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Electricity Generation and Delivery

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

MULTISCALE POROUS HIGH-TEMPERATURE HEAT EXCHANGER USING CERAMIC CO-EXTRUSION

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

Wafer-Level Integrated Concentrating Photovoltaics

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

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.

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.

Mohawk Innovative Technology, Inc.

High-Speed Microturbine with Air Foil Bearings for Residential CHP

Mohawk Innovative Technology, Inc. (MiTi) and its partners at the University of Texas at Austin and Mitis SA will develop a 1 kW microturbine generator for residential CHP based on MiTi's hyperlaminar flow engine (HFE) design. Key innovations of the design include highly miniaturized components operating at ultra-high speeds and a viscous shear mechanism to compress air that is mixed with natural gas and undergoes a flameless combustion process that minimizes emissions. The hot combustion gas drives the turbine and generator to produce electricity and heat water for household use. Besides using the viscous shear-driven compressor and turbine impellers and flameless combustion, the turbogenerator uses permanent magnet generator elements and air foil bearings with very low power loss, all of which are combined into a highly efficient, low emission, and oil-free turbomachine for residential combined heat and power that requires little or no maintenance.

Moltex Energy USA LLC

Composite Structural Technology for stable salt reactors (COST SSR)

Advanced reactors, including Moltex's stable salt reactor design, may be able to forgo large, expensive containment structures common in the current fleet of nuclear plants. Molten salt fuel chemically binds dangerous radionuclides, limiting the potential for radioactive gas release. The Moltex team will apply modeling and simulation to demonstrate the absence of radionuclide release for their reactor concept in accident scenarios, and the associated feasibility of using a new class of containment structures that are faster to install onsite and with higher composite strength. This new composite structural technology standardizes and expedites plant construction elements. It removes complex elements such as seismic dampers, high-performance cement mixing, and custom rebar configurations, which make nuclear construction time-consuming, labor intensive, and logistically challenging to deliver. In addition, this new technology presents an opportunity to accelerate construction for advanced reactors faster than solar, wind or combined-cycle power plants, significantly reducing the capital cost of next generation nuclear power.

NanoConversion Technologies, Inc.

High-Efficiency Thermoelectric CHP

NanoConversion Technologies, along with researchers from Gas Technologies Institute (GTI), will develop a high-efficiency thermoelectric CHP system. This is a solid-state device that uses heat to create electricity and contains no moving parts, thus creating no noise or vibrations. Instead, this thermoelectric CHP engine uses a novel concentration mode-thermoelectric converter (C-TEC) to harness the heat of the natural gas combustor to vaporize and ionize sodium, creating positive sodium ions and electrons that carry electric current. The C-TEC uses this sodium expansion cycle to produce electricity using an array of electrochemical cells. The superadiabatic combustor technology from GTI provides a low emission external combustion heat source with 95% fuel-to-heat efficiency and a stable temperature compatible with the C-TEC units.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Economic Long-duration Electricity Storage by Using Low-cost Thermal Energy Storage and High-efficiency Power Cycle

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory team will develop a high-temperature, low-cost thermal energy storage system using a high-performance heat exchanger and Brayton combined-cycle turbine to generate power. Electric heaters will heat stable, inexpensive solid particles to temperatures greater than 1100°C (2012°F) during charging, which can be stored in insulated silos for several days. To discharge the system, the hot particles will be fed through the fluidized bed heat exchanger, heating a working fluid to drive the gas turbine attached to a generator. The electricity storage system is designed to be deployed economically anywhere in the United States.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Ultrahigh Efficiency Photovoltaics at Ultralow Costs

This project team, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will employ hydride vapor phase epitaxy (HVPE), a fast growth technique used to produce semiconductors, to lower the manufacturing cost of multijunction solar cells. Additionally the team will develop new materials to be used in the HVPE process, enabling a chemical liftoff method that allows reuse of substrates. The chemical liftoff will mitigate costs of substrates, further reducing the overall system cost. NREL's approach will leverage this improved HVPE technology to produce thin, flexible, highly efficient multijunction cells, with very high power at low cost. III-V PV has several inherent advantages over other PV materials, including higher efficiency, low temperature coefficients, and low material usage. The novel combination of HVPE growth of multijunction solar cells and substrate reuse could result in more cost-effective, higher performing multijunction solar cells, which could ultimately lower the cost and increase the efficiency of PV systems. These innovations could spur greater adoption of PV systems and reduce reliance on fossil-fuel power generation.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Real-time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) lead team will develop a comprehensive distribution network management framework that unifies real-time voltage and frequency control at the home/DER controllers' level with network-wide energy management at the utility/aggregator level. The distributed control architecture will continuously steer operating points of DERs toward optimal solutions of pertinent optimization problems, while dynamically procuring and dispatching synthetic reserves based on current system state and forecasts of ambient and load conditions. The control algorithms invoke simple mathematical operations that can be embedded on low-cost microcontrollers, and enable distributed decision making on time scales that match the dynamics of distribution systems with high renewable integration.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

RePED 250: A Revolutionary, High-Drilling Rate, High-T Geothermal Drilling System and Companion (250-350 deg C) Power Electronics

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory team will develop technologies and component devices enabling a high-rate drilling method using electric pulses to bore hot, deep geothermal wells. Compared to the softer, sedimentary rock typically found in oil and gas wells, geothermal rock is harder and less porous, and at significantly higher temperatures. These factors generate slow geothermal drilling rates averaging only 125 feet per day compared to greater than 40 times this achieved in sedimentary rock. If successful, the high-rate technology could transform drilling techniques across multiple industries. Project activities will focus on developing and testing pulsed power electronics capable of surviving the high temperatures encountered in geothermal rock. Component development will be carried out with systems integration in mind, enabling a rapid upgrade from a low-temperature rated drilling tool to a high-temperature version.

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