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Electricity Generation and Delivery

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

A Novel Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cell Tailored for Efficient Utilization of Methane

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a fuel cell that operates at temperatures less than 500°C by integrating nanostructured materials into all cell components. This is a departure from traditional fuel cells that operate at much lower or much higher temperatures. By developing multifunctional anodes that can efficiently reform and directly process methane, this fuel cell will allow for efficient use of methane. Additionally, the Georgia Tech team will develop nanocomposite electrolytes to reduce cell temperature without sacrificing system performance. These technological advances will enable an efficient, intermediate-temperature fuel cell for distributed generation applications.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

High-Efficiency Solar Fuels Reactor Concept

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a high-efficiency concentrating solar receiver and reactor for the production of solar fuels. The team will develop a system that uses liquid metal to capture and transport heat at much higher temperatures compared to state-of-the-art concentrating solar power facilities. This high temperature system will be combined with the team's novel reactor to produce solar fuels that allow the flexibility to store and transport solar energy for later use or for immediate power production. Higher temperatures should result in much higher efficiencies and therefore lower costs of produced fuel or electricity. Additionally, plant operators would have the flexibility to match electricity or fuel production with the changing market demand to improve the cost effectiveness of the plant.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Grid-Connected Modular Soft-Switching Solid State Transformers (M-S4T)

Georgia Tech Research Corporation and its project team will develop a solid-state transformer for medium-voltage grid applications using silicon carbide with a focus on compact size and high-performance. Traditional grid connected transformers have been used for over 100 years to 'step down' higher voltage to lower voltage. Higher voltages allows for delivery of power over longer distances and lower voltages keeps consumers safe. But traditional distribution transformers lack integrated sensing, communications, and controls. They also lack the ability to control the voltage, current, frequency, power factor or anything else to improve local or global performance. Solid-state transformers can provide improvements and Georgia Tech's design seeks to address major roadblocks to their implementation, namely insulation, cooling, voltage change, and magnetic field issues, as well as downstream protection against abnormal current faults. If successful, the team will greatly increase transformer functionality while reducing its size over current technologies, affecting application areas like grid energy storage, solar photovoltaics and electric vehicle fast chargers, while also enabling better grid monitoring and easy retrofits.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation


Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Power Generation Using Anchored, Buoyancy-Induced Columnar Vortices: The Solar Vortex (SoV)

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a method to capture energy from wind vortices that form from a thin layer of solar-heated air along the ground. "Dust devils" are a random and intermittent example of this phenomenon in nature. Naturally, the sun heats the ground creating a thin air layer near the surface that is warmer than the air above. Since hot air rises, this layer of air will naturally want to rise. The Georgia Tech team will use a set of vanes to force the air to rotate as it rises, forming an anchored columnar vortex that draws in additional hot air to sustain itself. Georgia Tech's technology uses a rotor and generator to produce electrical power from this rising, rotating air similar to a conventional wind turbine. This solar-heated air, a renewable energy resource, is broadly available, especially in the southern U.S. Sunbelt, yet has not been utilized to date. This technology could offer more continuous power generation than conventional solar PV or wind. Georgia Tech's technology is a, low-cost, scalable approach to electrical power generation that could create a new class of renewable energy ideally suited for arid low-wind regions.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Resilient, Cyber Secure Centralized Substation Protection

The Georgia Tech Research Corporation will design an autonomous, resilient and cyber-secure protection and control system for each power plant and substation on its grid. This will eliminate complex coordinated protection settings and transform the protection practice into a simpler, intelligent, automated and transparent process. The technology will integrate protective relays into an intelligent protection scheme that relies on existing high data redundancy in substations to (a) validate data; (b) detect hidden failures and in this case self-heal the protection and control system; (c) detect cyber-attacks (focus on false data and/or malicious control injection) and identify the source for attribution; and (d) provide the full state of the system with minimal delay for optimal full state feedback control.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Dynamic Control of Grid Assets Using Direct AC Converter Cells

