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Electricity Generation and Delivery

SAFCell, Inc.

Solid Acid Fuel Cell Stack for Distributed Generation Applications

SAFCell is developing solid acid fuel cells (SAFCs) that operate at 250 °C and will be nearly free of precious metal catalysts. Current fuel cells either rely on ultra-pure hydrogen as a fuel and operate at low temperatures for vehicles technologies, or run on natural gas, but operate only at high temperatures for grid-scale applications. SAFCell's fuel cell is utilizing a new solid acid electrolyte material to operate efficiently at intermediate temperatures and on multiple fuels. Additionally, the team will dramatically lower system costs by reducing precious metals, such as platinum, from the electrodes and developing new catalysts based on carbon nanotubes and metal organic frameworks. The proposed SAFC stack design will lead to the creation of low cost fuel cells that can withstand common fuel impurities, making them ideal for distributed generation applications.

Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics, Inc.

Super High-efficiency Integrated Fuel-cell and Turbo-machinery - SHIFT

Saint-Gobain will combine a pressurized all-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack with a custom-designed screw compressor and expander to yield a highly efficient SOFC and Brayton cycle hybrid system. In this configuration, the SOFC stack generates most of the system's electric power. The expander converts a portion of the stack's waste exergy to additional electric power. Saint-Gobain and its partners will integrate three enabling technologies: Saint-Gobain's robust all-ceramic SOFC stack, Brayton Energy LLC's rotary screw engine (compressor and expander), and Precision Combustion Inc.'s (PCI) SOFC-reformer integrated hotbox. Due to its monolithic nature, the all-ceramic stack enables high pressure, efficient operation, and long-term durability that may provide a 20-year life without stack replacement. Saint-Gobain will develop low-cost ceramic forming techniques to link to its multi-cell co-sintering process. The screw components developed in this program would eliminate the risk of pressure surges during operation. This is a common problem with conventional gas turbines, which can potentially damage SOFC stacks. Finally, PCI's unique hotbox will allow pressurized operation of the SOFC stack and maximize heat transfer and waste heat capture to minimize energy losses. This project will potentially introduce a new distributed, high durability, and enhanced lifetime electricity production system capable of 70% efficiency.

Sandia National Laboratory

ARCUS Vertical-AXIS Wind Turbine

Sandia National Laboratories will design a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) system, ARCUS, with the goal of eliminating mass and associated cost not directly involved in capturing energy from the wind. A VAWT is ideal for floating offshore sites. Its advantages over horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) include no need of yaw systems, improved aerodynamic efficiency and a lower level placement of the turbine's drivetrain that greatly reduces floating platform mass and associated system costs. The ARCUS design also replaces the turbine's VAWT tower with lighter, tensioned guy wires. The result is up to a 50% lower rotor mass than traditional VAWTs. This greatly minimizes platform and system costs. Instead of designing the platform to eliminate the motion of the turbine, the project team will design the oscillating turbine-platform system to operate safely under extreme weather conditions within an allowable response. The ARCUS turbine will ensure the technical leadership of U.S. commercial and research institutions.

Sandia National Laboratory

Demonstrating Fuel Magnetization and Laser Heating Tools for Low-Cost Fusion Energy

Sandia National Laboratories will partner with the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester to investigate the behavior of the magnetized plasma under fusion conditions, using a fusion concept known as Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion (MagLIF). MagLIF uses lasers to pre-heat a magnetically insulated plasma in a metal liner and then compresses the liner to achieve fusion. The research team will conduct experiments at Sandia's large Z facility as well as Rochester's OMEGA facilities, and will collect key measurements of magnetized plasma fuel including temperature, density, and magnetic field over time. The results will help researchers improve compression and heating performance. By using the smaller OMEGA facility, researchers will be able to conduct experiments more rapidly, speeding the learning process and validating the MagLIF approach. Sandia's team will also use their experimental results to validate and expand a suite of simulation and numerical design tools to improve future fusion energy applications that employ magnetized inertial fusion concepts. This project will help accelerate the development of the MagLIF concept, and assist with the continued development of intermediate density approaches across the ALPHA program.

