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Efficiency

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Reflected Light Field Sensing for Precision Occupancy and Location Detection

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will develop a method for counting occupants in a commercial space using time-of-flight (TOF) sensors, which measure the distance from objects using the speed of light to create a 3D map of human positions. This TOF system could be installed in the ceiling or built into lighting fixtures for easy deployment. Several sensors distributed across a space will enable precise mapping, while preserving privacy by using low-resolution images. The technology is being designed around low power infrared LEDs and a patented plenoptic detector technology together with TOF information, which can enable unique combinations of spatial resolution, field of view and privacy. The sensor network will maintain an accurate count of the number of people in the space, and uses a simple program to track people who may be temporarily lost between sensor "blind spots", thus reducing the number of sensors needed. Occupancy data is then sent to the building control system to manage the heating, cooling and air flow in order to maximize building energy efficiency and provide optimal human comfort. Energy costs of heating and cooling can be reduced by up to 30% by training the building management system to deliver the right temperature air when and where it is needed.

Research Triangle Institute

Novel Non-Aqueous CO2 Solvents and Capture Process with Substantially Reduced Energy Penalties

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is developing a solvent and process that could significantly reduce the temperature associated with regenerating solvent and CO2 captured from the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants. Traditional CO2 removal processes using water-based solvents require significant amount of steam from power plants in order to regenerate the solvent so it can be reused after each reaction. RTI's solvents can be better at absorbing CO2 than many water-based solvents, and are regenerated at lower temperatures using less steam. Thus, industrial heat that is normally too cool to re-use can be deployed for regeneration, rather than using high-value steam. This saves the power plant money, which results in increased cost savings for consumers.

Research Triangle Institute

High Operating Temperature Transfer and Storage (HOTTS) System for Light Metal Production

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is developing a high-quality concentrating solar thermal energy transport and storage system for use in light metals manufacturing. A challenge with integrating renewable energy into light metals manufacturing has been the need for large quantities of very high temperature heat. RTI's technology overcomes this challenge with a specialized heat transfer powder. This powder can be heated to temperatures of 1100 degrees Celsius with concentrating solar thermal energy, some 400 degrees Celsius higher than conventional solutions. Because the heat transfer fluid can also store thermal energy, metal manufacturing plants can continue to operate even when the sun is not shining. RTI will also develop advanced materials that will protect the system's components from the accelerated degradation experienced at these high operating temperatures. This technology will enable constant, high-temperature operation of the light metals production process with reduced CO2 emissions.

Ricardo, Inc.

Reducing Automotive CAPEX Entry Barriers through Design, Manufacturing and Materials

Ricardo will develop a detailed cost model for 10 key automotive components (e.g. chassis, powertrain, controls, etc.), analyzing the investment barriers at production volumes. Prior studies of innovative manufacturing processes and lightweight materials have used differing cost analysis assumptions, which makes comparison of these individual studies difficult. The backbone of the project will be a detailed economic model built on a set of common assumptions that will allow the root cause of cost barriers to be identified. The model will then evaluate emerging alternative manufacturing techniques to determine how they might reduce or remove these barriers. This model will utilize a consistent set of assumptions, allowing for an accurate comparison of potential manufacturing techniques. If successful, this cost model will enable private-sector firms to make informed investment decisions, increasing the deployment of innovative vehicle technologies and saving the average consumer money.

Robert Bosch, LLC

Advanced Battery Management System

Robert Bosch is developing battery monitoring and control software to improve the capacity, safety, and charge rate of electric vehicle batteries. Conventional methods for preventing premature aging and failures in electric vehicle batteries involve expensive and heavy overdesign of the battery and tend to result in inefficient use of available battery capacity. Bosch would increase usable capacity and enhance charging rates by improving the ability to estimate battery health in real-time, to predict and manage the impact of charge and discharge cycles on battery health, and to minimize battery degradation.

Rutgers University

Microbial Curing of Cement for Energy Applications

Rutgers University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Arizona will develop a new hardening method for C3 to address thickness. C3 synthesis currently relies on externally-introduced carbon dioxide for solidification. This program will use microbes mixed into the C3 prior to curing to produce carbon dioxide internally for solidification. This microbial-cured C3 is expected to last longer than OPC at the same thickness, which will reduce the need for concrete repair and replacement. This in turn reduces energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and costs associated with concrete-based projects.

Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics, Inc.

Oxidation Resistant High Temperature Ceramics for Solar Thermal Reactors and Other High Temperature Energy Systems

Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics is conducting early-stage research to extend operating temperatures of industrial ceramics in steam-containing atmospheres up to 1,500 °C. Materials that are able to adequately withstand these punishing conditions are needed to create durable solar fuel reactors. The most attractive material based on high-temperature strength and thermal shock resistance is sintered (the process of compacting solid material without melting it) silicon carbide (SiC). However, the highly reactive H2O/H2/CO/CO2 atmosphere within a solar reactor causes most industrial ceramics, including SiC, to degrade at temperatures above 1,200 °C. At those temperatures volatile reaction products are formed, which continually eat away at the integrity of the reactor walls. The Saint-Gobain team is conducting research along three lines of inquiry: 1) Creating high-temperature coatings for the SiC material; 2) Creating "self-healing" SiC surfaces which are created via an oxidation reaction on an ongoing basis as the surface layer is damaged; and 3) Testing alternative ceramic materials which could be more robust. The results of the three lines of inquiry will be evaluated based on stability modeling and thermal cycling testing (i.e. repeatedly heating and cooling the materials) under simulated conditions. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this research is at a very early stage. If successful, the technology could potentially result in significant energy and cost savings to the U.S. economy by allowing liquid transportation fuel to be produced from water and carbon dioxide from the air via solar energy instead of conventional sources. In addition SiC materials with enhanced oxidation resistance could be applied to vessels and components across many industrial, thermal, chemical, and petrochemical processes.

Sandia National Laboratory

ARC-SAFE: Accelerated Response Semiconducting Contactors and Surge Attenuation for DC Electrical systems

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a solid-state circuit breaker for medium to high voltage applications based on a gallium nitride (GaN) optically triggered, photoconductive semiconductor switch (PCSS). During normal operation, the current will flow through high-performance commercial silicon carbide (SiC) devices to achieve high efficiency. When a fault occurs, the fast-response GaN PCSS will be used to break the current. The concept builds on Sandia's knowledge of optically triggered GaN devices, as well as the team's experience in circuit design for MV applications. The GaN PCSS will enable high-voltage operation, potentially scalable from 1 to 100 kV, while achieving superior electrical isolation due to the optical triggering approach. This technology could contribute to more widespread adoption of MVDC power distribution across the grid.

Sandia National Laboratory

Hybrid Switched Capacitor Circuit Development for Exploitation of GaN Diodes in High Gain Step-Up Converters (Hy-GaiN)

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a prototype DC-DC converter in a modular, scalable, mass-producible format that is capable of 10kW or greater and could fit onto a single circuit board. Inefficiency and construction costs associated with AC distribution/transmission and DC-AC conversion are motivating many to consider direct connection of PV to DC distribution (and even DC transmission) circuits. The prototype proposed in this project would enable PV panels to be connected to a medium-to-high voltage DC distribution circuit using a power converter about the size of an average textbook. The team will demonstrate a high-voltage, high-power density, hybrid switched-capacitor power conversion circuit that relies on the concurrent use of silicon carbide (SiC) active switches and leading-edge, 1200V rated, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) diodes. Both SiC and GaN have individually led to improvements in converter performance that permits higher switching frequencies, blocking voltages, and operating temperatures. The team plans to exploit the use of SiC switches coupled with GaN diodes, utilizing the benefits of both materials to achieve improved power density and better performance. These devices would enable improved efficiency and small size, which would reduce assembly, transportation, and installation costs. The proposed circuit topology would be scalable to 100s of kW and 10s of kV, enabling a whole string of modules in a PV plant to be connected to a DC distribution circuit through a converter of about the size of a midsize microwave oven. The converter can be applied to other renewable sources, but in particular, this technology could greatly accelerate the adoption of PV onto the grid by enabling cheaper and more efficient medium voltage and high voltage DC distribution networks.

