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Efficiency

GeneSiC Semiconductor

Novel GaN Transistors for High Power Switching Applications

GeneSiC Semiconductor will lead a team to develop high-power and voltage (1200V) vertical transistors on free-standing gallium nitride (GaN) substrates. Bipolar junction transistors amplify or switch electrical current. NPN junction transistors are one class of these transistors consisting of a layer of p-type semiconductor between two n-type semiconductors. The output electrical current between two terminals is controlled by applying a small input current at the third terminal. The proposed effort combines the latest innovations in device designs/process technology, bulk GaN substrate technology, and innovative metal-organic chemical vapor deposition epitaxial growth techniques. If the proposed design concept is successful, it will enable three-fold improvement of power density in high voltage devices, and provide a low-cost solution for mass market power conversion. Moreover, the device can be processed with significantly lower process complexity and cost, as compared to competing silicon carbide and GaN device technologies. GeneSiC will focus on all device development tasks while its partner, Adroit Materials, will focus on the GaN epitaxial growth on bulk GaN substrates, as well as detailed materials characterization according to specifications generated by GeneSiC.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Highly Laminated, High-Saturation-Flux-Density Magnetic Cores for On-Chip Inductors in Power Converter Applications

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is creating compact, low-profile power adapters and power bricks using materials and tools adapted from other industries and from grid-scale power applications. Adapters and bricks convert electrical energy into usable power for many types of electronic devices, including laptop computers and mobile phones. These converters are often called wall warts because they are big, bulky, and sometimes cover up an adjacent wall socket that could be used to power another electronic device. The magnetic components traditionally used to make adapters and bricks have reached their limits; they can't be made any smaller without sacrificing performance. Georgia Tech is taking a cue from grid-scale power converters that use iron alloys as magnetic cores. These low-cost alloys can handle more power than other materials, but the iron must be stacked in insulated plates to maximize energy efficiency. In order to create compact, low-profile power adapters and bricks, these stacked iron plates must be extremely thin--only hundreds of nanometers in thickness, in fact. To make plates this thin, Georgia Tech is using manufacturing tools used in microelectromechanics and other small-scale industries.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

High Performance Metal Organic Frameworks/Polymer Composite Membranes for Carbon Dioxide Capture

A team of six faculty members at Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing an enhanced membrane by fitting metal organic frameworks, compounds that show great promise for improved carbon capture, into hollow fiber membranes. This new material would be highly efficient at removing CO2 from the flue gas produced at coal-fired power plants. The team is analyzing thousands of metal organic frameworks to identify those that are most suitable for carbon capture based both on their ability to allow coal exhaust to pass easily through them and their ability to select CO2 from that exhaust for capture and storage. The most suitable frameworks would be inserted into the walls of the hollow fiber membranes, making the technology readily scalable due to their high surface area. This composite membrane would be highly stable, withstanding the harsh gas environment found in coal exhaust.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Modular Thermal Hub for Building Heating, Cooling, and Water Heating

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is using innovative components and system design to develop a new type of absorption heat pump. Georgia Tech's new heat pumps are energy efficient, use refrigerants that do not emit greenhouse gases, and can run on energy from combustion, waste heat, or solar energy. Georgia Tech is leveraging enhancements to heat and mass transfer technology possible in micro-scale passages and removing hurdles to the use of heat-activated heat pumps that have existed for more than a century. Use of micro-scale passages allows for miniaturization of systems that can be packed as monolithic full-system packages or discrete, distributed components enabling integration into a variety of residential and commercial buildings. Compared to conventional heat pumps, Georgia Tech's design innovations will create an absorption heat pump that is much smaller, has higher energy efficiency, and can also be mass produced at a lower cost and assembly time. Georgia Tech received a separate award of up to $2,315,845 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Grid Logic, Inc.

Development of a New Generation High-Temperature Superconducting Composite Conductor Delivered at $20/(kA m) with Low AC Loss

Grid Logic is developing a new type of electrical superconductor that could significantly improve the performance (in $/kA-m) and lower the cost of high-power energy generation, transmission, and distribution. Grid Logic is using a new manufacturing technique to coat very fine particles of superconducting material with an extremely thin layer--less than 1/1,000 the width of a human hair--of a low-cost metal composite. This new manufacturing process is not only much simpler and more cost effective than the process used to make today's state-of-the-art high-power superconductors, but also it makes superconductive cables easier to handle and improves their electrical properties in certain applications.

Grid Logic, Inc.

