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Efficiency

Ohio State University

GaN MOCVD Growth on Native Substrates For High Voltage (15-20 KV) Vertical Power Devices

The Ohio State University will develop GaN semiconductor materials suitable for high voltage (15-20 kV) power control and conversion. The team will develop a unique photon-assisted metal organic chemical vapor deposition (PA-MOCVD) method to grow thick GaN films with low background impurity contamination, necessary to allow high-voltage operation with high efficiency. The thick GaN layers will be deposited by PA-MOCVD on high-quality bulk GaN base materials with reduced defects, critical to the growth of high-quality GaN films. High-voltage GaN devices will be designed, fabricated, and tested to provide feedback for further GaN material growth improvement and optimization.

Oregon State University

Freshwater Recovery System for Hydraulic Fracturing (FRESH-Frac) Using a Thermally-Actuated Nozzle-Demister

Oregon State University (OSU) is developing a system for extracting clean irrigation water from hydraulic fracturing wastewater using low-grade solar or industrial waste heat. The system would efficiently separate, condense, and reclaim water vapor from wastewater using a heat-activated swirling nozzle combined with an in-line demister. OSU's technology would be modular, portable, scalable, and deployable at a fraction of the cost of existing treatment systems. If successful, the treated water would be suitable for agricultural use, providing an abundant new water source and easing competition for this vital resource.

Otherlab, Inc.

Passive Thermo-Adaptive Textiles with Laminated Polymer Bimorphs

Otherlab will develop thermally adaptive materials that change their thickness in response to temperature changes, allowing the creation of garments that passively respond to variations in temperature. In contrast to existing garments that have a constant insulation value whether conditions are hot or cold, thermally adaptive materials change shape as temperature changes, leading to a change in insulation. The material change is a physical response, passively operating and requiring no input from the wearer or any control system. Garments made from thermally adaptive fabrics will enable the wearing of fewer layers of clothing for comfort over a broader temperature range, effectively lowering the heating and cooling requirements for buildings. Beyond apparel, this advanced insulation may find applications in drapery and bedding.

Otherlab, Inc.

An Open-Source Tool for Visualizing Energy Flow Data to Identify Opportunities, Inform Decisions, and Increase Energy Literacy

Otherlab will develop an open-source tool to enable higher resolution investigation and visualization of energy flows throughout the country. The core visual component is an interactive Sankey diagram with an intuitive interface that will allow users to examine the flows of energy and materials by industry, region, and economic sector. Behind the visualizations, sophisticated algorithms will aggregate and reconcile data from a wide variety of publically available sources in various formats to present an integrated view of energy and material imports, exports, and flows in the U.S. economy. The project's aim is to characterize these flows to an unprecedented resolution of 0.1% of the U.S. energy economy. The tool will incorporate both the specificity and comprehensiveness necessary to aid decision makers across the energy industry in identifying opportunities and planning energy research and technology development. By maintaining the tool in an open-source format, developers from across the country can assist in providing additional input on data sources, processing algorithms, and visualizations to improve accuracy and usability. Producing the open-source visualization tool will require three interdependent tasks. First, energy data will be collected, verified, and prepared for use. Next, the team will conduct user interface work and usability studies to ensure that the output reaches the broadest audience in the most useful manner. Finally, the team will pursue its final implementation as a web-based tool.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Catalyzed Organo-Metathetical (COMET) Process for Magnesium Production from Seawater

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is developing a radically new process to produce magnesium from seawater. Today's methods are energy intensive and expensive because the magnesium concentration in seawater is so low that significant energy is needed to evaporate off water and precipitate magnesium chloride salt. Further, conventional technologies involve heating the salt to 900°C and then using electric current to break the chemical bond between magnesium and chlorine to produce the metal. PNNL's new process replaces brine spray drying with a low-temperature, low-energy dehydration process. That step is combined with a new catalyst-assisted process to generate an organometallic reactant directly from magnesium chloride. The organometallic is decomposed to magnesium metal via a proprietary process at temperatures less than 300°C, thus eliminating electrolysis of magnesium chloride salt. The overall process could be significantly less expensive and more efficient than any conventional magnesium extraction method available today and uses seawater as an abundant, free resource.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

