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Electricity Generation and Delivery

Aerodyne Research, Inc.

Single-Cylinder Two-Stroke Free-Piston Internal Combustion Generator

Aerodyne Research with partners from Stony Brook University, Precision Combustion, Inc., and C-K Engineering, Inc. will design and build a CHP generator based on a small single-cylinder, two-stroke free-piston internal combustion engine. Similar to an automotive internal combustion engine, the proposed system follows the same process: the combustion of natural gas fuel creates a force that moves a piston, transferring chemical energy to mechanical energy used in conjunction with a linear alternator to create electricity. The free-piston configuration used here, instead of a traditional slider-crank mechanism, has the potential to achieve high electrical conversion efficiency. Their design also includes a double-helix spring that replaces the crankshaft flywheel in conventional engines and can store 5-10 times the work output of the engine cycle and operates at high frequency, which is key to high energy density, compact size, low weight, and low cost. The system will also incorporate low temperature, glow plug-assisted homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) combustion, which reduces heat loss from the engine and further increases efficiency.

Air Squared Inc.

A High Efficiency SACI 1 kW Generator System with Integrated Waste Energy Recovery

Air Squared with partners at Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, and Mississippi State University, will develop an advanced internal combustion engine (ICE) integrated with an organic Rankine cycle (ORC) for waste heat recovery. The ICE will use spark-assisted compression ignition (SACI) combustion, a turbulent jet ignition (TJI) fueling system, a high compression ratio, and aggressive exhaust gas recirculation to deliver a higher thermal efficiency with low emissions. Traditional internal combustion engines use the force generated by the combustion of a fuel (e.g. natural gas) to move a piston, transferring chemical energy to mechanical energy. This can then be used in conjunction with a generator to create electricity. SACI is an advanced combustion technique that uses a homogeneous mixture of fuel and air with spark assist to enable higher thermal efficiencies and lower emissions. The TJI combustion system further increases thermal efficiency by enabling reliable SACI combustion even with ultra-lean mixtures (i.e. high air to fuel ratio). The ORC design uses mostly the same components of a traditional Rankine cycle, but uses an ammonia/water mixture instead of steam, combined with a novel oil-free scroll expander.

AltaRock Energy Inc.

Millimeter Wave Technology Demonstration for Geothermal Directed Energy Drilling

AltaRock Energy will overcome technical limitations to deep geothermal drilling by replacing mechanical methods with a Millimeter Wave (MMW) directed energy technology to melt and vaporize rocks for removal. This approach could increase drilling speed by 10 times or more, reducing costs while reaching higher temperatures and greater depths than those achievable with the best current and proposed mechanical technologies. Project R&D will include benchtop testing as well as larger scale demonstrations of directed MMW drilling at unprecedented borehole lengths and power levels. A detailed modeling and simulations campaign carried out with the experimental work will provide the basis for the design of larger, commercial-scale systems.

Alveo Energy

Open Framework Electrode Batteries for Cost-Effective Stationary Storage

Alveo Energy is developing a grid-scale storage battery using Prussian Blue dye as the active material within the battery. Prussian Blue is most commonly known for its application in blueprint documents, but it can also hold electric charge. Though it provides only modest energy density, Prussian Blue is so readily available and inexpensive that it could provide a cost-effective and sustainable storage solution for years to come. Alveo will repurpose this inexpensive dye for a new battery that is far cheaper and less sensitive to temperature, air, and other external factors than comparable systems. This will help to facilitate the adoption and deployment of renewable energy technology. Alveo's Prussian Blue dye-based grid-scale storage batteries would be safe and reliable, have long operational lifetime, and be cheaper to produce than any existing battery technology.

American Manufacturing, Inc.

