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Efficiency

Illinois Institute of Technology

Wide Bandgap Solid State Circuit Breakers for AC and DC Microgrids

Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) will develop autonomously operated, programmable, and intelligent bidirectional solid-state circuit breakers (SSCB) using transistors based on gallium nitride (GaN). Renewable power sources and other distributed energy resources feed electricity to the utility grid through interfacing power electronic converters, but the power converters cannot withstand a fault condition (abnormal electric current) for more than a few microseconds. Circuit faults cause either catastrophic destruction or protective shutdown of the converters, resulting in loss of power reliability. Traditional mechanical circuit breakers are too slow to address this challenge. The team's proposed SSCB technology offers a programmable response time to as short as one microsecond, well within the overload-withstanding capability of power converters, and enables a distribution system-level ability to isolate a fault from the rest of the power system before renewable power generation is interrupted. Their design produces a 1000x decrease in response time and 5x reduction in cost in comparison to commercial mechanical circuit breakers. If successful, such devices could be used to help protect microgrids and enable higher penetration of renewable energy sources.

Imagen Energy LLC

1200 V SiC Based Extremely Compact, 500 kW, 2000 Hz Inverter for High Speed Permanent Magnet Synchronous Machine (PMSM) Applications

Imagen Energy will develop a silicon carbide (SiC)-based compact motor drive system to efficiently control high-power (greater than 500 kW) permanent magnet electric motors operating at extremely high speed (greater than 20,000 rpm). Imagen's design will address a major roadblock in operating electric motors at high speed, namely overcoming large back electromotive forces (BEMF). Their solution hopes to maximize the capabilities of the SiC technology and associated digital control platform, thereby bringing the overall drive system performance parameters to levels unachievable by current Si-based power conversion systems. If successful, the project team will demonstrate a motor drive capable of handling large BEMF and increase motor system efficiency over a broad range of operating speeds, a useful combination for high-speed applications in the oil and gas industry, high-speed/high-power compressors, grid-connected energy storage, and renewable energy generation.

iMetalx Group, LLC

Advanced Titanium Electrowinning Using Alternative Ores

iMetalx 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. iMetalx is developing an new electrochemical titanium production process that avoids the cyclical formation of undesired titanium ions, thus significantly increasing the electrical current efficiency. iMetalx 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, iMetalx could significantly reduce the costs and energy consumption associated with producing titanium.

Infineon Technologies Americas Corp.

Low Cost e-mode GaN HEMT Gate Driver IC Enables Revolutional Energy Savings in Variable Speed Drives for Appliance Motors

Infineon Technologies will develop a new, low-cost integrated circuit (IC) gate driver specifically for use with gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) switches. The GaN HEMT switches would be used as a component for controlling variable speed electric motors in variable speed drives (VSDs). Electric motors, which account for about 40% of U.S. electricity consumption, can be made substantially more efficient by replacing constant speed motors with variable speed motors. Most VSDs today use silicon-based semiconductors, which are limited in performance compared to those based on wide-bandgap semiconductors like GaN. Infineon plans to integrate a cost-effective gate driver IC together with GaN HEMT switches and simple packaging to enable a cost reduction by a factor of two or three, simplified integration, and significant energy savings. If successful, the technology may drive rapid adoption of variable speed control in residential and light commercial 50-200W appliance motors from fans and pumps to refrigeration and air conditioning compressors.

INFINIUM, Inc.

Clean Efficient Aluminum Oxide Electrolysis with SOM Inert Anodes

INFINIUM is developing a technology to produce light metals such as aluminum and titanium using an electrochemical cell design that could reduce energy consumption associated with these processes by over 50%. The key component of this innovation lies within the anode assembly used to electrochemically refine these light metals from their ores. While traditional processes use costly graphite anodes that are reacted to produce CO2 during refining, INFINIUM's anode can use much cheaper fuels such as natural gas, and produce a high-purity oxygen by-product. Revenue from this by-product could significantly affect aluminum production economics. Traditional cell designs also waste a great deal of heat due to the necessity of keeping the reactor open to the air while contaminated CO2 rapidly exits the chamber. Since INFINIUM's anode keeps the oxygen or CO2 anode gas away from the main reactor chamber, the entire system may be far more effectively insulated.

INFINIUM, Inc.

Ultra-Low Energy Magnesium Recycling for New Light-Weight Vehicles

INFINIUM will convert low-grade magnesium scrap into material of sufficient purity for motor vehicle components by a novel high-efficiency process using less than 1 kWh/kg magnesium product. Other magnesium purification technologies such as distillation and electrorefining use 5-10 kWh/kg, and primary production uses 40-100 kWh/kg. This is also a high-speed continuous process, with much lower labor and capital costs than other batch purification technologies. This technology could enable cost-effective recycling of magnesium, converting low-grade scrap metal into high-purity magnesium at low cost and significantly lower energy consumption, and could also enable new classes of primary production technology.

