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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)
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process to produce extremely flat and smooth surfaces on hard materials without involving a chemical etchant.
Chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) is a process used to create defect-free, smooth and flat surfaces, primarily for the semiconductor industry, and involves both mechanical polishing and chemical etching. CMP slurries (which provide the physical interface between the sample and the polishing equipment) typically consist of an abrasive (most often a metal oxide such as silica, ceria, alumina or zirconia), a liquid medium (normally water, but can be others depending on the application), and chemical agents (oxidizers, bases, acids) which treat the surface.By tweaking the abrasive composition and size as well as the liquid medium, this technology removes the need for a chemical agent and can provide a nearly atomically flat surface. Through multiple steps, this process can create much flatter and smoother surfaces than produced using commercial materials (rough mean square roughness of 0.314nm versus 0.753nm for conventional polishing).
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.
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.
Mark Modera and Francois Remi Carrie from Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a rapid, economical technique to seal duct and other enclosed systems by means of an internally injected aerosol.
Berkeley National Laboratory's aerosol compound seals holes in enclosed systems and is effective even after bends and junctions. A unique, in situ aerosol sealing apparatus, also designed and built at Berkeley National Laboratory, delivers the new sealing aerosol. This multifunctional field apparatus, designed to be portable and easy to use, is powered by two, household circuits (15A/110V) and does not require the use of desiccants. In addition to performing the sealing process, Berkeley National Laboratory's compact field apparatus also measures leakage of the system before and after sealing, eliminating the need to invest in and field additional equipment. A description of the clog-free atomizing and spray drying nozzle specially designed for use with this technology is referenced below.
Robert Cheng at Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a means for retrofitting existing burners to burn lean, premixed natural gas/air mixtures to reduce NOx emissions without sacrificing efficiency and burner design simplicity.
New burner designs can also incorporate the basic principle of this device. This technology answers the needs of meeting clean air standards by application of a simple and economic method to reduce the emission of pollutants. This Berkeley National Laboratory device is best suited for small- to medium-sized water heaters and forced-air furnaces.
In partnership with the University of New Mexico, Sandia Labs has developed the only sensor platform that measures all EPA regulated gas emissions (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons) in addition to ammonia with high accuracy and sensitivity. The SolidSense chip-scale gas analyzer provides real-time diagnostics and is suitable for monitoring emissions from diesel and gasoline engines, turbines, steam power plants, and other combustion technologies. This novel device replaces a complex and expensive rack of chemical analysis equipment currently used today.
Designed to operate in hostile high temperature combustion environments, SolidSense operates without the need for cooling or filtration. The ceramic-based mixed-potential sensor comprises three electrodes connected to an artificial neural network. The differences between the catalytic activities of the electrodes for the electrochemical oxidation/ reduction of the target gases provides the signals for concentration determination. The artificial neural network provides signal processing to determine compound concentration from sensor electrode output voltages. The device enables real-time diagnostics with response times less than 1/100 of a second. SolidSense provides valuable exhaust chemistry feedback that can assist in improving combustion efficiency for engines, turbines, and power plants. The sensor’s ceramic platform enables easy manufacturing through thick film, high temperature co-fired ceramic technology. It also has potential applications in explosive detection and can be integrated into a hand-held device to provide a molecular fingerprint of explosive compounds.
The Compact Absorption Chiller uses microchannel technologies in an absorption heat pump which produces cooling using heat as the primary energy source.
Small-scale, portable vapor compression cooling systems are encumbered with the need for electricity from batteries or a portable generator in order to operate the mechanical compressor. Heat activated technologies, such as absorption chillers, offer an alternative that can substantially reduce or eliminate the reliance on electricity. Heat can be provided by combusting high-energy density liquid fuels or by recovering waste heat from other processes, such as fuel cell systems or vehicle exhaust.
The lack of lightweight portable cooling is an issue for many military and civilian applications including for man portable cooling, vehicle cooling, tactical cooling and aircraft cooling systems. Originally developed for military applications requiring small size and weight, this microchannel-based technology offers some of the best economic and performance efficiencies versus other available technologies.
A variety of heat sources can be used, such as combusting natural gas or other fuels, solar thermal, or engine or fuel cell system waste heat. The ability to displace electric power demand for cooling and heating off the grid, particularly during peak demand, will likely become commercially important in the United States as the electric grid evolves. The microchannel components enable systems as small as 1 ton cooling (and smaller), which will be necessary for high efficiency zero-energy homes.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) have seen increased commercialization and investment into R&D as energy efficiency begins to play a larger role in cutting emissions. The phase-out of incandescent light bulbs have spurred adoption of compact florescent and LED lights. LED fixtures prices have also seen a 25% drop over the last two years, along with higher adoption in large commercial buildings and outdoor applications. Market research predicts that the LED enterprise lighting market will surpass $1 billion annual revenue by 2014. While the growth of the LED market has spurred many companies into different parts of the value chain, there are still technical hurdles that need to be addressed. One of the most significant challenges is obtaining a high efficiency white LED.