Sandia National Laboratory

MVDC/HVDC Power Conversion with Optically-Controlled GaN Switches

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a new type of switch, a 100kV optically controlled switch (often called photoconductive semiconductor switch or PCSS), based on the WBG semiconductors GaN and AlGaN. The capabilities of the PCSS will be demonstrated in high-voltage circuits for medium and high voltage direct current (MVDC/HVDC) power conversion for grid applications. Photoconductivity is the measure of a material's response to the energy inherent in light radiation. The electrical conductivity of a photoconductive material increases when it absorbs light. The team will first measure the photoconductive properties of GaN and AlGaN in order to assess if they operate similarly to gallium arsenide, a conventional semiconductor material used for PCSS, demonstrating sub-bandgap optical triggering and low-field, high-gain avalanche providing many times as many carriers by the electric field as created by the optical trigger. These two effects provide a tremendous reduction in the optical trigger energy required to activate the switch. The team will then design and fabricate GaN and AlGaN-based photoconductive semiconductor switches. The team predicts that WBG PCSS will outperform their predecessors with higher switch efficiency, the ability to switch at higher voltages, and will turn-off and recover faster, allowing for a higher frequency of switching. Ultimately, this will enable high-voltage switch assemblies (50-500kV) that can be triggered from a single, small driver (e.g. semiconductor laser). These modules will be substantially smaller (~10x) and simpler than existing modules used in grid-connected power electronics, allowing the realization of inexpensive and efficient switch modules that can be used in DC to AC power conversion systems on the grid at distribution and transmission scales.

Sandia National Laboratory

Improved Power System Operations Using Advanced Stochastic Optimization

Sandia National Laboratories is working with several commercial and university partners to develop software for market management systems (MMSs) that enable greater use of renewable energy sources throughout the grid. MMSs are used to securely and optimally determine which energy resources should be used to service energy demand across the country. Contributions of electricity to the grid from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are intermittent, introducing complications for MMSs, which have trouble accommodating the multiple sources of price and supply uncertainties associated with bringing these new types of energy into the grid. Sandia's software will bring a new, probability-based formulation to account for these uncertainties. By factoring in various probability scenarios for electricity production from renewable energy sources in real time, Sandia's formula can reduce the risk of inefficient electricity transmission, save ratepayers money, conserve power, and support the future use of renewable energy.

Sandia National Laboratory

Transformers For A Modernized Grid

Sandia National Laboratories will develop advanced core materials for grid-level electrical transformers, improving their efficiency and resiliency. Current transformers feature copper windings surrounding a magnetic core. The project team's new core material seeks to increase electrical efficiency by at least 10% while enabling a 50% reduction in transformer size. The core will be robust, withstanding EMPs and GMDs that threaten today's grid. Sandia will also develop additives that can be added to the oil in existing transformers as a retrofit as well as included in new transformers. One additive will dramatically increase the heat conduction away from the transformer windings during high-current events by transitioning to a heat-conducting solid at high temperature. Another additive will react with the existing dielectric Kraft paper, cross-linking reactive groups on the paper and restoring the integrity of the insulation. These additives will increase the resiliency and robustness of existing and new transformers to EMP and GMD events.

Sencera Energy, Inc.

Kinematic Flexure-Based Stirling-Brayton Hybrid Engine Generator for Residential CHP

Sencera Energy and Ohio University will develop a novel kinematic Stirling-Brayton hybrid engine using flexure based volume displacement in lieu of a conventional piston-cylinder Stirling engine. A Stirling engine uses a working gas housed in a sealed environment, in this case the working gas is helium. When heated by the natural gas-fueled burner, the gas expands causing a piston to move and interact with an alternator to produce electricity. As the gas cools and contracts, the process resets before repeating again. Advanced Stirling engines endeavor to carefully manage heat inside the system to make the most efficient use of the natural gas energy. The flexure-based design achieves the same function as a piston-cylinder set by simply changing the volume of the working spaces, as opposed to sliding a piston along the interior of a cylinder. The removal of pistons from the design eliminates the need for sliding seals such as piston rings or air/gas bearings, resulting in lower engine friction, less fluid flow loss and fewer dead volumes. It also lowers the potential fabrication cost compared to other heat engines. The proposed kinematic engine design provides easy coupling to existing rotary alternator designs, which allows the use of robust, mature, and cost-effective off-the-shelf alternator technologies and controllers.

