Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, "High Performance Hydrophobic Solvent for CO2 Capture." This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants have demonstrated that coal can be combusted with greater efficiency, but CO2 extraction from the mixed gas stream has proved to be costly. One reason for the expense is that while currently employed ethylene-glycol-based materials (Selexol) are highly selective in removing CO2, they are also hydrophilic, so water must first be removed before the solvent can be used to dissolve the CO2. In order to remove the water, the fuel gas stream must be cooled to 40 ?C—a costly and energy-demanding process. Polydimethylsiloxanes (PDMS) have overcome the problem of miscibility in water, but suffer from low selectivity.
This invention describes a method to remove CO2 from a mixed gas stream using a solvent that is not only highly selective, but also has no affinity for water. A hydrophobic solvent allows absorption of CO2 at higher temperatures while eliminating the need for a water removal step at IGCC plants, which will simplify the gas removal process and reduce operating costs while increasing thermal efficiency.
The successful integration of this technology into industrial processes could replace ethylene-glycol-based solvent and PDMS to significantly reduce CO2 from fuel gas streams while simplifying IGCC processes in a cost-effective manner.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, "Method for the Separation of a Gaseous Component Using a Solvent-Membrane Capture Process.” This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
The current invention describes a hybrid process for post-combustion CO2 capture using a solvent-based absorption/high pressure stripping gas step coupled with selective CO2 membrane separation. The method is unique in that the solvent-based absorption/stripping process uses thermal compression to efficiently increase the concentration and partial pressure of CO2 in the gas mixture, allowing for more efficient membrane separation. The hybrid process integrates the most efficient aspects of each method resulting in a reduction of the parasitic energy demand of the post-combustion CO2 capture process.
Although research is currently inactive on the patented technology "Low Temperature Sorbents for Removal of Sulfur Compounds from Fluid Feed Streams," the technology is available for licensing from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).
Disclosed in this patent is a process consisting of a material reactive with sulfur, a binder unreactive with sulfur, and an inert material that in combination can absorb sulfur from fluid feed gas streams at temperatures ranging between 30 and 200 degrees Centigrade. Research has shown that the sulfur absorption capacity has reached as high as 22 weight percent through the application of this process.
Although vapor-phase fuel streams provide valuable commodities, such as liquefied petroleum gases, these commodities cannot be commercially used until contaminants within them are removed. The most typical contaminants are sulfur-containing compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide and others. Removal of the sulfur is necessary to preserve the environment and protect components, such as catalysts, fuel cells, and turbines, contained in power generation systems. Some techniques currently exist for sulfur removal but are limited by only incorporating high temperature ranges. Low temperature processes for removing sulfur also exist but are limited by low sulfur capacities.
The NETL-developed technology provides a solid sorbent that removes sulfur compounds at low temperatures. The process operates at temperatures ranging between 30 degrees and 200 degrees Centigrade, while exhibiting the capacity to absorb high levels of sulfur. In addition, the sorbent itself is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and maintain. The process features a combination of readily available sulfur-reactive materials with diluents and support materials to produce a porous sulfur-absorbing substrate, resulting in the use of less materials and minimal costs.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has developed a laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) probe featuring simplified construction that minimizes the need for optical elements from the probes data collection path, reducing potential interference with the transmission of high quality spectra. By reducing the complexity and cost of the laser head, the invention maximizes the amount and quality of light returned for analysis and increases the usefulness of LIBS research.
LIBS is recognized as a powerful tool for qualitative elemental, molecular, and isotopic analysis of materials. LIBS uses short, powerful pulses to initiate dielectric breakdowns in solids, liquids, and gases and produces a bright flash of light at wavelengths that are characteristic of the elements present in the target. When this light is analyzed by a spectrometer, the identities of the elements present can be estimated and sometimes quantified. The light generated by the LIBS pulse must be returned through a fiber optic cable to a spectrometer. That requires a set of at least four mirrors, two of which need to be dichroic mirrors produced through an extensive chemical vapor deposition process. This invention avoids the need for two mirrors, reducing the complexity and cost of the laser head and maximizing the amount and quality of light returned for analysis.
