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Gas Technology Institute

Methane to Methanol Fuel: A Low Temperature Process

GTI is developing a new process to convert natural gas or methane-containing gas into methanol and hydrogen for liquid fuel. Methanol serves as the main feedstock for dimethyl ether, which could be used for vehicular fuel. Unfortunately, current methods to produce liquid fuels from natural gas require large and expensive facilities that use significant amounts of energy. GTI's process uses metal oxide catalysts that are continuously regenerated in a reactor, similar to a battery, to convert the methane into methanol. These metal oxide catalysts reduce the energy required during the conversion process. This process operates at room temperature, is more energy efficient, and less capital-intensive than existing methods.

Gas Technology Institute

Commercial Prototype Adsorbed Natural Gas (ANG) System for Light-Duty Vehicles

GTI will partner with Northwestern University, NuMat Technologies, a Northwestern start-up company, and Westport Fuel Systems to identify materials with the best characteristics for low-pressure natural gas storage. The gas-storing materials, known as metal organic framework (MOF) adsorbents, hold natural gas the way a sponge holds liquids. The project team will further develop their computer modeling and screening technique to support the creation of a low-pressure adsorbent material specifically designed for natural gas vehicles. The team will also validate the materials properties in real-world conditions. Low-pressure gas tanks represent significant potential for lowering not only the cost of NGVs, but also the cost of fueling by reducing the need to compress the gas.

Gas Technology Institute

Methane Soft Oxidation

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) will develop a sulfur-based methane oxidation process, known as soft oxidation, to convert methane into liquid fuels and chemicals. Current gas-to-liquid technology for converting methane to liquid hydrocarbons requires massive scale to achieve economic production. The large plant size makes this approach unsuitable to address the challenge of distributed methane emissions. Soft oxidation is a method better suited to address this challenge because of its modular nature. It also addresses a major limitation of conventional gas-to-liquid technology: the irreversible conversion of methane and oxygen to carbon dioxide. In this project, GTI will demonstrate and optimize a two-step methane soft oxidation process and develop a fully integrated system that converts methane to liquid hydrocarbons, recovers the valuable liquids and hydrogen gas, and recycles the remaining products. A key difference with traditional oxygen-based approaches is that GTI's method allows for some hydrogen recovery, whereas in oxygen-based approaches the hydrogen must be consumed completely. Soft oxidation has a higher efficiency because of this, and it lacks the need for complex heat integration and recovery methods that require large scale plants. If successful, this new process could provide an economic pathway to significantly reduce methane emissions through on-site conversion.

Gayle Technologies, Inc.

State-of-Health by Ultrasonic Battery Monitoring with In-Service Testing (SUBMIT)

Gayle is developing a laser-guided, ultrasonic electric vehicle battery inspection system that would help gather precise diagnostic data on battery performance. The batteries used in hybrid vehicles are highly complex, requiring advanced management systems to maximize their performance. Gayle's laser-guided, ultrasonic system would allow for diagnosis of various aspects of the battery system, including inspection for defects during manufacturing and assembly, battery state-of-health, and flaws that develop from mechanical or chemical issues with the battery system during use. Because of its non-invasive nature, relatively low cost, and potential for yielding broad information content, this innovative technology could increase productivity in battery manufacturing and better monitor battery conditions during use or service.

General Electric

Chilled Natural Gas

GE is developing a low-cost, at-home natural gas refueling system that reduces fueling time and eliminates compression stages. Traditional compressor-based natural gas refueling systems require removal of water from natural gas through complicated desiccant cycles to avoid damage. GE's design uses a chiller to cool the gas to a temperature below -50°C, which would separate water and other contaminants from the natural gas. This design has very few moving parts, will operate quietly, and will be virtually maintenance-free. This simplified, compressor-free design could allow fast refueling at 10% of the cost of today's systems.

