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Transportation

24M Technologies

Semi-Solid Flow Cells for Automotive and Grid-Level Energy Storage

Scientists at 24M are crossing a Li-Ion battery with a fuel cell to develop a semi-solid flow battery. This system relies on some of the same basic chemistry as a standard Li-Ion battery, but in a flow battery the energy storage material is held in external tanks, so storage capacity is not limited by the size of the battery itself. The design makes it easier to add storage capacity by simply increasing the size of the tanks and adding more paste. In addition, 24M's design also is able to extract more energy from the semi-solid paste than conventional Li-Ion batteries. This creates a cost-effective, energy-dense battery that can improve the driving range of EVs or be used to store energy on the electric grid.

3M

Low Cost, Durable Anion Exchange Membranes

The 3M Company will develop a new anion exchange membrane (AEM) technology with widespread applications in fuel cells, electrolyzers, and flow batteries. Unlike many proton exchange membrane (PEM) applications, the team's AEM will operate in an alkaline environment, which means lower-cost electrodes can be used. The team plans to engineer a membrane that simultaneously meets key goals for resistance, mechanical and chemical stability, and cost. They will do this by focusing on simple, hydroxide-stable polymers, such as polyethylene, and stable cations, such as tetraalkylammonium and imidazolium groups. Positively-charged cation side chains attached to the polymer backbone will facilitate passage of hydroxide ions through the electrolyte, resulting in enhanced ionic conductivity. The proposed polymer chemistry is envisioned to be low cost and can be used in alkaline environments, and can be processed into mechanically robust membrane composites. This membrane technology has the potential to enable high volume, low-cost production of AEMs. The impact of this project can be transformational as the commercial availability of high-quality AEMs has been a limiting factor in developing AEM-based devices.

Achates Power, Inc.

Gasoline Compression Ignition Medium Duty Multicylinder Opposed Piston Engine Development

The team led by Achates Power will develop an internal combustion engine that combines two promising engine technologies: an opposed-piston (OP) engine configuration and gasoline compression ignition (GCI). Compression ignition OP engines are inherently more efficient than existing spark-ignited 4-stroke engines (potentially up to 50% higher thermal efficiency using gasoline) while providing comparable power and torque, and showing the potential to meet future tailpipe emissions standards. GCI uses gasoline or gasoline-like fuels in a compression ignition engine to deliver thermal efficiency on par with diesel combustion. However, unlike conventional diesel engines, this technology does not require the added expense of high-pressure fuel injection equipment and sophisticated aftertreatment systems. The OP/GCI engine technology is adaptable to a range of engine configurations and can be used in all types of passenger vehicles and light trucks. By successfully combining the highly fuel efficient architecture of the OP engine with the ultra-low emissions GCI technology, the resulting engine could be transformational, significantly reducing U.S. petroleum consumption and carbon dioxide.

Adaptive Surface Technologies, Inc

Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Conversion and Environmental Monitoring Technology Advancement

The Harvard project team, now a new company called Adaptive Surface Technologies, is developing a slippery coating that can be used for a number of technology applications including oil and water pipelines, wastewater treatment systems, solar panels (to prevent dust accumulation), refrigeration (to prevent ice buildup), as well as many other energy-relevant applications. Contamination, build-up of microorganisms, and corrosion of untreated surfaces can lead to inefficiencies in the system. Harvard's liquid-based coating is tailored to adhere to and then spread out evenly over a rough surface, forming a completely smooth surface that inhibits buildup. Since it is liquid-based, it can easily repair itself if scratched or damaged, resulting in a stable coating with the potential to significantly outperform conventional technologies, such as Teflon, in friction and drag reduction and in repelling a broad range of contaminants.

Agrivida

Conditionally Activated Enzymes Expressed in Cellulosic Energy Crops

Enzymes are required to break plant biomass down into the fermentable sugars that are used to create biofuel. Currently, costly enzymes must be added to the biofuel production process. Engineering crops to already contain these enzymes will reduce costs and produce biomass that is more easily digested. In fact, enzyme costs alone account for $0.50-$0.75/gallon of the cost of a biomass-derived biofuel like ethanol. Agrivida is genetically engineering plants to contain high concentrations of enzymes that break down cell walls. These enzymes can be "switched on" after harvest so they won't damage the plant while it's growing.

