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Efficiency

Codexis, Inc.

Low-Cost Biological Catalyst to Enable Efficient Carbon Dioxide Capture

Codexis is developing new and efficient forms of enzymes known as carbonic anhydrases to absorb CO2 more rapidly and under challenging conditions found in the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. Carbonic anhydrases are common and are among the fastest enzymes, but they are not robust enough to withstand the harsh environment found in the power plant exhaust steams. In this project, Codexis will be using proprietary technology to improve the enzymes' ability to withstand high temperatures and large swings in chemical composition. The project aims to develop a carbon-capture process that uses less energy and less equipment than existing approaches. This would reduce the cost of retrofitting today's coal-fired power plants.

Colorado School of Mines

Efficient Hydrogen and Ammonia Production via Process Intensification and Integration

The Colorado School of Mines will develop a more efficient method for both the conversion of hydrogen and nitrogen to ammonia and the generation of high purity hydrogen from ammonia for fuel cell fueling stations. Composed of 17.6% hydrogen by mass, ammonia also has potential as a hydrogen carrier and carbon-free fuel. The team will develop a new technology to generate fuel cell-quality hydrogen from ammonia using a membrane based reactor. In addition, similar catalytic membrane reactor technology will be developed for synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen at reduced pressure and temperature. This is aided by selective removal of ammonia, which enables equilibrium limitations to be surpassed, a fundamental constraint in conventional Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis.

Colorado School of Mines

High-Throughput Discovery of Thermoelectric Materials

The Colorado School of Mines will develop a new method for the high-throughput discovery and screening of thermoelectric materials. The objective is to develop a new class of thermoelectric materials that can enable heat-to-electricity efficiencies greater than 20%. Aerosol spray deposition will be used to collect particles on the solid surfaces, allowing high throughput synthesis with finely tuned composition control. To achieve the thermoelectric performance desired, a tight feedback loop between synthesis, characterization, and theory will be employed to actively guide the design of experiments. To identify materials with high mobility and low thermal conductivity, the team developed metrics that combine experimental and computational training data. These efforts are guided by the team's existing high-throughput calculation database, which has identified specific families of previously unexplored materials with high potential for thermoelectric performance. Over the last two years, these computational methods have been applied to 10,000 compounds, yielding the most extensive database of thermoelectric performance in the world. By considering thousands of compositions within a single structural family, trends in electronic and thermal conductivity emerge that could not have been predicted from a few samples produced with traditional bulk ceramic methods. High-throughput search techniques are particularly critical because the desired qualities are likely to only occur within a narrow chemical composition. The team expects to grow and characterize more than 20 macroscopic samples per day, a significant increase in throughput compared to conventional approaches.

Colorado State University

Paintable Heat-Reflective Coatings for Low-Cost Energy Efficient Windows

Colorado State University (CSU) and its partners are developing an inexpensive, polymer-based, energy-saving material that can be applied to windows as a retrofit. The team will develop a coating consisting of polymers that can rapidly self-assemble into orderly layers that will reflect infrared wavelengths but pass visible light. As such, the coating will help reduce building cooling requirements and energy use without darkening the room. The polymers can be applied as a paint, meaning that deployment could be faster, less expensive, and more widespread because homeowners can apply the window coatings themselves instead of paying for a technician. The team estimates that up to 75% of the dry film could be produced from commodity plastic, which has the potential to significantly reduce the current costs associated with manufacturing window coatings.

Colorado State University

Natural Gas Emissions Test Facility for ARPA-E MONITOR Program

The team, led by Colorado State University (CSU), will develop a test site facility near Fort Collins, CO where ARPA-E can evaluate the methane sensing technologies of the MONITOR project teams, as required by the MONITOR FOA. The CSU team will design, construct, and operate a natural gas testing facility that can determine whether MONITOR technologies have met or exceeded the technical performance targets set forth by the MONITOR program. The test facility will be designed to realistically mimic the layout of a broad range of natural gas facilities and equipment. The test facility will include a number of controlled natural gas emission release points that will be realistic in terms of location, magnitude, frequency, duration, and gas composition. The design will also include sub-facilities that can simulate different aspects of the natural gas industry supply chain such as dry gas production, wet gas production, midstream compression, metering and regulating stations, and underground pipeline releases. The test site is located in the Denver-Julesburg basin, but will be sufficiently far enough away from natural gas operations that background levels of methane will be very low. Thus, the site will provide a realistic, but highly controllable environment within which the MONITOR technologies can be accurately tested.