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a cost-effective, utility-scale power router that uses an enhanced transformer to more efficiently direct power on the grid. Existing power routing technologies are too expensive for widespread use, but the ability to route grid power to match real-time demand and power outages would significantly reduce energy costs for utilities, municipalities, and consumers. Georgia Tech is adding a power converter to an existing grid transformer to better control power flows at about 1/10th the cost of existing power routing solutions. Transformers convert the high-voltage electricity that is transmitted through the grid into the low-voltage electricity that is used by homes and businesses. The added converter uses fewer steps to convert some types of power and eliminates unnecessary power storage, among other improvements. The enhanced transformer is more efficient, and it would still work even if the converter fails, ensuring grid reliability.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Self-Tracking Concentrator Photovoltaics

Glint Photonics is developing an inexpensive solar concentrating PV (CPV) module that tracks the sun's position over the course of the day to channel sunlight into PV materials more efficiently. Conventional solar concentrator technology requires complex moving parts to track the sun's movements. In contrast, Glint's inexpensive design can be mounted in a stationary configuration and adjusts its properties automatically in response to the solar position. By embedding this automated tracking function within the concentrator, Glint's design enables CPV modules to use traditional mounting technology and techniques, reducing installation complexity and cost. These self-tracking concentrators can significantly decrease the cost of solar power modules by enabling high efficiency while eliminating the additional costs of precision trackers and specialized mounting hardware. The concentrator itself is designed to be manufactured at extremely low-cost due to low material usage and compatibility with high-speed fabrication techniques. Glint's complete module costs are estimated to be $0.35/watt-peak.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Stationary Wide-Angle Concentrator PV System

Glint Photonics in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will develop a stationary wide-angle concentrator (SWAC) PV system. The SWAC concentrates light onto multi-junction solar cells, which efficiently convert sunlight into electrical energy. A sheet of arrayed PV cells moves passively within the module to maximize sunlight capture throughout the day. Two innovations allow this tracking to occur smoothly and without the expense or complexity of an active control system or a mechanical tracker. First, a fluidic suspension mechanism enables nearly frictionless movement of the sheet embedded in the module. Second, a thermal-gradient-driven alignment mechanism uses a tiny fraction of the collected energy to drive the movement of the sheet and keep it precisely aligned. Glint will develop the novel optical and fluidic components of the SWAC, while NREL will develop custom multi-junction solar cells for the prototype modules.

GridBright, Inc.

A Standards-Based Intelligent Repositorty for Collaborative Grid Model Management

GridBright and Utility Integration Solutions (UISOL, a GE Company) will develop a power systems model repository based on state-of-the-art open-source software. The models in this repository will be used to facilitate testing and adoption of new grid optimization and control algorithms. The repository will use field-proven open-source software and will be made publicly available in the first year of the project. Key features of the repository include an advanced search capability to support search and extraction of models based on key research characteristics, faster model upload and download times, and the ability to support thousands of users. The team will establish a long-term strategy for managing the repository that will allow its operation to continue after its project term with ARPA-E ends.

GridBright, Inc.

Secure Grid Data Exchange Using Cryptography, Peer-To-Peer Networks, and Blockchain Ledgers

GridBright will develop a simple and secure solution for sharing grid-related data to improve grid efficiency, reliability, and resiliency in a manner that preserves security and integrity. GridBright will use the Agile development model to construct several proof-of-concept software pipelines, performing penetration and compromise testing and a quantitative evaluation of each against existing requirements. The solution will create a simpler secure grid data exchange process for the electric grid and utility industries.

Halotechnics, Inc.

