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The continual demand for greater material strength, durability, and longevity in structural applications makes metal a constant focus and challenge for material scientists and engineers. One of the best ways to modify the mechanical and structural properties of metal is through peening, a process that uses surface impaction to produce permanent, compressive residual stress layers within a metal’s surface; once the external impact stress dissipates, the peened material retains its harder, more durable quality. Contemporary peening processes used round metallic or ceramic balls to compress a material and harden its surface. Though this process works, shot peening has less-than-exact control due to the nature of ballistic balls, the limited or sub-surface impaction depths, and the prevalence of pitting throughout the target surface material. To combat these limitations, Metal Improvement Company (MIC)—a subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies—and LLNL partnered to develop the commercial production of a more efficient method to strengthen metal: laser peening.
Although laser peening technology existed in the 1960s, its irregularity undermined the technology’s commercial viability. That is, until LLNL began applying its high-energy, high-repetition-rate, short-pulse laser to peening applications in the 1990s. Since laser-based peening allows for precision control and compaction depths of 5–10 times deeper than shot peening, a perfected laser-peeing process would expand potential applications from gears, coils, and crankshafts to more structurally demanding items such as steam turbine blades, aircraft structures, and high-performance engine components. Leveraging Livermore’s robotic mounts for fast, customized, computer-controlled peening angles, laser peening soon acquired the characteristics of speed, efficiency, and consistent coverage to warrant commercial development. Shot-peening industry leader MIC funded additional research at LLNL to hone the short-pulse laser technology for laser peening and subsequently licensed the patent portfolio covering the LLNL laser system. MIC opened its first laser peening facility in 2002 and now has three peening facilities in the US, one in the UK, and mobile peening systems with the capability to go on-site anywhere in the world.
The commercial laser peening process developed by LLNL and MIC extends the service lifetime of aircraft engines, power turbines, and other critical components of military and civilian systems by a factor of 10. The impacts of this technology are particularly evident in the aerospace industry, where laser peening has improved more than 10,000 jet engine turbine blades and extended the lifespan for components of aircraft for customers ranging from Boeing, Rolls Royce, Siemens, and the Department of Defense. Using LLNL’s technology, MIC now treats blades for steam and gas turbines for all major electric power equipment manufacturers in the U.S.
MIC integrated LLNL-developed laser technology and peening capability into a viable commercial process that continues having a major global impact. Laser peening improves performance, increases service life, and reduces costs for various industry structures and propulsion, yielding billions of dollars in savings for jet engine fan blades, fuselages, wings, and other components of civil and military aircraft structures, electricity generation steam turbines, and high-performance racing vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, located outside of Chicago, and California Lithium Battery, Inc. (CalBattery), a Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator portfolio company, announced today that they have signed a licensing agreement for an Argonne-developed, silicon-graphene composite anode material for high-energy lithium batteries.
CalBattery plans to move forward rapidly in the commercial scale-up and production of this breakthrough novel composite anode material, which tests show triples the energy capacity of the state-of-the-art graphite anode.
CalBattery has worked with Argonne for more than a year under a Work for Others agreement to develop the technology under the DOE's Startup America program, which is part of a White House initiative to inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship.
Vorbeck Materials Corp of Jessup, MD participated in the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator program, a part of the Startup America initiative, allowing the company to quickly and efficiently license a substantial portfolio of graphene-based battery technologies, developed with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Princeton University.
PNNL and Princeton's pioneering work in the field of graphene-based battery electrodes, together with Vorbeck's leading expertise in the production and application of high-quality graphene, will enable the rapid commercialization of this energy storage technology. Vorbeck is already working with materials distribution and supply company, Targray Technology International, to bring the novel battery electrode materials to market.
Google and the IEEE Power Electronics Society are working with NREL at the ESIF on the Little Box Challenge, an open competition challenging engineers to build smaller power inverters for use in photovoltaic (PV) power systems.
Up to 18 finalists in the Challenge will be invited to bring their inverter to the ESIF in 2015 for testing and evaluation against the contest parameters. NREL’s world-class researchers will use the state-of-the-art capabilities of the ESIF to evaluate each inverter’s efficiency and performance during tests spanning 100 hours under the same set of typical operating conditions. The test results will help Google and IEEE decide the winner of the $1 million prize, which in 2016 will go to the team that designs and builds a kilowatt-scale inverter with the highest power density and that meets the contest’s other specifications.
The goal of the Little Box Challenge is to create a smaller,more efficient power inverter. Currently, inverters are about the size of a picnic cooler, and Google would like to see the technology shrink to the size of a small laptop computer or smaller. Shrinking the current inverter by 10 times or more and making it cheaper to produce and install would enable more PV-powered homes and more efficient distribution grids, and help bring electricity to remote areas.
