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Electricity Generation and Delivery

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.

Makani Power, Inc.

Airborne Wind Turbine

Makani Power is developing an Airborne Wind Turbine that eliminates 90% of the mass of a conventional wind turbine and accesses a stronger, more consistent wind at altitudes of near 1,000 feet. At these altitudes, 85% of the country can offer viable wind resources compared to only 15% accessible with current technology. Additionally, the Makani Power wing can be economically deployed in deep offshore waters, opening up a resource which is 4 times greater than the entire U.S. electrical generation capacity. Makani Power has demonstrated the core technology, including autonomous launch, land, and power generation with an 8 meter wingspan, 20 kW prototype. At commercial scale, Makani Power aims to develop a 600 kW, 28 meter wingspan product capable of delivering energy at an unsubsidized cost competitive with coal, the current benchmark for low-cost power.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Advanced Thermo-Adsorptive Battery Climate Control System (ATB)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a low-cost, compact, high-capacity, advanced thermo-adsorptive battery (ATB) for effective climate control of EVs. The ATB provides both heating and cooling by taking advantage of the materials' ability to adsorb a significant amount of water. This efficient battery system design could offer up as much as a 30% increase in driving range compared to current EV climate control technology. The ATB provides high-capacity thermal storage with little-to-no electrical power consumption. MIT is also looking to explore the possibility of shifting peak electricity loads for cooling and heating in a variety of other applications, including commercial and residential buildings, data centers, and telecom facilities.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Metallic composites phase-change materials for high-temperature thermal energy storage

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing efficient heat storage materials for use in solar and nuclear power plants. 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's 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. MIT is designing nanostructured heat storage materials that can store a large amount of heat per unit mass and volume. To do this, MIT is using phase-change materials, which absorb a large amount of latent heat to melt from solid to liquid. MIT's heat storage materials are designed to melt at high temperatures and conduct heat well--this makes them efficient at storing and releasing heat and enhances the overall efficiency of the thermal storage and energy-generation process. MIT's low-cost heat storage materials also have a long life cycle, which further enhances their efficiency.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Electroville: High-Amperage Energy Storage Device-Energy Storage for the Neighborhood

Led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Donald Sadoway, the Electroville project team is creating a community-scale electricity storage device using new materials and a battery design inspired by the aluminum production process known as smelting. A conventional battery includes a liquid electrolyte and a solid separator between its 2 solid electrodes. MIT's battery contains liquid metal electrodes and a molten salt electrolyte. Because metals and salt don't mix, these 3 liquids of different densities naturally separate into layers, eliminating the need for a solid separator. This efficient design significantly reduces packaging materials, which reduces cost and allows more space for storing energy than conventional batteries offer. MIT's battery also uses cheap, earth-abundant, domestically available materials and is more scalable. By using all liquids, the design can also easily be resized according to the changing needs of local communities.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Arizona State University will develop a new concept for PV power generation that achieves the 30% conversion efficiency associated with traditional concentrated PV systems while maintaining the low cost, low profile, and lightweight of conventional FPV modules. MIT aims to combine three technologies to achieve their goals: a dispersive lens system, laterally arrayed multiple bandgap (LAMB) solar cells, and a low-cost power management system. The dispersive lens concentrates and separates light that passes through it, providing 400-fold concentration for direct sunlight and 3-fold concentration for diffuse sunlight. The dispersive lens is a thin layer consisting of inexpensive, lightweight materials that can be manufactured at low cost using plastic molding, an improvement over traditional methods. The lens focuses the direct light onto the array of LAMB solar cells, while also focusing the diffuse light onto common PV cells integrated beneath the LAMB array. The power management system combines power from multiple cells into a single output so that the power from a panel of LAMB arrays can be processed with grid-interface power electronics, enabling as much as 20% additional energy capture in applications where the roof is partially shaded.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spectrum Splitting for High-Efficiency Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy Generation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a high-efficiency solar cell grown on a low-cost silicon wafer, which incorporates a micro-scale heat management system. The team will employ a novel fabrication process to ensure compatibility between the indium gallium phosphide (InGaP) solar cell and an inexpensive silicon wafer template, which will reduce cell costs. MIT will also develop a color-selective filter, designed to split incoming concentrated sunlight into two components. One component will be sent to the solar cells and immediately converted into electricity and the other will be sent to a thermal receiver to be captured as heat. This will allow the simultaneous availability of electricity and heat. By leveraging the InGaP system, MIT's solar cells will be more tolerant to high temperature operation than today's PV cells and allow recovery of more useful higher temperature waste heat through the micro-scale heat management system. The solar cell and heat recovery system will enable more efficient use of the entire solar spectrum to produce dispatchable renewable electricity.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


