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Transphorm, Inc.

High-Performance GaN HEMT Modules for Agile Power Electronics

Transphorm is developing transistors with gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors that could be used to make cost-effective, high-performance power converters for a variety of applications, including electric motor drives which transmit power to a motor. A transistor acts like a switch, controlling the electrical energy that flows around an electrical circuit. Most transistors today use low-cost silicon semiconductors to conduct electrical energy, but silicon transistors don't operate efficiently at high speeds and voltage levels. Transphorm is using GaN as a semiconductor material in its transistors because GaN performs better at higher voltages and frequencies, and it is more energy efficient than straight silicon. However, Transphorm is using inexpensive silicon as a base to help keep costs low. The company is also packaging its transistors with other electrical components that can operate quickly and efficiently at high power levels--increasing the overall efficiency of both the transistor and the entire motor drive.

Triton Systems, Inc.

New Technology for Single Pane Retrofit

Triton Systems will develop and demonstrate a high efficiency windowpane system that will encourage retrofitting of single-pane windows. Triton's Multifunctional Glazing System (MGS) will potentially provide a better balance of performance with cost and weight versus double-pane insulated glass units. The system combines a nanoparticle-polymer composite film with an insulating layer of a porous material filled with air, to provide thermal insulation. The team will enhance the pane's durability by incorporating a nanocomposite edge seal. The thickness of the MGS will be less than ¼ inch, ensuring its compatibility with most single-pane window sashes as a direct glazing replacement.

UHV Technologies, Inc.

Low Cost X-Ray CT System for in-situ Imaging of Roots

UHV Technologies will develop and demonstrate a low cost, field deployable 3D x-ray computed tomography system that will image total root systems in the field with micron-size resolution and can sample hundreds of plants per cycle. This system is based on UHV's low cost linear x-ray tube technology and sophisticated reconstruction and image segmentation algorithms. The linear x-ray tube technology was originally designed for extremely high throughput scrap aluminum sorting, and when used with an array x-ray detector the system can also produce 2D and 3D imaging of plant roots in the field without the use of heavy, moving gantry systems normally used for trait observation. Maize (corn) was chosen as the crop to study due to its robust root system, well-characterized genetic resources, sequenced genome, and access to existing breeding pipelines with commercial potential. The system will be tested in two environments, at the University of Wisconsin with clay-like soil and at Texas A&M University which features sandy soil. Due to its small size, high resolution and fast imaging of fine roots, low power consumption, large penetration depth (i.e. the ability to see through several feet of soil) and ease of use in the field, the proposed system will increase the speed and efficacy of discovery and deployment of improved crops and systems. These advanced crops can improve soil carbon accumulation and storage, decrease nitrogen oxide emissions, and improve water efficiency. If successful, this new level of imaging will be invaluable to scientists seeking to understand how environmental conditions and plant trait variations contribute to carbon deposition through root development.

UHV Technologies, Inc.

Low-Cost High Throughput In-Line X-Ray Fluorescence Scrap Metal Sorter

UHV Technologies is developing a sorting technology that uses X-rays to distinguish between high-value metal alloys found in scrap of many shapes and sizes. Existing identification technologies rely on manual sorting of light metals, which can be inaccurate and slow. UHV's system will rapidly sort scrap metal passed over a conveyer belt, making it possible to lower metals waste while simultaneously increasing the quality of recycled metal alloys. By analyzing the light emitted from X-rayed metal pieces, UHV's probe is able to identify alloy compositions for automated sorting. By automating this process, UHV would significantly reduce the costs associated with recycling light metal scrap.

United Technologies Research Center

Additive Manufacturing of Optimized Ultra-High Efficiency Electric Machines

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is using additive manufacturing techniques to develop an ultra-high-efficiency electric motor for automobiles. The process and design does not rely on rare earth materials and sidesteps any associated supply concerns. Additive manufacturing uses a laser to deposit copper and insulation, layer-by-layer, instead of winding wires. EV motors rely heavily on permanent magnets, which are expensive given the high concentrations of rare earth material required to deliver the performance required in today's market. UTRC's efficient manufacturing method would produce motors that reduce electricity use and require less rare earth material. This project will also examine the application of additive manufacturing more widely for other energy systems, such as renewable power generators.