NETL researchers had earlier prepared a sorbent that had incorporated amines and/or polar liquids in a clay matrix. However, the researchers found during long-term tests when the regenerations are conducted at 1000 C that a small amount of liquid was lost from the sorbent. To solve the problem, the researchers modified the clay by exchanging the sodium or calcium ions using quaternary ammonium salts containing organic molecules to improve the interaction between the amines and the clay. The modified clay materials improved the retention of the amines and stabilized reactivity processes.
New developments in a sorbent process are important because an improvement in the separation and capture of CO2 will reduce the total cost required for sequestration, an area of research identified as a high priority for the U.S. Department of Energy. The costs of separation and capture are estimated to compose about three-fourths of the total cost of geologic or ocean sequestration.
Currently, CO2 absorption processes, often called wet chemical stripping, and solid sorbent processes have both been used to remove CO2 in gas streams. Recently, several solid processes have been used but they tended to lose their ability to absorb CO2 over numerous cycles due to loss of amine. This new invention solves that problem by improving the retention capability of the amines.
An innovative approach has been developed allowing the use of high viscosity for gas separations. The method involves the encapsulation of ionic liquids (ILs) into polymer spheroids, taking advantage of the gas-absorbing properties and cost-effectiveness of ILs, while circumventing known IL viscosity issues. Significantly, the process permits optimization or ‘tuning’ of the IL-containing spheroids for specific gas separation applications. This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Combustion of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change. As the demand for energy continues to increase, atmospheric levels of CO2 will continue to rise. There is thus a growing demand to mitigate CO2 emissions, particularly from industrial sources. Currently, CO2 capture with aqueous amines dominates industrial processes. Although effective, amines are corrosive and require significant energy for regeneration. Indeed, amine scrubbing of flue gas consumes an estimated 30% of the power generated by coal-fired power plants. Thus, there exists a significant need for technologies that are highly efficient at CO2 capture/separation and do so with low cost and energy penalties.
A class of compounds known as ionic liquids (ILs) represents a highly promising CO2 capture/separation technology. Ionic liquids are molten salts, typically containing an organic cation and either an organic or inorganic anion. Significantly, ILs readily absorb CO2, with low affinity for other gases such as CH4, H2 and N2. In addition to their selectiveness for CO2, ILs possess a number of other desirable properties that make them ideal candidates for CO2 capture. ILs are non-volatile and thermally stable. They are inexpensive and more energy efficient than competing technologies, requiring little energy for regeneration. Ionic liquids do have one negative feature, however. Upon binding CO2, many ILs undergo a drastic increase in viscosity. This high viscosity severely limits the use of ILs in liquid absorbers (i.e., scrubbers) and is thus a major obstacle to industrial application of ILs. Modification of ILs is therefore necessary before these agents can be widely accepted as a CO2 capture/separation technology.
NETL researchers have designed a means of overcoming the high viscosity problems associated with ILs. Methods have been developed to fabricate novel porous, core-shell type polymer spheroids in which ILs are subsequently encapsulated. The 1 to 3 mm diameter spheroids possess a high surface area to volume ratio, ideal for gas absorption. The spheroids also offer the advantage of a large internal payload, allowing 70-80 wt.% of IL to be ‘loaded’, resulting in maximal CO2 capture capacity. Encapsulation in polymer spheroids permits the use of ILs not previously compatible with traditional gas-liquid contactors, as the CO2-dependent viscosity increase is now localized to the spheroidal interior. The design of the spheroids allows close packing, enabling a high density of spheroids in any capture vessel, again maximizing CO2 absorption. Significantly, the spheroids can easily be ‘tuned’ for specific applications by modifying or varying the component polymers, ILs, or spheroidal architecture.
This is a decision-making tool for industry, government, academia, and scientists that addresses uncertainity inherent in data interpretation, enhances accuracy and effective communiciation associated with data interpretation, and provides an updated method to use spatial data.