General Electric

Transformational Nanostructured Permanent Magnets

GE is using nanomaterials technology to develop advanced magnets that contain fewer rare earth materials than their predecessors. Nanomaterials technology involves manipulating matter at the atomic or molecular scale, which can represent a stumbling block for magnets because it is difficult to create a finely grained magnet at that scale. GE is developing bulk magnets with finely tuned structures using iron-based mixtures that contain 80% less rare earth materials than traditional magnets, which will reduce their overall cost. These magnets will enable further commercialization of HEVs, EVs, and wind turbine generators while enhancing U.S. competitiveness in industries that heavily utilize these alternatives to rare earth minerals.

General Electric

Control Enabling Solutions with Ultrathin Strain and Temperature Sensor System for Reduced Battery Life Cycle Cost

GE is developing low-cost, thin-film sensors that enable real-time mapping of temperature and surface pressure for each cell within a battery pack, which could help predict how and when batteries begin to fail. The thermal sensors within today's best battery packs are thick, expensive, and incapable of precisely assessing important factors like temperature and pressure within their cells. In comparison to today's best systems, GE's design would provide temperature and pressure measurements using smaller, more affordable sensors than those used in today's measurement systems. Ultimately, GE's sensors could dramatically improve the thermal mapping and pressure measurement capabilities of battery management systems, allowing for better prediction of potential battery failures.

General Electric

High Energy Density Flow Battery for EV Storage

GE is developing an innovative, high-energy chemistry for a water-based flow battery. A flow battery is an easily rechargeable system that stores its electrode--the material that provides energy--as liquid in external tanks. Flow batteries have typically been used in grid-scale storage applications, but their flexible design architecture could enable their use in vehicles. To create a flow battery suitable for EVs, GE will test new chemistries with improved energy storage capabilities and built a working prototype. GE's water-based flow battery would be inherently safe because no combustible components would be required and any reactive liquids would be contained in separate tanks. GE estimates that its flow battery could reduce costs by up to 75% while offering a driving range of approximately 240 miles.

General Motors

InfoRich VD&PT Controls

General Motors will lead a team to develop "InfoRich" vehicle technologies that will combine advances in vehicle dynamic and powertrain control technologies with recent vehicle connectivity and automation technologies. The result will be a light duty gasoline vehicle that demonstrates greater than 20% fuel consumption reduction over current production vehicles while meeting all safety and exhaust emissions standards. On-board sensors and connected data will provide the vehicle with additional information such as the status of a traffic signal before a vehicle reaches an intersection, as well as traffic, weather, and accident information. This preview information enables the vehicle (and the driver) not only to react to current road conditions but also to plan for expected future conditions more efficiently. A proposed supervisory vehicle dynamic and powertrain controller will incorporate all the information available through connectivity and on-board sensors into an upper-level optimizer that determines the most fuel-efficient and safest vehicle operation. The upper-level optimizer sends brake, steering, speed, and torque requests to the two lower-level controllers: the vehicle dynamics controller (i.e. steering, acceleration and braking) and powertrain (i.e. engine, transmission) controller. The lower-level controllers, in turn, optimize their individual requests and send out commands to control the vehicle and powertrain. Overall energy efficiency increases by forecasting stopping events as early as possible, smoothing and reducing heavy acceleration, harmonizing speed, and optimizing the vehicle when approaching hills. The project combines General Motors' advanced vehicle/powertrain controls with Carnegie Mellon University's expertise in autonomous vehicles. Extensive real-world driving data available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Transportation Secure Data Center and on-road tests will be used to validate improvements in fuel efficiency and assess real-world impacts.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Ultra High-Performance Supercapacitor by Using Tailor-Made Molecular Spacer Grafted Graphene

Georgia Tech is developing a supercapacitor using graphene--a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms--to substantially store more energy than current technologies. Supercapacitors store energy in a different manner than batteries, which enables them to charge and discharge much more rapidly. The Georgia Tech team approach is to improve the internal structure of graphene sheets with 'molecular spacers,' in order to store more energy at lower cost. The proposed design could increase the energy density of the supercapacitor by 10-15 times over established capacitor technologies, and would serve as a cost-effective and environmentally safe alternative to traditional storage methods.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Network Performance Monitoring and Distributed Simulation to ImproveTransportation Energy Efficiency