United Technologies Research Center

Power Conversion Through Novel Current Source Matrix Converter 

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop a silicon carbide-based, single stage, 15 kW direct AC-to-AC (fixed frequency AC to variable frequency AC) power converter that avoids the need for an intermediate conversion to DC or energy storage circuit elements. The team seeks to build a device that weighs about half as much as available converters while demonstrating scalability for a broad power range (from kW to tens of MW) and achieving conversion efficiencies greater than 99%. If successful, the UTRC team will produce advances that help greatly reduce energy losses in a range of industrial applications. Industrial drives for electric motors alone account for approximately 40% of total U.S. electricity demand and incorporation of highly efficient variable-frequency drives, based on this technology, can reduce energy consumption by 10-30%. For aircraft power systems, electrical actuators built using this technology can enable longer, thinner, and lighter wings that result in 50% reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions when compared to current commercial aircraft. The project can also open new possibilities for electric locomotives and ship propulsion, thanks to the reduced weight and complexity of the converter.

United Technologies Research Center

Design of Ulra-Efficient, Manufacturable, and Low-Cost Thermal Fluid Components for Energy Systems

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop design tools and software for new thermofluidc components that can lead to 50% efficiency improvements in heat exchangers and other related energy systems. Modern heat exchangers and flow headers used in energy systems such as thermal power plants are not optimally designed due to a lack of advanced design tools that can optimize performance given manufacturing and cost limitations. UTRC's design framework will focus on topology exploration and optimization - the mathematical method of optimizing material layouts within a given design space for a given set of loads, conditions, and constraints. The design space will be redefined by emerging advancements in materials such as multi-material composites and custom microstructures. Constraints are imposed by manufacturing limitations and the application of new technologies such as 3D weaving and 3D printing. The requirements of next-generation systems will also be considered, for example, the high temperature and pressure requirements of advanced steam turbines. The design framework will assess the design space, constraints, and requirements using two key innovations. First, topology exploration methods developed for heat exchangers will harness emerging advancements in data sciences to produce new concept designs for the heat exchanger core, headers, and their assemblies. Second, a projection-based topology optimization method will optimize designs for specific manufacturing processes and costs. The new design framework may lead to greater than 50% improvements for heat exchangers by providing new ways to integrate advanced materials and manufacturing techniques.

United Technologies Research Center

Nano-Engineered Porous Hollow Fiber Membrane-Based Air Conditioning System

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing an air conditioning system that is optimized for use in warm and humid climates. UTRC's air conditioning system integrates a liquid drying agent or desiccant and a traditional vapor compression system found in 90% of air conditioners. The drying agent reduces the humidity in the air before it is cooled, using less energy. The technology uses a membrane as a barrier between the air and the liquid salt stream allowing only water vapor to pass through and not the salt molecules. This solves an inherent problem with traditional liquid desiccant systems--carryover of the liquid drying agent into the conditioned air stream--which eliminates corrosion and health issues.

United Technologies Research Center

PEOPLE: Platform to Estimate Occupancy and Presence for Low Energy Buildings

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop a low-cost occupancy solution that combines radar sensing technology with an infrared focal plane array (IR-FPA) to determine occupancy in buildings. The solution will also be deployed as a radar-only residential sensor for true human presence sensing. The radar will detect respiration or heartbeat of non-moving occupants by measuring the radar signal reflections caused by chest movement. The system's machine learning algorithms will allow it to distinguish humans from pets in residential settings and to reduce under-counting errors in commercial deployments. The radar will enable through-wall presence sensing in multiple rooms by a single sensor, reducing the sensor hardware and installation cost on a per square foot basis. The solution aims to address the high cost and failure rate of current presence sensors that are preventing large-scale adoption of occupancy based control of HVAC, lighting, and plug loads.

United Technologies Research Center

Ultra Dense Power Converters for Advanced Electrical Systems

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) and its project team will develop an extremely efficient power converter capable of handling kilowatts of electricity at ultra-high power densities. The team will leverage the superior performance of silicon carbide (SiC) or gallium nitride (GaN) devices to achieve its efficiency and power density goals. In the aerospace industry, electrical power distribution can begin to displace pneumatic power distribution using this technology. Efficient power conversion in aircraft will be needed as hydraulic systems, including landing gear systems, are replaced with electric actuation. Electric engine start, electric air-conditioning and cabin pressurization are also key advances in this area. One of the major objectives of the team is to halve converter loss, facilitating a transition from present liquid cooling thermal management to air cooling only. These improvements can help reduce the weight of airline electrical components, critical for the advancement of more electric aircraft. If successful, the team expects that aerospace is a good first adopter of their technology as the industry can more easily accommodate the costs and adoption of new technology better than other industrial applications.