Flash Sintering System for Manufacturing Ion-Conducting Solids

American Manufacturing, in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder, will develop a flash sintering system to manufacture solid lithium-conducting electrolytes with high ionic conductivity. Conventional sintering is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass by heat and/or pressure without melting it to the point of changing it to a liquid, similar to pressing a snowball together from loose snow. In conventional sintering a friable ceramic "bisque" is heated for several hours at very high temperatures until it becomes dense and strong. Oxide ceramics for solid-state electrolytes have high melting points, and some are chemically stable and do not react with lithium metal, which can reduce cost and maximize energy density. But the sintering process requires several hours at very high temperatures (1100°C). These conditions conflict with the fast movement of lithium atoms in the solid state, which is a key property of the electrolyte. Therefore, the manufacture of these electrolytes by the conventional sintering process is a key barrier to their cost and viability. In contrast, flash sintering can occur in fewer than 5 seconds, at temperatures below 800°C, and can prevent the loss of lithium experienced in conventional sintering. This project is expected to improve lithium battery technology in the following ways: lowering the cost of sintering and processing; enhancing productivity through roll-to-roll manufacturing of co-sintered multilayers ready to be inserted into devices; and hastening the discovery of new materials by shortening the time between synthesis of new chemistries and their electrochemical evaluation to days instead of months.

American Superconductor

Sustainable Economic mCHP Stirling (SEmS) Generator

American Superconductor (AMSC) in collaboration with team members Qnergy, Alcoa Howmet, Gas Technology Institute (GTI), MicroCogen Partners, and A.O. Smith Corporation will develop a Free-Piston Stirling engine (FPSE) powered by an ultra-low-emissions natural gas burner for micro-CHP applications. 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 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. The ITC design features free-piston architecture using flexure bearings thus eliminating rubbing parts and allowing for long system life under continuous use. The team will also develop novel materials that enable high-temperature engine operation, further increasing the efficiency of the system.

Antora Energy

Solid State Thermal Battery

The Antora Energy team will develop key components for a thermal energy storage system (solid state thermal battery) that stores thermal energy in inexpensive carbon blocks. To charge the battery, power from the grid will heat the blocks to temperatures exceeding 2000°C (3632°F) via resistive heating. To discharge energy, the hot blocks are exposed to thermophotovoltaics (TPV) panels that are similar to traditional solar panels but specifically designed to efficiently use the heat radiated by the blocks. The team will develop a thermophotovoltaic heat engine capable of efficiently and durably converting high-temperature heat into electricity. It will seek to double panel efficiency through new materials and smart system design, potentially enabling a cost effective grid storage solution.

Applied Materials

Kerfless Crystalline-Silicon PV: Gas to Modules

Applied Materials is working with ARPA-E and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to build a reactor that produces the silicon wafers used in solar panels at a dramatically lower cost than existing technologies. Current wafer production processes are time consuming and expensive, requiring the use of high temperatures to produce ingots from molten silicon that can be sliced into wafers for use in solar cells. This slicing process results in significant silicon waste--or "kerf loss"--much like how sawdust is created when sawing wood. With funding from ARPA-E, Applied Materials is developing a reactor where ultra-thin silicon wafers are created by depositing silicon directly from vapor onto specialized reusable surfaces, allowing a significant reduction in the amount of silicon used in the process. Since high purity silicon is one of the most significant costs in producing solar cells, this kerf-less approach could significantly reduce the overall cost of producing solar panels. Applied Materials is partnering with Suniva, who will use funds from EERE to integrate these low-cost wafers into solar cells and modules that generate low-cost electricity, and with Arizona State University, who will develop high-efficiency devices on ultra-thin kerfless substrates. This partnership could enable low-cost, domestic manufacturing of solar modules, allowing the U.S. to reduce the amount of equipment we import from other countries.

Aquanis, Inc.

Active Aerodynamic Load Control for Wind Turbines

Aquanis will develop advanced plasma actuators and controls to reduce aerodynamic loads on wind turbine blades, facilitating the next generation of larger (20+ MW), smarter wind turbines. The technology contains no moving parts, instead using purely electrical plasma actuators on the blade that set the adjacent air in motion when powered. This system can change the lift and drag forces on turbine blades to reduce blade mechanical fatigue and enable the design of larger and cheaper blades. Currently effective at laboratory scales, Aquanis plans to improve the plasma actuator capabilities and field test a prototype plasma actuator system on a wind turbine.

