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Electricity Generation and Delivery

Switched Source LLC

Unified Power Flow Controller

Switched Source will develop a power-electronics based hardware solution to fortify electric distribution systems, with the goal of delivering cost-effective infrastructure retrofits to match rapid advancements in energy generation and consumption. The company's power flow controller will improve capabilities for routing electricity between neighboring distribution circuit feeders, so that grid operators can utilize the system as a more secure, reliable, and efficient networked platform. The topology the team is incorporating into its controller will eliminate the need for separate heavy and expensive transformers, as well as the costly construction of new distribution lines and substations in many cases. The power flow controller's low weight and small size means that it can be installed anywhere in the existing grid to optimize energy distribution and help reduce congestion. If successful, implementation of Switched Source's power flow controller will also significantly increase hosting capacity and connectivity for distributed renewable generation. During a prior ARPA-E GENI award, this team developed this platform technology. Now, as an addition to the ARPA-E CIRCUITS program, the team will further its research.

Tandem PV, Inc.

Advanced Processing Tool to Unlock Perovskite Photovoltaics

Tandem PV will develop and test an advanced processing tool that integrates high-throughput solution deposition and precise drying to deposit large-area perovskite thin films of exceptional optical and electronic quality. Production of these films on large areas is a critical step towards perovskite-Si tandem PV cells that can achieve significantly higher efficiency than traditional Si PV cells. Small-scale perovskite PV device fabrication typically occurs using a spin-coating process, but the process is not easily scalable. The ability to deposit perovskite PV devices with a large-scale production technique while achieving the same quality and stability achieved by record-setting spin-coated laboratory cells would be a significant step forward. If the project is successful, it will remove a major obstacle to the successful commercialization of perovskite PVs. 

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC

Optofluidic Solar Concentrators

Teledyne is developing a liquid prism panel that tracks the position of the sun to help efficiently concentrate its light onto a solar cell to produce power. Typically, solar tracking devices have bulky and expensive mechanical moving parts that require a lot of power and are often unreliable. Teledyne's liquid prism panel has no bulky and heavy supporting parts--instead it relies on electrowetting. Electrowetting is a process where an electric field is applied to the liquid to control the angle at which it meets the sunlight above and to control the angle of the sunlight to the focusing lens--the more direct the angle to the focusing lens, the more efficiently the light can be concentrated to solar panels and converted into electricity. This allows the prism to be tuned like a radio to track the sun across the sky and steer sunlight into the solar cell without any moving mechanical parts. This process uses very little power and requires no expensive supporting hardware or moving parts, enabling efficient and quiet rooftop operation for integration into buildings.

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC

Potassium-Based Aqueous Flow Battery for Grid Application

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging is developing a water-based, potassium-ion flow battery for low-cost stationary energy storage. Flow batteries store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container. This allows for cost-effective scalability because adding storage capacity is as simple as expanding the tank. Teledyne is increasing the energy and power density of their battery by 2-5 times compared to today's state-of-the-art vanadium flow battery. Their safe, scalable, low-cost energy storage technology would facilitate more widespread adoption and deployment of renewable energy technology.

Texas Engineering Experiment Station

Robust Adaptive Topology Control (RATC)

Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) is using topology control as a mechanism to improve system operations and manage disruptions within the electric grid. The grid is subject to interruption from cascading faults caused by extreme operating conditions, malicious external attacks, and intermittent electricity generation from renewable energy sources. The Robust Adaptive Topology Control (RATC) system is capable of detecting, classifying, and responding to grid disturbances by reconfiguring the grid in order to maintain economically efficient operations while guaranteeing reliability. The RATC system would help prevent future power outages, which account for roughly $80 billion in losses for businesses and consumers each year. Minimizing the time it takes for the grid to respond to expensive interruptions will also make it easier to integrate intermittent renewable energy sources into the grid.