Sharp Laboratories of America

Low-Cost Sodium-Ion Battery to Enable Grid Scale Energy Storage: Prussian Blue-Derived Cathode and Complete Battery Integration

Sharp Laboratories of America and their partners at the University of Texas and Oregon State University are developing a sodium-based battery that could dramatically increase battery cycle life at a low cost while maintaining a high energy capacity. Current storage approaches use either massive pumped reservoirs of water or underground compressed air storage, which carry serious infrastructure requirements and are not feasible beyond specific site limitations. Therefore, there is a critical need for a scalable, adaptable battery technology to enable widespread deployment of renewable power. Sodium ion batteries have the potential to perform as well as today's best lithium-based designs at a significantly lower cost. Sharp Labs' new battery would provide long cycle life, high energy density, and safe operation if deployed throughout the electric grid.

Siemens Corporate Technology

Renew100 - Reliable Power System Operation with 100% Renewable Generation

Siemens will develop an operator support system and grid planning functionality that enable a power system to operate with 100% inverter-based renewable generation from wind and solar. ReNew100 features automatic Controller Parameter Optimization and model calibration technologies that help ensure power system reliability as the generation mix changes. Successful test results will be a milestone toward the goal of a stable and reliable power system obtaining a majority of total electrical energy sourced from variable wind and solar.

SiEnergy Systems

Direct Hydrocarbon Fuel Cell - Battery Hybrid Electrochemical System

SiEnergy Systems is developing a hybrid electrochemical system that uses a multi-functional electrode to allow the cell to perform as both a fuel cell and a battery, a capability that does not exist today. A fuel cell can convert chemical energy stored in domestically abundant natural gas to electrical energy at high efficiency, but adoption of these technologies has been slow due to high cost and limited functionality. SiEnergy's design would expand the functional capability of a fuel cell to two modes: fuel cell mode and battery mode. In fuel cell mode, non-precious metal catalysts are integrated at the cell's anode to react directly with hydrocarbons such as the methane found in natural gas. In battery mode, the system will provide storage capability that offers faster response to changes in power demand compared to a standard fuel cell. SiEnergy's technology will operate at relatively low temperatures of 300-500ºC, which makes the system more durable than existing high-temperature fuel cells.

Silicon Power Corporation

Optically-Switched 15kV SiC Single-Bias High-Frequency Thyristor

Silicon Power is developing a semiconducting device that switches high-power and high-voltage electricity using optical signals as triggers for the switches, instead of conventional signals carried through wires. A switch helps control electricity, converting it from one voltage or current to another. High-power systems generally require multiple switches to convert energy into electricity that can be transmitted through the grid. These multi-level switch configurations use many switches which may be costly and inefficient. Additionally, most switching mechanisms use silicon, which cannot handle the high switching frequencies or voltages that high-power systems demand. Silicon Power is using light to trigger its switching mechanisms, which could greatly simplify the overall power conversion process. Additionally, Silicon Power's switching device is made of silicon carbide instead of straight silicon, which is more efficient and allows it to handle higher frequencies and voltages.

Smart Wire Grid, Inc.

Distributed Power Flow Control Using Smart Wires for Energy Routing

Smart Wire Grid is developing a solution for controlling power flow within the electric grid to better manage unused and overall transmission capacity. The 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission line in the U.S. today are congested and inefficient, with only around 50% of all transmission capacity utilized at any given time. Increased consumer demand should be met in part with a more efficient and economical power flow. Smart Wire Grid's devices clamp onto existing transmission lines and control the flow of power within--much like how internet routers help allocate bandwidth throughout the web. Smart wires could support greater use of renewable energy by providing more consistent control over how that energy is routed within the grid on a real-time basis. This would lessen the concerns surrounding the grid's inability to effectively store intermittent energy from renewables for later use.

Southwest Research Institute

Grid-Scale Electricity Storage at Lowest Possible Cost: Enabled by Pumped Heat Electricity Storage

SwRI's storage system is based on an innovative thermodynamic cycle to store energy in hot and cold fluids. This technology features a simplified system, high round-trip conversion efficiencies (the ratio of energy put in to energy retrieved from storage), and low plant costs. At full scale, the technology would provide more than 10 hours of electricity at rated power (the highest power input allowed to flow through particular equipment). SwRI will build a small kW-scale electric demonstrator to validate the technology, and develop control strategy and operational procedures. This grid-scale energy storage systems will help make the U.S. more energy secure, and resilient.