Argonne National Laboratory

Intermediate Temperature Hybrid Fuel Cell System for the Conversion of Natural Gas to Electricity and Liquid Fuels

ANL is developing a new hybrid fuel cell technology that could generate both electricity and liquid fuels from natural gas. Existing fuel cell technologies typically convert chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity during a chemical reaction with oxygen or some other agent. In addition to generating electricity from hydrogen, ANL's fuel cell would produce ethylene--a liquid fuel precursor--from natural gas. In this design, a methane-coupling catalyst is added to the anode side of a fuel cell that, when fed with natural gas, creates a chemical reaction that produces ethylene and utilizes leftover hydrogen, which is then passed through a proton-conducting membrane to generate electricity. Removing hydrogen from the reaction site leads to increased conversion of natural gas to ethylene.

Arizona State University

High-Temperature InGaN Thermionic Topping Cells

Arizona State University (ASU) is developing a solar cell that can maintain efficient operation at temperatures above 400°C. Like many other electronics, solar panels work best in cooler environments. As the temperature of traditional solar cells increases beyond 100°C, the energy output decreases markedly and components are more prone to failure. ASU's technology adapts semiconducting materials used in today's light-emitting diode (LED) industry to enable efficient, long-term high-temperature operation. These materials could allow the cells to maintain operation at much higher temperatures than today's solar cells, so they can be integrated as the sunlight-absorbing surface of a thermal receiver in the next generation of hybrid solar collectors. The solar cell would provide electricity using a portion of the incoming sunlight, while the receiver collects usable heat at high temperature that can be stored and dispatched to generate electricity as needed.

Arizona State University

Sensor Enabled Modeling of Future Distribution Systems with Distributed Energy Resources

Arizona State University will develop learning-ready models and control tools to maintain sensor-rich distribution systems in the presence of high levels of DER and storage. This approach will include topology processing algorithms, load and DER models for system planning and operation, distribution system state estimation, optimal DER operational scheduling algorithms, and system-level DER control strategies that leverage inverter controls' flexibility. The project will alter distribution system operation from today's reactive, load-serving, and outage mitigation-focused approach to an active DER, load, and outage-managed, market-ready approach.

Arizona State University

PV Mirror: A Solar Concentrator Mirror Incorporating PV Cells

Arizona State University (ASU) is developing a hybrid solar energy system that modifies a CSP trough design, replacing the curved mirror with solar cells that collect both direct and diffuse rays of a portion of sunlight while reflecting the rest of the direct sunlight to a thermal absorber to generate heat. Electricity from the solar cells can be used immediately while the heat can be stored for later use. Today's CSP systems offer low overall efficiency because they collect only direct sunlight, or the light that comes in a straight beam from the sun. ASU's technology could increase the amount of light that can be converted to electricity by collecting diffuse sunlight, or light that has been scattered by the atmosphere, clouds, and off the earth. By integrating curved solar cells into a hybrid trough system, ASU will effectively split the solar spectrum and use each portion of the spectrum in the most efficient way possible. Diffuse and some direct sunlight are converted into electricity in the solar cells, while the unused portion of the direct sunlight is reflected for conversion to heat.

Arizona State University

Stochastic Optimal Power Flow for Real-Time Management of Distributed Renewable Generation and Demand Response

Arizona State University (ASU) will develop a stochastic optimal power flow (SOPF) framework, which would integrate uncertainty from renewable resources, load, distributed storage, and demand response technologies into bulk power system management in a holistic manner. The team will develop SOPF algorithms for the security-constrained economic dispatch (SCED) problem used to manage variability in the electric grid. The algorithms will be implemented in a software tool to provide system operators with real-time guidance to help coordinate between bulk generation and large numbers of DERs and demand response. ASU's project features unique data-analytics based short-term forecast for bulk and distributed wind and solar generation utilized by the advisory tool that generates real-time recommendations for market operators based on the SOPF algorithm outputs.

AutoGrid, Inc.

