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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

CARBONHOUSE: Towards a Carbon Ontology - Ultra Low Footprint Buildings Using Gas-Pyrolysis Hydrocarbons

This CarbonHouse project seeks to validate that carbon derived from methane pyrolysis can be used as both structural and non-structural building materials. Carbon composites already offer an alternative material paradigm for large, lightweight, high-performance structural uses such as boats and aircraft. CarbonHouse targets gas-pyrolysis production of carbon nanotube (CNT) threads and sheets, with hydrogen co-generated as a supplemental high-energy fuel, which would offer an essentially benign new building logic if it can be managed economically and at vast scale. This project aims to demonstrate an ultra-low life cycle energy and CO2 footprint for building envelopes and all functional elements at a commercially feasible life cycle cost of ownership. Through material-processing exploration and prototyping/testing building elements for fire, structure, acoustics, etc., and fabricating pilot building envelopes, the project looks to use hydrocarbon-derived composites to create minimal-footprint habitation.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Electrochemically Mediated Separation for Carbon Capture and Mitigation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Siemens Corporation are developing a process to separate CO2 from the exhaust of coal-fired power plants by using electrical energy to chemically activate and deactivate sorbents--materials that absorb gases. The team found that certain sorbents bond to CO2 when they are activated by electrical energy and then transported through a specialized separator that deactivates the molecule and releases it for storage. This method directly uses the electricity from the power plant, which is a more efficient but more expensive form of energy than heat, though the ease and simplicity of integrating it into existing coal-fired power plants reduces the overall cost of the technology. This process could cost as low as $31 per ton of CO2 stored.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Multimetallic Layered Composites (MMLCS) for Rapid, Economical Advanced Reactor Deployment

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will lead a team including Georgia Tech, Louisiana Tech, and the Idaho National Lab in developing multimetallic layered composites (MMLCs) for advanced nuclear reactors and assessing how they will improve reactor performance. Rather than seeking complex alloys that offer exceptional mechanical properties or corrosion resistance at unacceptable cost, this team will develop materials with functionally graded layers, each with a specific function. The team will seek general design principles and engineer specific MMLC embodiments. The materials developed will be tested using irradiation experiments, coupled with predictive models for performance under irradiation. To date, the issue of material performance at low cost has proved a challenge for advanced reactor deployment. Developing a scalable method of materials manufacturing and testing for advanced nuclear reactors could facilitate their rapid deployment, thereby reducing energy-related emissions and improving energy efficiency.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scalable, Self-Powered Purification Technology for Brackish and Heavy Metal-Contaminated Water

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a water treatment system to treat contaminated water from hydraulic fracking and seawater. There is a critical need for small to medium-sized, low-powered, low-cost water treatment technologies, particularly for regions lacking centralized water and energy infrastructure. Conventional water treatment methods, such as reverse osmosis, are not effective for most produced water clean up based on the high salt levels resulting from fracking. MIT's water treatment system will remove high-levels of typical water contaminants such as salt, metals, and microorganisms. The water treatment system is based on low-powered generation enabling efficient on-demand, on-site potable water production. The process allows for a 50% water recovery rate and is cost-competitive with conventional water treatment technology. MIT's water treatment device would require less power than competing technologies and has important applications for mining, oil and gas production, and water treatment for remote locations.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Seamless Hybrid-integrated Interconnect NEtwork (SHINE)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will develop a unified optical communication technology for use in datacenter optical interconnects. Compared to existing interconnect solutions, the proposed approach exhibits high energy efficiency and large bandwidth density, as well as a low-cost packaging design. Specifically, the team aims to develop novel photonic material, device, and heterogeneously integrated interconnection technologies that are scalable across chip-, board-, and rack-interconnect hierarchy levels. The MIT design uses an optical bridge to connect silicon semiconductors to flexible ribbons that carry light waves. The optical bridge scheme employs single-mode optical waveguides with small modal areas to minimize interconnect footprint, increase bandwidth density, and lower power consumption by using active devices with small junction area and capacitance. The architecture builds all the active photonic components (such as semiconductor lasers, modulators, and detectors) on the optical bridge platform to achieve low energy-per-bit connections. After developing the new photonic packaging technologies, and interconnection architectures, the team's final task will be to fabricate and test a prototype interconnect platform to validate the system models and demonstrate high bandwidth, low power, low bit-error-rate data transmission using the platform.