Iowa State University

Simulation, Challenge Testing & Validation of Occupancy Recognition & CO2 Technologies

Iowa State University (ISU) will develop a comprehensive testing protocol and simulation tools to evaluate the energy savings and reliability of occupancy recognition sensor technologies for commercial and residential buildings. A barrier to wide adoption of new occupancy sensors is the lack of rigorous and widely accepted methodologies for evaluating the energy savings and reliability of occupancy recognition of these systems. To address this need, ISU's protocols will allow them to determine occupancy recognition, sensor effectiveness, and reliability in both laboratory and real-world conditions for residential and commercial applications. Using their protocol and simulation tools, sensor technologies will be tested, including occupancy presence technologies for residential buildings, occupant counting solutions for commercial buildings, and CO2 sensing technologies for commercial buildings. For commercial buildings, the office, and academic submarkets will be the focus of these efforts, two of the highest energy-consuming building sectors. For residential buildings, a diversity of building types and interior layouts located in Ames, Iowa will be used to conduct real-world field testing. Results from the proposed work will be used to develop the framework for two nationwide test standards.

IR Dynamics, LLC

Dynamic IR Window Film to Improve Window Energy Efficiency

IR Dynamics will develop a low-cost nanomaterial technology to be incorporated into flexible window films that will improve thermal insulation and solar heat gain. The team's nanomaterial will incorporate two materials. First, low-cost nanosheets will increase thermal resistance. Second, a new type of nanomaterial will allow heat, in the form of infrared radiation (IR) from the sun, to pass through the window when it is cold outside, helping to warm the room in cold weather. When it is hot outside, the material will block the solar IR from passing through the window and warming the interior. This same material reflects thermal radiation and displays a tunable emissivity, contributing more to its insulation value and energy retention. The dynamic IR reflectivity and emissivity are passive by nature, requiring no electronics or power source to shift, and only rely on environmental temperature changes. IR Dynamics' technology creates a window film that automatically adjusts depending on outside temperatures and can have a substantive impact in performance on single-pane and older variants of double-pane windows.

ITN Energy Systems, Inc.

Low-Cost Electrochromic Film on Plastic for Net-Zero Energy Building

ITN Energy Systems is addressing the high cost of electrochromic windows with a new manufacturing process: roll-to-roll deposition of the film onto flexible plastic surfaces. Production of electrochromic films on plastic requires low processing temperatures and uniform film quality over large surface areas. ITN is overcoming these challenges using its previous experience in growing flexible thin-film solar cells and batteries. By developing sensor-based controls, ITN's roll-to-roll manufacturing process yields more film over a larger area than traditional film deposition methods. Evaluating deposition processes from a control standpoint ultimately strengthens the ability for ITN to handle unanticipated deviations quickly and efficiently, enabling more consistent large-volume production. The team is currently moving from small-scale prototypes into pilot-scale production to validate roll-to-roll manufacturability and produce scaled prototypes that can be proven in simulated operating conditions. Electrochromic plastic films could also open new markets in building retrofit applications, vastly expanding the potential energy savings.

Johns Hopkins University

Effect of Adsorption Compression on Catalytic Chemical Reactions

Johns Hopkins University will study the adsorption compression phenomenon for ways to enhance the reaction rate for commercially relevant reactions. Adsorption is the adhesion of molecules from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid to a surface, creating layers of the "adsorbate" on the surface of the host material. The Johns Hopkins team will explore the physical state where the forces acting parallel to the surface of adsorbate molecules can in certain conditions be far higher than forces associated with adsorption of additional molecules on the surface. This phenomenon is called adsorption compression. This compression is important because it leads to a strain in intramolecular bonds and can change the activation energy for many chemical reactions - which can alter reaction pathways, increase reactivity, or improve selectivity for desired products. The team plans to explore this phenomenon as a method to improve the efficiency of commercial catalytic systems.

Johns Hopkins University

Carbon Fiber from Methane

Johns Hopkins University will develop and assess components of a self-powered system to convert methane (the main component in natural gas) into carbon fiber. Methane can be separated into carbon and hydrogen, or burned for energy. The team will develop processes to use methane both to power the system and serve as carbon feedstock in a four stage system. First, methane is decomposed into hydrogen and carbon, and combined into a carbon/metal aggregate. Second, the carbon/metal aggregate is melted, producing a liquid melt containing carbon dissolved within it. Third, the melt is solidified into a homogeneous ribbon. Fourth, carbon is extracted from the ribbon in the form of fiber or fiber precursor. Finally, the metal content of the ribbon is reclaimed and recycled back to the start of the process for further methane decomposition. The project will focus on resolving the materials science challenges of directing carbon crystal growth into fiber and/or fiber precursors (steps 3 and 4). The final goal is to produce fibers that have the strength and stiffness of traditionally produced carbon fiber while requiring a fraction of energy and cost to produce.

