usable and reliable planar and embedded p-n junctions, the principal building block of modern electronic components like transistors.

Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.

Heat-Pipe PCM Based Cool Storage for Air-Cooled Systems

Advanced Cooling Technologies (ACT) will work with Lehigh University, the University of Missouri, and Evapco, Inc. to design and build a novel cool storage system that will increase the efficiency of a plant's dry-cooling system. During the day, the system will transfer waste heat from the plant's heated condenser water via an array of heat pipes to a cool storage unit containing a phase-change material (PCM). The planned PCMs are salt hydrates that can be tailored to store and release large amounts of thermal energy, offering a way to store waste heat until it can be efficiently rejected. When temperatures are lower, such as at night, a novel system of self-agitated fins will be used to promote mixing and enhance heat transfer to air. The effectiveness of the fins will allow a reduction in the size of the storage media and the power required to operate it, both of which could lower costs for the system. Because the PCM materials are salts, their storage temperature can be tuned by changing the water content. Therefore, the storage system can potentially be customized to provide supplemental dry cooling for different climates, including regions with high ambient temperatures, such as the southwestern United States.

Aeris Technologies, Inc.

Autonomous, High Accuracy Natural Gas Leak Detection System

Aeris Technologies will partner with Rice University and Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a complete methane leak detection system that allows for highly sensitive, accurate methane detection at natural gas systems. The team will combine its novel compact spectrometer based on a mid-infrared laser, its patent-pending multi-port sampling system, and an advanced computational approach to leak quantification and localization. Their approach will use artificial neural networks and dispersion models to quantify and locate leaks with increased accuracy and reduced computational time for use in a diverse range of meteorological conditions and wellpad configurations. At each wellpad, a control unit will house the core sensor, a computing unit to process data, and wireless capability to transmit leak information to an operator, while the multi-port gas-sampling system will be distributed across the wellpad. Aeris' goal is to be able to detect and measure methane leaks smaller than 1 ton per year from a 10 meter by 10 meter site. At this level of sensitivity, which is in the ppb range, Aeris estimates that its system can facilitate a 90% reduction in fugitive methane emissions. Compared to current monitoring systems that can cost $25,000 annually, Aeris' goal is a cost of $3,000 or less a year to operate.

Alcoa, Inc.

Energy Efficient, High Productivity Aluminum Electrolytic Cell with Integrated Power Modulation and Heat Recovery

Alcoa is designing a new, electrolytic cell that could significantly improve the efficiency and price point of aluminum production. Conventional cells reject a great deal of waste heat, have difficulty adjusting to electricity price changes, and emit significant levels of CO2. Alcoa is addressing these problems by improving electrode design and integrating a heat exchanger into the wall of the cell. Typically, the positive and negative electrodes--or anode and cathode, respectively--within a smelting cell are horizontal. Alcoa will angle their cathode, increasing the surface area of the cell and shortening the distance between anode and cathode. Further, the cathode will be protected by ceramic plates, which are highly conductive and durable. Together, these changes will increase the output from a particular cell and enable reduced energy usage. Alcoa's design also integrates a molten glass (or salt) heat exchanger to capture and reuse waste heat within the cell walls when needed and reduce global peak energy demand. Alcoa's new cell design could consume less energy, significantly reducing the CO2 emissions and costs associated with current primary aluminum production.

American Superconductor

Stirling Air Conditioner for Compact Cooling

American Superconductor (AMSC) is developing a freezer that does not rely on harmful refrigerants and is more energy efficient than conventional systems. Many freezers are based on vapor compression, in which a liquid refrigerant circulates within the freezer, absorbs heat, and then pumps it out into the external environment. Unfortunately, these systems can be expensive and inefficient. ITC's freezer uses helium gas as its refrigerant, representing a safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly approach to cooling. ITC's improvements to the Stirling cycle system could enable the cost-effective mass production of high-efficiency freezers without the use of polluting refrigerants. ITC received a separate award of up to $1,766,702 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Ames National Laboratory

Novel High Energy Permanent Magnet Without Critical Elements

Ames Laboratory is developing a new class of permanent magnets based on the more commonly available element cerium for use in both EVs and renewable power generators. Cerium is 4 times more abundant and significantly less expensive than the rare earth element neodymium, which is frequently used in today's most powerful magnets. Ames Laboratory will combine other metal elements with cerium to create a new magnet that can remain stable at the high temperatures typically found in electric motors. This new magnetic material will ultimately be demonstrated in a prototype electric motor, representing a cost-effective and efficient alternative to neodymium-based motors.

Ampaire, Inc.

In-Flight Aviation Testbed Platform for ARPA-E Programs in Power Electronics, Motors, and Power Generation

Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA)

Active Cooling Thermally Induced Vapor-Polymerization Effect (ACTIVE)

Applied Research Associates (ARA) will design and fabricate a dry-cooling system that overcomes the inherent thermodynamic performance penalty of air-cooled systems, particularly under high ambient temperatures. ARA's ACTIVE cooling technology uses a polymerization thermochemical cycle to provide supplemental cooling and cool storage that can work as a standalone system or be synchronized with air-cooled units to cool power plant condenser water. The cool storage will be completed in two stages. During the day, the cool storage is maintained near the ambient temperature, and then at night the remainder of cooling can be done using the low temperature nighttime air. The cool storage unit is then ready for plant condenser reuse the next day. This technology will provide power plant condensers with return water at the necessary temperature levels to maintain power production at their optimum thermal efficiency.

Architectural Applications

Innovative Building-Integrated Enthalpy Recovery

Architectural Applications (A2) is developing a building moisture and heat exchange technology that leverages a new material and design to create healthy buildings with lower energy use. Commercial building owners/operators are demanding buildings with greater energy efficiency and healthier indoor environments. A2 is developing a membrane-based heat and moisture exchanger that controls humidity by transferring the water vapor in the incoming fresh air to the drier air leaving the building. Unlike conventional systems, A2 locates the heat and moisture exchanger within the depths of the building's wall to slow down the air flow and increase the surface area that captures humidity, but with less fan power. The system's integration into the wall reduces the size and demand on the air conditioning equipment and increases liable floor area flexibility.

Argonne National Laboratory

Nanocomposite Exchange-Spring Magnets for Motor and Generator Applications

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) is developing a cost-effective exchange-spring magnet to use in the electric motors of wind generators and EVs that uses no rare earth materials. This ANL exchange-spring magnet combines a hard magnetic outer shell with a soft magnetic inner core--coupling these together increases the performance (energy density and operating temperature). The hard and soft magnet composite particles would be created at the molecular level, followed by consolidation in a magnetic field. This process allows the particles to be oriented to maximize the magnetic properties of low-cost and abundant metals, eliminating the need for expensive imported rare earths. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate this new type of magnet in a prototype electric motor.


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