Material Methods, LLC

Phononic Heat Pump

Material Methods is developing a heat pump technology that substitutes the use of sound waves and an environmentally benign refrigerant for synthetic refrigerants found in conventional heat pumps. Called a thermoacoustic heat pump, the technology is based on the fact that the pressure oscillations in a sound wave result in temperature changes. Areas of higher pressure raise temperatures and areas of low pressure decrease temperatures. By carefully arranging a series of heat exchangers in a sound field, the heat pump is able to isolate the hot and cold regions of the sound waves. This technology is environmentally safe, and the simplicity of the mechanical system creates efficiencies that make the system cost competitive with traditional refrigerant-based systems.

Materials & Electrochemical Research (MER) Corporation

Advanced Electrolytic Titanium Powder Production from Titanium Oxycarbide

Materials & Electrochemical Research (MER) is scaling up an advanced electrochemical process to produce low-cost titanium from domestic ore. While titanium is a versatile and robust structural metal, its widespread adoption for consumer applications has been limited due to its high cost of production. MER is developing an new electrochemical titanium production process that avoids the cyclical formation of undesired titanium ions, thus significantly increasing the electrical current efficiency. MER will test different cell designs, reduce unwanted side reactions to increase energy efficiency, and minimize the heat loss that occurs when processing titanium. By developing a scalable and stable electrochemical cell, MER could significantly reduce the costs and energy consumption associated with producing titanium.

Matrix Sensors, Inc

Stable, Low Cost, Low Power, CO2 Sensor for Demand-controlled Ventilation

Matrix Sensors and its partners will develop a low-cost CO2 sensor module that can be used to enable better control of ventilation in commercial buildings. Matrix Sensor's module uses a solid-state architecture that leverages scalable semiconductor manufacturing processes. Key to this architecture is a suitable sensor material that can selectively adsorb CO2, release the molecule when the concentration decreases, and complete this process quickly to enable real-time sensing. The team's design will use a new class of porous materials known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs possess high gas uptake properties, molecule selectivity and high stability. As the MOF adsorbs and desorbs CO2, a connected transducer detects the change in mass. Beyond developing the MOF, key goals for the team include developing capable transducers for the MOF gas sensor, as well as the development of wireless sensor module which will be self-contained including the sensor element, micro-processor, battery, and wireless interface. The sensor will be wall-mounted and easily installed since it will not require wired power. If successful, the project will result in a CO2 sensor system with a total cost of ownership that is 5 to 10x lower than today's systems.

Maxion Technologies, Inc.

Tunable Laser for Methane Sensing

Maxion Technologies is partnering with Thorlabs Quantum Electronics (TQE), Praevium Research, and Rice University to develop a low cost, tunable, mid-infrared (mid-IR) laser source to be used in systems for detecting and measuring methane emissions. The new architecture is planned to reduce the cost of lasers capable of targeting methane optical absorption lines near 3.3 microns, enabling the development of affordable, high sensitivity sensors. The team will combine Praevium and TQE's state-of-the-art Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System tunable Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (MEMS-VCSEL) technology with an Interband Cascade Laser (ICL) active core developed by Maxion. The unique design offers advantages in manufacturing that are expected to yield a factor-of-40 reduction in the cost of the laser source, and the wide tunability will allow the same laser design to be shared across multiple applications. When integrated with a full methane detection system, this technology could enable significant reduction in the cost associated with identifying, quantifying, and locating methane leaks as compared to currently available technologies.

