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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.

Princeton University

MLSPICE: Machine Learning based SPICE Modeling Platform for Power Magnetics

The Princeton University team will use machine learning-enabled methods to transform the modeling and design methods of power magnetics and catalyze disruptive improvements to power electronics design tools. They will develop a highly automated, open-source, machine learning-based magnetics design platform to greatly accelerate the design process, cut the error rate in half, and provide new insights to magnetic material and geometry design. Princeton's Simulation Program with its Integrated Circuit Emphasis-based, or SPICE-based modeling platform, will utilize a highly automated data acquisition testbed capable of measuring a large number of magnetic cores with a wide range of electrical circuit excitations, a machine-learning trained modeling method for modeling the core loss and saturation effects of magnetic materials, and a computer-aided-design tool which can synthesize the SPICE netlist for planar magnetics.

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.

QM Power, Inc.

Advanced Electric Vehicle Motors with Low or No Rare Earth Content

QM Power is developing a new type of electric motor with the potential to efficiently power future generations of EVs without the use of rare-earth-based magnets. Many of today's EV motors use rare earth magnets to efficiently provide torque to the wheels. QM Power's motors would contain magnets that use no rare earth minerals, are light and compact, and can deliver more power with greater efficiency and at reduced cost. Key innovations in this project include a new motor design with iron-based magnetic materials, a new motor control technique, and advanced manufacturing techniques that substantially reduce the cost of the motor. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a cost-effective EV motor that offers the rough peak equivalent of 270 horsepower.

Qromis, Inc.

P-Type Gallium Nitride Doping by Controlled Magnesium Diffusion

Qromis Inc. will develop an improved selective area doping fabrication method for GaN, ultimately enabling a broader range of higher-performing, manufacturable, and scalable GaN power devices. The team seeks to improve the process using magnesium (Mg) diffusion, in which atoms move from an area of high concentration to a lower one at high temperatures. In particular, Qromis seeks to understand what controls the Mg diffusion rate in GaN to better leverage the phenomenon for the production of high-performance devices. If successful, the Qromis team hopes to accelerate the adoption of GaN power devices in power conversion circuits.

Qromis, Inc.

Reliable and Self-Clamped GaN Switch: 1.5 kV Lateral JFET scalable to 100A

Qromis will develop a new type of gallium nitride (GaN) transistor, called a lateral junction field effect transistor (LJFET) and investigate its reliability compared to other types of transistors, such as SiC junction field effect transistors (JFETs) and GaN-based high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs). Qromis' innovative LJFET design distributes and places the peak electric field away from the surface, eliminating a key point of failure that has plagued GaN HEMT devices and prevented them from achieving widespread use. If successful, this project will deliver a 1.5kV, 10A GaN LJET devices that would be scalable to 100A. The devices will be fabricated on thick, uniform GaN layers deposited on a coefficient of thermal expansion matched 8-inch QST® engineered platform that is compatible with current silicon processing equipment - reducing the cost of the devices. The uniform GaN layers on the large area platform will increase the yield of the devices further decreasing the cost. Finally, the thick GaN will enable the higher voltage standoff and improve the thermal management of the devices.

Rebellion Photonics, Inc.

goGCI - Portable Methane Detection Solution

Rebellion Photonics plans to develop portable methane gas cloud imagers that can wirelessly transmit real-time data to a cloud-based computing service. This would allow data on the concentration, leak rate, location, and total emissions of methane to be streamed to a mobile device, like an iPad, smartphone, or Google Glass. The infrared imaging spectrometers will leverage snapshot spectral imaging technology to provide multiple bands of spectral information for each pixel in the image. Similar to a Go Pro camera, the miniature, lightweight camera is planned to be attached to a worker's hardhat or clothing, allowing for widespread deployment. By providing a real-time image of the plume to a mobile device, the technology's goal is to provide increased awareness of leaks for faster leak repair. This system could enable significant reduction in the cost associated with identifying, quantifying, and locating methane leaks as compared to currently available technologies.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Reflected Light Field Sensing for Precision Occupancy and Location Detection

