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Electricity Generation and Delivery

FuelCell Energy, Inc.

Adaptive SOFC for Ultra High Efficiency Power Systems

FuelCell Energy will develop an adaptive, pressurized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) for use in hybrid power systems. Hybridized power generation systems, combining energy efficient SOFCs with a microturbine or internal combustion (IC) engine, offer a path to high efficiency distributed generation from abundant natural gas. Proof-of-concept systems have shown the potential of this hybrid approach, but component optimization is necessary to increase system efficiencies and reduce costs. Existing SOFC stacks are relatively expensive components, and improving their efficiency and robustness would enhance the overall commercial viability of these systems. This team's approach is to focus directly on improving SOFCs with hybrid integration as their end goal. Their adaptive cells will withstand the necessary pressure fluctuations, and the compact stack design aims to make the best use of heat transfer while minimizing leakage losses and maintaining high performance. The team will take a modular approach, building 2-5kW stacks that can be grouped together in a pressurized container. These modules can be added or removed as needed to suit the scale of the hybrid system, enabling a range of power applications. The baseline cell technology will also be modified through advanced materials that extend the useful life of stack and mitigate the harmful effects of contaminants on fuel cell performance. If successful, these adaptive, efficient, robust SOFCs could provide a path to greater than 70% efficiency when integrated into a hybrid system.

FuelCell Energy, Inc.

Dual-Mode Intermediate Temperature Fuel Cell: Liquid Fuels and Electricity

FuelCell Energy will develop an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that will directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts. Existing fuel cell technologies typically convert chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity during a chemical reaction with oxygen or some other agent. FuelCell Energy's cell would create liquid fuel from natural gas. Their advanced catalysts are optimized to improve the yield and selectivity of methane-to-methanol reactions; this efficiency provides the ability to run a fuel cell on methane instead of hydrogen. In addition, FuelCell Energy will utilize a new reactive spray deposition technique that can be employed to manufacture their fuel cell in a continuous process. The combination of these advanced catalysts and advanced manufacturing techniques will reduce overall system-level costs.

Gas Technology Institute

Hybrid Solar System

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) is developing a hybrid solar converter that focuses sunlight onto solar cells with a reflective backside mirror. These solar cells convert most visible wavelengths of sunlight to electricity while reflecting the unused wavelengths to heat a stream of flowing particles. The particles are used to store the heat for use immediately or at a later time to drive a turbine and produce electricity. GTI's design integrates the parabolic trough mirrors, commonly used in CSP plants, into a dual-mirror system that captures the full solar spectrum while storing heat to dispatch electricity when the sun does not shine. Current solar cell technologies capture limited portions of the solar spectrum to generate electricity that must be used immediately. By using back-reflecting gallium arsenide (GaAs) cells, this hybrid converter is able to generate both electricity from specific solar wavelengths and capture the unused light as heat in the flowing particles. The particle-based heat storage system is a departure from standard fluid-based heat storage approaches and could enable much more efficient and higher energy density heat storage. GTI's converter could be used to provide solar electricity whether or not the sun is shining.

Gayle Technologies, Inc.

State-of-Health by Ultrasonic Battery Monitoring with In-Service Testing (SUBMIT)

Gayle Technologies is developing a laser-guided, ultrasonic electric vehicle battery inspection system that would help gather precise diagnostic data on battery performance. The batteries used in hybrid vehicles are highly complex, requiring advanced management systems to maximize their performance. Gayle's laser-guided, ultrasonic system would allow for diagnosis of various aspects of the battery system, including inspection for defects during manufacturing and assembly, battery state-of-health, and flaws that develop from mechanical or chemical issues with the battery system during use. Because of its non-invasive nature, relatively low cost, and potential for yielding broad information content, this innovative technology could increase productivity in battery manufacturing and better monitor battery conditions during use or service.

General Atomics

Magnetically Pulsed Hybrid Breaker for HVDC Power Distribution Protection

General Atomics is developing a direct current (DC) circuit breaker that could protect the grid from faults 100 times faster than its alternating current (AC) counterparts. Circuit breakers are critical elements in any electrical system. At the grid level, their main function is to isolate parts of the grid where a fault has occurred--such as a downed power line or a transformer explosion--from the rest of the system. DC circuit breakers must interrupt the system during a fault much faster than AC circuit breakers to prevent possible damage to cables, converters and other grid-level components. General Atomics' high-voltage DC circuit breaker would react in less than 1/1,000th of a second to interrupt current during a fault, preventing potential hazards to people and equipment.

General Atomics

Soluble Lead Flow Battery Technology

General Atomics is developing a flow battery technology based on chemistry similar to that used in the traditional lead-acid battery found in nearly every car on the road today. Flow batteries store energy in chemicals that are held in tanks outside the battery. When the energy is needed, the chemicals are pumped through the battery. Using the same basic chemistry as a traditional battery but storing its energy outside of the cell allows for the use of very low-cost materials. The goal is to develop a system that is far more durable than today's lead-acid batteries, can be scaled to deliver megawatts of power, and which lowers the cost of energy storage below $100 per kilowatt hour.