Michigan State University

Diamond Diode and Transistor Devices

Michigan State University (MSU) will develop high-voltage diamond semiconductor devices for use in high-power electronics. Diamond is an excellent conductor of electricity when boron or phosphorus is added--or doped--into its crystal structures. It can also withstand much higher temperatures with higher performance levels than silicon, which is used in the majority of today's semiconductors. However, current techniques for growing doped diamond and depositing it on electronic devices are difficult and expensive. MSU is overcoming these challenges by using an innovative, low-cost, lattice-etching method on doped diamond surfaces, which will facilitate improved conductivity in diamond semiconductor devices.

MicroLink Devices

High-Power Vertical-Junction Field-Effect Transistors Fabricated on Low-Dislocation-Density GaN by Epitaxial Lift-Off

MicroLink Devices will engineer affordable, high-performance transistors for power conversion. Currently, high-performance power transistors are prohibitively expensive because they are grown on expensive gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor wafers. In conventional manufacturing processes, this expensive wafer is permanently attached to the transistor, so the wafer can only be used once. MicroLink Devices will develop an innovative method to remove the transistor structure from the wafer without damaging any components, enabling wafer reuse and significantly reducing costs.

Monolith Semiconductor, Inc.

Advanced Manufacturing and Performance Enhancements for Reduced Cost Silicon Carbide MOSFETS

Monolith Semiconductor will utilize advanced device designs and existing low-cost, high-volume manufacturing processes to create high-performance silicon carbide (SiC) devices for power conversion. SiC devices provide much better performance and efficiency than their silicon counterparts, which are used in the majority of today's semiconductors. However, SiC devices cost significantly more. Monolith will develop a high-volume SiC production process that utilizes existing silicon manufacturing facilities to help drive down the cost of SiC devices.

N5 Sensors, Inc

Digital System-on-chip CO2 Sensor

N5 Sensors and its partners will develop and test a novel semiconductor-based CO2 sensor technology that can be placed on a single microchip. CO2 concentration data can help enable the use of variable speed ventilation fans in commercial buildings. CO2 sensing may also improve the comfort and productivity of people in commercial buildings, including academic spaces. N5 Sensor's solution will determine CO2 concentrations through absorption of CO2 when the concentrations are high in the environment, and desorption of CO2 when the concentrations are low. The team's project combines innovations in a number of areas: ultra-low power sensing architecture, semiconductor microfabrication, effective gas separation membranes, novel signal processing, and machine learning. If successful, the project can result in a 10x reduction in the price of CO2 sensors and the innovation will ultimately result in a low-cost, highly autonomous systems with "peel, stick and press button" type of installation and operation.

Nalco Company

Energy Efficient Capture of CO2 from Coal Flue Gas

Nalco is developing a process to capture carbon in the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. Conventional CO2 capture methods require the use of a vacuum or heat, which are energy-intensive and expensive processes. Nalco's approach to carbon capture involves controlling the acidity of the capture mixture and using an enzyme to speed up the rate of carbon capture from the exhaust gas. Changing the acidity drives the removal of CO2 from the gas without changing temperature or pressure, and the enzyme speeds up the capture rate of CO2. In addition, Nalco's technology would be simpler to retrofit to existing coal-fired plants than current technologies, so it could be more easily deployed.

NanOasis Technologies, Inc.

Carbon Nanotube Membrane Elements for Energy Efficient and Low Cost Reverse Osmosis

NanOasis Technologies is developing better membranes to filter salt from water during the reverse osmosis desalination process. Conventional reverse osmosis desalination processes pump water through a thin film membrane to separate out the salt. However, these membranes only provide modest water permeability, making the process highly energy intensive and expensive. NanOasis is developing membranes that consist of a thin, dense film with carbon nanotube pores that significantly enhance water transport, while effectively excluding the salt. Water can flow through the tiny pores of these carbon nanotubes quickly and with less pressure, drastically reducing the overall energy use and cost of the desalination process. In addition, NanOasis' technology was purported to not require any modifications to existing desalination plants, so it could be easily deployed.

NanoSD, Inc.