Colorado State University

Root Genetics in the Field to Understand Drought Adaptation and Carbon Sequestration

Colorado State University (CSU) will develop a high-throughput ground-based robotic platform that will characterize a plant's root system and the surrounding soil chemistry to better understand how plants cycle carbon and nitrogen in soil. CSU's robotic platform will use a suite of sensor technologies to investigate crop genetic-environment interaction and generate data to improve models of chemical cycling of soil carbon and nitrogen in agricultural environments. The platform will collect information on root structure and depth, and deploy a novel spectroscopic technology to quantify levels of carbon and other key elements in the soil. The technology proposed by the Colorado State team aims to speed the application of genetic and genomic tools for the discovery and deployment of root traits that control plant growth and soil carbon cycling. Crops will be studied at two field sites in Colorado and Arizona with diverse advantages and challenges to crop productivity, and the data collected will be used to develop a sophisticated carbon flux model. The sensing platform will allow characterization of the root systems in the ground and lead to improved quantification of soil health. The collected data will be managed and analyzed through the CyVerse "big data" computational analytics platform, enabling public access to data connecting aboveground plant traits with belowground soil carbon accumulation.

Colorado State University

Ultra-Efficient Turbo-Compression Cooling

Colorado State University (CSU) and its partners, Modine and Barber-Nichols, will develop a thermally powered supplemental cooling system for thermoelectric power plants that will enable dry cooling. The technology features a transformational turbo-compressor and low-cost, high-performance heat exchangers that are currently mass produced for the HVAC industry. To operate, low-grade waste heat from the power plant combustion exhaust gases, or flue gas, is captured and used to power a highly efficient turbo-compressor system. The compressor pressurizes vapor in a refrigeration cycle to remove up to 30% of the power plant cooling load. The cooling system utilizes proprietary technology to maximize the turbo compressor and total system efficiencies, enabling a low production cost and an overall smaller, less expensive dry-cooling system. As a result, the cooling system could allow thermoelectric power plants to maintain a high efficiency while eliminating the use of local water resources. Furthermore, due to its very high performance, the turbo-compression cooling system has potential applications in a range of other markets, including commercial HVAC systems, data center cooling, and distributed cooling industries.

Columbia University

Chemical and Biological Catalytic Enhancement of Weathering of Silicate Minerals as Novel Carbon Capture and Storage

Columbia University is developing a process to pull CO2 out of the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants and turn it into a solid that can be easily and safely transported, stored above ground, or integrated into value-added products (e.g. paper filler, plastic filler, construction materials, etc.). In nature, the reaction of CO2 with various minerals over long periods of time will yield a solid carbonate--this process is known as carbon mineralization. The use of carbon mineralization as a CO2 capture and storage method is limited by the speeds at which these minerals can be dissolved and CO2 can be hydrated. To facilitate this, Columbia University is using a unique process and a combination of chemical catalysts which increase the mineral dissolution rate, and the enzymatic catalyst carbonic anhydrase which speeds up the hydration of CO2.

Columbia University

Can Silicon Photonics Offer a Path to Low Power Computing After All?

Columbia University will develop a new platform for generating multiple simultaneous optical channels (wavelengths) with low power dissipation, thereby enabling optical interconnects for low power computing. Optical interconnect links communicate using optical fibers that carry light. Wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) is a technology that combines a number of optical carrier signals on a single optical fiber by using different wavelengths. This technique enables bidirectional communications over strands of fiber, dramatically increasing capacity. Low-power lasers generate the wavelengths used in a WDM system, but it is important to stabilize the wavelength for each channel to allow for precise separation and filtering. The importance of stabilization increases when the number and density of wavelength channels increases. Energy use also increases because each of the laser sources must be individually stabilized. In contrast, the Columbia team proposes using a single high-powered stabilized laser to generate greater than 50 wavelength sources with high efficiency using an on-chip comb. This approach can improve laser energy efficiency from 0.01% to 10%.