United Technologies Research Center

CO2 Capture with Enzyme Synthetic Analogue

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing a process for capturing the CO2 emitted by coal-fired power plants. Conventional carbon capture methods use high temperatures or chemical solvents to separate CO2 from the exhaust gas, which are energy intensive and expensive processes. UTRC is developing membranes that separate the CO2 out of the exhaust gas using a synthetic version of a naturally occurring enzyme used to manage CO2. This enzyme is used by all air-breathing organisms on Earth to regulate CO2 levels. The enzyme would not survive within the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants in its natural form, so UTRC is developing a synthetic version designed to withstand these harsh conditions. UTRC's technology does not require heat during processing, which could allow up to a 30% reduction in the cost of carbon capture.

United Technologies Research Center

Water-Based HVAC System

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing an efficient air conditioning compressor that will use water as the refrigerant. Most conventional air conditioning systems use hydrofluorocarbons to cool the air, which are highly potent GHGs. Because water is natural and non-toxic, it is an attractive refrigerant. However, low vapor density of water requires higher compression ratios, typically resulting in large and inefficient multi-stage compression. UTRC's design utilizes a novel type of supersonic compression that enables high-compression ratios in a single stage, thus enabling more compact and cost-effective technology than existing designs. UTRC's water-based air conditioner system could reduce the use of synthetic refrigerants while also increasing energy efficiency.

University of Alabama

Quantification of HVAC Energy Savings for Occupancy Sensing in Buildings Through an Innovative Testing Methodology

The University of Alabama and their partners will develop a new testing and validation protocol for advanced occupancy sensor technologies. 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 these systems. To address this need, the Alabama team will develop a testing protocol and simulation suite for these advanced sensors. The protocol and simulation suite will take into account eight levels of diversity: 1) occupant profile, 2) building type and floor plan, 3) sensor type, 4) HVAC controls and modes (e.g., temperature and/or ventilation setback), 5) functional testing diversity, 6) deployment diversity (e.g., sensor location), 7) software diversity (e.g., computation at local vs. hub), and 8) diagnostic diversity (e.g., interpret missing data). The regime's simulation tools will take advantage of data analytics with built-in machine learning algorithms to accurately determine energy savings. Technical results from the testing and validation work will support technology to market efforts, including codes and standards updates.

University of Alabama

Rare-Earth-Free Permanent Magnets for Electric Vehicle Motors and Wind Turbine Generators: Hexagonal Symmetry Based Materials Systems Mn-Bi and M-type Hexaferrite

The University of Alabama is developing new iron- and manganese-based composite materials for use in the electric motors of EVs and renewable power generators that will demonstrate magnetic properties superior to today's best rare-earth-based magnets. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to refine. EVs and renewable power generators typically use rare earths to make their electric motors smaller and more powerful. The University of Alabama has the potential to improve upon the performance of current state-of-the-art rare-earth-based magnets using low-cost and more abundant materials such as manganese and iron. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate improved performance in a full-size prototype magnet at reduced cost.

University of Arkansas

Reliable, High Power Density Inverters for Heavy Equipment Applications

The University of Arkansas and its project team will develop a power inverter system for use in the electrification of construction equipment. Heavy equipment providers are increasingly investing in electrification capability to perform work in harsh environments. As with all electrified systems, size, weight and power considerations must be met by these systems. The team's approach is to utilize the advantages of wide bandgap semiconductors not only in the converter elements themselves, but also in the converter's gate driver as well. This innovation of having the low-voltage circuitry built from the same materials as the power devices enables higher reliability, longer life, and a more compact system packages. Their multi-objective optimization method will provide the best outcome and trade the efficiency and power density goals against circuit complexity, device ratings, thermal management, and reliability constraints. If successful, the team will achieve an improvement of four times the power density and reduce converter cost by 50% compared to today's technology. The proposed design methods and technological advances can also be applied to many applications such as electric vehicles, smart grid power electronics, and data centers.

