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Transportation Energy Conversion

Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science

The IDEAS program - short for Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science - provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards, which are restricted to maximums of one year in duration and $500,000 in funding, are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs. IDEAS awards may also support proof-of-concept research to develop a unique technology concept, either in an area not currently supported by the agency or as a potential enhancement to an ongoing focused technology program. This program identifies potentially disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies that challenge the status quo and represent a leap beyond today's technology. That said, an innovative concept alone is not enough. IDEAS projects must also represent a fundamentally new paradigm in energy technology and have the potential to significantly impact ARPA-E's mission areas.

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2009, ARPA-E issued an open call for the most revolutionary energy technologies to form the agency's inaugural program. The first open solicitation was open to ideas from all energy areas and focused on funding projects already equipped with strong research and development plans for their potentially high-impact technologies. The projects chosen received a level of financial support that could accelerate technical progress and catalyze additional investment from the private sector. After only 2 months, ARPA-E's investment in these projects catalyzed an additional $33 million in investments. In response to ARPA-E's first open solicitation, more than 3,700 concept papers flooded into the new agency, which were thoroughly reviewed by a team of 500 scientists and engineers in just 6 months. In the end, 36 projects were selected as ARPA-E's first award recipients, receiving $176 million in federal funding.
 For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2012, ARPA-E issued its second open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 4,000 concept papers for OPEN 2012, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 66 projects for its OPEN 2012 program, awarding them a total of $130 million in federal funding. OPEN 2012 projects cut across 11 technology areas: advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, stationary power generation, water, as well as stationary, thermal, and transportation energy storage.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2015, ARPA-E issued its third open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 2,000 concept papers for OPEN 2015, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 41 projects for its OPEN 2015 program, awarding them a total of $125 million in federal funding. OPEN 2015 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, industrial processes and waste heat, data management and communication, wind, solar, tidal and distributed generation, grid scale storage, power electronics, power grid system performance, vehicle efficiency, storage for electric vehicles, and alternative fuels and bio-energy.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2018, ARPA-E issued its fourth open funding opportunity, designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received thousands of concept papers for OPEN 2018, which hundreds of scientists and engineers reviewed over the course of several months. ARPA-E selected 45 projects for its OPEN 2018 program, awarding them $112 million in federal funding. OPEN 2018 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, distributed generation, electrical efficiency, grid, grid storage, manufacturing efficiency, resource efficiency, transportation fuels, transportation energy conversion, and transportation vehicles.

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.

Achates Power, Inc.

Highly-Efficient Opposed Piston Engine for Hybrid Vehicles ("HOPE-Hybrid")

Achates Power will develop an opposed-piston engine suitable for hybrid electric vehicle applications. The team will use a unique gasoline compression ignition design that minimizes energy losses (e.g., heat transfer) typical in conventional internal combustion engines. A motor-generator integrated on each engine crankshaft will provide independent control to each piston and eliminate all torque transmitted across the crankshaft connection, thus reducing engine size, mass, cost, friction, and noise. Engine efficiency improvement is expected through this real-time control of the combustion process. The proposed technology has the potential to offer manufacturers a full-range of cost-effective solutions to improve vehicle efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.A highly efficient hybrid opposed-piston engine can be easily integrated in the existing fueling infrastructure and offers the power and convenience that U.S. consumers demand.

Advanced Magnet Lab, Inc.

Homopolar Machines Enabled With Electron Current Transfer Technology

Ceramatec, Inc.

Intermediate Temperature Proton Conducting Fuel Cells for Transportation Applications

Ceramatec is developing a solid-state fuel cell that operates in an 'intermediate' temperature range that could overcome persistent challenges faced by both high temperature and low temperature fuel cells. The advantages compared to higher temperature fuel cells are less expensive seals and interconnects, as well as longer lifetime. The advantages compared to low temperature fuel cells are reduced platinum requirements and the ability to run on fuels other than hydrogen, such as natural gas or methanol. Ceramatec's design would use a new electrolyte material to transport protons within the cell and advanced electrode layers. The project would engineer a fuel cell stack that performs at lower cost than current automotive designs, and culminate in the building and testing of a short fuel cell stack capable of meeting stringent transportation requirements.