Retrofittable and Transparent Super-Insulator for Single-Pane Windows

NanoSD, with its partners will develop a transparent, nanostructured thermally insulating film that can be applied to existing single-pane windows to reduce heat loss. To produce the nanostructured film, the team will create hollow ceramic or polymer nanobubbles and consolidate them into a dense lattice structure using heat and compression. Because it is mostly air, the resulting nanobubble structure will exhibit excellent thermal barrier properties. The film can be transparent because the nanostructures are too small to be seen, but achieving this transparency needs processing innovations for assembling the film. The film should also be lightweight, flexible, fire/chemical resistant, soundproof, and condensation resistant. The nanobubble film will be integrated with a low emissivity layer to achieve the final insulating performance. The team will use cost-effective processing and assembly technologies to manufacture its window coating at a cost less than $5 per square foot.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Negating Energy Losses in Organic Photovoltaics Using Photonic Structures

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado (CU) are developing a way to enhance plastic solar cells to capture a larger part of the solar spectrum. Conventional plastic solar cells can be inexpensive to fabricate but do not efficiently convert light into electricity. NREL is designing novel device architecture for plastic solar cells that would enhance the utilization of parts of the solar spectrum for a wide array of plastic solar cell types. To develop these plastic solar cells, NREL and CU will leverage computational modeling and advanced facilities specializing in processing plastic PVs. NREL's plastic solar cell devices have the potential to exceed the power conversion efficiencies of traditional plastic solar cells by up to threefold.

Neuvokas Corporation

Energy Efficient, Incrementally Scalable, Continuous Basalt Fiber Filament-Forming Extrusion Bushing

Neuvokas Corporation will develop an energy-efficient CBF manufacturing process. The project will focus delivering a filament-forming extrusion bushing capable of supporting the production of low-cost, high-quality CBF at scale. Using CBF instead of steel to reinforce concrete can reduce capital expenses, greenhouse gases, and operating expenses, and increase concrete service life and time to major maintenance by more than 30 years, saving greater than 0.5 quad (146,535,500,000 kWh) of energy per year.

Northeastern University

Multiscale Development of L10 Materials for Rare Earth-Free Permanent Magnets

Northeastern University is developing bulk quantities of rare-earth-free permanent magnets with an iron-nickel crystal structure for use in the electric motors of renewable power generators and EVs. These materials could offer magnetic properties that are equivalent to today's best commercial magnets, but with a significant cost reduction and diminished environmental impact. This iron-nickel crystal structure, which is only found naturally in meteorites and developed over billions of years in space, will be artificially synthesized by the Northeastern University team. Its material structure will be replicated with the assistance of alloying elements introduced to help it achieve superior magnetic properties. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate bulk magnetic properties that can be fabricated at the industrial scale.

Northeastern University

Rapid Assessment of AlT2X2 (T = Fe, Co, Ni, X=B, C) Layered Materials for Sustainable Magnetocaloric Applications

Northeastern University, in partnership with the Ames Laboratory, will evaluate a range of new magnetocaloric compounds (AlT2X2) for potential application in room-temperature magnetic cooling. Magnetic refrigeration is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vapor-compression cooling technology. The magnetocaloric effect is triggered by application and removal of an applied magnetic field--adjusting the magnetic field translates into an adjustment in the temperature of the material. The benchmark magnetocaloric materials are based on the rare earth metal gadolinium (Gd), but gadolinium is scarce in the earth's crust and prohibitively expensive. Other magnetocaloric materials have similar rarity and cost constraints, or are brittle and undergo large volume changes during magnetic transition. Volume changes are problematic because a magnetocaloric working material must maintain mechanical and magnetic integrity over 300 million cycles in a ten-year lifetime. The Northeastern-led team is proposing to explore new magnetocaloric materials, AlT2X2 (where T=Fe, Mn, and/or Co, and X = B and/or C) comprised of abundant, non-toxic elements that can undergo a structural transition near room temperature. The material is projected to meet or exceed the performance of other candidate magnetocaloric materials due to its potential ease of fabrication, corrosion resistance, high mechanical integrity maintained through caloric phase change, and low heat capacity that fosters effective heat transfer. The project objectives are to ascertain the most promising compositions and magnetic field and temperature combinations to realize the optimal magnetocaloric response in this compound.


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