High Efficiency Adsorption Cooling Using Metal Organic Heat Carriers

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is designing more efficient adsorption chillers by incorporating significant improvements in materials that adsorb liquids or gases. An adsorption chiller is a type of air conditioner that is powered by heat, solar or waste heat, or combustion of natural gas. Unlike typical chillers, an adsorption chiller has few moving parts and uses almost no electricity to operate. PNNL is designing adsorbent materials at the molecular level that have at least 3 times higher refrigerant capacity and up to 20 times faster kinetics than adsorbents used in current chillers. By using the new adsorbent, PNNL is able to create a chiller that is significantly smaller, has twice the energy efficiency, and lower material and assembly costs compared to conventional adsorption chillers. PNNL received a separate award of up to $2,190,343 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Manganese-Based Permanent Magnet with 40 MGOe at 200°C

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is working to reduce the cost of wind turbines and EVs by developing a manganese-based nano-composite magnet that could serve as an inexpensive alternative to rare-earth-based magnets. The manganese composite, made from low-cost and abundant materials, could exceed the performance of today's most powerful commercial magnets at temperature higher than 200°C. Members of PNNL's research team will leverage comprehensive computer high-performance supercomputer modeling and materials testing to meet this objective. Manganese-based magnets could withstand higher temperatures than their rare earth predecessors and potentially reduce the need for any expensive, bulky engine cooling systems for the motor and generator. This would further contribute to cost savings for both EVs and wind turbines.

Palo Alto Research Center

Probing Alloys for Rapid Sorting Electrochemically (PARSE)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing an advanced diagnostic probe that identifies the composition of light metal scrap for efficient sorting and recycling. Current sorting technologies for light metals are costly and inefficient because they cannot distinguish between different grades of light metals for recycling. Additionally, state-of-the-art electrochemical probes rely on aqueous electrolytes that are not optimally suited for separating light metal scrap. PARC's probe, however, uses a novel liquid, which enables a chemical reaction with light metals to represent their alloy composition accurately. A probe that is more accurate than existing methods could separate scrap based on alloy quality to obtain low-cost, high-quality aluminum.

Palo Alto Research Center

Large-Area Thermoelectric Generators (LATEGs) for Low-Grade Waste Heat Harvesting

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing high performance, low-cost thermoelectric devices on flexible substrates that will enable the capture of low-temperature waste heat (100°C to 250°C), an abundant and difficult-to-harness energy resource. PARC's innovative manufacturing process is based on their co-extrusion printing technology which can simultaneously deposit different materials at high speed thereby facilitating fast, large-area production at low cost. Flexible thermoelectric devices will broaden their utility to applications on non-flat surfaces such as wrapping heat transfer piping. Additionally, since thermoelectrics can be applied directly onto most waste heat sources, expensive heat exchangers to transfer heat to a generator are unnecessary. PARC's existing co-extrusion printing technology, paired with partner Novus Energy's nanomaterials, is uniquely suited for the development of Large Area Thermoelectric Generator (LATEG) technology on flexible substrates, as it allows for the optimization of microscale device structures while maintaining the nanoscale properties of the materials through a process that is scalable to low cost, large-area manufacturing. If successful, development and deployment of efficient flexible thermoelectric technologies would enable recapture of a large amount of wasted energy in the U.S. industrial sector.

Palo Alto Research Center

Metamaterials-Enhanced Passive Radiative Cooling Panels

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), working with SPX Cooling Technologies, is developing a low-cost, passive radiative cooling panel for supplemental dry cooling at power plants. PARC's envisioned end product is a cooling module, consisting of multiple radiative cooling panels tiled over large, enclosed water channels that carry water from an initial cooling system, such as a dry-cooling tower. The cooling panel consists of a two-layer structure in which a reflective film sits atop a unique metamaterial-based emitter. In this architecture, the top layer completely reflects sunlight while the bottom layer effectively emits infrared radiation through a spectral window in the earth's atmosphere. This combination enables radiative cooling of the water even in full illumination by the sun. The cooling panel will be made using a lithography-free process compatible with roll-to-roll fabrication. In a large-scale system, the water temperature at the outlet of the cooling module is expected to be 8oC cooler than the temperature of the water at the inlet, which will result in a 3% efficiency gain for the power plant.

Palo Alto Research Center

System of Printed Hybrid Intelligent Nano-Chemical Sensors (SPHINCS)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) will work with BP and NASA's Ames Research Center to combine Xerox's low-cost print manufacturing and NASA's gas-sensing technologies to develop printable sensing arrays that will be integrated into a cost-effective, highly sensitive methane detection system. The system will be based on sensor array foils containing multiple printed carbon nanotube (CNT) sensors and supporting electronics. Each sensor element will be modified with dopants, coatings, or nanoparticles such that it responds differently to different gases. Through principal component analysis and machine learning techniques, the system will be trained for high sensitivity and selectivity for components of natural gas and interfering compounds. The goal is to be able to detect methane emissions with a sensitivity of 1 ppm and localize the source of emissions to within 1 meter, offering enhanced precision when compared to current equipment. By using low-cost printing techniques, the project team's system could offer an affordable alternative to more expensive optical methane detectors on the market today.