Advanced Molten Glass for Heat Transfer and Thermal Energy Storage

Halotechnics is developing a high-temperature thermal energy storage system using a new thermal-storage and heat-transfer material: earth-abundant and low-melting-point molten glass. Heat storage materials are critical to the energy storage process. In solar thermal storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials during the day and released at night--when the sun is not out--to drive a turbine and produce electricity. In nuclear storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials at night and released to produce electricity during daytime peak-demand hours. Halotechnics new thermal storage material targets a price that is potentially cheaper than the molten salt used in most commercial solar thermal storage systems today. It is also extremely stable at temperatures up to 1200°C--hundreds of degrees hotter than the highest temperature molten salt can handle. Being able to function at high temperatures will significantly increase the efficiency of turning heat into electricity. Halotechnics is developing a scalable system to pump, heat, store, and discharge the molten glass. The company is leveraging technology used in the modern glass industry, which has decades of experience handling molten glass.

Harvard University

Small Organic Molecule Based Flow Battery for Grid Storage

Harvard University is developing an innovative grid-scale flow battery to store electricity from renewable sources. Flow batteries store energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, permitting larger amounts of stored energy at lower cost per kWh. Harvard is designing active material for a flow battery that uses small, inexpensive organic molecules in aqueous electrolyte. Relying on low-cost organic materials, Harvard's innovative storage device concept would yield one or more systems that may be developed by their partner, Sustainable Innovations, LLC, into viable grid-scale electrical energy storage systems.

Harvard University

Transistor-less Power Supply Technology Based on UWBG Nonlinear Transmission Line

Harvard University in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories will develop a transistor-less 16kW DC to DC converter boosting a 0.5kV DC input to 8kV that is scalable to 100kW. If successful, the transistor-less DC to DC converter could improve the performance of power electronics for electric vehicles, commercial power supplies, renewable energy systems, grid operations, and other applications. Converting DC to DC is a two-step process that traditionally uses fast-switching transistors to convert a DC input to an AC signal before the signal is rectified to a DC output. The Harvard and Sandia team will improve the process by replacing the active, fast-switching transistors with a slow switch followed by a passive, nonlinear transmission line (NLTL). The NLTL is a ladder network of passive components (inductors and diodes) that provide a nonlinear output with voltage. The combination of the nonlinear behavior with dispersion converts a quasi-DC input into a series of sharper and taller (amplified) voltage pulses called solitons, thus executing the DC to AC conversion without the use of active, fast-switching transistors. The NLTL will be followed by a high breakdown voltage silicon carbide and/or gallium nitride diode-based accumulator that converts the series of solitons to a DC output. Replacing the fast-switching transistors with a slow switch and a NLTL addresses the cost, size, efficiency, and reliability issues associated with fast switching based converters. Diodes also cost less and last longer because they are simpler structures than transistors and use no dielectrics. Efficiency, cost, and reliability improvements provided by a NLTL-based power converter will drastically benefit commercial power supplies, industrial motors, electric vehicles, data centers, the electric grid, and renewable electric power generation such as solar and wind.

Helion Energy Inc.

Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC Targets to Fusion Conditions

Helion Energy's team will develop a prototype device that will explore a potential low-cost path to fusion for a less expensive, simplified reactor design. In contrast to conventional designs, this prototype will be smaller than a semi-trailer - reducing cost and complexity. The smaller size is achieved by using new techniques to achieve the high temperatures and densities required for fusion. The research team will produce these conditions using field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas, a special form of plasma that may offer significant advantages for fusion research. FRC plasmas are movable - they can be produced at one location and then moved into the fusion chamber, which prevents the hot fusion products from damaging the FRC formation hardware. FRC plasmas also have an embedded magnetic field which helps them retain heat. Helion's reactor employs a pulsed heating technique that uses a series of magnetic coils to compress the plasma fuel to very high temperatures and densities. The reactor will also capture and reuse the magnetic energy used to heat and confine the plasma, further increasing efficiency. The smaller size and reduced complexity of the reactor's design will decrease research and development costs and speed up research progress in developing the efficiencies required for fusion power production.

HexaTech, Inc.