General Compression

Fuel-Free, Ubiquitous Compressed-Air Energy Storage and Power Conditioning

General Compression has developed a transformative, near-isothermal compressed air energy storage system (GCAES) that prevents air from heating up during compression and cooling down during expansion. When integrated with renewable generation, such as a wind farm, intermittent energy can be stored in compressed air in salt caverns or pressurized tanks. When electricity is needed, the process is reversed and the compressed air is expanded to produce electricity. Unlike conventional compressed air energy storage (CAES) projects, no gas is burned to convert the stored high-pressure air back into electricity. The result of this breakthrough is an ultra-efficient, fully shapeable, 100% renewable and carbon-free power product. The GCAES system can provide high quality electricity and ancillary services by effectively integrating renewables onto the grid at a cost that is competitive with gas, coal, and nuclear generation.

General Electric

Nanoclay Reinforced Ethylene-Propylene-Rubber for Low-Cost HVDC Cabling

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing new, low-cost insulation for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity transmission cables. The current material used to insulate HVDC transmission cables is very expensive and can account for as much as 1/3 of the total cost of a high-voltage transmission system. GE is embedding nanomaterials into specialty rubber to create its insulation. Not only are these materials less expensive than those used in conventional HVDC insulation, but also they will help suppress excess charge accumulation. The excess charge left behind on a cable poses a major challenge for high-voltage insulation--if it is not kept to a low level, it could ultimately lead the insulation to fail. GE's low-cost insulation is compatible with existing U.S. cable manufacturing processes, further enhancing its cost effectiveness.

General Electric

Electrothermal Energy Storage with a Multiphase Transcritical CO2 Cycle

GE is designing and testing components of a turbine system driven by high-temperature, high-pressure carbon dioxide (CO2) to develop a more durable and efficient energy conversion system. Current solar energy system components break down at high temperatures, shortening the system's cycle life. GE's energy storage system stores heat from the sun in molten salt at moderate temperature and uses surplus electricity from the grid to create a phase change heat sink, which helps manage the temperature of the system. Initially, the CO2 remains at a low temperature and low pressure to enable more efficient energy storage. Then, the temperature and pressure of the CO2 is increased and expanded through a turbine to generate dispatchable electricity. The dramatic change in temperature and pressure is enabled by an innovative system design that prevents thermal losses across the turbine and increases its cycle life. This grid-scale energy storage system could be coupled to a hybrid solar converter to deliver solar electricity on demand.

General Electric

Tensioned Fabric Wind Blades

General Electric (GE) Power & Water is developing fabric-based wind turbine blades that could significantly reduce the production costs and weight of the blades. Conventional wind turbines use rigid fiberglass blades that are difficult to manufacture and transport. GE will use tensioned fabric uniquely wrapped around a spaceframe blade structure, a truss-like, lightweight rigid structure, replacing current clam shell wind blades design. The blade structure will be entirely altered, allowing for easy access and repair to the fabric while maintaining conventional wind turbine performance. This new design could reduce production costs by 70% and enable automated manufacturing while reducing the processing time by more than 50%. GE's fabric-based blades could be manufactured in sections and assembled on-site, enabling the construction of much larger wind turbines that can capture more wind with significantly lower production and transportation costs.

General Electric

High-Voltage, High-Power Gas Tube Technology for HVDC Transmission

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing a new gas tube switch that could significantly improve and lower the cost of utility-scale power conversion. A switch breaks an electrical circuit by interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. To date, solid state semiconductor switches have completely replaced gas tube switches in utility-scale power converters because they have provided lower cost, higher efficiency, and greater reliability. GE is using new materials and innovative designs to develop tubes that not only operate well in high-power conversion, but also perform better and cost less than non-tube electrical switches. A single gas tube switch could replace many semiconductor switches, resulting in more cost effective high power converters.

General Electric

Inline Gas Discharge Tube Breaker for Meshed MVDC Grids

GE Research will develop a medium voltage direct current (MVDC) circuit breaker using gas discharge tubes (GDTs) with exceptionally fast response time. GDTs switch using no mechanical motion by transitioning the internal gas between its ordinary insulating state and a highly conductive plasma state. The team will develop a new cathode and control grid to reduce power loss during normal operation and meet program performance and efficiency targets. A fast MVDC breaker is an important component in uprating existing AC distribution corridors in congested urban areas to MVDC, and connecting distributed renewable energy sources to a growing number of high-power applications.