Researchers with the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Georgia Tech) will combine real-time analysis of transportation network data with distributed simulation modeling to provide drivers with information and incentives to reduce energy consumption. The team's system model will use three sources of data to simulate the transportation network of the Atlanta metro area. The Georgia Department of Transportation's intelligent transportation system (ITS) data repository, hosted at Georgia Tech, will provide 20-second, lane-specific operations data while team partner, AirSage, will provide highway speeds and origin-destination patterns obtained from cellular networks. The team will also use real-time speed data collected from 40,000 volunteers using a smartphone application. The researchers will use pattern recognition algorithms to identify traffic accidents and recurrent congestion, predict traffic congestion severity, and user responses to congested conditions. Using this information, the team will develop a control architecture that will signal drivers with options to alter departure times, take specific routes, and/or use alternate modes of transportation to reduce energy use. The team anticipates that users will adopt the suggested guidance because the suggestions identified will not increase the time or cost of the trip, and could ultimately save users money in fuel costs.

Giner Inc.

High-Efficiency Ammonia Production from Water and Nitrogen

Giner, Inc. will develop advanced membrane and catalysts electrolyzer components that can electrochemically generate ammonia using water, nitrogen and intermittent renewable energy sources. Their electrochemical reactor operates at a much lower pressure and temperature than conventional methods, which can lead to significant energy savings. Some of their key innovations include metal nitride catalysts and high temperature poly(aryl piperidinium) anion exchange membranes (AEM) to boost the ammonia production rate and enhance process stability. The components will be integrated into Giner's existing water electrolysis platform to maximize the overall system efficiency. The project team has a diverse set of expertise which it will use to develop advanced catalysts and membranes; to integrate a water electrolyzer that can be easily manufactured; and to perform a techno-economic analysis that addresses the use of renewable energy sources. When completed, the system will decrease ammonia production capital and operating costs significantly compared to conventional processes.

Ginkgo Bioworks

Engineering E. coli as an Electrofuels Chassis for Isooctane Production

Ginkgo Bioworks is bypassing photosynthesis and engineering E. coli to directly use carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce biofuels. E. coli doesn't naturally metabolize CO2, but Ginkgo Bioworks is manipulating and incorporating the genes responsible for CO2 metabolism into the microorganism. By genetically modifying E. coli, Ginkgo Bioworks will enhance its rate of CO2 consumption and liquid fuel production. Ginkgo Bioworks is delivering CO2 to E. coli as formic acid, a simple industrial chemical that provides energy and CO2 to the bacterial system.

GreenLight Biosciences, Inc.

Highly Productive Cell-Free Bioconversion of Methane

GreenLight Biosciences is developing a cell-free bioreactor that can convert large quantities of methane to fuel in one step. This technology integrates biological and chemical processes into a single process by separating and concentrating the biocatalysts from the host microorganisms. This unique "cell-free" approach is anticipated to improve the productivity of the reactor without increasing cost. GreenLight's system can be erected onsite without the need for massive, costly equipment. The process uses natural gas and wellhead pressure to generate the power needed to run the facility. Any carbon dioxide that is released in the process is captured, condensed and pumped back into the well to maintain reservoir pressure and reduce emissions. This technology could enable a scalable, mobile facility that can be transported to remote natural gas wells as needed.

Harvard University

Engineering a Bacterial Reverse Fuel Cell

Harvard is engineering a self-contained, scalable electrofuels production system that can directly generate liquid fuels from bacteria, carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and sunlight. Harvard is genetically engineering bacteria called Shewanella, so the bacteria can sit directly on electrical conductors and absorb electrical current. This current, which is powered by solar panels, gives the bacteria the energy they need to process CO2 into liquid fuels. The Harvard team pumps this CO2 into the system, in addition to water and other nutrients needed to grow the bacteria. Harvard is also engineering the bacteria to produce fuel molecules that have properties similar to gasoline or diesel fuel--making them easier to incorporate into the existing fuel infrastructure. These molecules are designed to spontaneously separate from the water-based culture that the bacteria live in and to be used directly as fuel without further chemical processing once they're pumped out of the tank.

