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Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a modular sample stage and thermal conductivity measurement device that is compatible with a variety of cryogenic and magnetic field apparatus. This modular device allows for easy switching between apparatus to perform a variety of measurements without sample or thermometer remounting.
The thermal conductivity of a material is of great importance for determining suitability for a given application. While many techniques have been developed to measure thermal conductivity at moderate temperatures, measurement at low (sub-kelvin) temperatures are difficult to achieve. These low temperature measurements are important to characterize novel materials, particularly in determining the superconducting state while isolating electronic degrees of freedom. As there is no singular cyrogenic solution for measurement of thermal conductivity that can cover broad ranges of temperature, magnetic field strength, and magnetic field direction, thorough characterization requires the sample to be tested in multiple apparatus. A modular and portable sample stage and conductivity measurement device that can be readily moved between apparatus, and is compatible with broad temperature and magnetic field ranges, is desirable to reduce the error introduced by multiple setups as well as different thermometers and calibrations.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a fast solver for the Gutzwiller approximation for electronic structure of atoms.
State of the art computational tools for atomic modeling use the Local Density Approximation Density Functional Theory (LDADFT).However, LDADFT often has issues in properly describing situations which include van der Waals forces, charge transfer and transition states. Simultaneously optimizing the three sets of parameters in the Gutzwiller approximation can address some of these specific situations and produce a more accurate model. ISURF #03958 provides a solver for the Gutzwiller approximation from first principles. ISURF #04135 takes an alternative approach, starting with a set of common parameters for optimization rather than starting from first principles. For the majority of applications, ISURF #04135 produces as an accurate model as does ISURF #03958 but in a much faster computation. This technology is related to ISURF 4135: A General Efficient Gutzwiller Solver for Electronic Structure Simulation Package (software: http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4135).
Current oil and salt based heat transfer fluids have significant limitations such as usable temperature, high cost, and limited thermal conversion efficiency. To achieve the Department of Energy SunShot goal of high efficiency, low cost renewable power generation, a highly efficient and economical way to absorb solar heat and to store the thermal energy is important for broad deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants as baseload power.
Engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a high-temperature “direct” supercritical CO2 (s-CO2) receiver for CSP applications. The direct s-CO2 receiver can be coupled with an s-CO2-Brayton power cycle to meet the DOE SunShot cost and performance goals. The near-blackbody (NBB) design employs a working mechanism resembling a blackbody furnace, and minimizes thermal losses from convection and radiation through reducing direct exposure of heated surfaces to the cool ambient surroundings. An ideal blackbody furnace design uses a well-known radiative mechanism and captures nearly all incoming radiation. The infrared (IR) re-radiation losses also behave as NBB emission, therefore a significant design emphasis is on minimizing IR emission. The NBB design maximizes solar energy collection efficiency while reducing IR re-radiation and convection losses for high performance.
This receiver design performs at greater than 650°C operating temperature with less than 10% thermal loss (defined as the ratio of energy delivered to the heat transfer fluid divided by the total energy that enters the receiver aperture), while minimizing the thermal stress (and hence material requirements) of the receiver. Such a design enables use in a modular, small tower s-CO2 power system, where the s-CO2 power block may be directly integrated with the receiver on top of the tower, resulting in less piping requirements and parasitic consumptions.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a high strength, lightweight aluminum wire for high-voltage power transmission with reduced electrical resistance for overhead electrical lines.
The Al/Ca composite has demonstrated promising corrosion resistance and elevated temperature performance properties while creep and fatigue strengths are being investigated. High-voltage electric power transmission cables based on pure aluminum strands with a stranded steel core (ACSR) or stranded aluminum alloy (ACAR) core have the disadvantages of mediocre tensile strength, high density, and poor strength and conductivity retention at elevated temperatures. This combination of properties causes excessive sag in overload situations and limits the mechanical tension the cables can bear in icing and high wind situations. Alternative materials that increase cable strength generally have poor conductivity and/or high cost. Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have discovered a method to produce an aluminum matrix wire composite with reduced density that adds strength while retaining maximum ampacity.
Microgrids are localized energy grids that provide flexibility through their ability to operate independently from the bulk power grid. Well-designed microgrids support resiliency, security, efficiency, local control, and increased access to renewable resources. Sandia’s Microgrid Design Toolkit (MDT) is a decision support software toolkit that aids designers in creating optimal microgrids.
Employing powerful algorithms and simulation capabilities, MDT searches the trade space of alternative microgrid designs based on user-defined objectives (e.g., cost, performance, and reliability) and produces a set of efficient microgrid solutions. MDT allows designers to investigate the simultaneous impacts of several design decisions and gain a quantitative understanding of the relationships between design objectives and trade-offs associated with alternative technological design decisions. MDT can account for grid-connected and islanded performance, power and component reliability in islanded mode, and dozens of parameters as part of the trade space search, and presents designers with an entire trade space of information from which to base final design decisions. Without MDT, designers rely on engineering judgment and perhaps a quantitative analysis of relatively few candidate designs. MDT allows designers to explore a larger field of options and provides defensible, quantitative evidence for design decisions.