A faster, cheaper way to manufacture silicon solar cells, partially funded by the Energy Department and fine-tuned at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has won a coveted R&D 100 award as one of the top technology innovations of 2013.
Crystal Solar's approach to growing high-quality, high-efficiency silicon wafers at 100 times the usual throughput and half the cost could be a game-changer, creating American jobs and stemming the flow of solar cell manufacturing overseas, says T.S. Ravi, chief executive officer of the Santa Clara, California-based company.
For more NREL success stories visit http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/success_stories.html
Even before he founded Crystal Solar, Ravi set a goal to speed up the manufacturing process. In 2011, his nascent company applied for the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative's Photovoltaic (PV) Incubator Program, which at that time was run out of NREL. The PV Incubator Program has a very competitive selection process, searching for ideas that are truly disruptive in terms of lowering costs.
"We applied for the program and were selected in late 2011," Ravi said, recalling a conversation he had several years ago with NREL's Harin Ullal. "I knew that if I could bunch a lot of wafers together, and find a way to remove the epitaxial wafer with a simple mechanical process, it could actually change the game in the solar industry."
Crystal Solar's direct gas-to-wafer method is epitaxial, which means it grows a layer of material on top of another material that has the same crystal structure. In the direct gas-to-wafer method—the official name is Direct Monocrystalline Silicon Wafer Growth by High-Throughput Epitaxy—gaseous layers of semiconducting silicon material are grown directly on reusable silicon substrates. The method has several advantages, including eliminating the waste incurred in the traditional approach, which involves sawing thin slices from a large ingot or block of silicon. In the new approach, wafers can be made thinner without compromising their quality or efficiency.
However, semiconductor material using the epitaxial approach typically grows very slowly—about two wafers an hour for the thickness needed for solar wafers. That's much too slow—and therefore costly—for solar cells. The Energy Department's SunShot Initiative has set a goal for solar energy of less than $1 per watt system price by 2020, as a way of making it cost competitive with fossil-fuel-based electricity.
Fore more NREL success stories visit http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/success_stories.html
The NanoSteel Company
Complex modern challenges are driving new industrial market demands for metal alloys with properties and performance capabilities outside the known boundaries of existing materials. The NanoSteel Company’s portfolio of proprietary nano-structured steels is new technology designed to solve these challenges while leveraging the inherent benefits of steel.
NanoSteel is a leader in nano-structured steel materials design. NanoSteel partners with major automotive, oil & gas, mining and steel production companies to create new products that meet a number of today’s more critical materials needs. NanoSteel brings new alloys with unique performance properties tailored to specific market requirements from the lab through to commercialization.
NanoSteel represents a successful technology transfer from U.S. government funded research to a commercial going concern. NanoSteel’s original steel material breakthrough in 1996 was the result of a U.S. government funded R&D project at the USDOE’s Idaho National Lab (INL) for hard-metal surface coatings for industrial applications in extreme wear environments. NanoSteel was formed in 2002 with a worldwide exclusive license from INL to this technology.
NanoSteel has a proven track record of innovation and successful development and commercialization of award-winning products. Based on the foundation of its original surface coatings technology, NanoSteel has created progressive generations of iron-based alloys from foils to powder metals to sheet steel. The company has won five prestigious R&D 100 Awards for its nano-structured alloys and its ongoing commitment to R&D is supported by an extensive intellectual property portfolio which includes more than 200 licenses, patents and patents pending.
NanoSteel recently reached a significant product development milestone with a third generation Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) sheet design breakthrough for the automotive industry. NanoSteel’s new AHSS delivers both high strength and high ductility allowing automakers the ability to use thinner gauges of higher strength steel to design parts without compromising safety. Through this unique combination of properties, NanoSteel’s new class of AHSS will light-weight future vehicle designs to help meet U.S. government fuel economy requirements that will increase to 54.5 MPG in 2025. This new AHSS sheet is currently being commercialized.