Research is active on the patent pending technology, and is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). For information on NETL partnership mechanisms, visit http://www.netl.doe.gov/business/tech-transfer/partnerships-and-licensing and email NETL Technology Transfer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The use of spatial data to develop maps and represent spatial relationships has a longstanding application in the scientific community. In fact, the use of spatial data in natural and engineered-natural systems has increased during the past decade. However, the challenge for users of spatial data has been in understanding the uncertainty associated with a given spatial dataset and the related products, such as maps, spatial layers, and spatial analyses. As a result, the data presented to users oftentimes may contain little identifi-cation of their inherent uncertainty.
The uncertainty manifests itself in a number of ways including variable data, errors related to accuracy and precision, human error, and equipment error, among other causes. Adding to the problem, these uncertainties are often difficult to quantify or are not reported. Since key decisions are often made based on the results of collected data, scientists require data that conveys both accuracy and uncertainty.
To accept this challenge, scientists have focused on developing geovisual-ization approaches that provide accurate data and also identify the associated uncertainty. To address the need, NETL scientists created an approach called the Variable Grid Method (VGM) that allows decision makers such as mana-gers, researchers, and industry users to accurately identify spatial patterns and trends, as well as the uncertainty associated with the data and sub-sequent interpretation. In general, NETL’s VGM applies a grid system where the size of the cell represents the uncertainty associated with the original point data sources or their analyses, as opposed to the current traditional system that uses the same grid size across the entire study to represent the original point data sources or their analyses and display uncertainty as a separate product.
Research is active on the development of sensors for use in the detection and quantification of rare earth elements in coal waste by-product streams. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust. Due to their unique chemical properties, REEs have become essential components of many technologies spanning a range of applications, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. REEs are considered rare because they are found in relatively low concentrations and require further processing, which is technically and economically challenging. Control of the world’s operating REE mines is heavily consolidated which has resulted market insecurities. However, the demand for REEs continues to grow, creating a need for economically feasible approaches for REE recovery from nontraditional sources. New methods of recovery must be developed that can rapidly, accurately, and economically screen coal waste streams for high concentrations of REEs that would be suitable for separation and recycling.
This invention describes a portable luminescence-based fiber optic sensor for the detection and quantification of REEs in coal by-product waste streams. The device provides rapid results, with a lower limit of detection in the parts per-billion, for terbium, europium, dysprosium, and samarium. The device can be used with luminescence sensitizers to lower the limit of detection for the quantification of additional REEs. The rapid response time provided by the device can save the end user costs associated with inactivity during recovery or mining operations while potentially allowing for in line monitoring or rapid field sampling. Compared to conventionally used technology such as inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, the novel sensor represents a more affordable, compact, and field ready option for REE detection.
Research is currently active on the patented technology "Visible Light Photoreduction of CO2 Using Heterostructured Catalysts." The technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
In this invention, small semiconductor particles function as photocatalysts to promote various oxidation and reduction reactions under sunlight through the application of solar energy. Research data indicated a significant new finding for the photocatalytic reuse of carbon dioxide (CO2) or, simply, that the lower energy "tails" of the solar spectrum can be used for this application. As such, the results demonstrated an initial step toward creating more efficient photocatalysts for CO2 capture and reuse.
The inventors found that titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a promising material for application as a photocatalyst because it is efficient, relatively inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. However, the material’s widespread use has been hindered because it cannot be activated without ultraviolet (UV) light and UV light does not make up a significant amount of the solar spectrum. To overcome the hindrance, the inventors were able to shift the optical response of TiO2 from UV to the visible spectral range.
Specifically, researchers synthesized new heterostructured photocatalysts made from CdSe nanocrystals, TiO2 nanocrystals, and Pt nanoparticles and demonstrated their activity toward the reduction of CO2 with H2O using only visible light. No ultraviolet light was required to initiate CO2 reduction reaction with H2O, and the value-added products of methanol, methane, and H2 were produced.