Texas Engineering Experiment Station

Waveguiding Solar Concentrator

Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and their partners will build a micro-CPV system that incorporates waveguide technology. A waveguide concentrates and directs light to a specific point. TEES's system uses a grid of waveguides to concentrate sunlight onto a set of coupling elements which employ a 45 degree turning mirror to further concentrate the light and increase the efficiency of the system. Each coupling element is oriented to direct its specific beam of light towards high-efficiency, multi-junction solar cells. Further system efficiency is gained by capturing diffuse light in a secondary layer. The system also includes a secondary layer that captures diffuse sunlight, increasing its overall efficiency.

Texas Tech University

Novel Solid-State Neutron Detectors for Geothermal and Well Logging

Texas Tech University will develop a new type of neutron detector for geothermal and well logging systems. The technology aims to efficiently expand exploration for oil, gas, and geothermal resources into areas with more extreme conditions. Texas Tech seeks to produce solid-state thermal neutron detectors based on 100% boron-10 enriched boron nitride wide bandgap semiconductors. The new product would replace the pressurized and cumbersome He-3 gas tube detectors. Texas Tech's project is enabled by their previous work developing epitaxial growth technology to produce low-cost, free-standing, single-crystal boron nitride semiconductor wafers 4 inches in diameter. When integrated into thermal neutron detectors, boron nitride promises high neutron detection efficiency and improved sensitivity while withstanding extreme temperatures. Boron nitride neutron detectors are more flexible while requiring much lower voltages and no pressurization compared with He-3 detectors, resulting in significantly reduced size and weight, more versatile form factors, faster response speed, improved sensitivity, higher reliability, and lower costs. This detector technology has the potential to improve efficiency and reduce costs for new energy materials exploration and extraction.

Thar Energy, LLC

Recuperated Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Brayton Power Cycle System

Thar Energy will develop a next-generation metallic compact recuperator, a type of heat exchanger, capable of stable and cost effective operation at 800°C (1562°F) and above 80 bar (1160 psi). A metallic superalloy capable of withstanding high temperature and pressure will be employed to fabricate the heat exchanger using a novel stacked sheet manufacturing technique. The cost-effective heat exchanger design could enable design enhancement with improved structural integrity and thermal performances for high-efficiency, modular, and cost-competitive recuperated supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) Brayton power cycle systems. Thar Energy will also develop and test an efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable power generation system. The new system will use its developed recuperator and novel high temperature components, such as a high-temperature primary heat exchanger and high-efficiency reciprocating expander capable of operations above 800°C and 300 bar.

The Boeing Company

Low-Cost, High-Energy-Density Flywheel Storage Grid Demonstration

The Boeing Company is developing a new material for use in the rotor of a low-cost, high-energy flywheel storage technology. Flywheels store energy by increasing the speed of an internal rotor--slowing the rotor releases the energy back to the grid when needed. The faster the rotor spins, the more energy it can store. Boeing's new material could drastically improve the energy stored in the rotor. The team will work to improve the storage capacity of their flywheels and increase the duration over which they store energy. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a flywheel system that can be scaled up for use by electric utility companies and produce power for a full hour at a cost of $100 per kilowatt hour.

The Research Foundation for the State University of New York on behalf of Univ. at Buffalo

Reducing Overnight Capital Cost of Advanced Reactors Using Equipment-based Seismic Protective Technologies

The University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (SUNY) will develop seismic protective systems to safeguard essential and safety-class components inside nuclear power plants. Currently, these systems and components are custom-produced for each new plant, with multiple designs often needed for a given plant. Earthquake considerations may add up to 35% to the overnight capital cost for new plant designs in regions of moderate to high seismic hazard. This project will develop and implement modular systems to protect individual components from earthquake shaking effects. Because the systems can be implemented independent of reactor type, they will simplify plant design, facilitate economical reactor construction in regions of moderate and high seismic hazard, and enable efficient seismic protection of safety-grade equipment in reactor buildings. By focusing seismic protection on components that require it, the approach can facilitate reduced thickness of walls and slabs in other parts of the plant, further saving construction time and costs.