General Electric

Ultra Performance Heat Exchanger Enabled by Additive Technology (UPHEAT)

General Electric

Synthetic Reserves from Aggregated Distributed Flexible Resources

General Electric (GE) Global Research along with its partners will develop a novel distributed flexibility resource (DFR) technology that aggregates responsive flexible loads and DERs to provide synthetic reserve services to the grid while maintaining customer quality-of-service. A key innovation of the project is to develop a forecast tool that will use short-term and real-time weather forecasts along with other data to estimate the reserve potential of aggregate loads and DERs. An optimization framework that will enable aggregation of large numbers of flexible loads and DERs and determine the optimal schedule to bid into the wholesale market will be designed. A scalable control and communication architecture will enable coordination and control of the resources in real-time based on a novel two-tier hierarchical optimal control algorithm.

General Electric

Control Enabling Solutions with Ultrathin Strain and Temperature Sensor System for Reduced Battery Life Cycle Cost

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing low-cost, thin-film sensors that enable real-time mapping of temperature and surface pressure for each cell within a battery pack, which could help predict how and when batteries begin to fail. The thermal sensors within today's best battery packs are thick, expensive, and incapable of precisely assessing important factors like temperature and pressure within their cells. In comparison to today's best systems, GE's design would provide temperature and pressure measurements using smaller, more affordable sensors than those used in today's measurement systems. Ultimately, GE's sensors could dramatically improve the thermal mapping and pressure measurement capabilities of battery management systems, allowing for better prediction of potential battery failures.

GeneSiC Semiconductor

Silicon Carbide Anode Switched Thyristor for Medium-Voltage Power Conversion

GeneSiC Semiconductor is developing an advanced silicon-carbide (SiC)-based semiconductor called an anode-switched thyristor. This low-cost, compact SiC semiconductor conducts higher levels of electrical energy with better precision than traditional silicon semiconductors. This efficiency will enable a dramatic reduction in the size, weight, and volume of the power converters and the electronic devices they are used in. GeneSiC is developing its SiC-based semiconductor for utility-scale power converters. Traditional silicon semiconductors can't process the high voltages that utility-scale power distribution requires, and they must be stacked in complicated circuits that require bulky insulation and cooling hardware. GeneSiC's semiconductors are well suited for high-power applications like large-scale renewable wind and solar energy installations.

George Washington University

Micro-Scale Ultra-High Efficiency CPV/Diffuse Hybrid Arrays Using Transfer Printing

George Washington University (GWU) and their partners will develop a hybrid CPV concept that combines highly efficient multi-junction solar cells and low-cost single-junction solar cells. When direct sunlight hits the lens array, it is concentrated 1000-fold and is focused onto the multi-junction solar cells. Diffuse light not captured in this process is instead captured by the low-cost single-junction solar cells. The module design is lightweight, fewer than 10 mm thick, and has a profile similar to conventional FPV. Moreover, the combination of the two types of cells increases efficiency. GWU will use its expertise in micro-transfer printing to fabricate and assemble the multi-junction cells. This process will reduce manufacturing costs and further increase efficiency.

George Washington University

Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates

George Washington University (GWU) will develop a new technique to produce commercial III-V substrates called Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates (TPVS). To reduce costs, the team proposes using a single source substrate to grow numerous virtual substrate layers. The team will use an enabling technology, called micro-transfer printing (MTP), to transfer the layers from the source substrate, in the form of many microscale "chiplets," and deposit them onto a low-cost handle (silicon, for example). Once printed, the clean surfaces of the MTP process allows each chiplet to complete the epitaxial growth process on the lower cost substrate after having been seeded from the initial source and having sacrificial layers in between to release the chiplets from the source wafer. The TPVS process can potentially yield tens to hundreds virtual substrates from a single source wafer. Any micro/nanoscale device grown on III-V substrates, such as sensors, detectors, lasers, power electronics, and high-speed transistors, will experience significant cost reductions as a direct result of TPVS deployment. TPVS can also reduce the demand for rare minerals used for a wide range of critical technological applications due to the greater efficiency with which each initial source substrate is utilized.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Prosumer-Based Distributed Autonomous Cyber-Physical Architecture for Ultra-Reliable Green Electricity Networks

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a decentralized, autonomous, internet-like control architecture and control software system for the electric power grid. Georgia Tech's new architecture is based on the emerging concept of electricity prosumers--economically motivated actors that can produce, consume, or store electricity. Under Georgia Tech's architecture, all of the actors in an energy system are empowered to offer associated energy services based on their capabilities. The actors achieve their sustainability, efficiency, reliability, and economic objectives, while contributing to system-wide reliability and efficiency goals. This is in marked contrast to the current one-way, centralized control paradigm.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

EDISON - Efficient DC Interrupter with Surge Protection

Georgia Tech is developing a novel hybrid direct current (DC) circuit breaker that could enable multi-terminal DC power systems. The breaker's mechanical switch enables switching speeds 10 times faster than existing technology, severing the mechanical linkage, while the power electronics-based circuit handles the fault current. A new configuration of the fast switch and solid-state devices/circuits will reduce steady-state losses compared to state-of-the-art hybrid circuit breakers. A new control scheme dramatically reduces the peak fault current levels, enabling more compact packaging and increasing reliability.

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