Sandia National Laboratory

High Voltage Re-grown GaN P-N Diodes Enabled by Defect and Doping Control

Vertical transistors based on bulk gallium nitride (GaN) have emerged as promising candidates for future high efficiency, high power applications. However, they have been plagued by poor electrical performance attributed to the existing selective doping processes. Sandia National Laboratories will develop patterned epitaxial regrowth of GaN as a selective area doping processes to fabricate diodes with electronic performance equivalent to as-grown state-of-the-art GaN diodes. The team's research will provide a better understanding of which particular defects resulting from impurities and etch damage during the epitaxial regrowth process limit device performance, how those defects specifically impact the junction electronic properties, and ultimately how to control and mitigate the defects. The improved mechanistic understanding developed under the project will help the team design specific approaches to controlling impurity contamination and defect incorporation at regrowth interfaces and include development of in-chamber cleans and regrowth initiation processes to recover a high-quality epitaxial surfaces immediately prior to crystal regrowth.

Sandia National Laboratory

20 kV Gallium Nitride pn Diode Electro-Magnetic Pulse Arrestor for Grid Reliability

Sandia National Laboratory

Multi-Modal Monitoring of Plant Roots for Drought & Heat Tolerance in the US Southwest

Sandia National Laboratories will develop novel, field-deployable sensor technologies for monitoring soil, root, and plant systems. First, the team will develop microneedles similar and shape and function to hypodermic needles used in transdermal drug delivery and wearable sensors. The minimally invasive needles will be used to report on sugar concentrations and water stress in leaves, stems, and large roots in real-time. Continuously monitoring the sugar concentrations at multiple locations will be transformative in understanding whole plant carbon dynamics and the function of the vascular tissues that conduct sugars and other metabolic products downward from the leaves. The second key technology are gas chromatographs deployed in the soil and near plants in order to monitor volatile organic compounds (VOC). Plants synthesize and release volatile organic compounds both aboveground and belowground that act as chemical signals or in response to biotic stress (damage from insects, bacteria, etc.) or abiotic stress (such as drought, flooding, and extreme temperatures). VOCs modulate biomass uptake and the team hopes to better understand soil composition by measuring VOC transport. The team's integrated microsensor technologies will be deployed in arid environments in both natural and agricultural lands to characterize whole plant function in both environments. Applying these sensors to plants in arid environments could assist in re-greening arid ecosystems with new specially bred plants developed and selected to improve soil function with less water and nutrient requirements while depositing more soil carbon.

Scanalytics

Floor Sensors for Occupancy Counting in Commercial Buildings

Scanalytics will develop pressure-sensitive flooring underlayers capable of sensing large areas of commercial buildings with a high-resolution and fast response time. This technology will enable the precise counting of people in commercial environments like stores, offices, and convention centers. The floor sensors will consist of a material which changes electrical resistance when compressed. Conductive elements above and below the material will measure the resistance at a grid of points within the floor mat, and electronics will control the switching between sensors, cache the results for transmission, and transmit the readings to a local gateway for analysis. The team's system and data processing algorithms will be developed to resolve multiple people in close proximity, as well as account for non-typical travel methods such as wheelchairs and crutches. This occupancy information may be passed directly to HVAC control, or combined with occupancy information from other sensors to manage the heating, cooling and air flow in order to maximize building energy efficiency and provide optimal human comfort. Energy costs of heating and cooling can be reduced by up to 30% by training the building management system to deliver the right temperature air when and where it is needed.

Sheetak, Inc.

Non-Equilibrium Asymmetic Thermoelectric (NEAT) Devices

Sheetak is developing a thermoelectric-based solid state cooling system that is more efficient, more reliable, and more affordable than today's best systems. Many air conditioners are based on vapor compression, in which a liquid refrigerant circulates within the air conditioner, absorbs heat, and then pumps it out into the external environment. Sheetak's system, by contrast, relies on an electrical current passing through the junction of two different conducting materials to change temperature. Sheetak's design uses proprietary thermoelectric materials to achieve significant energy efficiency and, unlike vapor compression systems, contains no noisy moving parts or polluting refrigerants. Additionally, Sheetak's air conditioner would be made with some of the same manufacturing processes used to produce semiconductor chips, which could lead to less material use and facilitate more affordable production.