Columbia University

PINE: Photonic Integrated Networked Energy efficient Datacenters

Columbia University will develop a new datacenter architecture co-designed with state-of-the-art silicon photonic technologies to reduce system-wide energy consumption. The team's approach will improve data movement between processor/memory and will optimize resource allocation throughout the network to minimize idle times and wasted energy. Data transfer in datacenters occurs over a series of interconnects that link different server racks of the datacenter together. Networks in modern mega-scale datacenters are becoming increasingly complicated. One by-product of this complexity is that on average a large number of these interconnections are idle due to application specific resource bottlenecks, effectively reducing the energy efficiency of the datacenter. The Columbia team will develop a solution that allows for dynamic resource re-allocation using unified photonic interconnects and a network fabric architecture that untangles computing and memory resources and allows bandwidth to be steered to appropriate areas of the network. The design addresses the stresses placed on systems by real-time communication-intensive applications. By precisely steering bandwidth and workload, idling is reduced and only the required amount of computation power, memory, capacity, and interconnectivity bandwidth are made available over the needed time period

Columbia University

Demonstration of Near-Field Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) Energy Generation

The Columbia University team is developing a proof-of-concept solid-state solution to generate electricity from high-temperature waste heat (~900 K) using thermal radiation between a hot object placed in extreme proximity (<100 nm) to a cooler photovoltaic (PV) cell. In this geometry, thermal radiation can be engineered such that its spectrum is quasi-monochromatic and aligned with the PV cell's bandgap frequency. In this case, it is estimated that electricity can be generated with a conversion efficiency beyond 25% and with a power density that could greatly outperform currently available thermal photovoltaic devices and other thermoelectric generator designs. To overcome the significant challenge of maintaining the proper distance between a hot side emitter and a cooler PV junction to prevent device shorting, the team will develop microelectromechanical actuation systems to optimally orient the PV cell. By providing a universal solid-state solution that can, in principle, be mounted and scaled to any hot surface, this technology could help retrieve a significant fraction of heat wasted by U.S. industries

Columbia University

Vertical GaN Power Transistors Using Controlled Spalling for Substrate Heterogeneity

Columbia University will create high-performance, low-cost, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) devices using a technique called spalling, which involves exfoliating a working circuit and transferring it to another material. Columbia and its project partners will spall and bond entire transistors from high-performance GaN wafers to lower cost silicon substrates. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material needed to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. GaN substrates operate much more efficiently than silicon substrates, particularly at high voltages, but the high cost of GaN is a barrier to its widespread use. The spalling technique developed by Columbia will allow GaN substrates to be reused, lowering their manufacturing cost.

Cornell University

PolarJFET - A Novel Vertical GaN Power Transistor Concept

Cornell University will develop an innovative, high-efficiency, gallium nitride (GaN) power switch. Cornell's design is significantly smaller and operates at much higher performance levels than conventional silicon power switches, making it ideal for use in a variety of power electronics applications. Cornell will also reuse expensive GaN materials and utilize conventional low-cost production methods to keep costs down.

Cornell University

Indoor Occupant Counting Based on RF Backscattering

Cornell University will develop an occupant monitoring system to enable more efficient control of HVAC systems in commercial buildings. The system is based on a combination of "active" radio frequency identification (RFID) readers and "passive" tags. Instead of requiring occupants to wear tags, the tags, as coordinated landmarks, will be distributed around a commercial area to enable an accurate occupancy count. When occupants, stationary or moving, are present among the RFID reader and multiple tags, their interference on the backscattering paths can be exploited to gain insights on the room population. The distributed tags will operate without the need for a power source. The system will employ efficient biomechanical models and inverse imaging algorithms to estimate the size, posture, and motion of the collected geometry and distinguish people from furniture and pets. 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 while providing optimal human comfort.

Cornell University

Thermoregulatory Clothing System for Building Energy Saving

Cornell University will develop thermoregulatory apparel that enables the expansion of the comfortable temperature range in buildings by more than 4°F in both heating and cooling seasons. Cornell's thermoregulatory apparel integrates advanced textile technologies and state-of-the-art wearable electronics into a functional apparel design without compromising comfort, wearability, washability, appearance, or safety. The thermoregulatory clothing system senses the wearer's skin temperature and activates a heated or cooled airflow around the individual, reducing the energy required to heat or cool the building itself by satisfying the comfort requirements of the individual.

