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Efficiency

University of Colorado, Boulder

Radiative Cooled-Cold Storage Modules and Systems (RadiCold)

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) will develop Radicold, a radiative cooling and cold water storage system to enable supplemental cooling for thermoelectric power plants. In the Radicold system, condenser water circulates through a series of pipes and passes under a number of cooling modules before it is sent to the central water storage unit. Each cooling module consists of a novel radiative-cooling surface integrated on top of a thermosiphon, thereby simultaneously cooling the water and eliminating the need for a pump to circulate it. The microstructured polymer film discharges heat from the water by radiating in the infrared through the Earth's atmosphere into the heat sink of cold, deep space. Below the film, a metal film reflects all incoming sunlight. This results in cooling with a heat flux of more than 100 W/m2 during both day and nighttime operation. CU-Boulder will use roll-to-roll manufacturing, a low-cost manufacturing technique that is capable of high-volume production, to fabricate the microstructured RadiCold film.

University of Colorado, Boulder

Battery-Free RFID Sensor Network with spatiotemporal Pattern Network Based Data Fusion System for Human Presence Sensing

The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) will develop an integrated occupancy detection system based on a radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensor network combined with privacy-preserving microphones and low-resolution cameras to detect human presence. The system may also analyze electrical noise on power lines throughout a residential home to infer occupancy in different areas. The system will draw its accuracy from the combination of data sources, uncovering human presence not only from physical image and audio sensor data, but also considering what electrical activity reveals about human activity. All of these data streams (image, audio, and electrical activity) will be combined in computationally efficient ways to enable high accuracy human presence detection. The low powered devices in this system will be wirelessly powered, allowing the system to be deployed in a home without costly and invasive rewiring.

University of Colorado, Boulder

A High-Voltage, High-Reliability Scalable Architechture for Electric Vehicle Power Electronics 

The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Bolder) and its project team will develop new composite SiC power converter technology that achieves high power and voltage conversion (250 VDC to 1200 VDC) in a smaller package than ever achieved due largely to improved switching dynamics and reduced need for large passive energy storage components. Also, utilizing higher system voltage in vehicular power systems has been proven to enable vehicle manufacturers to use thinner and lighter wires and improve vehicle powertrain system efficiency. The team seeks to demonstrate the power converter as an on-board, high-power, multifunctional system for both charging electric vehicles and providing power to the motor. The project will lead to experimental demonstration of a 100 kW multifunction electric vehicle power conversion system that includes integrated wired charging and wireless charging functions. If successful, the CU-Boulder team will make important progress towards reducing the size, cost, and complexity of power systems associated with electric vehicles.

University of Colorado, Boulder

Carbothermal Reduction Process for Producing Magnesium Metal using a Hybrid Solar/Electric Reactor

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) is developing a new solar-powered magnesium production reactor with dramatically improved energy efficiency compared to conventional technologies. Today's magnesium production processes are expensive and require large amounts of electricity. CU-Boulder's reactor can be heated using either concentrated solar power during the day or by electricity at night. CU-Boulder's reactor would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions compared to existing technologies at lower cost because it requires less electricity and can be powered using solar energy. In addition, the reactor can produce syngas, a synthetic gasoline precursor, which could be used to power cars and trucks.

University of Florida

Rays for Roots - Integrating Backscatter X-Ray Phenotyping, Modelling, and Genetics to Increase Carbon Sequestration

The University of Florida will develop a backscatter X-ray platform to non-destructively image roots in field conditions. The team will focus their efforts on switchgrass, a promising biofuel feedstock with deep and extensive root systems. Switchgrass is also a good candidate to study because it is a perennial grass with great genetic diversity that is broadly adapted to the full range of environments found in the U.S. The project will leverage a DOE-funded switchgrass common garden with ten identical plantings that span growth zones from Texas to South Dakota. X-ray backscatter systems use a targeted beam to illuminate the part of the plant under observation, and sensors detect the x-rays reflected back to construct an image. The system will not require trenches or other modifications to the field, and will be able to provide three-dimensional root and soil imaging. Software developed by the team will help refine the raw data collected. Image processing and machine learning algorithms will improve image formation and autonomously analyze and extract key root and soil characteristics. In particular, root-vs-soil segmentation algorithms will be developed to identify roots in the imagery and extract geometric-based features such as root length and root diameter. Statistical machine learning algorithms will also be developed and trained to extract information from the imagery beyond the geometric-based features traditionally identified. The project aims to identify the genetic and environmental factors associated with desirable root characteristic that can lead to increased carbon flow and deposition into the soil. If the team is successful, these tools will be broadly applicable to other crops and application areas beyond switchgrass.

