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Low-cost energy storage solutions have the promise to make carbon-free renewable solar- and wind-generated energy readily available on the electric grid and to put more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. However, today’s 10-year lifespan of batteries for these applications cannot compete with the 20- to 30-year lifetime of fossil-fueled power-peaking plants or the 15- to 20-year lifetime of conventional petroleum-powered vehicles. Additionally, the problem of Lithium (Li) loss capacity fade plagues today’s Li-ion battery technologies, shortening their lifespan and restricting their performance.
The cost of Li-ion energy storage systems, presently around $325/kWh, is expected to fall by 45% in the next five years, outpacing most competing storage technologies presently under development. But even if costs are brought below $200/kWh, the limited lifetime of Li-ion battery devices will still impede widespread market acceptance. However, with the implementation of grid-based energy storage demonstration projects and numerous EVs on the road, hope for low-cost energy storage solutions has been renewed and technical and economic analyses are increasingly looking beyond upfront expenses in order to optimize energy storage total life-cycle costs.
Engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have invented a passively triggered excess Li reservoir for energy storage cells to overcome the Li-loss capacity fade. This technology may greatly improve the life cycle and utility of Li-based energy storage systems for both utility and vehicle applications, extending lifetime by more than 50% while adding less than 2% to today’s cell cost.
The excess Li is uniquely released from the reservoir to maintain the cell’s capacity with no need for external circuitry or sensors to control the release. Additionally, both the volume and the mass of the internal Li reservoir are minimized within this novel invention in order to keep costs low. This invention specifies multiple locations for the Li reservoir within commercial Li-ion cells depending on the cell’s packaging and methods to engineer a controlled release rate. In addition to improving capacity retention over lifetime, the invention can also be used to greatly improve the beginning of life capacity of cells employing electrodes such as silicon that suffer from large irreversible capacity loss during their first several cycles.
Iowa State University researchers have developed a flexible pathway to turn glucose into nylon or PET using inexpensive catalysts and moderate reaction conditions.
Using a combination of biological, electrochemical, and catalytic processes, ISU researchers have developed a pathway to convert glucose into precursors for both nylon and PET manufacture. The first phase utilizes an engineered strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce high levels of muconic acid from a glucose feedstock (a titer of 752mg/L). Next, muconic acid can be partially hydrogenated to hexenedioic acid or fully hydrogenated to adipic acid via an electrochemical process. Both hexenedioic acid and adipic acid can be combined with hexaminediamine to make Nylon 6,6. If hexenedioic acid is used in the nylon backbone, the remaining double bond can be further modified using controlled radical polymerization to create a functionalized nylon with potential applications in packaging and other areas. Alternately the muconic acid can undergo a series of reactions to produce terephthalic acid (one of the building blocks for PET, the most common thermoplastic polyester). These steps include electrocatalytically isomerizing the cis,cis- or cis,trans- muconic acid to the trans,trans- variant for PET and other high-value chemical production. This suite of technologies enables the production of a variety of similar polymers with different physical characteristics that can be targeted toward specialized end products. This technology is related to ISURF #4289: Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation of Muconic Acid for the Production of Biorenewable Synthetic Polymer Precursors (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4289), and ISURF #4402: Electrochemical Isomerization of Muconic Acid (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4402)
Argonne scientists have developed a super hard and slick nanocomposite coating (SSC) that significantly reduces friction and wear and can eliminate scuffing-related failures. The coating can be used in components of moving mechanical systems, including engines. Eliminating scuffing is especially important because it is a life-limiting factor in many components used under heavy loading or in heavy machinery, such as earth-moving and mining equipment. The SSC also increases energy efficiency by reducing friction by as much as 80%. SSCs can be produced at moderate temperatures (200–400°C) on almost any kind of metallic substrates at high growth rates.
Argonne’s SSCs are based on special formulations of hard and soft phases that provide friction coefficients of 0.02 to 0.05 under boundary lubricated sliding conditions and prevent wear. Therefore, the SSCs can extend wear life, reduce maintenance costs, and reduce environmental emissions by reducing fuel consumption.
Argonne researchers have collaborated with Galleon International and Hauzer Technocoating to develop a production-scale deposition system to meet the demands of large-volume applications in the transportation and manufacturing sectors. The new system uses a modified version of existing plasma coating equipment that is well-suited for demonstrating flexible, production-scale coating for large-volume industrial applications. The SSC is unique in that the ingredients used in its synthesis were predicted by using a crystal-chemical model proposed by the developers of the SSC technology. In the collaborations, the scientists are using special coating ingredients that are predicted by using the crystal-chemical model.
Thermal expansion differences between the porous anode/active anode and dense electrolyte in an anode supported solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) result in a camber (out of plane deflection) after high-temperature heat treatments. Researchers at PNNL have devised two methods to reduce the camber by applying a symmetrical thermal expansion design to the planar cell assembly.
The first method (13536-E) focuses on placing an equilibrating thermal expansion layer on the back of the anode in a designed pattern which enables functionality of the cell to be maintained. The other (13851-B) is a low-thermal expansion additive to the anode that counterbalances the camber during the cooling down phase of cell operation.
Either method or a combination of both inventions provides several benefits in the manufacturing of anode-supported SOFCs.