Harvard University

Mining the Deep Sea for Microbial Ethano- and Propanogenesis

Hi Fidelity Genetics LLC

Non-Invasive Field Phenotyping Device for Plant Roots

Hi Fidelity Genetics, LLC will develop a low-cost device to measure the characteristics of plant roots and the environmental conditions that affect their development. Their device, called the "RootTracker," is a cylindrical, cage-like structure equipped with sensors on the rings of the cage. Before a seed is planted, farmers can push or twist the RootTracker directly into the soil. A seed is then planted at the top of the cage, allowing the plant to grow naturally while sensors accurately measure root density, growth angles, and growth rates, while having minimal impact on the growth of the plant. The prototype includes additional sensors attached to a removable, reusable rod to monitor environmental conditions. Data gathered by the device can be transmitted wirelessly or recorded internally using a low-cost microcontroller charged by solar power. The main technical challenge is automatically adjusting the calibration of the sensors, which are affected by soil type, soil moisture, and other environmental conditions that can disrupt the signal produced by the sensor. Another challenge is to distinguish between different types of biological matter. The team will also develop software for processing the data generated by the device and conduct laboratory and field tests to assess the performance of the prototype. Data collected by the device will help breeders further optimize root system architecture, which should lead to more energy-efficient crop varieties.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Prototype of Rechargeable Nanoelectrofuel Flow Battery for EV Systems with High Energy Density, Low Viscosity and Integrated Thermal Management Function

IIT is collaborating with Argonne National Laboratory to develop a rechargeable flow battery for EVs that uses a nanotechnology-based electrochemical liquid fuel that offers over 30 times the energy density of traditional electrolytes. Flow batteries, which store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, are typically low in energy density and therefore not well suited for transportation. However, IIT/Argonne's flow battery uses a liquid electrolyte containing a large portion of nanoparticles to carry its charge; increases its energy density while ensuring stability and low-resistance flow within the battery. IIT/Argonne's technology could enable a whole new class of high-energy-density flow batteries. This unique battery design could be manufactured domestically using an easily scalable process.

Inorganic Specialists, Inc.

Silicon-Coated Nanofiber Paper as a Lithium-Ion Anode

Inorganic Specialists' project consists of material and manufacturing development for a new type of Li-Ion battery material, a silicon-coated paper. Silicon-based batteries are advantageous due to silicon's ability to store large amounts of energy. Yet, the technology has not been able to withstand multiple charge/discharge cycles. The thinner the silicon-based material, the better it can handle multiple charge/discharge cycles. Inorganic Specialists' extremely thin silicon-coated paper can store 4 times more energy than existing Li-Ion batteries. The team is improving manufacturing capability in two key areas: 1) expanding existing papermaking equipment to continuously produce the silicon-coated paper, and 2) creating machinery that will silicon-coat the paper via a moving process, to demonstrate manufacturing feasibility. These manufacturing improvements could meet the energy storage criteria required for multiple charge/discharge cycles. Inorganic Specialists' silicon-coated paper's properties have the potential to make it a practical, cost-effective transformative Li-Ion battery material.

Inventev LLC

Commercial Truck Transmission-Integrated Utility-Grade Power Generation from Natural Gas

Inventev is developing a proof-of-concept for a commercially viable generator system that is integrated with a truck transmission. The project will involve the design and fabrication of transmission and power electronics subsystems, integration of those systems into a Ford F550 chassis-cab truck, and conversion of the standard gasoline engine to a low-pressure natural gas engine. The project aims to create a 120kW low-cost, low-emission mobile power generator using natural gas with a cost target of 6-to-7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Of particular significance is the ability to use the same devices (i.e. electric machine motor/generators) that electrically propel a vehicle to become generators for exporting 3-phase grid-quality power. If successful, this technology could be used to create fleets of trucks with inherent power generating capability that could be deployed to enable electrical grid resiliency from interruptions or used short-term for low-cost nimble and localized generating capacity.


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