University of Florida

A New Generation Solar and Waste Heat Power Absorption Chiller

The University of Florida is improving a refrigeration system that uses low-quality heat to provide the energy needed to drive cooling. This system, known as absorption refrigeration system (ARS), typically consists of large coils that transfer heat. Unfortunately, these large heat exchanger coils are responsible for bulkiness and high cost of ARS. The University of Florida is using new materials as well as system design innovations to develop nanoengineered membranes to allow for enhanced heat exchange that reduces bulkiness. This design allows for compact, cheaper, and more reliable use of ARS that use solar or waste heat.

University of Houston

High-Performance, Low-Cost Superconducting Wires and Coils for High Power Wind Generators

The University of Houston is developing a low-cost, high-current superconducting wire that could be used in high-power wind generators. Superconducting wire currently transports 600 times more electric current than a similarly sized copper wire, but is significantly more expensive. The University of Houston's innovation is based on engineering nanoscale defects in the superconducting film. This could quadruple the current relative to today's superconducting wires, supporting the same amount of current using 25% of the material. This would make wind generators lighter, more powerful and more efficient. The design could result in a several-fold reduction in wire costs and enable their commercial viability of high-power wind generators for use in offshore applications.

University of Illinois, Chicago

Universal Battery Supercharger

The University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) will develop a new high-power converter circuit architecture for fast charging of electric vehicles (EV). Their wide-bandgap universal battery supercharger (UBS) is designed using a unique AC/DC converter system. Fast-switching silicon carbide (SiC) field-effect transistors (FETs) with integrated gate-drivers are used to achieve the targeted compactness. A novel hybrid-modulation method is used to switch the SiC-FETs to reduce the semiconductor power losses and improve the efficiency. The UBS uses integrated filters, which reduce the electromagnetic noise and system weight. The UBS circuit is reliable because it uses film capacitors instead of electrolytic capacitors that have reduced durability. The reduced weight and size of the UBS can enable both off-board stationary fast charging systems and as a portable add-on system for EV customers who require range enhancement and quick charging in 15 minutes. If successful, project developments will not only help accelerate the development of EV charging infrastructure, but the system will have bidirectional power flow capability enabling vehicle-to-grid dispatching.

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Megawatt-Scale Power-Electronic-Integrated Generator with Controlled DC Output

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aims to create the world's most efficient, reliable, and compact wind energy conversion system. Instead of following the traditional approach of building the electrical generator separately from the power electronics converter, and then connecting both to convert the turbine's mechanical power into electrical power, the team will apply CCD methodologies on the generator and converter to substantially reduce the size and weight of the system. The expected results are a significant reduction in the cost of the turbine's main structures (i.e., tower, nacelle, foundation), and an increase in turbine efficiency and reliability. This approach enables wind-energy harvesting systems to move farther offshore to unlock several petawatt (equal to one billion millions watts) hours of energy--untapped in exclusive economic zones extending up to 230 miles from the coastline.

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Harvesting Low Quality Heat Using Economically Printed Flexible Nanostructured Stacked Thermoelectric Junctions

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is experimenting with silicon-based materials to develop flexible thermoelectric devices--which convert heat into energy--that can be mass-produced at low cost. A thermoelectric device, which resembles a computer chip, creates electricity when a different temperature is applied to each of its sides. Existing commercial thermoelectric devices contain the element tellurium, which limits production levels because tellurium has become increasingly rare. UIUC is replacing this material with microscopic silicon wires that are considerably cheaper and could be equally effective. Improvements in thermoelectric device production could return enough wasted heat to add up to 23% to our current annual electricity production.