Sandia National Laboratories has created a technology that produces an antireflective (matte) surface on a silicon photovoltaic solar cell. The process uses a randomly deposited metal catalyst followed by reactive ion etching (RIE) to produce nanoscale surface features. The texture of the cells is more effective in solar absorption and, therefore, storage of energy. This nanoscale texturing is also a cost effective and environmentally safe tool for a renewable energy source.
The subwavelength (nanoscale) roughness presents a gradual interface between the air and the photovoltaic cell which reduces reflection loss, for high overall solar energy collection efficiency. In contrast to a chlorine-based etch process, this nanoscale texturing process is a cost effective alternative that uses nontoxic materials.
With the growing pressure placed on energy efficiency and reliance on fossil fuels, alternative sources of energy are increasingly important. The primary function can be used for the production of hydrogen but a similar process can be applied to create ammonia and propane production.
Our technology integrates three main components in the production process by integrating the boiler, superheater, and decomposition functions of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) to create sulfur dioxide(SO2) into a single unit. Additionally, our design solves the problem of corrosion due to the high temperatures and concentrated sulfuric acid with the combining the three processes into a single operation and using corrosion resistant components. The integration also makes the process highly efficient & economical by recovering and reusing the acid in the closed-loop process.
Sandia’s neutron scatter camera is an innovative design which combines the benefits of gamma ray imaging with fast neutron imaging. The camera detects special nuclear material (SNM) and rejects backgrounds from naturally occurring radiation sources that can produce false alarms. Additionally, the camera can detect and localize neutrons at greater distances and through shielding since fast neutrons are more penetrating than gamma rays. One of the key advantages is higher signal to background over non imaging detectors.
Sandia’s neutron camera design is sensitive, has good angular resolution, portable, and non hazardous. The design is scalable for shorter dwell times and longer stand-off detection.
The TacNet Tracker is designed to transport information securely via portable handheld units without the need for fixed infrastructure. The low profile device is easily worn to provide users with real-time location tracking, communication with other users, and shared information along a secure encrypted self-forming and self-healing network. This line-of-sight network is essentially a custom, privately owned Internet with the capability to self-form on a second-to-second basis. If a unit becomes separated (e.g., line-of-sight is lost), the remaining components “self-heal” the network by forming another path. Because of the mesh network’s multi-hopping capabilities, the TacNet Tracker can create secure paths around obstructions that might hinder a regular radio.
The device has similar communication and data-sharing capabilities as a laptop computer, but in a much more compact, lightweight format—approximately the size of a smartphone. The TacNet Tracker also provides additional functionalities—including Bluetooth communications, USB ports, and tracking with GPS or mesh positioning.
Insuring a constant supply of radioisotopes is of great importance to healthcare around the world. With the increase need for a stable US supply of medical isotopes, this technology can help alleviate this problem.
Sandia’s patented method and design is a new apparatus for the transmutation of isotopes which enables swift and flexible production on demand by using repetitive high energy pulsed power to achieve transmutation. This invention is based on a combination of high repetition rate high energy pulsed power supply and a magnetically-injected anode plasma source diode. This is used to provide pulsed particle beams having intermediate energy and average power levels of hundreds of kilowatts to megawatts. This will increase the rate of isotopic production by 2-3 orders of magnitude over processes based on conventional accelerators.
A large question preventing optimal natural gas production from "hydrofracked" shales is how far proppants, injected to keep shale fractures open, move into the gas-bearing shales. Knowing precisely where injected proppants go in the subsurface is the first step to optimizng the space of hydrofrack jobs.
Sandia National Laboratories researchers propose that subsurface proppant distribution can be imaged using single-well tracer techniques. By analyzing the lag time in appearance between interacting and inert tracers in hydrofrack flowback waters appearing at the wellhead, the extent of proppant movement can be estimated. The approach requires no new drilling and involves no hazardous chemicals.
Reliable determination of the presence and/or quantity of a particular analyte in the field can be greatly enhanced if the analytical instrument is equipped with a time-of-use calibration standard. While proper calibration is necessary for reliability and accuracy, it can be challenging and cumbersome to provide such calibration in the field using conventional methods found in analytical laboratories.
Sandia’s Microfabricated Field Calibration Assembly is a small, easy-to-use calibration source that can be integrated with field-portable instruments, or embedded in unattended remote sensors. The Field Calibration Assembly is designed at a small scale for incorporation into the intake or housing portion of a sensor or analytical instrument. The small size and placement are conducive to calibrating in the field with quantities as low as picograms.
Current dielectric materials are limited and unable to meet all operating, temperature, response frequency, size, and reliability requirements needed for uncooled high-reliability electronics. To address this problem, scientists at Sandia have developed a method for producing dielectric materials using engineered chemical disorder, creating semi-conductor material that outperforms what is currently available.
By developing a composition with dissimilar cations ((Ba,Bi)(Zn,Ti)O3), they created competing driving forces for crystallographic distortion resulting in a highly polarizable material. In addition to the structural distortion at the atomic level, the thermodynamics associated with mixing these systems lead to chemical disorder and gradients at the mesoscopic level during thermal processing. This multi-level chemical and structural frustration results in large permittivity level values that are stable across a wide range of operating temperatures (250ºC+) and applied electric fields. In turn, Sandia’s dielectric material possesses multiple advantages: 1) the material exists in a highly polarizable state; 2) results in a heterogeneous microstructure that aids in the dielectric properties; 3) high temperature resistivity; and 4) high temperature stability. Capacitors based on Sandia’s dielectric materials were developed for use in grid-tied storage; however, the resulting products will have various high operating temperature applications.