The Critical Materials Institute (CMI) along with GE and Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories has discovered new phosphors for use in efficient lighting technologies, such as fluorescent long tube lighting and LEDs. CMI has developed an accelerated materials discovery framework that predicts which new materials have the characteristics needed for lighting applications and scales up the production of these materials for manufacturing trials.Phosphors for lighting applications often contain critical rare earth materials, such as europium and terbium, which are subject to supply risk. CMI’s accelerated materials discovery process can identify new phosphors that meet or exceed existing materials in both manufacturing and performance in fluorescent and LED lamps. Current LED technology, for example, is limited in its ability to provide “tunable” color for lamps because the phosphors used are broadband emitters, which results in blue color. This “cool light” is less marketable in the North American market, where consumers prefer yellow-toned lighting.The solution
CMI utilized both rapid computational and experimental discovery methods to identify materials with appropriate emissive qualities -- they emit light at the right wavelength and have narrow bandwidth emissions necessary for LED applications. These methods allowed for quick screening of viable candidates, taking into account manufacturing requirements. Within in a two-year span, this approach helped scientists rapidly identify replacements for red and green phosphors in fluorescent lamps, eliminating the use of europium and terbium. The process was then extended to LED phosphors, and within the first year and a half of that effort, CMI scientists identified viable candidates for replacements for both red and green phosphors in LED lighting with narrow bandwidth. The role of Ames Laboratory
CMI brings scientists from across the DOE laboratory complex together to solve multidisciplinary problems. These projects are significant in scope and often utilize a method that integrates computational and experimental methods to rapidly screen candidate substitute materials. The framework and methodology used is broadly applicable beyond lighting technology and is being used for materials discovery and design in other areas, such as permanent magnet materials. This capability can be extended to other critical materials whose supply risk can be addressed through the use of alternative materials.Further information
For further information, please contact Stacy Joiner (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tom Lograsso (email@example.com).
Whether in the realm of anti-bioterrorism or cancer treatment, early detection can be the difference between life and death. Leveraging the unparalleled pathogen-detecting technology that shields Americans from the threat of bioterrorism, LLNL and Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. are in the business of transforming the world of genetic testing.
For years, life scientists used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to assess the genetic composition of a specimen. However, conventional PCR approaches faced concerns of scale: the nanoscopic indicators that signal the early-onset of a disease could be missed within a traditional sample. Compounding this issue: without the ability to divide a sample into equivalent, smaller subsets, scientists needed to use statistical models to estimate—rather than quantify—the prevalence of any detected rare-event pathogens or genetic mutations.
Enter LLNL, whose work with anti-bioterror sensor systems primed the Lab to offer rare-event detectors to the world of early diagnostics. In 2008, award-winning LLNL biodefense scientist Bill Colston founded QuantaLife, Inc., a biotechnology firm that converted LLNL’s anti-bioterrorism detectors into genetic screening tools that used an oil-emulsion to anatomize a single sample into thousands of equivalent, nanoliter droplets. Each of these droplets could then be screened for the nucleic acid markers that would reveal pathogens or mutations, offering researchers a way to magnify any expressed genes within a sample. QuantaLife’s product, the Droplet Digital™ PCR (ddPCR™), allowed scientists to finally eliminate the noise that hindered accurate quantification.
Thanks to the success of the ddPCR™ system, the Personalized Medicine World Conference named QuantaLife, Inc. the “Most Promising Company” of 2010. The ddPCR™ also received Frost & Sullivan’s “2011 North American Personalized Medicine New Product Innovation Award.” Recognizing the value of this revolutionary product, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of life-sciences diagnostic tools, purchased QuantaLife and the rights to ddPCR™ in 2011. Bio-Rad enriched the ddPCR™ approach by developing the QX100 Droplet Digital PCR System, which features one device to generate the emulsified droplets and a second device to analyze the results of the PCR test. This paired-approach allows researchers to integrate their own procedures during diagnostics, thereby expanding the versatility of the system. The QX100 Droplet Digital PCR system would go on to win R&D Magazine’s distinguished “R&D 100 Award” in honor of the technology’s far-reaching impact.
Thanks to the Digital Droplet™ PCR technology initiated at LLNL, transformed by QuantaLife, Inc. and expanded by Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., researchers may now delve deeper into a wide range of genetic mysteries, including sequential mutations, cancer progressions, and pathogen adaptations. What’s more, medical professionals use this tool to personalize their treatments according to the genetic needs of their patients. Such empowering technology will continue to transform medicine and promises to prompt innumerable discoveries within diagnostics and beyond.
LED North America (LEDNA), founded in 2008, is a company located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that produces LED alternatives for commercial lighting for applications such as roadways, parking lots, parking garages, and indoor high bay applications. The company is located in Oak Ridge at an incubator facility for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. LEDNA licensed an innovative graphite foam developed at ORNL by James Klett, and now LED North America provides advanced light fixtures that illuminate a brighter, more efficient light. The porous material is very light weight and extremely thermally conductive. This gives it the ability to conduct heat away from particular areas, which is important in increasing the longevity of an LED bulb. Every 10 degrees Celsius decreased from an LED bulb’s temperature doubles its lifetime.