Cummins Corporate Research & Technology

Efficient Knock Suppression in Spark Ignited Engines

Cummins Corporate Research & Technology will develop an advanced high efficiency natural gas-fueled internal combustion engine for high-power distributed electricity generation. The team is seeking to achieve 55% brake thermal efficiency while maintaining low exhaust emissions. The enabling technology is wet compression, where fine droplets of water are sprayed directly into the engine cylinders, causing the charge temperature to drop and thereby prevent the onset of damaging engine knock at high compression ratios. Since it takes less energy to compress cooler air, the savings from reduced compression work can be passed on to increase the net engine output. Wet compression is a transformative technology that dramatically improves engine efficiency while still allowing for conventional engine manufacturing methods at existing facilities.

Electron Energy Corporation

Solid State Processing of Fully Dense Anisotropic Nanocomposite Magnets

Electron Energy Corporation (EEC) and its team are developing a new processing technology that could transform how permanent magnets found in today's EV motors and renewable power generators are fabricated. This new process, known as friction consolidation extrusion (FC&E), could produce stronger magnets at a lower cost and with reduced rare earth mineral content. The advantage of FC&E over today's best fabrication processes is that it can be applied to unconsolidated powders as opposed to solid alloys, which can allow magnets to be compacted from much smaller grains of two different types, a process which could double its magnetic energy density. EEC's process could reduce the need for rare earth mineral in permanent magnets by as much 30%.

General Electric

Transformational Nanostructured Permanent Magnets

General Electric (GE) Global Research 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.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

High Power Density Compact Drive Integrated Motor for Electric Transportation

The Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) will develop a new approach to internally cool permanent magnet motors. The technology could dramatically improve electric motors' power density and reduce system size and weight. To do so, the team will integrate motor and drive electronics into a unique system packaging incorporating an embedded advanced thermal management system. They will also develop wide bandgap power electronics packaging to enable high power density operations at higher temperature. The new design could substantially increase the power and torque density above the state of the art and enable more energy-efficient electric trucks, buses, and, potentially, aircraft.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

High-Power Metal-Supported SOFCs for Vehicles

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) will develop a high power density, rapid-start, metal-supported solid oxide fuel cell (MS-SOFC), as part of a fuel cell hybrid vehicle system that would use liquid bio-ethanol fuel. In this concept, the SOFC would accept hydrogen fuel derived from on-board processing of the bio-ethanol and air, producing electricity to charge an on-board battery and operate the motor. The project aims to develop and demonstrate cell-level MS-SOFC technology providing unprecedented high power density and rapid start capability initially using hydrogen and simulated processed ethanol fuels. The majority of the project will focus on the optimization and development of scalable cells that meet stringent power density and start-up time metrics. High-performance catalysts and state-of-the-art high-oxide-conductivity electrolyte materials will be adapted to the MS-SOFC architecture and processing requirements. The cell will be optimized for power density by making the electrolyte and support layers as thin as possible, and the porous electrode structures will be optimized for catalytic activity, gas transport, and conductivity. If successful, the MS-SOFC will be used in a fuel cell stack to achieve low startup time (less than 3 minutes), thousands of operating cycles, and excellent anode oxidation tolerance thus solving issues that have prevented conventional SOFCs from being used effectively in vehicles.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Metal-Supported SOFCs for Ethanol-Fueled Vehicles

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is developing a metal-supported SOFC (MS-SOFC) stack that produces electricity from an ethanol-water blend at high efficiency and energy density. This technology will enable light- to medium-duty hybrid passenger EVs to operate at a long range, with higher efficiency than gasoline vehicles and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than current vehicles. LBNL's MS-SOFCs are mechanically rugged: they can heat from room temperature to their approximately 700°C (1292 °F) operating temperature within a few minutes without cracking and tolerate rapid temperature changes. Usually, ethanol fuel is converted into hydrogen and carbon monoxide prior to entering the fuel cell, which adds volume, cost, and complexity. The team will adapt these MS-SOFCs to operate on liquid ethanol-water fuel directly, while maintaining their high performance and durability, and tackle challenges around scale-up.

