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The Blast-Resistant Vehicle Seat offers new applications of fluidized bed technologies and is ideal for use in military vehicles, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). The seat consists of a rigid bed affixed to the vehicle with sand-filled polymer channels on top of the seat frame. When the seat is occupied, gas is directed into the channels to fluidize the sand, conforming perfectly to the shape of the occupant.
The Blast-Resistant Vehicle Seat couples the occupant to the vehicle, conforms to the passenger, is easily configurable to a wide variety of occupants and body types, and can help in environments where thermal management is a consideration. The seat can be custom fit for any vehicle.
- Conforms to a person’s body with no pressure points and is ergonomically sound
- Allows the occupant to control heating and cooling—especially advantageous in harsh environments
- Controls stiffness of seat by absorbing some of the force/impact during an accident
- U.S. Patent No. U.S. Patent No. 8,371,647
Technology Readiness Level:
- TRL 3: Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept.
In the long term, hydrogen is expected to be the fuel of choice for both the power and transportation industries. Just as conventional cars need gas stations, hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars will need an infrastructure. Hydrogen separation technology is integral to successful fossil-based hydrogen production technologies. Thin, dense composite membranes fabricated from ceramic and hydrogen-transport metal may provide a simple, efficient means for separating hydrogen from fossil-based gas streams. New ceramic-metal composite (cermet) membranes developed at Argonne, called hydrogen transport membranes, could eliminate the need for costly, conventional hydrogen-manufacturing facilities; the membranes could one day be small and efficient enough to be installed at every gas station.
Membranes currently used by industry to separate gases are not selective enough to isolate pure hydrogen—the simplest and smallest of all elements. Argonne has developed a composite cermet that transports only atomic hydrogen, allowing the membrane to separate pure hydrogen for use as a clean-burning fuel and in production of fertilizers and other products. The new membrane material works on a different principle than conventional porous membranes; hydrogen is the only species that passes through it because it dissolves in, and diffuses rapidly through, the metal phase in the composite. Unlike most membrane systems, Argonne's hydrogen membrane tolerates temperatures as high as 900 degrees Celsius. Such elevated temperatures push more hydrogen atoms into the membrane, accelerating the rate of gas separation.
The most likely raw feedstock material for hydrogen separation is syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide made by reacting natural gas with oxygen. Because syngas can be expensive to produce, Argonne is exploring the use of another membrane to extract oxygen. The team has demonstrated that the oxygen membranes successfully separate oxygen and that this separated oxygen, when reacted with methane, forms syngas. Because Argonne's oxygen and hydrogen membranes both function at the same high temperatures, they can work in tandem: one membrane adding oxygen to methane to create syngas and the other extracting hydrogen from the syngas.
Recent investigations by a number of groups have shown that a beta zeolite catalyst (and other solid Brønsted acids) will convert methanol and/or dimethyl ether (DME) to iso-alkanes such as triptane (2,2,3-trimethylbutane), with uniquely high selectivity to C4 and C7 (termed the DME to high octane gasoline process or DTHOG). In comparison, the Exxon-Mobil methanol to gasoline (MTG) process produces a broader mixture of hydrocarbons, which is heavy in benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX). DTHOG is milder than MTG (350-450 °F vs. 650-950 °F and 130 psia vs. 315 psia), thus offering the benefit of reduced capital and operating costs for the reactor. However, similar to MTG, this new low-temperature, selective production of alkanes is still a hydrogen-deficient process. That is, to produce alkanes, a quantitative production of aromatics is required to maintain stoichiometry—a result of oxygen from methanol or DME being rejected as water.
Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a catalyst formulation and structure that is capable of incorporating hydrogen from gaseous co-fed H2 into methylation and alkylation products without altering aliphatic hydrocarbon selectivity or lowering reaction rates. Volumetric and gravimetric activities are increased and the rate of formation of heavy aromatic residues is decreased. The catalysts are comprised of a beta zeolite modified with Cu, Ga, other non-noble metals, and combinations thereof. The metals provide sites for H2 dissociation, hydrogen addition, and hydrogen abstraction, all of which modulate critical reaction steps—providing H for alkane formation and H removal for alkene formation, bringing products back into the carbon chain growth pathway and minimizing side-reactions that produce unwanted byproducts. The metals work with the Brønsted acids of the zeolite, which act as the catalyst for alkene methylation and carbon chain growth. Physical mixtures of the metal catalyst and zeolite do not yield the same benefits. Metal loadings are low (< 5 wt%) and include metals in metallic clusters, oxide clusters, and cationic forms.