Aluminum Nitride-Based Devices for High-Voltage Power Electronics

HexaTech is developing new semiconductors for electrical switches that will more efficiently control the flow of electricity across high-voltage electrical lines. A switch helps control electricity: switching it on and off, converting it from one voltage to another, and converting it from an Alternating Current (A/C) to a Direct Current (D/C) and back. Most switches today use silicon or silicon-based semiconductors, which are not able to handle high voltages, fast switching speeds, or high operating temperatures. HexaTech has developed highest quality, single crystalline Aluminum Nitride (AlN) semiconductor wafers. HexaTech AlN wafers are the enabling platform for power converters which can handle 50 times more voltage than silicon, as well as higher switching speeds and operating temperatures.

HolosGen, LLC

Transportable Modular Reactor by Balance of Plant Elimination

HolosGen is developing a transportable gas-cooled nuclear reactor with load following ability. The reactor concept is essentially a closed-loop jet engine (Brayton cycle) with the typical combustor replaced by a nuclear heat source. The nuclear heat source is comprised of multiple subcritical power modules (SPMs) that only produce power when they are positioned in close proximity, allowing sufficient neutron transfer to reach criticality (steady-state). The modules will be positioned using an exoskeletal structure with fast-actuation technologies currently employed by the aviation industry. By controlling the flow of neutrons across the SPM boundaries, reactor output can be controlled. By using a closed Brayton cycle, a high-power-density engine with components connected directly to the reactor core, plant construction will be simplified and the reactor/generator can be packaged in a standard shipping container. This will make the reactor highly portable, leading to lower costs and shorter commissioning times. HolosGen's reactor concept will provide low overnight cost, autonomous operations, rapid deployment, independence from environmental extremes, and easy electrical grid connection with near real-time load following capability. Under this MEITNER project, the ARPA-E/HolosGen team aims to demonstrate the viability of this concept using multi-physics modeling and simulation tools, with the thermal hydraulics validated by testing a non-nuclear simulator. The project will improve the understanding of the turbine efficiencies and the coolant flow within the nuclear reactor.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Wide Bandgap Solid State Circuit Breakers for AC and DC Microgrids

Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) will develop autonomously operated, programmable, and intelligent bidirectional solid-state circuit breakers (SSCB) using transistors based on gallium nitride (GaN). Renewable power sources and other distributed energy resources feed electricity to the utility grid through interfacing power electronic converters, but the power converters cannot withstand a fault condition (abnormal electric current) for more than a few microseconds. Circuit faults cause either catastrophic destruction or protective shutdown of the converters, resulting in loss of power reliability. Traditional mechanical circuit breakers are too slow to address this challenge. The team's proposed SSCB technology offers a programmable response time to as short as one microsecond, well within the overload-withstanding capability of power converters, and enables a distribution system-level ability to isolate a fault from the rest of the power system before renewable power generation is interrupted. Their design produces a 1000x decrease in response time and 5x reduction in cost in comparison to commercial mechanical circuit breakers. If successful, such devices could be used to help protect microgrids and enable higher penetration of renewable energy sources.

Integral Consulting

Cost Effective Real Time Wave Assessment Tool

Integral Consulting is developing a cost-effective ocean wave buoy system that will accurately measure its own movements as it follows the surface wave motions of the ocean and relay this real-time wave data. Conventional real-time wave measurement buoys are expensive, which limits the ability to deploy large networks of buoys. Data from Integral Consulting's buoys can be used as input to control strategies of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices and allow these controlled WECs to capture significantly more energy than systems that do not employ control strategies. Integral Consulting's system will also enable assessment of the optimal locations and designs of WEC systems. Integral Consulting's ocean wave buoy system could measure and relay real-time wave data at 10% the cost of commercially available wave measurement systems.

International Mezzo Technologies, INC

A 2-5 MW Supercritical CO2 micro tube recuperator: manufacturing, testing, and laser weld qualification


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