Stanford University

Open and Scalable Distributed Energy Resource Networks

Stanford University will develop Powernet, an open-source and open architecture platform for scalable and secure coordination of consumer flexible load and DERs. Powernet will be based on the principle of connecting information networks to the power network (connecting bits and watts). It uses a layered architecture that enables real-time coordination of centralized resources with millions of DERs by integrating embedded sensing and computing, power electronics, and networking with cloud computing. The team will develop a Home Hub system capable of networking with existing inverters and appliances in a home and controlling power via smart switches that replace traditional fuses. The Home Hub will also use algorithms for aggregating local customer resources to meet local constraints and global coordination objectives. A cloud-based cloud coordinator platform will be developed that executes optimization and monitoring functions to coordinate Home Hubs by minimizing costs while increasing aggregate consumer quality-of-service.

Stanford University

Energy Efficient Integrated Photonic Systems Based on Inverse Design

Stanford University will develop a machine-learning enhanced framework for the design of optical communications components that will enable them to operate at their physical performance limits. Information processing and communications systems use a significant fraction of total global energy. Data centers alone consume more than 70 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Much of this energy usage is intrinsic to electronic wiring. However, optical-based technologies offer a promising option to reduce energy consumption. Stanford's design platform is intended to enable optical technologies to serve in the next generation of information processing hardware with ultra-low energy footprints. The proposed framework will use generative neural networks for global optimization of nanophotonic components, machine learning to accelerate the solving of electromagnetic field calculations, and advanced optimization concepts to calculate the upper limits in photonic device performance.

Stony Brook University

Technology Enabling Zero-EPZ Micro Modular Reactors

Stony Brook Universitywill develop advanced technologies for gas-cooled reactors to increase their power density, enabling them to be smaller. The team seeks to develop a high-performance moderator--which slows down neutrons so they can cause fission--to enable a compact reactor with enhanced safety features. Shrinking the reactor size enables greater versatility in deployment and reduced construction times and costs, both of which are especially important for smaller modular reactor systems that may be constructed wherever heat and power are needed.

Sunpower, Inc.

Free Piston Stirling Engine Based 1kW Generator

Sunpower, in partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne and Precision Combustion Inc. (PCI), proposes a high-frequency, high efficiency 1 kW free-piston Stirling engine (FPSE). A Stirling engine uses a working gas such as helium, which is housed in a sealed environment. When heated by the natural gas-fueled burner, the gas expands causing a piston to move and interact with a linear alternator to produce electricity. As the gas cools and contracts, the process resets before repeating again. Advanced Stirling engines endeavor to carefully manage heat inside the system to make the most efficient use of the natural gas energy. New innovations from this team include the highly efficient and high frequency design which reduces size and cost and can be wall mounted. The heater-head assembly acts as the heat exchanger between the burner and the enclosed working gas, and the higher temperature allows for greater efficiency. Aerojet Rocketdyne will assist this effort by developing high temperature materials to use in this process, while PCI will add a novel catalytically-assisted, two-stage, burner to maximize heat transfer to the heater-head.

SUNY University at Stony Brook

Hybrid Electrochemistry and Advanced Combustion for High-Efficiency Distributed Power (HE-ACED)

Stony Brook University will develop a hybrid distributed electricity generation system that combines a pressurized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) with an advanced internal combustion engine (ICE). SOFCs and ICEs are complementary technologies whose integration can offer high efficiency, low emissions, long life, and durability. The team's innovation includes the use of a high power density, pressurized SOFC stack with anode recirculation with a spark ignition (SI) engine. The engine will be designed to use the cell's leftover "tailgas" as the fuel to produce additional power, boosting efficiency up to 70%. The hybrid system will also include compressor and turbines that provide a unique opportunity for an advanced balance-of-plant concept, where the engine and subsystems are used to precisely control the ideal conditions for the stack, including intake air flow rate, pressure, temperature, and backpressure.

Swarthmore College

Plasma Accelerator on the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment

Swarthmore College, along with its partner Bryn Mawr College, will investigate a new kind of plasma fusion target that may offer improved stability at low cost and relatively low energy input. The research team will design and develop new modules that accelerate and evolve plasmas to create elongated structures known as Taylor states, which have helical magnetic field lines resembling a rope. These Taylor state structures exhibit interesting and potentially very beneficial properties upon compression, and could be used as a fusion target if they are able to maintain their temperatures and stability long enough to be compressed to fusion conditions. The new plasma-forming modules will be tested using the team's existing Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment device (SSX), which has an advanced diagnostic suite and the capability to perform 100 experiments per day. This ability will enable rapid progress in understanding the behavior of these plasma plumes and illuminate their potential for use as new targets in the pursuit of fusion reactors.

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