Highly Dispatchable and Distributed Demand Response for the Integration of Distributed Generation

AutoGrid, in conjunction with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Columbia University, will design and demonstrate automated control software that helps manage real-time demand for energy across the electric grid. Known as the Demand Response Optimization and Management System - Real-Time (DROMS-RT), the software will enable personalized price signals to be sent to millions of customers in extremely short timeframes--incentivizing them to alter their electricity use in response to grid conditions. This will help grid operators better manage unpredictable demand and supply fluctuations in short time-scales--making the power generation process more efficient and cost effective for both suppliers and consumers. DROMS-RT is expected to provide a 90% reduction in the cost of operating demand response and dynamic pricing programs in the U.S.

Battelle Memorial Institute

Battery Fault Sensing in Operating Batteries

Battelle Memorial Institute is developing an optical sensor to monitor the internal environment of lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries in real-time. Over time, crystalline structures known as dendrites can form within batteries and cause a short circuiting of the battery's electrodes. Because faults can originate in even the tiniest places within a battery, they are hard to detect with traditional sensors. Battelle is exploring a new, transformational method for continuous monitoring of operating Li-Ion batteries. Their optical sensors detect internal faults well before they can lead to battery failures or safety problems. The Battelle team will modify a conventional battery component to scan the cell's interior, watching for internal faults to develop and alerting the battery management system to take corrective action before a hazardous condition occurs.

Beacon Power, LLC

Development of a 100 kWh/100 kW Flywheel Energy Storage Module

Beacon Power is developing a flywheel energy storage system that costs substantially less than existing flywheel technologies. Flywheels store the energy created by turning an internal rotor at high speeds--slowing the rotor releases the energy back to the grid when needed. Beacon Power is redesigning the heart of the flywheel, eliminating the cumbersome hub and shaft typically found at its center. The improved design resembles a flying ring that relies on new magnetic bearings to levitate, freeing it to rotate faster and deliver 400% as much energy as today's flywheels. Beacon Power's flywheels can be linked together to provide storage capacity for balancing the approximately 10% of U.S. electricity that comes from renewable sources each year.

Bigwood Systems, Inc.

Global-Optimal Power Flow (G-OPF)

Bigwood Systems is developing a comprehensive Optimal Power Flow (OPF) modelling engine that will enhance the energy efficiency, stability, and cost effectiveness of the national electric grid. Like water flowing down a hill, electricity takes the path of least resistance which depends on the grid network topology and on grid controls. However, in a complicated networked environment, this can easily lead to costly congestion or shortages in certain areas of the electric grid. Grid operators use imperfect solutions like approximations, professional judgments, or conservative estimates to try to ensure reliability while minimizing costs. Bigwood Systems' approach will combine four separate analytical technologies to develop an OPF modeling engine that could markedly improve management of the grid. As part of this project, Bigwood Systems will demonstrate the practical applications of this tool in partnership with the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

Boston University

Transmission Topology Control for Infrastructure Resilience to the Integration of Renewable Generation

The Boston University (BU) team is developing control technology to help grid operators more actively manage power flows and integrate renewables by optimally turning entire power lines on and off in coordination with traditional control of generation and load resources. The control technology being developed would provide grid operators with tools to help manage transmission congestion by identifying the facilities whose on/off status must change to lower generation costs, increase utilization of renewable resources and improve system reliability. The technology is based on fast optimization algorithms for the near to real-time change in the on/off status of transmission facilities and their software implementation.

Brayton Energy

1kW Recuperated Brayton-Cycle Engine Using Positive-Displacement Components

Brayton Energy will develop a 1 kW recuperated Brayton cycle engine to produce heat and electricity for residential use. To begin the cycle, compressed air is preheated in a recuperator before adding fuel, then the air-fuel mix is ignited in a combustion chamber. The high temperature exhaust gases then expand through the turbine, providing some of the work that drives the compressor and also produces electricity in a generator. Major project innovations include the use of a rotary screw-type compressor and expander that operate in a sub-atmospheric Brayton cycle i.e. below atmospheric pressure. In addition, Brayton will also use their innovative patented recuperator that is currently in production, and an ultra-low emission combustor.

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