University of California - Irvine

Thermocomfort Cloth Inspired by Squid Skin

The University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) will develop a dynamically adjustable thermoregulatory fabric. This fabric leverages established heat-managing capabilities of space blankets and color-changing polymers inspired by squid skin that will provide wearers with the unique ability to adaptively harness their own individual radiant heat production. This technology holds the potential to establish an entirely new line of personal apparel and localized thermal management products that could significantly reduce the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

University of California, Berkeley

Extreme Efficiency 240 Vac to Load Data Center Power Delivery Topologies and Control

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and its project team will develop an extremely efficient AC-to-DC converter based on gallium nitride (GaN) devices for use in datacenters. Datacenters are the backbones of modern information technology and their physical size and power consumption is rapidly growing. Converters for datacenters need to be power dense and efficient to maximize the computing power per unit volume and to reduce operating costs and environmental impact. This project team seeks to develop a prototype device that converts power from a universal grid input (110-240 V at 50-60 Hz) to 48 V DC, the standard for datacenter and telecom supply. The team hopes that this GaN-based converter will enable a complete redesign of the power delivery network for future datacenters; while achieving a three-fold reduction in energy loss and 10 times improvement in power density over traditional conversion circuits. If successful, project developments will greatly reduce the amount of energy lost powering datacenters while significantly improving power capability over current converters.

University of California, Berkeley

IceNet for FireBox

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will develop a new datacenter network topology that will leverage the energy efficiency and bandwidth density through the integration of silicon photonics into micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) switches. Today's datacenter architectures use server nodes (with processor and memory) connected via a hierarchical network. In order to access a remote memory in these architectures, a processor must access the network to get to a particular server node, gaining access to the local memory of that server. This requires the remote server processor to be awake at all times in order to service the remote request. The processor-to-memory network has many stages and long latency, which results in significant energy waste in processor and memory idling on both sides of the network. The IceNet network is designed to achieve ultra-low latency connectivity between processor nodes and memory, drastically reducing energy wasted during system idling. A key component to the team's design is their LightSpark active laser power-management system. In addition to guiding the laser power where it is needed, the LightSpark module enables both wavelength and laser redundancy, increasing the robustness of the system. In total, the IceNet network will enable dramatic improvements in datacenter system efficiency, allowing for fine-grain power control of processors, links, and memory and storage components.

University of California, Berkeley

Developing Metal-Organic Frameworks as Adsorbents for Industrial Carbon Capture Applications

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is developing a method for identifying the best metal organic frameworks for use in capturing CO2 from the flue gas of coal-fired power plants. Metal organic frameworks are porous, crystalline compounds that, based on their chemical structure, vary considerably in terms of their capacity to grab hold of passing CO2 molecules and their ability to withstand the harsh conditions found in the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. Owing primarily to their high tunability, metal organic frameworks can have an incredibly wide range of different chemical and physical properties, so identifying the best to use for CO2 capture and storage can be a difficult task. UC Berkeley uses high-throughput instrumentation to analyze nearly 100 materials at a time, screening them for the characteristics that optimize their ability to selectively adsorb CO2 from coal exhaust. Their work will identify the most promising frameworks and accelerate their large-scale commercial development to benefit further research into reducing the cost of CO2 capture and storage.

University of California, Berkeley

Enabling Ultra-Compact, Lightweight, Efficient, and Reliable 6.6 kW On-Board Bi-Directional Electric Vehicle Charger with Advanced Topology and Control

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and its project team will develop an on-board electric vehicle charger using a gallium nitride (GaN) based converter to improve power density and conversion efficiency. Conventional power converter topologies which primarily use magnetics (i.e. inductors and transformers) for energy transfer suffer from a tradeoff between efficiency and size. In this project, the team proposes a shift in traditional charger design to develop a bidirectional converter dominated by capacitor-based energy transfer. The team will leverage recent advances in GaN devices and new control techniques to produce a 6.6 kW converter with 15 times the power density and higher efficiency than currently achievable. The bidirectional flow means that the device can act to charge the electric vehicle or operate in a vehicle-to-grid manner to use the vehicle as short term energy storage. If successful, project developments could help reduce the size and complexity of electric vehicle power systems.


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