Algaeventure Systems

Scaling and Commercialization of Algae Harvesting Technologies

Led by CEO Ross Youngs, AVS has patented a cost-effective dewatering technology that separates micro-solids (algae) from water. Separating micro-solids from water traditionally requires a centrifuge, which uses significant energy to spin the water mass and force materials of different densities to separate from one another. In a comparative analysis, dewatering 1 ton of algae in a centrifuge costs around $3,400. AVS's Solid-Liquid Separation (SLS) system is less energy-intensive and less expensive, costing $1.92 to process 1 ton of algae. The SLS technology uses capillary dewatering with filter media to gently facilitate water separation, leaving behind dewatered algae which can then be used as a source for biofuels and bio-products. The biomimicry of the SLS technology emulates the way plants absorb and spread water to their capillaries.

American Manufacturing, Inc.

Flash Sintering System for Manufacturing Ion-Conducting Solids

American Manufacturing in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder, will develop a flash sintering system to manufacture solid lithium-conducting electrolytes with high ionic conductivity. Conventional sintering is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass by heat and/or pressure without melting it to the point of changing it to a liquid, similar to pressing a snowball together from loose snow. In conventional sintering a friable ceramic "bisque" is heated for several hours at very high temperatures until it becomes dense and strong. Oxide ceramics for solid-state electrolytes have high melting points, and some are chemically stable and do not react with lithium metal, which can reduce cost and maximize energy density. But the sintering process requires several hours at very high temperatures (1100°C). These conditions conflict with the fast movement of lithium atoms in the solid state, which is a key property of the electrolyte. Therefore, the manufacture of these electrolytes by the conventional sintering process is a key barrier to their cost and viability. In contrast, flash sintering can occur in fewer than 5 seconds, at temperatures below 800°C, and can prevent the loss of lithium experienced in conventional sintering. This project is expected to improve lithium battery technology in the following ways: lowering the cost of sintering and processing; enhancing productivity through roll-to-roll manufacturing of co-sintered multilayers ready to be inserted into devices; and hastening the discovery of new materials by shortening the time between synthesis of new chemistries and their electrochemical evaluation to days instead of months.

Applied Materials

Novel High Energy Density Lithium-Ion Cell Designs via Innovative Manufacturing Process Modules for Cathode and Integrated Separator

Applied Materials is developing new tools for manufacturing Li-Ion batteries that could dramatically increase their performance. Traditionally, the positive and negative terminals of Li-Ion batteries are mixed with glue-like materials called binders, pressed onto electrodes, and then physically kept apart by winding a polymer mesh material between them called a separator. With the Applied Materials system, many of these manually intensive processes will be replaced by next generation coating technology to apply each component. This process will improve product reliability and performance of the cells at a fraction of the current cost. These novel manufacturing techniques will also increase the energy density of the battery and reduce the size of several of the battery's components to free up more space within the cell for storage.

Arcadia Biosciences

Vegetative Production of Oil in a C4 Crop

Arcadia Biosciences, in collaboration with the University of California-Davis, is developing plants that produce vegetable oil in their leaves and stems. Ordinarily, these oils are produced in seeds, but Arcadia Biosciences is turning parts of the plant that are not usually harvested into a source of concentrated energy. Vegetable oil is a concentrated source of energy that plants naturally produce and is easily separated after harvest. Arcadia Biosciences will isolate traits that control oil production in seeds and transfer them into leaves and stems so that all parts of the plants are oil-rich at harvest time. After demonstrating these traits in a fast-growing model plant, Arcadia Biosciences will incorporate them into a variety of dedicated biofuel crops that can be grown on land not typically suited for food production.