ISU and Ames Laboratory scientists have developed an adapter that conserves the volume of resin used in the 3D printing of smaller parts.
Common commercial 3D-printers have a single build platform that requires a significant volume of material for every printing task, regardless of size of your target part. Consequently, screening different materials demands production of large amounts of resins. Furthermore, only one resin can be tested in a single run so testing multiple candidate resins is either time consuming or requires several costly printers operating in parallel. Iowa State University and Ames laboratory scientists devised a high throughput screening adapter that can be attached to any commercial sterolithographic 3D printer that divides its build platform and resin tank into sets of smaller individual platforms and tanks. This can reduce the amount of resin needed from 100 mL or more ($150-$400 per liter resin), to 2 mL per reservoir.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a metamaterials-based terahertz emitter that could drastically improve communication speeds and imaging resolution.
The terahertz gap, which lies between the infrared and millimeter spectral regions (from approximately 100 GHz to 15THz) poses one of the most demanding challenges for technology and fundamental science today. The lack of efficient light sources and detectors makes THz physics one of the least explored parts of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. This is despite the underlying demand in the fields of communication and sensing, to push the gigahertz switching speed limit of today’s logic/memory/wireless communication devices into the terahertz range and to extend the conventional visible/infrared spectrum of today’s security and medical imaging devices into the THz spectrum, which provides more transparency and has more distinct spatial signatures suitable for non-invasive and label-free imaging. ISU researchers have accomplished efficient broadband, single-cycle THz pulse generation by developing a novel THz emitter from metamaterials. This efficient and compact THz source is extremely useful for many applications including integrated nano-photonics and nano-electronic circuits, high-speed information and communication technology and ultra-small, non-invasive biological and medical evaluation. http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/technology/21453 Technology ID: 04109/ AL 616
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a series of alloy design and powder or spray processing steps that lead to the low-cost production of oxidation or corrosion resistant metallic alloys.
Alloys used in applications such as exhaust valves are increasingly subject to demanding operating environments, such as high temperatures and exposure to corrosive gases; these alloys must also be able to resist high cycle fatigue, extreme surface wear, and long-term creep deformation. Iron (Fe)-based superalloys have been developed through a mechanical alloying process that results in a dispersoid strengthened metallic material.However, mechanical alloying can add significant costs for making alloys that perform well in high temperature environments because it requires expensive milling equipment and extensive milling time; thus commercial applications may be limited.The long milling time required can also lead to contamination within the alloy powders. To overcome these drawbacks, ISU and Ames laboratory researchers have developed a method of making dispersoid strengthened, corrosion/oxidation resistant atomized alloy powder particles for high temperature structural applications. The method employs gas atomization reaction synthesis (GARS) linked with alloy design and atomizing parameters to result in the low-cost production of corrosion and/or oxidation resistant metallic alloy particles which are strengthened by disperoids that are highly resistant to coarsening and strength degradation at elevated temperatures. This new molten metal processing technique can thus result in precision parts with superior properties.
ORNL researchers developed a broad class of dynamic hybrid phase change materials and coupled them to residential heat pumps, inventing a super energy saver heat pump. This invention significantly improves heating/cooling efficiency in existing pumps and decreases greenhouse gases, due to reduced energy consumption.
The ORNL invention uses what are essentially off-the-shelf components to obtain substantially higher performance than conventional technology. The key feature of this invention is the production, packaging, and configuration of the hybrid phase change material in the heat pump cycle.
The material combines Group I and II halides with silica gel. This is then placed around a finned heat exchanger, housed in a porous drainage pipe. The device permits the heat pump to extract and store heat from ground and air via the dynamic exchange of water between soil solution, water vapor, and phase change material. The design reduces inefficiencies in the heat pump, enables load shifting, and saves electricity.The phase change materials are made from halides, compounds of a halogen such as fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine. This is the only group in the periodic table that contains elements in all three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) at standard temperature and pressure. When such materials change from solid to liquid and back again, they are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy.
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a highly efficient technology for the reclamation of waste heat in mechanical heat engines widely used in solar-thermal, geothermal, and industrial processes. This new approach yields gains in efficiencies for both high temperature and intermediate temperature thermal sources, marking a significant advance over strategies that focus predominately on high temperature efficiency solutions.