MIT will develop a high performance, compact, and durable ceramic heat exchanger. The multiscale porous high temperature heat exchanger will be capable of operation at temperatures over 1200°C (2192°F) and pressures above 80 bar (1160 psi). Porosity at the centimeter-scale will serve as channels for the flow of working fluids. A micrometer-scale porous core will be embedded into these channels. A ceramic co-extrusion process will create the channels and core using silicon carbide (SiC). This core design will significantly improve heat transfer and structural strength and minimize pressure drop, enabling very high power density.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Full-Spectrum Stacked Solar-Thermal and PV Receiver

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a hybrid solar converter that integrates a thermal absorber and solar cells into a layered stack, allowing some portions of sunlight to be converted directly to electricity and the rest to be stored as heat for conversion when needed most. MIT's design focuses concentrated sunlight onto metal fins coated with layers that reflect a portion of the sunlight while absorbing the rest. The absorbed light is converted to heat and stored in a thermal fluid for conversion to mechanical energy by a heat engine. The reflected light is directed to solar cells and converted directly into electricity. This way, each portion of the solar spectrum is directed to the conversion system where it can be most effectively used. The sunlight passes through a transparent microporous gel that also insulates each of the components so that the maximum energy can be extracted from both the heat-collecting metal fins and the solar cells. This unique stack design could utilize the full solar spectrum efficiently and enable the dispatch of electricity at any time of the day.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thermal Energy Grid Storage (TEGS) Using Multi-Junction Photovoltaics (MPV)

MIT will develop critical components for a new, cost-effective, high efficiency power storage system to store renewable energy at grid scale and discharge it on demand. The system combines low-cost, very high-temperature energy storage with high-efficiency, innovative semiconductor converters used to transform heat into electricity. MIT's technology would store heat at temperatures above 2000°C (3600°F) and convert it to electricity using specialized photovoltaic cells designed to remain efficient under the intense infrared heat a high-temperature emitter radiates. MIT will also develop several infrastructure components that will enable stable operations for long periods without any discernable loss in conversion efficiency.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Sandia National Laboratories will develop a micro-CPV system. The team's approach integrates optical concentrating elements with micro-scale solar cells to enhance efficiency, reduce material and fabrication costs, and significantly reduce system size. The team's key innovation is the use of traditional silicon PV cells for more than one function. These traditional cells lay on a silicon substrate that has etched reflective cavities with high-performance micro-PV cells on the cavity floor. Light entering the system will hit a primary concentrator that then directs light into the reflective cavities and towards the high performance micro-PV cells. Diffuse light, which most CPV technologies do not capture, is collected by the lower performance silicon PV cells. The proposed technology could provide 40-55% more energy than conventional FPV and 15-40% more energy than traditional CPV with a significantly reduced system cost, because of the ability to collect both direct and diffuse light in a thin form factor.

Materials & Systems Research, Inc.

Advanced sodium batteries with enhanced safety and low cost processing

Materials & Systems Research, Inc. (MSRI) is developing a high-strength, low-cost solid-state electrolyte membrane structure for use in advanced grid-scale sodium batteries. The electrolyte, a separator between the positive and negative electrodes, carries charged materials called ions. In the solid electrolyte sodium batteries, sodium ions move through the solid-state ceramic electrolyte. This electrolyte is normally brittle, expensive, and difficult to produce because it is formed over the course of hours in high-temperature furnaces. With MSRI's design, this ceramic electrolyte will be produced cheaply within minutes by single-step coating technologies onto high-strength support materials. The high-strength support material provides excellent structural integrity, much superior to the conventional cell design, which depends solely on the brittle ceramic material for its strength. The resulting stronger, cheaper sodium battery design will enable a new generation of low-cost, safe, and reliable batteries for grid-scale energy storage applications.

Materials & Systems Research, Inc.

Intermediate-Temperature Electrogenerative Cells for Flexible Cogeneration of Power and Liquid Fuel

Materials & Systems Research, Inc. (MSRI) is developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell capable of electrochemically converting natural gas into electricity or liquid fuel in a single step. Existing solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) convert the chemical energy of hydrocarbons--such as hydrogen or methane--into electricity at higher efficiencies than traditional power generators, but are expensive to manufacture and operate at extremely high temperatures, introducing durability and cost concerns over time. Existing processes for converting methane to liquid transportation fuels are also capital intensive. MSRI's technology would convert natural gas into liquid fuel using efficient catalysts and a cost-effective fabrication process that can be readily scaled up for mass production. MSRI's technology will provide low-cost power or liquid fuel while operating in a temperature range of 400-500ºC, enabling better durability than today's high-temperature fuel cells.