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will develop a method for counting occupants in a commercial space using time-of-flight (TOF) sensors, which measure the distance from objects using the speed of light to create a 3D map of human positions. This TOF system could be installed in the ceiling or built into lighting fixtures for easy deployment. Several sensors distributed across a space will enable precise mapping, while preserving privacy by using low-resolution images. The technology is being designed around low power infrared LEDs and a patented plenoptic detector technology together with TOF information, which can enable unique combinations of spatial resolution, field of view and privacy. The sensor network will maintain an accurate count of the number of people in the space, and uses a simple program to track people who may be temporarily lost between sensor "blind spots", thus reducing the number of sensors needed. Occupancy data is then sent to the building control system to manage the heating, cooling and air flow in order to maximize building energy efficiency and provide optimal human comfort. Energy costs of heating and cooling can be reduced by up to 30% by training the building management system to deliver the right temperature air when and where it is needed.

Research Triangle Institute

Novel Non-Aqueous CO2 Solvents and Capture Process with Substantially Reduced Energy Penalties

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is developing a solvent and process that could significantly reduce the temperature associated with regenerating solvent and CO2 captured from the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants. Traditional CO2 removal processes using water-based solvents require significant amount of steam from power plants in order to regenerate the solvent so it can be reused after each reaction. RTI's solvents can be better at absorbing CO2 than many water-based solvents, and are regenerated at lower temperatures using less steam. Thus, industrial heat that is normally too cool to re-use can be deployed for regeneration, rather than using high-value steam. This saves the power plant money, which results in increased cost savings for consumers.

Research Triangle Institute

High Operating Temperature Transfer and Storage (HOTTS) System for Light Metal Production

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is developing a high-quality concentrating solar thermal energy transport and storage system for use in light metals manufacturing. A challenge with integrating renewable energy into light metals manufacturing has been the need for large quantities of very high temperature heat. RTI's technology overcomes this challenge with a specialized heat transfer powder. This powder can be heated to temperatures of 1100 degrees Celsius with concentrating solar thermal energy, some 400 degrees Celsius higher than conventional solutions. Because the heat transfer fluid can also store thermal energy, metal manufacturing plants can continue to operate even when the sun is not shining. RTI will also develop advanced materials that will protect the system's components from the accelerated degradation experienced at these high operating temperatures. This technology will enable constant, high-temperature operation of the light metals production process with reduced CO2 emissions.

Ricardo, Inc.

Reducing Automotive CAPEX Entry Barriers through Design, Manufacturing and Materials

Ricardo will develop a detailed cost model for 10 key automotive components (e.g. chassis, powertrain, controls, etc.), analyzing the investment barriers at production volumes. Prior studies of innovative manufacturing processes and lightweight materials have used differing cost analysis assumptions, which makes comparison of these individual studies difficult. The backbone of the project will be a detailed economic model built on a set of common assumptions that will allow the root cause of cost barriers to be identified. The model will then evaluate emerging alternative manufacturing techniques to determine how they might reduce or remove these barriers. This model will utilize a consistent set of assumptions, allowing for an accurate comparison of potential manufacturing techniques. If successful, this cost model will enable private-sector firms to make informed investment decisions, increasing the deployment of innovative vehicle technologies and saving the average consumer money.

Rutgers University

Microbial Curing of Cement for Energy Applications

Rutgers University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Arizona will develop a new hardening method for C3 to address thickness. C3 synthesis currently relies on externally-introduced carbon dioxide for solidification. This program will use microbes mixed into the C3 prior to curing to produce carbon dioxide internally for solidification. This microbial-cured C3 is expected to last longer than OPC at the same thickness, which will reduce the need for concrete repair and replacement. This in turn reduces energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and costs associated with concrete-based projects.

Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics, Inc.