SiCLAB, Rutgers University, NJ

First In-Class Demonstration of a Completely New Type of SiC Bipolar Switch (15kV-20kV)

The Rutgers University SiCLAB is developing a new power switch for utility-scale PV inverters that would improve the performance and significantly reduce the size, weight, and energy loss of PV systems. A power switch controls the electrical energy flowing through an inverter, which takes the electrical current from a PV solar panel and converts it into the type and amount of electricity that is compatible with the electric grid. SiCLAB is using silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors in its new power switches, which are more efficient than the silicon semiconductors used to conduct electricity in most conventional power switches today. Switches with SiC semiconductors can operate at much higher temperatures, as well as higher voltage and power levels than silicon switches. SiC-based power switches are also smaller than those made with silicon alone, so they result in much smaller and lighter electrical devices. In addition to their use in utility-scale PV inverters, SiCLAB's new power switches can also be used in wind turbines, railways, and other smart grid applications.

Signetron Inc.

Using a Smart-Phone for Fast, Automated Energy Audit of Buildings

Signetron is developing a technology that will enable fast, cost effective, and accurate energy audits without the need for expensive, skilled labor to collect data manually. Signetron's innovation integrates low-cost visible and infrared optical cameras into a handheld scanner with depth sensing. This enables the operator to capture indoor 3D maps of building geometry and energy-relevant features as they traverse a building. Captured data is uploaded to the cloud where it is analyzed by Signetron software to generate an energy model and provide actionable energy audit information. If successful, this technology will reduce the time and cost associated with today's energy audits by a factor of 5 and 10 respectively, while offering actionable energy-saving recommendations. This technology could lower the cost barrier for building energy audits, thereby enabling property owners and facility managers to better understand the sources of energy loss in their buildings and where to optimally target retrofits to improve energy savings.

SixPoint Materials, Inc.

GaN Homoepitaxial Wafers by Vapor Phase Epitaxy on Low-Cost, High-Quality Ammonothermal GaN Substrates

SixPoint Materials will create low-cost, high-quality vertical gallium nitride (GaN) substrates for use in high-power electronic devices. In its two-phase project, SixPoint Materials will first focus on developing a high-quality GaN substrate and then on expanding the substrate's size. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material used to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. SixPoint Materials will use a two-phase production approach that employs both hydride vapor phase epitaxy technology and ammonothermal growth techniques to create its high-quality, low-cost GaN substrates.

SolarBridge Technologies, Inc.

Scalable Submodule Power Conversion for Utility-Scale Photovoltaics

SolarBridge Technologies is developing a new power conversion technique to improve the energy output of PV power plants. This new technique is specifically aimed at large plants where many solar panels are connected together. SolarBridge is correcting for the inefficiencies that occur when two solar panels that encounter different amounts of sun are connected together. In most conventional PV system, the weakest panel limits the energy production of the entire system. That's because all of the energy collected by the PV system feeds into a single collection point where a central inverter then converts it into useable energy for the grid. SolarBridge has found a more efficient and cost-effective way to convert solar energy, correcting these power differences before they reach the grid.

Sonrisa Research, Inc.

A New Class of SiC Power MOSFETs with Record-Low Resistance

Sonrisa Research will develop a new class of SiC power transistors using a simple three-dimensional architectural modification to reduce the channel resistance by up to a factor of nine. To accomplish this, Sonrisa will etch trenches into the basic planar MOSFET, increasing its effective channel width without increasing its overall area. This is similar to the fin-type field-effect transistor (FinFET) geometry popular in advanced Si integrated circuits, but in a configuration that meets high-power application needs. A different structural modification will be used to reduce the substrate resistance. The combination of lower channel and substrate resistance will enable SiC MOSFETs to displace silicon MOSFETs and insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) in the blocking voltage regime below 1200V broadening the useful application space and furthering their adoption.

Soraa, Inc.

High-Pressure Ammonothermal Process for Bulk Gallium Nitride Crystal Growth for Energy Efficient Commercially Competitive Lighting

Soraa's new GaN crystal growth method is adapted from that used to grow quartz crystals, which are very inexpensive and represent the second-largest market for single crystals for electronic applications (after silicon). More extreme conditions are required to grow GaN crystals and therefore a new type of chemical growth chamber was invented that is suitable for large-scale manufacturing. A new process was developed that grows GaN crystals at a rate that is more than double that of current processes. The new technology will enable GaN substrates with best-in-world quality at lowest-in-world prices, which in turn will enable new generations of white LEDs, lasers for full-color displays, and high-performance power electronics.

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