Metis Design Corporation

Advanced Microturbine Engine for Residential CHP

Metis Design Corporation (MDC) with Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory will develop a Brayton cycle engine for residential use to produce heat and electricity. To begin the cycle, air is drawn into the system where it is compressed and pressurized. This compressed air is then heated in a recuperator and introduced in to the combustion chamber. Fuel is injected in to the combustion chamber and subsequently the air-fuel mixture is ignited. The high temperature exhaust gases then expand through a turbine, providing some of the work that drives the original compressor and the remainder produces electricity in a generator. Other innovations include adding a rotating vaneless diffuser to the compression process to reduce viscous losses that would normally reduce the efficiency of small compressors. The design also includes a high-efficiency recuperator to capture waste heat from the turbine exhaust and a low swirl burner to reduce emissions.

Michigan State University

Heat-Exchanger Intensification through Powder Processing and Enhanced Design (HIPPED)

Michigan State University's proposed technology is a highly scalable heat exchanger suited for high-efficiency power generation systems that use supercritical CO2 as a working fluid and operate at high temperature and high pressure. It features a plate-type heat exchanger that enables lower cost powder-based manufacturing. The approach includes powder compaction and sintering (powder metallurgy) integrated with laser-directed energy deposition additive manufacturing. Each plate is covered with packed, precisely designed and formed three-dimensional features that promote mixing, intensify heat transfer, and provide stability to prevent large plate deformation under high pressure. The super-alloys developed provide strength at the highest operating temperatures (1100°C) and significant corrosion resistance. The proposed concept extends the range for indirect heat exchange to extreme conditions where state-of-the-art heat exchangers cannot operate. In addition, new ferrous- and nickel-based alloys developed are suitable for other high temperature applications.

Michigan State University

Transformer-less Unified Power Flow Controller for Wind and Solar Power Transmission

Michigan State University (MSU) is developing a power flow controller to improve the routing of electricity from renewable sources through existing power lines. The fast, innovative, and lightweight circuitry that MSU is incorporating into its controller will eliminate the need for a separate heavy and expensive transformer, as well as the construction of new transmission lines. MSU's controller is better suited to control power flows from distributed and intermittent wind and solar power systems than traditional transformer-based controllers are, so it will help to integrate more renewable energy into the grid. MSU's power flow controller can be installed anywhere in the existing grid to optimize energy transmission and help reduce transmission congestion.

Michigan State University

Scalable Thermochemical Option for Renewable Energy Storage (STORES)

The Michigan State University team will develop a modular thermal energy storage system that uses electricity from sources like wind and solar power to heat up a bed of magnesium manganese oxide (Mg-Mn-O) particles to high temperatures. Once heated, the Mg-Mn-O will release oxygen and store the heat energy in the form of chemical energy. Later, when additional power is needed, the system will pass air over the particle bed, initiating a chemical reaction that releases heat to drive a gas turbine generator. The low cost of magnesium and manganese oxides will enable the system to be cost competitive.

Michigan Technological University

High-density SSiC 3D-printed lattices for compact HTHP aero-engine recuperators

Michigan Technological University will use advanced ceramic-based 3D printing technology to develop next-generation light, low-cost, ultra-compact, high-temperature, high-pressure (HTHP) heat exchangers. These will be able to operate at temperatures above 1100°C (2012°F) and at pressures above 80 bar (1160 psi). Current technologies cannot produce the high density, monolithic sintered silicon carbide (SSiC) material required for high temperature, high pressure recuperators. The team has invented a direct-ink writing technology for ceramics and techniques to 3D print high-density SSiC parts at scale, to reduce the risk of thermo-mechanical failure and ensure heat exchanger durability and quality.

MicroLink Devices

Epitaxial Lift-Off III-V Solar Cell For High Temperature Operation

MicroLink Devices is developing a high-efficiency solar cell that can maintain efficient operation at high temperatures and leverage reusable cell templates to reduce overall cell cost. MicroLink's cell will be able to operate at temperatures above 400°C, unlike today's solar cells, which lose efficiency rapidly above 100°C and are likely to fail at high temperatures over time. MicroLink's specialized dual-junction design will allow the cell to extract significantly more energy from the sun at high temperature than today's cells, enabling the next generation of hybrid solar converters to deliver much higher quantities of electricity and useful dispatchable heat. When integrated into hybrid solar converters, heat rejected from the cells at high temperature can be stored and used to generate electricity when the sun is not shining.

MicroLink Devices

High Efficiency, Lattice-Matched Solar Cells Using Epitaxial Lift-Off

MicroLink Devices is developing low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells to capture concentrated sunlight in an effort to increase the amount of electricity generated by concentrating solar power plants. The continued growth of the CPV market depends strongly on continuing to reduce the cost of CPV solar cell technologies. MicroLink will make an all-lattice-matched solar cell that can achieve greater power conversion efficiency than conventional CPV technologies, thereby reducing the cost of generating electricity. In addition, MicroLink will use manufacturing techniques that allow for the reuse of expensive solar cell manufacturing templates to minimize costs. MicroLink's innovative high-efficiency solar cell design has the potential to reduce PV electricity costs well below the cost of electricity from conventional non-concentrating PV modules.


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