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Electricity Generation and Delivery

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

Supercritical CO2 Micro Tube Recuperator: Manufacturing, Testing and Laser Weld Qualification

International Mezzo Technologies will design, manufacture, and test a compact, nickel-based superalloy supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) recuperator (a type of heat exchanger). The recuperator will incorporate laser-welded micro tubes and function at 800°C (1,472°F) and 275 bar (3,989 psi). Currently, the cost of recuperators for power systems operating in these conditions is prohibitive. Laser welding micro tubes offers a low-cost approach to fabricating heat exchangers, which could increase the economic competitiveness of sCO2 power cycles. Mezzo's program could provide a pathway to manufacture relatively inexpensive heat exchangers for high temperature-high pressure applications.

Iowa State University

Context-Aware Learning for Inverse Design in Photovoltaics

Iowa State University will develop novel machine learning tools to accelerate the inverse design of new microstructures in photovoltaics. The team will create a new deep generative model called bi-directional inverse design networks to combat challenges in real-world inverse design problems. The proposed inverse design tools, if successful, will produce novel, manufacturable material microstructures with improved electromagnetic properties relative to existing technology for better, more efficient solar energy.

Iowa State University

Low Cost, Safe, and Efficient All Solid State Sodium Batteries for Grid-scale energy Storage and Other Applications

The team led by Iowa State University (ISU) will develop an All Solid-State Sodium Battery (ASSSB) that will have a high energy content, can easily be recycled, and rely on highly abundant and extremely low cost starting materials. Commercially available sodium-based batteries operate at elevated temperatures, which decreases the efficiency and safety of the system. The team seeks to improve all three of the main components of a sodium-based battery: the anode, cathode, and electrolyte separator. The team's anode is a porous carbon nanotube layer that will serve as a framework on which sodium metal will be deposited. The separator will be made of a novel oxy-thio-nitride glass solid electrolyte, and the cathode will be composed of a polymer in which reversible sodium insertion and removal takes place. The team will need to overcome several challenges, including reducing interfacial resistance between the organic electrode and the solid electrolyte. The proposed sodium battery can operate at room temperature, uses a benign and scalable solid-stack design for a long cycle life, and expects to achieve an energy density eqivalent to state-of-the-art Li-ion cells.

ITN Energy Systems, Inc.

Demonstration of 2.5kW/10kWh Vanadium Redox Flow Battery (VRFB) Through Rationally Designed High Energy Density Electrolytes and Membrane-Electrode Assembly (MEA)

ITN Energy Systems is developing a vanadium redox flow battery for residential and small-scale commercial energy storage that would be more efficient and affordable than today's best energy storage systems. In a redox flow battery, chemical reactions occur that allow the battery to absorb or deliver electricity. Unlike conventional batteries, flow batteries use a liquid (also known as an electrolyte) to store energy; the more electrolyte that is used, the longer the battery can operate. Vanadium electrolyte-based redox flow battery systems are a technology for today's market, but they require expensive ion-exchange membranes. In the past, prices of vanadium have fluctuated, increasing the cost of the electrolyte and posing a major obstacle to more widespread adoption of vanadium redox flow batteries. ITN's design combines a low-cost ion-exchange membrane and a low-cost electrolyte solution to reduce overall system cost, ultimately making a vanadium redox flow battery cost-competitive with more traditional lead-acid batteries.

KEMA Inc.

Enabling the Internet of Energy through Network Optimized Distributed Energy Resources

DNV GL together with its partners, Geli and Group NIRE, will develop an Internet of Energy (IoEn) platform for the automated scheduling, aggregation, dispatch, and performance validation of network optimized DERs and controllable loads. The IoEn platform will simultaneously manage both system-level regulation and distribution-level support functions to facilitate large-scale integration of distributed generation onto the grid. The IoEn will demonstrate a novel and scalable approach for the fast registration and automated dispatch of DERs by combining DNV GL's power system simulation tools and independent third-party validation with Geli's networking, control, and market balancing software. The platform will demonstrate the ability of customer-sited DERs to provide grid frequency regulation and distribution reliability functions with minimal impact to their local behind-the-meter demand management applications. The IoEn will be demonstrated and tested at Group NIRE's utility-connected microgrid test facility in Lubbock, Texas, where it will be integrated with local utility monitoring, control and data acquisition systems. By increasing the number of local devices able to connect and contribute to the IoEn, this project aims to increase renewables penetration above 50% while maintaining required levels of grid performance.

Kohana Technologies, Inc.

Adaptive Turbine Blades: Blown Wing Technology for Low-Cost Wind Power

Kohana Technologies is developing wind turbines with a control system that delivers compressed air from special slots located in the surface of its blades. The compressed air dynamically adjusts the aerodynamic performance of the blades, and can essentially be used to control lift, drag, and ultimately power. This control system has been shown to exhibit high levels of control in combination with an exceptionally fast response rate. The deployment of such a control system in modern wind turbines would lead to better management of the load on the system during peak usage, allowing larger blades to be deployed with a resulting increase in energy production.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing for Accelerated Inverse Design of Optical Materials

Over the past 50 years, progress in optical metamaterial device design has led to the manipulation of light over a wide range of wavelengths spanning the ultraviolet to the far infrared, resulting in technological advancements such as selective radiative absorbers for solar energy and daytime passive cooling using deep space. Further advances in optical metamaterial devices could enable increased energy efficiency, reduced national primary energy consumption, inexpensive long duration energy storage, and next generation solid-state heat engines. Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) will develop an optical metamaterial design tool to increase energy efficiency and reduce national primary energy consumption. Besides creating high-quality datasets, LBNL will train physics-informed generative adversarial networks that automatically suggest candidate structures to produce desired optical properties within the constraints of cost of materials and manufacturing. Currently, finding an optimal design can take years and is based mostly on intuition and iteration. The team's machine learning tool will be 10,000 to 100,000 times faster than existing technology.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Hydrogen Bromine Flow Batteries for Grid Scale Energy Storage