Palo Alto Research Center

Scalable Transparent Thermal Barriers Fof Single-Pane Window Retrofits

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its partners are developing a low-cost, transparent thermal barrier, consisting of a polymer aerogel, to improve insulation in single-pane windows. The proposed high-performance thermal barrier is anticipated to achieve ultra-low thermal conductivity, while offering mechanical robustness and the visual appearance of clear glass. Additionally, the thermal barrier's synthesis is scalable and thus amenable to high volume manufacturing. The envisioned replacement windowpane is a tri-layer stack consisting of the aerogel, glass, and a low-emissivity coating - an architecture designed to improve the window's energy efficiency, condensation resistance, user comfort, and soundproofing. In this project, PARC will optimize the transparent polymer aerogel synthesis process; Blueshift will scale up fabrication to a 12-inch roll-to-roll pilot process; and Pilkington will evaluate the windowpane performance and durability. At the completion of the project, the aerogel will be integrated in a 12" x 12" windowpane prototype with commercial-off-the-shelf float glass, adhesives, and coatings. The final product will be a windowpane of similar weight and thickness to existing single panes. Based on current raw material and manufacturing costs, PARC foresees that this integrated windowpane can be manufactured at a low cost of $9/ft2.

Pennsylvania State University

DEEPER: An Integrated Phenotyping Platform for Deeper Roots 

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) will develop DEEPER, a platform for identifying the traits of deeper-rooted crops that integrates breakthroughs in nondestructive field phenotyping of rooting depth, root modeling, high-throughput 3D imaging of root architecture and anatomy, gene discovery, and genomic selection modeling. The platform will be deployed to observe maize (corn) in the field under drought, nitrogen stress, and non-stressed conditions. Their key sensor innovation is to measure leaf elemental composition with x-ray fluorescence, and use it as a proxy for rooting depth. This above-ground, high throughput measurement for root depth will enable plant breeders to screen large populations and develop deep rooted commercial varieties. The team will also develop an automated imaging system for excavated roots that, with associated computer vision software, will identify architectural traits of roots. Lastly, they will greatly enhance a laser-based imaging platform to determine root anatomy. The combination of these technology platforms with advanced computational models developed for this program will allow Penn State to determine the depth of plant roots, enabling better quantification of root biomass. As a full system platform, they aim to enable the breeding of maize with deeper roots that sequester more carbon and are more efficient in their utilization of nitrogen and water. The team will also contribute data to a nationwide dataset that seeks to study the interactions between genes and the environment. The dataset will include extensive plant data across multiple environments, a breeding toolkit of major genes regulating root depth, and genomic selection models for root depth, drought tolerance, and nitrogen use efficiency.

Pennsylvania State University

One-Ton Thermoacoustic Air Conditioner

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is designing a freezer that substitutes the use of sound waves and environmentally benign refrigerant for synthetic refrigerants found in conventional freezers. Called a thermoacoustic chiller, 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 chiller is able to isolate the hot and cold regions of the sound waves. Penn State's chiller uses helium gas to replace synthetic refrigerants. Because helium does not burn, explode or combine with other chemicals, it is an environmentally-friendly alternative to other polluting refrigerants. Penn State is working to apply this technology on a large scale.

Phinix, LLC

Production of Primary Quality Magnesium and Al-Mg Alloys from Secondary Aluminum Scraps

Phinix is developing a specialized cell that recovers high-quality magnesium from aluminum-magnesium scrap. Current aluminum refining uses chlorination to separate aluminum from other alloys, which results in a significant amount of salt-contaminated waste. Rather than using the conventional chlorination approach, Phinix's cell relies on a three-layer electrochemical melting process that has proven successful in purifying primary aluminum. Phinix will adapt that process to purify aluminum-magnesium scrap, recovering magnesium by separating that scrap based on the different densities within its mix. Phinix's cell could offer increased flexibility in managing costs because it can handle scrap of various chemical compositions, making use of scrap that is currently in low demand. With a more efficient design, the cell can recover and reuse aluminum-magnesium scrap at low cost with minimal waste.

Phononic Devices, Inc.

