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.
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.
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.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process for the synthesis of alane with quantitative yields at ambient temperature and moderate hydrogen or ambient gas pressure while controlling side reactions.This novel synthesis route significantly increases yields and reduces the production costs for this compound.
Alane exceeds the DOE performance criteria for hydrogen storage for transportation vehicles, but does not have a cost-efficient production route. Synthesis of alane by metathesis reactions in organic solvents is inefficient because of the need to remove solvents from the resultant alane solvates that inevitably leads to thermal decomposition of a substantial fraction of the formed alane. Traditional mechanochemical synthetic routes require cryogenic processing to control side reactions leading to decomposition of more than 60% of the formed alane. This new method allows for the use of a mechanochemical process at ambient temperatures and slightly elevated hydrogen or inert gas pressures to produce alane while still suppressing side reactions to produce alane in quantitative yields. By eliminating the desolvation step inherent in the solvent-based route and the cryogenic environment of traditional mechanochemical synthesis, this novel synthesis route significantly increases yields and reduces the production costs for this compound.
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.
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).
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have become the battery of choice for everything from cell phones to electric cars, but there is still much room for improvement. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory are leading efforts to revolutionize battery technology with the design and development of new battery materials for electrolytes, electrodes, and interfaces that will increase the specific energy of advanced batteries, while simultaneously providing enhanced stability at a lower cost. To help improve the stability and safety of lithium-ion batteries, Argonne researchers have developed a new class of intermetallic materials that can be used for the battery’s negative electrode.
Conventional lithium-ion battery configurations often contain graphite electrodes, which operate at a potential very close to that of metallic lithium and are extremely reactive. This composition can cause lithium-ion batteries to overheat, particularly if the battery is in a charged state or if it is overcharged without protective electronic circuitry. Argonne scientists have developed a new intermetallic structure type that can be effectively used as a negative electrode (anode) for non-aqueous lithium electrochemical cells and batteries.
The composition of these new electrodes contains the basic structural unit of a MM'3 intermetallic compound with a LaSn3-type structure, in which the M and M' atoms are comprised of one or more metals. The Argonne innovation reveals a new class of negative electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries that operate either by lithium insertion or by metal displacement reactions or a combination of both.
In addition to improving on the safety of current graphite electrodes, these new intermetallic electrodes offer greater structural stability to lithium insertion and extraction reactions. The Argonne-developed electrodes also provide a superior charge capacity. The LaSn3-type structure resulted in specific and gravimetric capacities of 650 mAh/g and 4920 mAh/mL, respectively (based on a density of 7.57 g/mL). This compares to graphite’s specific capacity of 372 mAh/g and gravimetric capacity of 818 mAh/mL (based on a density of 2.2 g/mL).
An approach developed by Robert Kostecki and Marek Marcinek of Berkeley Lab has given rise to a new generation of nanostructured carbon-tin films that can be produced quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively. These binderless carbon/tin thin-film anodes provide enhanced charge capacity and excellent cycleability in lithium ion battery systems compared with lithium ion anodes currently on the market.
Berkeley Lab’s method uses microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition to fabricate nanostructured carbon/tin composite films in a convenient one step synthesis process. The porous 3D architecture of the carbon/tin films is mechanically stable and offers maximum electronic contact between the tin and the carbon. Nanoparticles of tin are uniformly dispersed and fully embedded in a carbon matrix. The resulting nanocomposite accommodates volumetric changes of tin upon charge-discharge processes and exhibits exceptional electrochemical durability.
These high capacity carbon/tin films can be grown directly on any type of substrate from organic precursors in a vacuum chamber. The film deposition process can be easily adapted to reel-to-reel fabrication processes that are in common use in the industry. This technology can also find applications in the fuel cell industry (e.g., carbon/platinum composites) as well as the semiconductor and coating industries.
John Kerr and co-workers at Berkeley Lab have developed single-ion cross-linked comb-branched polymer electrolytes with high conductivity for use as membranes in lithium batteries, fuel cells, and electrochromic windows. Solid polymer electrolyte separators are used in lithium batteries instead of common organic solvents because (1) they are non-volatile, (2) they inhibit the growth of dendrites, the tiny metallic snowflake structures in lithium metal electrodes that lead to battery failure, and (3) they can be used in very thin films thereby improving the power performance of the battery and increasing the energy density.
Solid polymer electrolytes have been improved by the creation of single-ion polymer conductors. Single ion conductors, transference number of one, avoid the development of concentration gradients that result in low voltage upon discharge and irreparable damage on charge because the anion is immobilized by covalently connecting it to the polymer comb. Until now, lithium single ion polymer conductors have been plagued with low conductivity, reactivity to lithium, poor cathode compatibility, and mechanical stiffness that leads to poor processing properties. Kerr’s new cross-linked polymer electrolytes based on trifluoromethylsulfonylmethide, sulfonate, and fluoroalkylsulfonate and imide anions overcome these limitations.
The controllable method of preparation results in a material that has uniformly excellent mechanical and ion transport properties that appear to be unaffected by the cross-linking density. This allows density to be varied to suit the application. The cross-linked materials achieve much higher lithium ion conductivities than other cross-linked polymers (10-5 S/cm at ambient temperatures) and yet also inhibit dendrite growth due to the mechanical properties. The side chains of the comb-branched structures are long enough to allow for maximum segmental motion so that the polymer can effectively penetrate between the electrode particles and adhere to electrode surfaces while maintaining the amorphous nature that facilitates high ion mobility. This overcomes many of the problems involved in the preparation of good composite electrode structures.
The capabilities, materials, and principles used for developing these polymer electrolytes for lithium batteries can be adapted to develop polymer films for fuel cells and electrochromic windows. Kerr’s group is investigating the use of new proton solvating functions on comb branch polyether polyelectrolyte materials to provide water-free membranes that can operate at high temperatures for fuel cells.