In summary, the photocatalytic reduction of CO2 uses readily available sunlight to convert CO2 into valuable chemicals, such as methanol or methane, in a carbon friendly manner.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, “MSE-Based Drilling Optimization Using Neural Network Simulation.” This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Safety and cost are major concerns in drilling operations, particularly when drilling for unconventional gas and oil occurs in the greater depths and harsher conditions of deepwater environments. Current drilling practices focus on controllable drilling parameters including weight-on-bit (WOB), rotational speeds (RPM) of the bit, and the hydraulic (H) power driving the drilling fluid. However, these parameters have not been thoroughly optimized for improved drilling efficiency. Drillers operate within a range of values for each parameter based on recommendations from service companies, bit manufacturers, or previous field experience. Improving the economics of deep exploration is critical in reducing well development costs and increasing domestic energy supplies. Implementation of computational models and simulation tools to optimize drilling operations will play a key role in achieving cost effective drilling exploration and well development.
The current invention describes an apparatus and method for determining optimized drilling parameters by collecting real time measurements while drilling, taking into account mechanical specific energy (MSE). The computational and simulation tools provide in-time recommendations of drilling parameters including WOB, RPM, and H, to optimize the rate of penetrations while reducing MSE expenditure. The new method addresses shortcomings of other processes used for drilling optimization through predicting MSE for key controllable parameters using combined artificial neural network simulation coupled with physics-empirical modeling to evaluate and control drilling dynamics.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, “Mechanical Membrane for the Separation of a Paramagnetic Constituent from a Fluid.” This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
In spite of its established role in reliably providing high-throughput, high-purity oxygen for gasification, cryogenic distillation-based air separation is costly and energy-intensive to operate. The process accounts for up to 15% of the total gasification plant capital cost, and consumes a major portion of in-plant power use. Other oxygen supply technologies, such as pressure swing adsorption and polymeric membranes, are available but cannot provide oxygen at a high enough purity (>95%) for gasification or are only commercially viable on a small scale.
Since the first cryogenic oxygen production patent issued to Carl Von Linde in 1903, the technology has been refined through engineering configuration and optimized for greatest economic efficiency. However, given the current limitations for further improvements in the efficiency of cryogenic air separation plants the development of technology that would significantly lower its costs is unlikely. Based on the current state of technology, there is great incentive to develop new approaches for oxygen separation.
This invention describes the application of mechanical membranes for the separation of oxygen from air at ambient temperatures. The membranes are composed of multiple pores having magnetic regions that augment a magnetic field on one side of the pore structure while reducing the magnetic field on the opposite side of the pore. The technology enables the large-scale exploitation of the differences in magnetic susceptibilities between a paramagnetic component such as oxygen which is attracted toward the magnetic pore field and diamagnetic components such as nitrogen, which are repelled. This method is anticipated to overcome the limitations of current separation methods allowing for energy efficient separation of highly purified oxygen.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, "Method of Conducting a Thermally Driven Reaction Using Plasmonic Heating." This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) into valuable intermediates such as methane, carbon monoxide, and other light gases will help offset the cost of deploying CO2 capture technologies. Efficient management of CO2 will allow for the continued use of fossil-derived energy while mitigating the climate impacts associated with carbon emissions.
This invention is a nanocatalyst capable of efficiently converting low intensity visible light into thermal energy using a mechanism called plasmonic heating. By coupling plasmonically active materials, such as gold nanoparticles, to catalytically active zinc oxide, this heating approach can be used for the conversion of CO2 and hydrogen (H2) to methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO).
Upon exposure to light, free electrons on the surface of the metal become excited, transforming the optical energy into heat. Experimental results show that low-intensity visible light can heat the gold-zinc oxide catalysts up to approximately 600 ?C in a controllable manner, with light intensity dictating which gas product is produced. The heating is highly localized and only the gases and materials in close contact with the plasmonic material undergo a temperature increase.
The catalysts are robust and remain active after repeated light exposure and cycling, reducing CO2 conversion cost. Use of natural sunlight for this process improves efficiency and reduces the cost of using CO2. The results of this work are further described in an article appearing in the journal Nanoscale, 5, 6968, 2013. A video describing CO2 conversion by nanoheaters can be viewed here.