The benefits of this new choice for lighting are numerous. The efficiency of the design means that those who implement LEDNA’s products will see a savings in energy consumption. This means lower costs. LEDNA’s products are also very low maintenance, adding again to the decrease in the cost of lighting. In fact, in some cases, LEDNA has shown to generate a positive cash flow through savings of almost five times the original investment. LED North America also shows great promise for growth. Around 21 percent of the commercial sector’s electricity consumption comes from lighting. Many companies are switching to LED lighting in order to cut costs and improve efficiency. The LED market is expected to pass $1 billion in 2013 and grow 40% annually through 2016. LEDNA is sure to be a major player in this market. In the future, Andrew Wilhelm, the president of LED North America, hopes to develop the technology in LEDNA’s products to be able to replace 1000-watt bulbs in arenas, further increasing their applications.
Today, LEDNA has products on the market for a number of applications including commercial high bays, street lights, and area lights. The company recently completed a parking garage demonstration project that achieved payback of installation investment in 13 months.
In 2009, GE entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to test the new, more energy efficient water heater called the GeoSprings Hybrid Water Heater. The GeoSpring water heater combines energy-saving heat-pump technology with traditional electric elements using a fraction of the energy. The integrated compressor and evaporator use a fan to draw in ambient heat from surrounding air to heat refrigerant. Then the heated refrigerant runs through coils that wrap the tank all the way to the bottom, transferring heat into the water tank. Test results have shown that the GeoSpring water heater uses less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon tank water heater and can last at least 10 years.
The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater creates the same amount of hot water as a traditional electric water heater, while reducing heating expenses up to 62%. The Department of Energy estimates that if 10 percent of the nation's 4.8 million annual electric water heater shipments were heat pump water heaters meeting Energy Star standards, as does the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, the 480,000 units would reduce power consumption by nearly 1.3 billion kilowatt hours and save consumers $130 million in energy costs annually. The benefits of the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater also include the addition of U.S. jobs. In 2011, GE Energy opened up a manufacturing plant in Louisville, Kentucky, creating around 400 new jobs.
Today, GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heaters are sold throughout the world.
Optimizing solar-cell technology can be a complex job, requiring expertise in material science, physics, and optics to convert as much sunlight as possible into electricity. But despite this complexity, a simple fact is key to making a high-performance solar cell: any sunlight reflected off the cell can’t possibly be converted into electricity.
Manufacturers have tried to minimize the reflection of sunlight off of solar cells by first chemically etching micrometers-deep structures into the surface of solar cells and then depositing one or more thin anti-reflection layers. Unfortunately, the equip- ment and processes for these conventional methods add significant cost to the solar cell, and the cells still absorb only 93%–97% of the sunlight.
To address this problem, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have invented the “black silicon” nanocatalytic wet-chemical etch, an inexpen- sive, one-step process that literally turns the solar cells black, allowing them to absorb more than 98% of incident sunlight. The process costs just a few cents per watt of solar-cell power-producing capacity.
To etch the silicon, a wafer is immersed in a solution that contains chloroauric acid, which is composed of hydrogen, chlorine, and gold. Tiny nanoparticles of gold instant- ly form and act as a catalyst for chemical reactions, producing a nanometer-scale porous surface on the cell wafer. The nanoscale pores—on the order of a billionthof a meter in diameter—are much smaller than the wavelength of the incident light, so they suppress reflection across the full spectrum of sunlight. As the tiny holes deepen, they make the metallic gray silicon appear increasingly dark until it becomes almost pure black, absorbing nearly all frequencies of sunlight. The surface becomes riddled with minute pores of varying depths with no sharp interfaces that would reflect light, creating a highly absorbent silicon wafer.
Using a closely-related process that employs less-expensive silver nanoparticles, NREL has made a black silicon cell with a validated 18.2% conversion efficiency—about the same efficiency as a typical crystalline silicon solar cell with a more costly antireflec- tive coating.
At 100°F, NREL’s black silicon etching process takes less than a minute. In contrast, the etching process that prepares silicon wafers for conventional antireflective coatings takes 8–30 minutes, and applying the coatings adds even more processing time.
Fore more NREL success stories visit http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/success_stories.html
Graphene, the much-vaunted "super material" that catapulted onto the materials science scene just nine years ago, offers extraordinary opportunities for industries interested in everything from supercomputers to renewable energy. Unfortunately, graphene's singular characteristics come at the price of a challenging synthesis processes—weaving two-dimensional, atom-thin tapestries from carbon atoms requires considerable craft.Armed with just such expertise, physicists Elena Polyakova and Daniel Stolyarov launched a company to provide laboratories and industry with much-needed samples of these remarkable hexagonal structures. Graphene Laboratories, based in Calverton, NY and founded in 2009, works in close collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) to pioneer new synthesis techniques and characterization studies of graphene and other promising two-dimensional materials.