Advanced Semiconductor Materials for Thermoelectric Devices

Phononic Devices is working to recapture waste heat and convert it into usable electric power. To do this, the company is using thermoelectric devices, which are made from advanced semiconductor materials that convert heat into electricity or actively remove heat for refrigeration and cooling purposes. Thermoelectric devices resemble computer chips, and they manage heat by manipulating the direction of electrons at the nanoscale. These devices aren't new, but they are currently too inefficient and expensive for widespread use. Phononic Devices is using a high-performance, cost-effective thermoelectric design that will improve the device's efficiency and enable electronics manufacturers to more easily integrate them into their products.

Physical Sciences Inc.

RMLD-Sentry for Upstream Natural Gas Leak Monitoring

Physical Sciences, Inc. (PSI), in conjunction with Heath Consultants Inc., Princeton University, the University of Houston, and Thorlabs Quantum Electronics, Inc., will miniaturize their laser-based Remote Methane Leak Detector (RMLD) and integrate it with PSI's miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), known as the InstantEye, to create the RMLD-Sentry. The measurement system is planned to be fully autonomous, providing technical and cost advantages compared to manual leak detection methods. The team anticipates that the system would have the ability to measure ethane, as well as methane, which would allow it to distinguish biogenic from thermogenic sources. The RMLD-Sentry is planned to locate wellpad leak sources and quantify emission rates by periodically surveying the wellpad, circling the facility at a low altitude, and dynamically changing its flight pattern to focus in on leak sources. When not in the air, RMLD-Sentry would monitors emissions around the perimeter of the site. If methane is detected, the UAV would self-deploy and search the wellpad until the leak location is identified and flow rate is quantified using algorithms to be developed by the team. PSI's design is anticipated to facilitate up to a 95% reduction in methane emissions at natural gas sites at an annualized cost of about $2,250 a year - a fraction of the cost of current systems that allow for continuous monitoring. In addition to requiring less manpower for continuous monitoring, the team expects to develop techniques to reduce manufacturing costs for the laser sources by applying economies of scale and streamlined manufacturing processes.

Porifera, Inc.

Carbon Nanotube Membranes for Energy-Efficient Carbon Sequestration

Porifera is developing carbon nanotube membranes that allow more efficient removal of CO2 from coal plant exhaust. Most of today's carbon capture methods use chemical solvents, but capture methods that use membranes to draw CO2 out of exhaust gas are potentially more efficient and cost effective. Traditionally, membranes are limited by the rate at which they allow gas to flow through them and the amount of CO2 they can attract from the gas. Smooth support pores and the unique structure of Porifera's carbon nanotube membranes allows them to be more permeable than other polymeric membranes, yet still selective enough for CO2 removal. This approach could overcome the barriers facing membrane-based approaches for capturing CO2 from coal plant exhausts.

Princeton Optronics

Ultra-High Speed VCSELs for Optical Communication

Princeton Optronics will develop a new device architecture for optical interconnect links, which communicate using optical fibers that carry light. The maximum speed and power consumption requirement of data communication lasers have not changed significantly over the last decade, and state-of-the-art commercial technology delivers only 30 Gigabits per second (Gb/s). Increasing this speed has been difficult because the current devices are limited by resistance and capacitance constraints. Princeton Optronics will develop a novel device architecture to improve the data transfer and reduce the power consumption per bit by a factor of 10. They will use their expertise in vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) to design and build unique quantum wells - and increase the speed and lower the power consumption. The team aims to demonstrate speeds greater than 50 Gb/s, and perhaps 250 Gb/s devices in the future.

Purdue University

Building- Integrated Microscale Sensors for CO2 Level Monitoring

Purdue University will develop a new class of small-scale sensing systems that use mass and electrochemical sensors to detect the presence of CO2. CO2 concentration is a data point that can help enable the use of variable speed ventilation fans in commercial buildings, thus saving a significant amount of energy. There is also a pressing need for enhanced CO2 sensing to improve the comfort and productivity of people in commercial buildings, including academic spaces. The research team will develop a sensing system that leverages on-chip integrated organic field effect transistors (FET) and resonant mass sensors. Field effect transistors are chemical sensors that can transform chemical energy into electrical energy. The unique design allows the system to measure two distinct quantities as it absorbs CO2 from the environment - electrical impedance using the FET and added mass using the resonant mass sensors. The design will use low-cost circuit boards and off-the-shelf devices like commercial solar panels and batteries to reduce the cost of the system and enable easy deployment. By combining two unique sensing technologies into a single package, the team hopes to implement a solution for monitoring CO2 levels that could yield a nearly 30% reduction in building energy use.

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