Production of Nanostructured Core/Shell Powders for Exchange Spring Magnet Applications

The Grid Logic team is adapting a form of vapor deposition technology to demonstrate a new approach to creating powerful hybrid magnets. This "physical vapor deposition particle encapsulation technology" utilizes an inert atmosphere chamber, which allows for precisely controlled and reproducible pressure, gas flow, and fluidization conditions for a powder vessel. The team will use this specialized chamber to fabricate nanostructured exchange-spring magnets, which require careful control of material dimension and composition. Nanostructured exchange-spring magnets are composite magnetic materials that use an exchange between soft magnetic materials, which have high saturation magnetization but are easily demagnetized, and hard magnetic materials that are difficult to demagnetize but have lower saturation magnetization and high coercivity. In this case, the team will create magnets consisting of Manganese Bismuth (MnBi) hard magnetic core particles with nanometer-scale Cobalt (Co) soft magnet shells. If successful, the team will demonstrate a process for producing: 1) A hard magnet core particle capable of withstanding a strong external magnetic field without becoming demagnetized; and 2) A soft magnet shell providing high magnetic saturation (i.e. maximum magnetization due to an external magnetic field). By combining precise control of nano-scale layering, material ratios, and material interfaces the project could develop a magnet that rivals permanent magnets made from rare earth elements. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this early stage research will provide proof of concept showing that the particle encapsulation system developed in this project can enable large-scale, cost-efficient production of composite magnets that do not require rare earth elements.

Harvard University

GaN NMR Spectrometer Integrated Circuits Towards Broadly Distributed On-line Monitoring and Management of Subsurface Oil/Gas Reservoirs and Downstream

Harvard University will develop a compact NMR system to provide detailed information on composition and environment in subsurface oil exploration and production. By building the electronics for the system with gallium-nitride-based integrated circuitry, the team seeks to greatly miniaturize the NMR system, reducing both the volume and weight by two orders of magnitude, and enabling it to withstand the high temperatures found in a deep drill hole. The proposed technology will place the majority of the essential NMR electronics on a single board. This will reduce the complexity and bulkiness of commercially available NMR logging tools, driving down the system's cost and size.

HRL Laboratories, LLC

Gallium-Nitride Switch Technology for Bi-Directional Battery-to-Grid Charger Applications

HRL Laboratories is using gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors to create battery chargers for electric vehicles (EVs) that are more compact and efficient than traditional EV chargers. Reducing the size and weight of the battery charger is important because it would help improve the overall performance of the EV. GaN semiconductors process electricity faster than the silicon semiconductors used in most conventional EV battery chargers. These high-speed semiconductors can be paired with lighter-weight electrical circuit components, which helps decrease the overall weight of the EV battery charger. HRL Laboratories is combining the performance advantages of GaN semiconductors with an innovative, interactive battery-to-grid energy distribution design. This design would support 2-way power flow, enabling EV battery chargers to not only draw energy from the power grid, but also store and feed energy back into it.

HRL Laboratories, LLC

Low-Cost Gallium Nitride Vertical Transistor

HRL Laboratories will develop a high-performance, low-cost, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) transistor that could displace the silicon transistor technologies used in most high-power switching applications today. GaN transistors can operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and currents than their silicon counterparts, but they are expensive to manufacture. HRL will combine innovations in semiconductor material growth, device fabrication, and circuit design to create its high-performance GaN vertical transistor at a competitive manufacturing cost.

iBeam Materials, Inc.

GaN LEDs on Flexible Metal Foils

iBeam Materials is developing a scalable manufacturing method to produce low-cost gallium nitride (GaN) LED devices for use in solid-state lighting. iBeam Materials uses an ion-beam crystal-aligning process to create single-crystal-like templates on arbitrary substrates thereby eliminating the need for small rigid single-crystal substrates. This process is inexpensive, high-output, and allows for large-area deposition in particular on flexible metal foils. In using flexible substrates, in contrast to rigid single-crystal wafers, the ion-aligning process also enables roll-to-roll (R2R) processing of crystalline films. R2R processing in turn simplifies manufacturing scale-up by reducing equipment footprint and associated labor costs By fabricating the LED directly on a metal substrate, one "pre-packages" the LED with the reflector and the heat sink built-in. This significantly reduces cost, simplifies packaging and allows a pick-and-place (P&P) technology to be replaced with printing of LEDs.

IBM T. J. Watson Research Center

An Intelligent Multi-modal CH4 Measurement System (AIMS)

IBM's T.J Watson Research Center is working in conjunction with Harvard University and Princeton University to develop an energy-efficient, self-organizing mesh network to gather data over a distributed methane measurement system. Data will be passed to a cloud-based analytics system using custom models to quantify the amount and rate of methane leakage. Additionally, IBM is developing new, low-cost optical sensors that will use tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) for methane detection. While today's optical sensors offer excellent sensitivity and selectivity, their high cost and power requirements prevent widespread adoption. To overcome these hurdles, IBM and its partners plan to produce a miniaturized, integrated, on-chip version that is less expensive and consumes less power. At a planned cost of about $300 per sensor, IBM's sensors will be 10 to 100 times cheaper than TDLAS sensors on the market today. By advancing an affordable methane detection system that can be customized, IBM's technology could enable producers to more efficiently locate and repair methane leaks, and therefore reduce overall methane emissions.