Arizona State University

Sustainable, High-Energy Density, Low-Cost Electrochemical Energy Storage - Metal-Air Ionic Liquid (MAIL) Batteries

ASU is developing a new class of metal-air batteries. Metal-air batteries are promising for future generations of EVs because they use oxygen from the air as one of the battery's main reactants, reducing the weight of the battery and freeing up more space to devote to energy storage than Li-Ion batteries. ASU technology uses Zinc as the active metal in the battery because it is more abundant and affordable than imported lithium. Metal-air batteries have long been considered impractical for EV applications because the water-based electrolytes inside would decompose the battery interior after just a few uses. Overcoming this traditional limitation, ASU's new battery system could be both cheaper and safer than today's Li-Ion batteries, store from 4-5 times more energy, and be recharged over 2,500 times.

Arizona State University

Advanced Cells for Transportation via Integrated Vehicle Energy (ACTIVE)

ASU is developing an innovative, formable battery that can be incorporated as a structural element in the vehicle. This battery would replace structural elements such as roof and side panels that previously remained passive, and incapable of storing energy. Unlike today's batteries that require significant packaging and protection, ASU's non-volatile chemistry could better withstand collision on its own because the battery would be more widely distributed throughout the vehicle so less electricity would be stored in any single area. Furthermore, ASU's battery would not use any flammable components or high-voltage modules. The chemistry minimizes conventional protection and controls while enabling it to store energy and provide structure, thus making vehicles lighter and safer.

Arizona State University

Cyanobacteria Designed for Solar-Powered Highly Efficient Production of Biofuels

ASU is engineering a type of photosynthetic bacteria that efficiently produce fatty acids--a fuel precursor for biofuels. This type of bacteria, called Synechocystis, is already good at converting solar energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) into a type of fatty acid called lauric acid. ASU has modified the organism so it continuously converts sunlight and CO2 into fatty acids--overriding its natural tendency to use solar energy solely for cell growth and maximizing the solar-to-fuel conversion process. ASU's approach is different because most biofuels research focuses on increasing cellular biomass and not on excreting fatty acids. The project has also identified a unique way to convert the harvested lauric acid into a fuel that can be easily blended with existing transportation fuels.

Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc.

Low-Cost, Highly Integrated, Silicon Carbide Multi-Chip Power Modules for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Currently, charging the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is a time-consuming process because chargers can only draw about as much power from the grid as a hair dryer. APEI is developing an EV charger that can draw as much power as a clothes dryer, which would drastically speed up charging time. APEI's charger uses silicon carbide (SiC)-based power transistors. These transistors control the electrical energy flowing through the charger's circuits more effectively and efficiently than traditional transistors made of straight silicon. The SiC-based transistors also require less cooling, enabling APEI to create EV chargers that are 10 times smaller than existing chargers.

ARZEDA Corp.

Design of Metalloenzymes for Methane Activation

The team from Arzeda will use computational enzyme design tools and their knowledge of biological engineering and chemistry to create new synthetic enzymes to activate methane. Organisms that are capable of using methane as an energy and carbon source are typically difficult to engineer. To address this challenge, Arzeda will develop technologies essential to creating modular enzymes that can be used in other organisms. The team will combine computation enzyme design with experimental methods to improve enzyme activity and help direct methane more effectively into metabolism for fuel production. Arzeda's new enzymes could transform the way methane is activated, and would be more efficient than current chemical and biological approaches.

BASF

High Performance NiMH Alloy For Next-Generation Batteries

BASF is developing metal hydride alloys using new, low-cost metals for use in high-energy nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Although NiMH batteries have been used in over 5 million vehicles with a proven record of long service life and abuse tolerance, their storage capacity is limited, which restricts driving range. BASF looks to develop a new NiMH design that will improve storage capacity and reduce fabrication costs through the use of inexpensive components. BASF will select new metals with a high energy storage capacity, then modify and optimize battery cell design. Once the ideal design has been established, BASF will evaluate methods for mass production and build a prototype 1 Kilowatt-hour battery.