Tour Engine, Inc.

High Efficiency Split-Cycle Engine for Residential Generators

Tour Engine, in collaboration with Wisconsin Engine Research Consultants (WERC) will develop a miniature internal combustion engine (ICE) based on Tour's existing split-cycle engine technology. Traditional ICEs use the force generated by the combustion of a fuel (e.g. natural gas (NG)) to move a piston, transferring chemical energy to mechanical energy. This can then be used in conjunction with a generator to create electricity. Unlike a normal combustion engine, a split-cycle engine divides the process into a cold cylinder (intake and compression) and a hot cylinder (expansion and exhaust). This allows for independent optimization of the compression and expansion ratios, leading to increased thermal efficiency. A novel Spool Shuttle Crossover Valve (SSCV) is the key enabler for the Tour engine, as it transfers the fuel/air charge from the cold to hot cylinder.

Tulane University

Hybrid Solar Converter with Integrated Thermal Storage

Tulane University and its partners are developing a hybrid solar energy system capable of capturing, storing, and dispatching solar energy. The system will collect sunlight using a dual-axis tracker with concentrator dish that focuses sunlight onto a hybrid solar energy receiver. Ultraviolet and visible light is collected in very high efficiency solar cells with approximately half of this part of the spectrum converted to electricity. The infrared part of the spectrum passes through the cells and is captured by a thermal receiver that converts this part of the spectrum into heat with nearly 95% efficiency. The heat is captured by a fluid that is heated to a temperature between 100 - 590°C. This heat energy can be immediately for a variety of commercial and industrial applications that require thermal energy or the heat may be stored in a small-scale thermal energy storage bank that stores energy for conversion to electricity by a heat engine when needed most. Tulane University's system will enable efficient use of the full solar spectrum while storing a large component of sunlight as heat for industrial processes or conversion into electricity at any time of day.

TVN Systems, Inc.

Hydrogen-Bromine Electrical Energy Storage System

TVN Systems is developing an advanced hydrogen-bromine flow battery that incorporates a low-cost membrane and durable catalyst materials. A flow battery's membrane separates its active materials and keeps them from mixing, while the catalyst serves to speed up the chemical reactions that generate electricity. Today's hydrogen-bromine batteries use very expensive membrane material and catalysts that can degrade as the battery is used. TVN is exploring new catalysts that will last longer than today's catalysts, and developing new membranes at a fraction of the cost of today's membranes. Demonstrating long-lasting, cost-competitive storage systems could enable deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the grid.

United Technologies Research Center

Additive, Topology-Optimized Ultra-Compact Heat Exchanger

UTRC will develop an ultra-compact, topology-optimized heat exchanger capable of operating in environments with temperatures and pressures up to 800°C (1472°F) and 250 bar (3626 psi) that is substantially smaller and more durable than state-of-the art high-temperature, high-pressure heat exchangers. A quadruple optimization approach that addresses performance, durability, manufacturing, and cost constraints provides the framework for the superalloy-based heat exchanger. UTRC will leverage extensive additive manufacturing research and aerospace and supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power generation experience to develop and commercialize the technology. The team will work on transitioning the heat exchanger into aviation applications with significant fuel burn savings in transport. This would substantially reduce aviation fuel usage and carbon emissions.

United Technologies Research Center

Transformative Electrochemical Flow Storage System (TEFSS)

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing a flow battery with a unique design that provides significantly more power than today's flow battery systems. A flow battery is a cross between a traditional battery and a fuel cell. Flow batteries store their energy in external tanks instead of inside the cell itself. Flow batteries have traditionally been expensive because the battery cell stack, where the chemical reaction takes place, is costly. In this project, UTRC is developing a new stack design that achieves 10 times higher power than today's flow batteries. This high power output means the size of the cell stack can be smaller, reducing the amount of expensive materials that are needed. UTRC's flow battery will reduce the cost of storing electricity for the electric grid, making widespread use feasible.