JR2J, LLC

Laser Spike Anneal Technology for the Activation of Implanted Dopants in Gallium Nitride

Advanced doping methods are required to realize the potential of gallium nitride (GaN)-based devices for future high efficiency, high power applications. Ion implantation is a doping process used in other semiconductor materials such as Si and GaAs but has been difficult to use in GaN due to the limited ability to perform a damage recovery anneal in GaN. JR2J will develop an innovative laser spike annealing technique to activate implanted dopants in GaN. Laser spike annealing is a high-temperature (above 1300 ºC) heat treatment technique that activates the dopants in GaN and repairs damage done during the implantation process. By keeping the laser spike duration very short (0.1-100 milliseconds), the technique is hypothesized to be short enough to avoid degradation of the GaN lattice itself. There are commercially available laser spike annealing systems, typically used in Si-based processes, which should be able to be adapted to annealing GaN substrates with small modifications. If the proof of concept is achieved, this could provide a fast road to commercialization.

Kyma Technologies, Inc.

Transformational GaN Substrate Technology

Kyma Technologies will develop a cost-effective technique to grow high-quality gallium nitride (GaN) seeds into GaN crystal boules, which are used as the starting material for a number of semiconductor devices. Currently, growing boules from GaN seeds is a slow, expensive, and inconsistent process, so it yields expensive electronic devices of varying quality. Kyma will select the highest quality GaN seeds and use a proprietary hydride vapor phase epitaxy growth process to rapidly grow the seeds into boules while preserving the seed's structural quality and improving its purity.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Catalytic Improvement of Solvent Capture Systems

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is designing a process to pull CO2 out of the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants so it can be transported, stored, or utilized elsewhere. Human lungs rely on an enzyme known as carbonic anhydrase to help separate CO2 from our blood and tissue as part of the normal breathing process. LLNL is designing a synthetic catalyst with the same function as this enzyme. The catalyst can be used to quickly capture CO2 from coal exhaust, just as the natural enzyme does in our lungs. LLNL is also developing a method of encapsulating chemical solvents in permeable microspheres that will greatly increase the speed of binding of CO2. The goal of the project is an industry-ready chemical vehicle that can withstand the harsh environments found in exhaust gas and enable new, simple process designs requiring less capital investment.

Lehigh University

Electric Field Swing Adsorption for Carbon Capture Applications

Two faculty members at Lehigh University created a new technique called supercapacitive swing adsorption (SSA) that uses electrical charges to encourage materials to capture and release CO2. Current CO2 capture methods include expensive processes that involve changes in temperature or pressure. Lehigh University's approach uses electric fields to improve the ability of inexpensive carbon sorbents to trap CO2. Because this process uses electric fields and not electric current, the overall energy consumption is projected to be much lower than conventional methods. Lehigh University is now optimizing the materials to maximize CO2 capture and minimize the energy needed for the process.

LI-COR Biosciences, Inc.

Ultra-Sensitive Methane Leak Detection System for the Oil and Gas Industry Exploiting a Novel Laser Spectroscopic Sensor with Revolutionary High Performance / Low Cost

LI-COR Biosciences is working with Colorado State University (CSU) and Gener8 to develop cost-effective, highly sensitive optical methane sensors that can be integrated into mobile or stationary methane monitoring systems. Their laser-based sensor utilizes optical cavity techniques, which provide long path lengths and high methane sensitivity and selectivity, but previously have been costly. The team will employ a novel sensor design developed in parallel with advanced manufacturing techniques to enable a substantial cost reduction. The sensors are expected to provide exceptional long-term stability, enabling robust, unattended field deployment and further reducing total cost-of-ownership. CSU will test representative sensor prototypes and demonstrate the sensor's application to leak detection and quantification. The team's proposed sensor could decrease the expense of today's monitoring technologies and encourage widespread adoption of methane monitoring and mitigation at natural gas wellpads.

Marquette University

Advanced Parallel Resonant 1MHz, 1MW, Three Phase AC to DC Ultra Fast EV Charger

Marquette University will develop a small, compact, lightweight, and efficient 1 MW battery charger for electric vehicles that will double the specific power and triple power density compared to the current state-of-the-art. The team aims to use MOSFET switches based on silicon carbide to ensure the device runs efficiently while handling very large amounts of power in a small package. If successful, the device could help to dramatically reduce charging times for electric vehicles to a matter of minutes - promoting faster adoption of electric vehicles with longer range, greater energy efficiency, and reduced range anxiety.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Advanced Technologies for Integrated Power Electronics

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is teaming with Georgia Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania to create more efficient power circuits for energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) through advances in 3 related areas. First, the team is using semiconductors made of high-performing gallium nitride grown on a low-cost silicon base (GaN-on-Si). These GaN-on-Si semiconductors conduct electricity more efficiently than traditional silicon semiconductors. Second, the team is developing new magnetic materials and structures to reduce the size and increase the efficiency of an important LED power component, the inductor. This advancement is important because magnetics are the largest and most expensive part of a circuit. Finally, the team is creating an entirely new circuit design to optimize the performance of the new semiconductors and magnetic devices it is using.

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

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.

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