Oxidation Resistant High Temperature Ceramics for Solar Thermal Reactors and Other High Temperature Energy Systems

Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics is conducting early-stage research to extend operating temperatures of industrial ceramics in steam-containing atmospheres up to 1,500 °C. Materials that are able to adequately withstand these punishing conditions are needed to create durable solar fuel reactors. The most attractive material based on high-temperature strength and thermal shock resistance is sintered (the process of compacting solid material without melting it) silicon carbide (SiC). However, the highly reactive H2O/H2/CO/CO2 atmosphere within a solar reactor causes most industrial ceramics, including SiC, to degrade at temperatures above 1,200 °C. At those temperatures volatile reaction products are formed, which continually eat away at the integrity of the reactor walls. The Saint-Gobain team is conducting research along three lines of inquiry: 1) Creating high-temperature coatings for the SiC material; 2) Creating "self-healing" SiC surfaces which are created via an oxidation reaction on an ongoing basis as the surface layer is damaged; and 3) Testing alternative ceramic materials which could be more robust. The results of the three lines of inquiry will be evaluated based on stability modeling and thermal cycling testing (i.e. repeatedly heating and cooling the materials) under simulated conditions. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this research is at a very early stage. If successful, the technology could potentially result in significant energy and cost savings to the U.S. economy by allowing liquid transportation fuel to be produced from water and carbon dioxide from the air via solar energy instead of conventional sources. In addition SiC materials with enhanced oxidation resistance could be applied to vessels and components across many industrial, thermal, chemical, and petrochemical processes.

Sandia National Laboratory

20 kV Gallium Nitride Pn Diode Electro-Magnetic Pulse Arrestor for Grid Reliability

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a new device to prevent EMP damage to the power grid. The EMP arrestor will be comprised of diodes fabricated from the semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN), capable of responding on the ns timescale required to protect the grid against EMP threats. The diodes will be capable of blocking 20 kilovolts (kV), enabling a single device to protect distribution-level equipment on the grid. The team will focus on the epitaxial crystal growth of GaN layers and device design needed to achieve the 20 kV performance target. Extensive failure analysis and reliability testing will be conducted to ensure device robustness. At the end of the project, a prototype arrestor will be demonstrated to illustrate the feasibility of the technology to protect against catastrophic damage to grid equipment due to EMPs. In addition, the team will create a pilot production line to serve as a model for eventual commercial production.

Sandia National Laboratory

Hybrid Switched Capacitor Circuit Development for Exploitation of GaN Diodes in High Gain Step-Up Converters (Hy-GaiN)

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a prototype DC-DC converter in a modular, scalable, mass-producible format that is capable of 10kW or greater and could fit onto a single circuit board. Inefficiency and construction costs associated with AC distribution/transmission and DC-AC conversion are motivating many to consider direct connection of PV to DC distribution (and even DC transmission) circuits. The prototype proposed in this project would enable PV panels to be connected to a medium-to-high voltage DC distribution circuit using a power converter about the size of an average textbook. The team will demonstrate a high-voltage, high-power density, hybrid switched-capacitor power conversion circuit that relies on the concurrent use of silicon carbide (SiC) active switches and leading-edge, 1200V rated, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) diodes. Both SiC and GaN have individually led to improvements in converter performance that permits higher switching frequencies, blocking voltages, and operating temperatures. The team plans to exploit the use of SiC switches coupled with GaN diodes, utilizing the benefits of both materials to achieve improved power density and better performance. These devices would enable improved efficiency and small size, which would reduce assembly, transportation, and installation costs. The proposed circuit topology would be scalable to 100s of kW and 10s of kV, enabling a whole string of modules in a PV plant to be connected to a DC distribution circuit through a converter of about the size of a midsize microwave oven. The converter can be applied to other renewable sources, but in particular, this technology could greatly accelerate the adoption of PV onto the grid by enabling cheaper and more efficient medium voltage and high voltage DC distribution networks.

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