United Technologies Research Center

High Performance and Regenerative Redox-Air Flow Cells for Transportation Applications

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop a proof-of-concept for an innovative new vehicle energy-storage system. The UTRC team is leveraging experience from a previous ARPA-E project focused on grid-scale energy storage, the GRIDS: Breakthrough Flow Battery Cell Stack project, to develop a high-performance redox-air flow cell (RFC) system for EVs. A flow battery is a cross between a traditional battery and a fuel cell. Flow batteries store their energy in external tanks instead of inside the cell itself. If successful, the RFC will: (1) store its energy in a liquid solution at ambient pressure in a conformable plastic tank; (2) be readily packaged inside of an EV given the RFC's high power and energy densities, and (3) be rechargeable either onboard the vehicle like a conventional battery or by rapidly exchanging the discharged solution in the tank with charged solution at a refueling station. A novel recharging method will be employed to dramatically improve the round-trip energy efficiency for cells operating with an air electrode. Technologies like the RFC hold the potential to dramatically decrease the cost of EVs and enable greater adoption of EVs, allowing for increased energy efficiency, decreased petroleum imports, and substantial savings to the average consumer.

United Technologies Research Center

High-performance Flow Battery with Inexpensive Inorganic Reactants

The United Technologies Research Center team will develop an energy storage system based on a new flow battery chemistry using inexpensive and readily available sulfur and manganese based active materials. The team will employ innovative strategies to overcome challenges of system control and unwanted crossover of active materials through the membrane. The affordable reactants, paired with the unique requirements for long-duration electricity discharge, present the opportunity for very low cost energy storage.

United Technologies Research Center

Development of an Intermediate Temperature Metal Supported Proton Conducting Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Stack

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell for residential applications that will combine a building's heating and power systems into one unit. Existing fuel cell technologies usually focus on operating low temperatures for vehicle technologies or at high temperatures for grid-scale applications. By creating a metal-supported proton conducting fuel cell with a natural gas fuel processor, UTRC could lower the operating system temperatures to under 500 °C. The use of metal offers faster start-up times and the possibility of lower manufacturing costs and additional automation options, while the proton conducting electrolyte offers the potential for higher ionic conductivity at lower temperatures than regular oxygen conducting solid oxide electrolyte materials. An intermediate temperature electrolyte will be used to achieve a lower operating temperature, while a redesigned cell architecture will increase the efficiency and lower the cost of UTRC's overall system.

United Technologies Research Center

Low Cost Glass-Ceramic Matrix Composite Heat Exchanger

UTRC will develop a high temperature, high strength, low cost glass-ceramic matrix composite heat exchanger capable of a long operational life in a range of harsh environments with temperatures and pressures as high as 1100°C (2012°F) and 250 bar (3626 psi). UTRC designed its Counterflow Honeycomb Heat Exchanger (CH-HX) configuration with an oxidation-resistant material developed initially for gas turbine applications. Its core feature is a joint-free, 3D-woven assembly of webbed tubes and cylindrical shapes to reduce stress and simplify manufacturing. The CH-HX is devoid of nearly all secondary surfaces, which increases thermodynamic performance. Its light weight, reduced volume, and high temperature robustness could enable its use in applications that benefit from high-efficiency supercritical CO2 power cycles.

University of Arizona

A High Efficiency Flat Plate PV with Integrated Micro-CPV Atop a 1-Sun Panel

University of Arizona will develop a micro-CPV system that combines a CPV cell with dual-sided FPV panels to capture direct, diffuse, and reflected sunlight. The team's system will feature lenses that focus sunlight onto a horizontal waveguide, which further concentrates the light onto high-performance micro-CPV solar cells. Dual-sided solar panels, attached beneath the CPV cells, enable diffuse light collection on one side and reflected light collection on the other side. The system will be mounted on a two-axis tracker that will allow for optimal collection of sunlight throughout the day.

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