University of Kentucky

A Solvent/Membrane Hybrid Post-combustion CO2 Capture Process for Existing Coal-Fired Power Plants

The University of Kentucky is developing a hybrid approach to capturing CO2 from the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants. In the first, CO2 is removed as flue gas is passed through an aqueous ammonium-based solvent. In the second, carbon-rich solution from the CO2 absorber is passed through a membrane that is designed to selectively transport the bound carbon, enhancing its concentration on the permeate side. The team's approach would combine the best of both membrane- and solvent-based carbon capture technologies. Under the ARPA-E award, the team is enabling the membrane operation to be a drop-in solution.

University of Maryland

Novel Microemulsion Absorption Systems For Supplemental Power Plant Cooling

The University of Maryland (UMD) and its partners will utilize a novel microemulsion absorbent, recently developed by UMD researchers, for use in an absorption cooling system that can provide supplemental dry cooling for power plants. These unique absorbents require much less heat to drive the process than conventional absorption materials. To remove heat and cool condenser water, microemulsion absorbents take in water vapor (refrigerant) and release the water as liquid during desorption without vaporization or boiling. UMD's technology will use waste heat from the power plant's flue gas to drive the cooling system, eliminating the need for an additional power source. The design will improve upon the efficiency of commercially available chillers by 300%, even though the cost and size of UMD's technology is smaller. The indirect, absorption cooling system will lower condenser water temperatures to below the ambient temperature, which will ensure the efficiency of power plant electricity production.

University of Maryland

Novel Polymer Composite Heat Exchanger for Dry Cooling of Power Plants

The University of Maryland (UMD) and its partners will utilize UMD's expertise in additive manufacturing (3D printing) and thermal engineering to develop novel, polymer-based, air-cooled heat exchangers for use in indirect dry-cooling systems. The innovation leverages UMD's proprietary, cross media heat exchanger concept in which a low-cost, high-conductivity medium, such as aluminum, is encapsulated as a fiber in a polymeric material to facilitate more effective heat dissipation. To realize the innovative heat exchanger design, the team will develop an advanced, multi-head, composite 3D printer. The heat exchanger modules will be arranged in uniform rows with large spacing between the rows, which optimizes heat transfer while allowing for easier cleaning and maintenance. In addition to the system's advanced cooling capacities, the heat exchangers will also be low-cost, low-weight, and resistant to corrosion. Ideally, UMD's technology will be used in conjunction with a direct contact steam condenser in order to provide power plant cooling with performance comparable to evaporative, or wet-cooling, systems. UMD estimates that additive manufacturing could enable transformational heat exchanger designs with high performance at low cost, including the potential for onsite manufacturing of the heat exchanger, which could save additional transportation and installation costs.

University of Maryland

Thermoelastic Cooling

The University of Maryland (UMD) is developing an energy-efficient cooling system that eliminates the need for synthetic refrigerants that harm the environment. More than 90% of the cooling and refrigeration systems in the U.S. today use vapor compression systems which rely on liquid to vapor phase transformation of synthetic refrigerants to absorb or release heat. Thermoelastic cooling systems, however, use a solid-state material--an elastic shape memory metal alloy--as a refrigerant and a solid to solid phase transformation to absorb or release heat. UMD is developing and testing shape memory alloys and a cooling device that alternately absorbs or creates heat in much the same way as a vapor compression system, but with significantly less energy and a smaller operational footprint.

University of Maryland

Melt Epitaxy of Carbon: A Silicon-inspired Approach to Next-Generation Electrical Wires

The University of Maryland (UMD) will develop a new method called "Melt Epitaxy of Carbon" for the production of lightweight, high-capacity carbon wires from carbon nanotubes. Metallic carbon nanotubes are lightweight, high-capacity conductors that exceed the current carrying capacity of metals like copper. The current density of carbon nanotubes is nearly 1,000 times greater than at the electromigration limit of copper. On a weight basis, carbon nanotubes have an additional 6-fold advantage over copper because of their reduced density. Carbon nanotubes can reduce the weight of wires as much as 90% in weight-critical applications such as aircraft. Epitaxy refers to the deposition of a crystalline overlayer on a crystalline substrate, and it is widely used to create materials for semiconductor fabrication. In this process, the team will use a similar method to produce the carbon conductors. Although carbon nanotubes can also be synthesized using chemical vapor deposition, this new method is predicted to deliver improved yield and greater control over the structure and electrical properties of the nanotubes. This method is also more scalable than other methods of nanotube creation and at reduced costs.