The Berkeley Lab energy reclamation technology uses an Organic Flash Cycle (OFC) that increases exergetic efficiency with isentropic or "dry" aromatic hydrocarbons as working fluids that almost perfectly match the temperature of the thermal resource, reducing a major contributor of system energy conversion inefficiencies. Heat addition takes place completely in the liquid phase of the cycle with the working fluid vaporized during flash evaporation.
The OFC invention has several configurations, each suited to different conditions and cycle requirements. For high temperature applications between approximately 200ºC and 400ºC, the single flash OFC achieves efficiencies comparable to the optimized Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), but uses a simpler configuration. For lower temperature thermal resources in the range of approximately 80ºC to 150ºC, a secondary flash stop vaporizes more fluid for additional reclamation gains.
Another variation on the basic OFC replaces the throttling valve with a more efficient two-phase expander to reduce system irreversibility. The OFC outperforms the basic ORC with approximately 20% to 50% greater thermal energy utilization. It has approximately 90% heat addition efficiency compared to about 70% for basic ORC, about 75% for a zeotropic Rankine cycle with a binary ammonia-water mixture, and about 80% for a CO2 transcritical cycle.
Current cycle technologies for reclaiming waste heat are extensively used in traditional manufacturing industries including petroleum refining, pulp and paper, iron and steel, food and beverages, cement, fabricated metals. The implementation of OFC in these industries has the potential of an annual recovery of up to 1,703 quadrillion BTUs from waste heat with an approximate savings of $5.8 billion per year. The OFC is also a promising reclamation strategy for renewable energy sources such as solar thermal, geothermal, and biomass.
Argonne National Laboratory has developed a way to make commercially viable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles that are safer, will last longer, and cost less than current Li-ion batteries. Argonne researchers, Drs. Khalil Amine and Zonghai Chen, accomplished this goal by making only a small change to the Li-ion chemistry. The scientists are testing a new molecule based on boron and fluorine as an additive in the electrolyte of Li-ion batteries. By adding a small amount of this substance to battery cells, they found they can keep individual cells in the battery from reaching unsafe voltage levels. The new molecule picks up electrons and keeps the cell charge from increasing if the cell reaches an unsafe voltage level.
Reliance on rechargeable lithium batteries is growing because they offer the greatest chance for breakthroughs. The development of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and PHEVs can be increased by removing barriers related to calendar and operating life, safety, and cost. The performance limitations arise largely because of uncontrolled reactions that occur at high and low potentials at the electrolyte/electrode interface, leading to high cell impedance, reduced energy and power output, and a limited cycle life (less than two years). Argonne’s invention is a charge transfer mechanism for Li-ion battery overcharge protection. When the battery is overcharged, the redox shuttle is oxidized by losing an electron to the positive electrode. The radical cation formed is then diffused back to the negative electrode, causing the cation to obtain an electron and be reduced. The net reaction is to shuttle electrons from the positive electrode to the negative electrode without causing chemical damage to the battery (Figure 1).
Typically, cancer patients who require radiation therapy may experience an array of side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, or changes in the skin. In addition, the x-ray treatment is linked to secondary cancers. Recently misaligned x-ray treatment systems have caused illnesses—and even death. This groundbreaking innovation in radiation therapy provides successful, cost-effective radiation without the limitations of conventional treatment. The innovation, an endoscopic electron beam, promises to transform the delivery of radiation treatment for millions of cancer patients—including many for whom radiation was previously impossible.
Radiation has proven an effective therapy in cancer treatment. However, because human tissue absorbs the electrons, physicians must limit patients’ exposure to radiation and generally prescribe such treatment only for surface cancers or procedures that require large surgical incisions to expose the body core.
Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, led by John Noonan, have devised an innovative radiation treatment that capitalizes on the benefits of conventional radiation therapy while overcoming its drawbacks. Transporting the electron beam to the internal cancer, the beam can be absorbed by the tumor only, with healthy tissue minimally damaged.
An electron beam, less than 1 millimeter in diameter and at very low beam emittance, is delivered through a laparoscopic tube inserted through a small incision and positioned directly at the tumor. The beam can vary in energy from 1 million to 10 million electron volts, suitable to cover tumors ranging from approximately 0.5 cm to 5 cm, respectively. Enormous doses of radiation can be delivered endoscopically without fear of exceeding advisable total body dose exposure.
The endoscopic method will be highly effective in treating a number of cancers previously regarded as inoperable or in radiation-sensitive areas, such as the spine, nerves, the optic nerve, and organs, including the brain.
Being able to vary the beam’s energy level gives physicians control in preventing damage to healthy tissue. In the case of brain tumors, the laparoscopic tube provides an additional advantage during therapy, as a means of removing dead cells that could harm healthy ones. In addition, because of the technology’s precision, treatment time is shortened, with electron beams potentially requiring only a single treatment as compared with conventional radiation therapy requiring several months—a significant improvement in patient care.