IBM T. J. Watson Research Center

Multi-Wavelength Optical Transceivers Integrated on Node 

IBM T.J. Watson Research Center will develop a two-pronged approach to improve future datacenter efficiency.. New optical interconnect solutions can provide a path to energy-efficient datacenters at higher bandwidth levels, but they must also meet key metrics including power density, cost, latency, reliability, and signal integrity. IBM's team will use their expertise with vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) to develop VCSEL-based optical interconnect technology capable of meeting the necessary future demands. VCSEL-based interconnects offer an appealing combination of low power consumption, small size, high performance, low cost, and manufacturability. The team will work to increase the operating speed of VCSELs, detectors, and the associated circuits, while also developing packaging solutions to install optical interconnects on the integrated circuit. This integration will allow the system to eliminate the traditional driver and receiver electronics of most board-mounted optical modules, greatly reducing the cost and energy use of data transfer. The team will eventually use single-ended signaling to drive and receive signals from the modules directly, increasing the bandwidth of the system chips by at least two times and improving power efficiencies across the datacenter.

IBM T. J. Watson Research Center

Optical Network using Rapid Amplified Multi-wavelength Photonic Switches (ONRAMPS)

The IBM T.J. Watson Research Center will develop datacenter networking technology incorporating extremely fast switching devices that operate on the nanosecond scale. At the heart of the process is the development of a new type of photonic switch. The dominant switching technology today are electronic switches that toggle connections between two wires, each wire providing a different communication channel. A photonic switch toggles connections between two optical fibers, where each individual fiber themselves can carry many communication channels allowing immense numbers of data transfers. Previously, photonic (or optical) switches exhibited slow switching speeds and were difficult to manufacture in high volumes, which limited their usage. IBM's photonic switches can switch quickly, similar to electronic switches, and can be fabricated using the same tools and procedures used to manufacture today's most complex microprocessors. Because each optical port carries significantly more data than their electronic counterparts, fewer ports are needed to route the same amount of data. The technology also saves time and energy because employing direct optical switching can reduce the number of times the signal needs to be converted back and forth from the electrical to optical domain and vice versa. Datacenter efficiency (including computing, memory, and communication) can be significantly improved by using photonic switches to develop new networks capable of exploiting these improvements.

Ideal Power, Inc.

Dual Bi-Directional IGBTs Modules Enables Breakthrough PV Inverter Using Current Modulation Topology

PV inverters convert DC power generated by modules into usable AC power. Ideal Power's initial 30kW 94lb PV inverter reduces the weight of comparable 30kW PV inverters by 90%--reducing the cost of materials, manufacturing, shipping, and installation. With ARPA-E support, new bi-directional silicon power switches will be developed, commercialized, and utilized in Ideal Power's next-generation PV inverter. With these components, Ideal Power will produce 100kW inverters that weight less than 100lb., reducing the weight of conventional 3,000lb. 100kW inverters by more than 95%. The new power switches will cut IPC's $/W manufacturing cost in half, as well as further reduce indirect shipping and installation costs.

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

High-throughput, High-resolution Phenotyping of Nitrogen Use Efficiency Using Coupled In-plant and In-soil Sensors

Iowa State University (ISU) will develop new sensors that measure the amount of nitrogen in soils and plants multiple times per day throughout the growing season. Nitrogen fertilizer is the largest energy input to U.S. corn production. However, its use is inefficient due to a lack of low-cost, effective nitrogen sensors. Year-to-year variation in nitrogen mineralization, due to differences in soil water and temperature, creates tremendous uncertainty about the proper fertilizer input and can cause farmers to over-apply. As a result, nitrogen fertilizer is lost from croplands to the surrounding environment where it pollutes air and water resources. To address this problem, the team will develop a novel silicon microneedle in-plant nitrogen sensor and a microfluidic soil nitrogen sensor. The microscale needles can be inserted into multiple sites of the plant to provide frequent and accurate monitoring of nitrate uptake, and for the first time provide a view of plant nitrogen use as the plant and roots develop. The team will also develop an automated microfluidic sensor which will measure the amount of nitrate in soil by extracting very small amounts of solution from the soil. The microfludic technology on which soil sensors are based can be produced at low cost. The combination of these two sensors will allow for a deeper understanding of plant nitrogen use and how it correlates with nitrate levels in the soil. These new sensors will accelerate the effort to identify, select, and breed new crops with improved nitrogen use efficiency. And the project will help increase the energy efficiency of our agriculture systems while reducing input costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrate pollution of aquatic ecosystems.

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