Cree Fayetteville, Inc.

Smart, Compact, Efficient 500kW DC Fast Charger

Cree Fayetteville (operating as Wolfspeed, A Cree Company) will team with Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan-Dearborn to build a power converter for DC fast chargers for electric vehicles using a solid-state transformer based on silicon carbide. The team will construct a single-phase 500 kW building block for a DC fast charger that is at least four times the power density of todays installed units. This device would offer significant improvements in efficiency (greater than 60% less power losses), size/weight (greater than 75% smaller size, 85% less weight), and cost (40% lower materials costs) over the state-of-the-art. Using this system, an electric vehicle (100 kWh) will deliver long driving range with 6 mins of recharge. The compact size also reduces the footprint and structural costs in high-cost real estate in areas with high-population. The teaming of an end user (Ford) directly with the disruptive technology provider (Cree Fayetteville) may accelerate the deployment of fast charge capability for electric vehicles.

Cree, Inc.

Agile Direct Grid Connect Medium Voltage 4.7-13.8 kV Power Converter for PV Applications Utilizing Wide Band Gap Devices

Cree is developing a compact, lightweight power conversion device that is capable of taking utility-scale solar power and outputting it directly into the electric utility grid at distribution voltage levels--eliminating the need for large transformers. Transformers "step up" the voltage of the power that is generated by a solar power system so it can be efficiently transported through transmission lines and eventually "stepped down" to usable voltages before it enters homes and businesses. Power companies step up the voltage because less electricity is lost along transmission lines when the voltage is high and current is low. Cree's new power conversion devices will eliminate these heavy transformers and connect a utility-scale solar power system directly to the grid. Cree's modular devices are designed to ensure reliability--if one device fails it can be bypassed and the system can continue to run.

Dais Analytic Corporation

Nanotechnology Membrane-Based Dehumidifier

Dais Analytic Corporation is developing a product called NanoAir which dehumidifies the air entering a building to make air conditioning more energy efficient. The system uses a polymer membrane that allows moisture but not air to pass through it. A vacuum behind the membrane pulls water vapor from the air, and a second set of membranes releases the water vapor outside. The membrane's high selectivity translates into reduced energy consumption for dehumidification. Dais' design goals for NanoAir are the use of proprietary materials and processes and industry-standard installation techniques. NanoAir is also complementary to many other energy saving strategies, including energy recovery. Dais received a separate award of up to $800,000 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Dartmouth College

Nanocrystalline t-MnAl Permanent Magnets

Dartmouth College is developing specialized alloys with magnetic properties superior to the rare earths used in today's best magnets. EVs and renewable power generators typically use rare earths to turn the axles in their electric motors due to the magnetic strength of these minerals. However, rare earths are difficult and expensive to refine. Dartmouth will swap rare earths for a manganese-aluminum alloy that could demonstrate better performance and cost significantly less. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop an easily scalable process that enables the widespread use of low-cost and abundant materials for the magnets used in EVs and renewable power generators.

Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC

Gallium-Nitride Advanced Power Semiconductor and Packaging

Delphi Automotive Systems is developing power converters that are smaller and more energy efficient, reliable, and cost-effective than current power converters. Power converters rely on power transistors which act like a very precisely controlled on-off switch, controlling the electrical energy flowing through an electrical circuit. Most power transistors today use silicon (Si) semiconductors. However, Delphi is using semiconductors made with a thin layer of gallium-nitride (GaN) applied on top of the more conventional Si material. The GaN layer increases the energy efficiency of the power transistor and also enables the transistor to operate at much higher temperatures, voltages, and power-density levels compared to its Si counterpart. Delphi is packaging these high-performance GaN semiconductors with advanced electrical connections and a cooling system that extracts waste heat from both sides of the device to further increase the device's efficiency and allow more electrical current to flow through it. When combined with other electronic components on a circuit board, Delphi's GaN power transistor package will help improve the overall performance and cost-effectiveness of HEVs and EVs.

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