Michigan State University

Wave Disk Engine

Michigan State University (MSU) is developing a new engine for use in hybrid automobiles that could significantly reduce fuel waste and improve engine efficiency. In a traditional internal combustion engine, air and fuel are ignited, creating high-temperature and high-pressure gases that expand rapidly. This expansion of gases forces the engine's pistons to pump and powers the car. MSU's engine has no pistons. It uses the combustion of air and fuel to build up pressure within the engine, generating a shockwave that blasts hot gas exhaust into the blades of the engine's rotors causing them to turn, which generates electricity. MSU's redesigned engine would be the size of a cooking pot and contain fewer moving parts--reducing the weight of the engine by 30%. It would also enable a vehicle that could use 60% of its fuel for propulsion.

Pinnacle Engines

Development of an Electrified Opposed Piston Four-Stroke Engine for Hybrid-Electric and Range Extender Vehicle Applications

Pinnacle Engines will develop a highly efficient hybrid electric engine that, if successful, will significantly reduce petroleum consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Adding a unique electric powertrain to Pinnacle's four-stroke, spark-ignited, opposed-piston sleeve-valve engine technology enables a fundamental leap forward in fuel efficiency. Electric motor-generators on each crankshaft will improve engine efficiency by modifying and optimizing the piston motion and resulting combustion process. Pinnacle will also evaluate direct fuel injection, high rates of exhaust gas recirculation, and a low-temperature combustion strategy, which will improve knock tolerance and reduce heat loss, pumping work, and nitrogen oxide emissions. Pinnacle's proposed engine technology will reduce fuel consumption and produce lower net greenhouse gases in a cost-effective manner when compared with current generation internal combustion engines and full-hybrid electric vehicles.

Princeton Optronics

Development of a New Type of Laser Ignition System for Next Generation High Efficiency, Low Exhaust Emission Combustion Engines

Princeton Optronics will develop a low-cost, high-temperature capable laser ignition system which can be mounted directly on the engine heads of stationary natural gas engines, just like regular spark plugs are today. This will be done using a newly developed high-temperature Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) pump combined with a solid-state laser gain material that can operate at temperatures typically experienced on a stationary natural gas engine. The key innovations of this project will allow the laser pump and complete laser ignition system to deliver the required pulse energy output at the engine block temperature and create a solution that is entirely exchangeable with a conventional spark plug. This avoids the need for an expensive and complicated fiber optics system to deliver the laser energy to the engine's combustion chamber from an off-board, cooled location. If successful, the high temperature laser ignition system will provide a reliable solution to extend the lean limit of combustion and increase the efficiency of stationary natural gas engines, resulting in significant fuel savings and emissions reductions.

Tetramer Technologies, L.L.C.

Novel High Peformance Anionic Exchange Membranes with Enhanced Stability High Temperatures

Tetramer Technologies will develop an anion exchange membrane (AEM) as an alternative to proton exchange membranes (PEM) for use in fuel cells and electrolyzers. The team will test a newly developed AEM for stability in alkaline conditions at a temperature of 80°C, enhanced ion conductivity, controlled membrane swelling, and other required properties. Industry has not yet achieved a cost-effective, commercially viable AEM with long-term chemical and physical stability. If such AEMs could be developed, then AEM-fuel cells could use inexpensive, non-precious metal catalysts, as opposed to expensive metal catalysts like platinum. Platinum in PEM fuel cells accounts for close to 50% of the total fuel cell stack cost at high volume, while the acid-resistant bipolar plates account for an additional 22% of the total stack cost. In alkaline conditions, switching precious metals for cheaper metal catalysts could reduce stack costs by an estimated 50%, which would result in a 25% lower overall vehicle fuel cell system cost. If successful, the team's polymers could produce a pathway toward dramatically cheaper fuel cells that exhibit comparable or better performance to today's fuel cells.

University of Delaware

Quaternary Phosphonium Based Hydroxide Exchange Membranes

The University of Delaware (UD) is developing a new fuel cell membrane for vehicles that relies on cheaper and more abundant materials than those used in current fuel cells. Conventional fuel cells are very acidic, so they require acid-resistant metals like platinum to generate electricity. UD is developing an alkaline fuel cell membrane that can operate in a non-acidic environment where cheaper materials like nickel and silver, instead of platinum, can be used. In addition to enabling the use of cheaper metals, UD's membrane is 500 times less expensive than other polymer membranes used in conventional fuel cells.

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