Battelle Memorial Institute

Battery Fault Sensing in Operating Batteries

Battelle is developing an optical sensor to monitor the internal environment of lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries in real-time. Over time, crystalline structures known as dendrites can form within batteries and cause a short circuiting of the battery's electrodes. Because faults can originate in even the tiniest places within a battery, they are hard to detect with traditional sensors. Battelle is exploring a new, transformational method for continuous monitoring of operating Li-Ion batteries. Their optical sensors detect internal faults well before they can lead to battery failures or safety problems. The Battelle team will modify a conventional battery component to scan the cell's interior, watching for internal faults to develop and alerting the battery management system to take corrective action before a hazardous condition occurs.

Bettergy Corp.

Low Temperature Ammonia Cracking Membrane Reactor for Hydrogen Generation

Bettergy Corp. will develop a catalytic membrane reactor to allow on-site hydrogen generation from ammonia. Ammonia is much easier to store and transport than hydrogen, but on-site hydrogen generation will not be viable until a number of technical challenges have been met. The team is proposing to develop a system that overcomes the issues caused by the high cracking temperature and the use of expensive catalysts. Bettergy proposes a low temperature, ammonia-cracking membrane reactor system comprised of a non-precious metal ammonia cracking catalyst and a robust composite membrane. A one-step cracking process will be used to convert ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen, with the hydrogen passing through the selective membrane leaving only nitrogen as the byproduct. If the team is successful, the conversion efficiency will be higher than conventional methods because the hydrogen is removed from the system as it is being produced. The low-temperature reactor will provide greater reliability, ease of operation, and cost effectiveness to hydrogen fueling stations. The team's technology could also be applicable for stationary fuel cell systems and the semiconductor, metallurgy, chemical, aerospace, and telecommunications industries.

Bettergy Corp.

Low-Cost Solid-State Battery for EV Applications

Bettergy is developing an inexpensive battery that uses a novel combination of solid, non-flammable materials to hold a greater amount of energy for use in EVs. Conventional EV batteries are typically constructed using costly materials and require heavy, protective components to ensure safety. Consequently, these heavy battery systems require the car to expend more energy, leading to reduced driving range. Bettergy will research a battery design that utilizes low-cost energy storage materials to reduce costs, and solid, non-flammable components that will not leak to improve battery safety. Bettergy plans to do this while reducing the battery weight for greater efficiency so vehicles can drive further on a single charge.

Bio Architecture Lab

Macroalgae Butanol

E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (DuPont) and Bio Architecture Lab are exploring the commercial viability of producing fuel-grade isobutanol from macroalgae (seaweed). Making macroalgae an attractive substrate for biofuel applications however, will require continued technology development. Assuming these developments are successful, initial assessments suggest macroalgae aquafarming in our oceans has the potential to produce a feedstock with cost in the same range as terrestrial-based substrates (crop residuals, energy crops) and may be the feedstock of choice in some locations. The use of macroalgae also diversifies the sources of U.S. biomass in order to provide more options in meeting demand for biofuels. The process being developed will use a robust industrial biocatalyst (microorganism) capable of converting macroalgal-derived sugars directly into isobutanol. Biobutanol is an advanced biofuel with significant advantages over ethanol, including higher energy content, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the ability to be blended in gasoline at higher levels than ethanol without changes to existing automobiles or the fuel industry infrastructure. Butamax is currently commercializing DuPont's biobutanol fermentation technology that uses sugar and starch feedstocks.

Bio2Electric, LLC

Electrogenerative System for Co-Production of Green Liquid Fuels and Electricity from Methane

Bio2Electric is developing a small-scale reactor that converts natural gas into a feedstock for industrial chemicals or liquid fuels. Conventional, large-scale gas-to-liquid reactors are expensive and not easily scaled down. Bio2Electric's reactor relies on a chemical conversion and fuel cell technology resulting in fuel cells that create a valuable feedstock, as well as electricity. In addition, the reactor relies on innovations in material science by combining materials that have not been used together before, thereby altering the desired output of the fuel cell. The reactors can be efficiently built as modular units, therefore reducing the manufacturing costs of the reactor. Bio2Electric's small-scale reactor could be deployed in remote locations to provide electricity in addition to liquid fuel, increasing the utility of geographically isolated gas reserves.

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