University of Maryland

Meta-Cooling Textile with Synergetic Infrared Radiation and Air Convection for Bidirectional Thermoregulation

Led by Dr. YuHuang Wang, the "Meta Cooling Textile (MCT)" project team at the University of Maryland (UMD) is developing a thermally responsive clothing fabric that extends the skin's thermoregulation ability to maintain comfort in hotter or cooler office settings. Commercial wearable localized thermal management systems are bulky, heavy, and costly. MCT marks a potentially disruptive departure from current technologies by providing clothing with active control over the primary channels for energy exchange between the body and the environment. In hotter surroundings, the fabric's pores open up to increase ventilation while changes in the microstructure of the fabric increase the amount of energy transmitted through the fabric from the wearer. In cooler conditions, these effects are reversed to increase the garment's ability to insulate the wearer. The added bidirectional regulation capacity will enable the wearer to expand their thermal comfort range and thus relax the temperature settings in building.

University of Maryland

A Case Study on the Impact of Additive Manufacturing for Heat/Mass Transfer Equipment used for Power Production

The University of Maryland (UMD) will leverage recent advances in additive manufacturing to develop a next-generation air-cooled heat exchanger. The UMD team will assess the performance and cost of current state-of-the-art technology, including innovative manufacturing processes. The team will then utilize computer models to simulate a wide-range of novel heat exchanger designs that can radically enhance air-side heat transfer performance. The team will then physically build and test two 1 kilowatt (kW) prototype devices. If successful, these heat exchangers would enable new, highly-efficient dry cooling of steam condensers that could eliminate evaporative water losses from power plant cooling. Advances in efficient air-side cooling could also have significant spillover benefits in aerospace, automobile, air-conditioning and refrigeration, electronics cooling, and chemical processing.

University of Maryland

Robotic Personal Conditioning Device

The University of Maryland (UMD) will develop a robotic personal attendant providing improved comfort levels for individuals in inadequately heated/cooled environments. This mobile robotic platform will be fitted with a small, battery-powered, high-efficiency vapor compression heat pump and will be highly portable and able to follow an assigned person around during the course of the day, providing localized heating and/or cooling as needed while reducing the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

University of Minnesota

Synthesis and Phase Stabilization of Body Center Tetragonal (BCT) Metastable Fe-N Anisotropic Nanocomposite Magnet- A Path to Fabricate Rare-Earth-Free Magnet

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is developing an early stage prototype of an iron-nitride permanent magnet material for EVs and renewable power generators. This new material, comprised entirely of low-cost and abundant resources, has the potential to demonstrate the highest energy potential of any magnet to date. This project will provide the basis for an entirely new class of rare-earth-free magnets capable of generating power without costly and scarce rare earth materials. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate a prototype with magnetic properties exceeding state-of-the-art commercial magnets.

University of Minnesota

Flexible Molecular Sieve Membranes

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is developing an ultra-thin separation membrane to decrease the cost of producing biofuels, plastics, and other industrial materials. Nearly 6% of total U.S. energy consumption comes from the energy used in separation and purification processes. Today's separation methods used in biofuels production are not only energy intensive, but also very expensive. UMN is developing a revolutionary membrane technology based on a recently discovered class of ultra-thin, porous, materials that will enable energy efficient separations necessary to prepare biofuels that would also be useful in the chemical, petrochemical, water purification, and fossil fuel industries. These membranes, made from nanometer-thick layers of silicon dioxide, are highly selective in separating nearly-identical chemicals and can handle high flow rates of the chemicals. When fully developed, these membranes could substantially reduce the amount and cost of energy required in the production of biofuels and many other widely used industrial chemicals.

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