One approach to fabricating high efficiency white LED for solid state light applications is to combine individual LEDs that emit in the red, green and blue portions of the spectrum, with the caveat that they each be highly efficient as well. While the red and blue components have already been realized, efficient green emission is still problematic, partially due to the fact that the direct to indirect band gap cross-over. In most III-V semiconductor compounds and alloys that are lattice-matched to a readily obtainable bulk substrate occurs at energies below 2.4 eV. NREL scientists have found a way to addresses the efficiency losses associated with inter-valley transfer incurred in most III-V material systems where green emission occurs at an energy in the vicinity of the direct to indirect band gap crossover point.
This invention presents a novel approach for obtaining LEDs that emit in the green, yellow and red regions of the visible spectrum. It allows for highly efficient injection luminescence from LEDs operating in these spectral regions without the traditional penalty of photocarrier losses due to inter-valley carrier transfer. Moreover the approach benefits from requirements of minimal mismatch strain, thus significantly simplifying device growth and fabrication. The approach should enable highly efficient LED devices operating near the peak of the “human eye spectral response", and provide efficient light emission in the region of the green gap that it has been very difficult to achieve.
Such a device has the best color rendering index (CRI) of any LED architecture, but it requires that each of the individual LEDs also have high quantum efficiencies, defined as the ratio of emitted photons to electrons injected into the device. The ideal green emission wavelength for a three-color mixing scheme is approximately 560 nm, which maximizes the CRI and relaxes the requirements for the red and blue emission as well. Al1-xInxP is a promising material for green LEDs due to its more favorable peak in the direct bandgap. It undergoes a direct to indirect transition at 2.4 eV (x = 0.46, assuming no bandgap bowing), the largest energy of any of the nonnitrides. Accounting for bandgap reduction necessary to prevent inter-valley carrier transfer, photon emission in the 2.1-2.3 eV range (540-590 nm) is possible.
There are multiple methods for measuring fluid flow. Current methods rely on different physical principles such as: pressure measurement, particle tracking using images, heat removal from a wire and Doppler shift measurements. However, infrared images are not used to quantitatively measure flow properties, fluid mixing, or mass concentration of fluids.
These existing techniques for measuring two dimensional velocity fields, such as particle image velocimetry (PIV), require expensive and specialized equipment such as lasers, advanced optics and particle seeding of flows. These result in high costs, significant setup time, extensive safety measures, and may require a dedicated facility to operate. There are faster and cheaper techniques for measuring velocities such as pitot probes or hot wire anemometers; however, they provide point measurements. If these instruments are used to obtain two dimensional flows they become prohibitively expensive, time consuming, and have limited spatial resolution. Additionally, Laser Doppler Velocimetry (LDV) can provide high spatial resolution but is only a point measurement technique, requires many of the same expensive equipment costs as PIV, and is inadequate and time consuming for obtaining two dimensional flows and is therefore generally not used for that purpose.
Infrared thermography has been used to qualitatively determine if there are fluid flows, such as a cold spot around a hole in a building wall, but has not been used to quantify fluid flow rates or mixing.
NREL researchers have developed a new measurement technique that reduces equipment cost and time required to obtain spatially resolved two dimensional measurements of the mass fraction distribution of mixing flow streams. By using infrared thermography with advanced algorithms, two dimensional flows can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively.
The technique invented needs only an infrared camera, inexpensive, disposable materials, and a pitot probe or other point measurement sources for speed measurements, which allows the user to take measurements at only a few locations instead of the entire flow field. Depending on the situation and accuracy required, calibration may not be necessary; however, better and more accurate measurements result from utilizing this technique with calibration.
NREL is looking to either license the technology or partner with a company to further develop the technology.
Scientists at Berkeley Lab have modified the cathode-organic layer of an OLED device to significantly enhance electron injection efficiency and reduce the sensitivity of the cathode to environmental degradation by water and oxygen. Two approaches are used:
1. An ordered arrangement of nanostructures (top-down processing) or
2. A nanomaterial interfacial layer (bottom-up processing).
This technology represents a significant improvement over existing technology. Currently, the interface between an OLED device’s cathode and organic layer is a resistant barrier that inhibits the efficient flow of electrons. This barrier can also create heating that damages the OLED. Additionally, low work function metals used to reduce operating voltage and improve device yield are physically and chemically unstable and difficult to fabricate into a thin layer.
The Air-stable Nanostructured Electrodes promise to significantly reduce the drive voltage necessary to induce light emission inside organic materials and will thereby increase the energy conversion efficiency of the OLEDs. The ordered arrangements of nanostructures or nanomaterials to enhance charge injection efficiently overcome the large energy barrier at the cathode-organic layer interface. Charge balance between holes and electrons is improved, a steeper rise in current as a function of voltage is realized, and electrical-optical conversion efficiency is increased.
Using less reactive materials makes the cathode more resistant to degradation than conventional metal electrodes. This feature increases OLED device lifetime, simplifies packaging requirements and makes it amenable to scale-up manufacturing processes.