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is designing a flow battery for grid storage that relies on a hydrogen-bromine chemistry which could be more efficient, last longer, and cost less than today's lead-acid batteries. Flow batteries are fundamentally different from traditional lead-acid batteries because the chemical reactants that provide their energy are stored in external tanks instead of inside the battery. A flow battery can provide more energy because all that is required to increase its storage capacity is to increase the size of the external tanks. The hydrogen-bromine reactants used by LBNL in its flow battery are inexpensive, long lasting, and provide power quickly. The cost of the design could be well below $100 per kilowatt hour, which would rival conventional grid-scale battery technologies.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Mems Based Ion Beam Drivers for Magnetized Target Fusion

LBNL, in coordination with Cornell University, will develop a driver for magneto-inertial fusion based on ion beam technology that can be manufactured with low-cost, scalable methods. Ion beams are commonly used in research laboratories and manufacturing, but currently available technology cannot deliver the required beam intensities at low enough cost to drive an economical fusion reactor. LBNL will take advantage of microelectromechanical (MEMS) technology to develop a design consisting of thousands of mini ion "beamlets" densely packed on silicon wafers - up to thousands of beamlets per 4 to 12 inch wafer. Ions will be accelerated using radio-frequency driven accelerators, resulting in extremely high current densities and high-intensity ion beams that can be focused on plasma targets to achieve fusion. The use of MEMS technology enables low-cost batch fabrication, which could reduce the overall cost of a fusion reactor, in addition to enabling drivers that are modular and scalable. If successful, this project will result in an economical and flexible ion beam driver technology for magneto-inertial fusion reactors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Advanced Manufacturing Of Embedded Heat Pipe Nuclear Hybrid Reactor

Los Alamos National Laboratory will develop a scalable, compact, high-temperature, heat pipe reactor (HPR) to provide heat and electricity to remote areas. A 15MWth HPR could be built on-site in less than a month and self-regulate its power to plug into microgrids. The team will use high temperature materials via advanced manufacturing to reduce costs, and further cost reduction will be achieved from novel sensors embedded in the reactor core for continuous monitoring, reducing the number of operational staff needed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Spherically Imploding Plasma Liners as a Standoff Magneto-Inertial-Fusion Driver

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), along with HyperV Technologies and other partners, will design and build a new driver technology that is non-destructive, allowing for more rapid experimentation and progress toward economical fusion power. The team will use a spherical array of plasma guns to produce supersonic jets that merge to create an imploding plasma liner. Because the guns are located several meters away from the fusion burn region (i.e., they constitute a "standoff driver"), the reactor components should not be damaged by repeated experiments. This will allow the team to perform more rapid experimentation, allowing them to better understand the behavior of plasma liners as they implode. If successful, the project will demonstrate the validity of this driver design, optimize the precision and performance of the plasma guns, and obtain experimental data on ram-pressure scaling and liner uniformity critical to progress toward an economical fusion reactor.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Stable Diacid Coordinated Quaternary Ammonium Polymers for 80-230 °C Fuel Cells

Los Alamos National Laboratory will develop proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for light-duty vehicles that operate on hydrogen or dimethyl ether (DME) fuel in the temperature range of 80-230°C (176-446°F) without first warming or humidifying the incoming fuel stream. The team's concept uses a new polymer-based PEM that will provide high conductivity across a wide temperature range and can operate without humidification, simplifying the system components necessary to keep the cell running effectively, streamlining design, and reducing system size and costs, which are crucial for light duty vehicles. Developments from the project may be useful for other energy conversion technologies, such as ammonia production and high-temperature direct liquid fuel cells for heavy-duty vehicles.

Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies, Inc.,

Staged Z-Pinch Target For Fusion

MIFTI is developing a new version of the Staged Z-Pinch (SZP) fusion concept that reduces instabilities in the fusion plasma, allowing the plasma to persist for longer periods of time. The Z-Pinch is an approach for simultaneously heating, confining, and compressing plasma by applying an intense, pulsed electrical current which generates a magnetic field. While the simplicity of the Z-Pinch is attractive, it has been plagued by plasma instabilities. MIFTI's SZP plasma target consists of two components with different atomic numbers and is specifically configured to reduce instabilities. When the heavier component collapses around the lighter part, a shock front develops that travels faster than instabilities can grow, allowing the plasma to remain stable, long enough for fusion to occur. The approach also allows researchers to perform experiments in rapid succession, since it does not involve single-use components. MIFTI's design simplifies the engineering required for fusion through its efficiency and reduced number of components.

MAHLE Powertrain

Advanced Lean Burn Micro-CHP Genset

MAHLE Powertrain with partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Louthan Engineering, Kohler Company, and Intellichoice Energy will design and develop a CHP generator that uses an internal combustion engine with a turbulent jet ignition (TJI) combustion system. 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 generator to create electricity. The TJI combustion system incorporates a pre-chamber combustor, enabling the engine to operate in ultra-lean conditions (i.e. high air to fuel mixture), which results in significant improvement in engine thermal efficiency. The team will further increase the system's efficiency by using low friction engine components, while a low-temperature after-treatment system will reduce exhaust emissions.

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