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.
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).
INL’s Plasma-Hydrocarbon Conversion process enables conversion of heavy hydrocarbons, such as heavy crude oil and hydrocarbon gases like natural gas, into lighter hydrocarbon materials (e.g. synthetic light oil).
It can convert hydrocarbon gases to liquid fuels/chemicals. The dielectric barrier discharge plasma process that adds carbon and hydrogen simultaneously to heavy oil. The final product includes enriched synthetic light oil, which can be acceptable to conventional refineries, and transportation fuels such as gasoline or diesel fuel. This process enhances the rate of methane activation for conversion to liquid oxygenated hydrocarbons and other light fuels.
It offers systems and methods for the conversion of these low market value raw materials to high market value commodities, e.g. synthetic fuels/chemicals.
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.
Arlon Hunt and Samuel Mao and colleagues at Berkeley Lab have developed a new class of hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) storage materials with favorable storage capacities under conditions suitable for on-board vehicle use.
The inventors are the first to use an oxide aerogel medium as the basic nanostructured framework for solid-based hydrogen and CO2 storage and capture. The highly porous medium is subjected to vapor infiltration with metal hydride or carbon to form a linked three-dimensional network of nanostructures.
The new Berkeley Lab materials take advantage of the high formula storage capacities of metal hydrides, for example, while overcoming their slow sorption kinetics and the need for high temperature desorption by incorporating the hydrides into an nanostructured template.
A team of Berkeley Lab researchers led by Gao Liu has developed a doping process for lithium ion battery electrode formation that can boost a cell’s charge capacity and lower its cost while improving reliability and safety.
Specifically, the Berkeley Lab team addressed issues with electrode formation by “pre-lithiating” both positive and negative electrodes with stabilized lithium metal powder (SLMP®) in a highly calibrated process. Doping graphite or silicon electrode materials with SLMP® gives manufacturers a high degree of control of the electric potential of the battery components, simplifying the electrode formation process and lowering costs. The direct introduction of lithium into anodes or cathodes, in a slurry fabrication process that mixes SLMP® with binders and active electrode materials such as silicon or graphite, reduces formation capacity loss and results in improved cycling capacity compared to that of batteries made with conventional processes.
Electrode formation is the most time-consuming step in the manufacture of lithium ion batteries. The process takes three to four weeks to complete, and accounts for roughly 20% of manufacturing costs. The charging and discharging required for this process also consumes substantial quantities of a battery’s lithium, causing a 10–50% capacity fade before a new battery leaves the factory.
In conventional lithium ion battery manufacturing processes, a graphite anode has no lithium in its initial fabrication stage, thus requiring that the cathode be highly lithiated at the start of the process. This limits the choice of cathode materials. The introduction of SLMP® into anodes leaves them partially or fully lithiated, opening up the possibility of using non-lithiated materials in the cathode.
Berkeley Lab developed an elegant and inexpensive fabrication method for high performance electrodes with unmatched specific / areal capacities and good capacity retention for application in lithium ion batteries.
A team of Berkeley Lab researchers led by Gao Liu have developed an elegant and inexpensive fabrication method for high performance electrodes with unmatched specific / areal capacities and good capacity retention for application in lithium ion batteries.
The Berkeley Lab process uses porous silicon oxide (SiO) anodes enabled by a conductive polymer binder and enhanced by Stabilized Lithium Metal Powder (SLMP®). The conductive polymer binder enables porosity in SiO, which buffers the volume change of Si in lithiation and delithiation and maintains the mechanical / electrical integrity of the electrode, improving the areal capacity to an impressive ~3.3 mAh/cm2. The binding polymer used also eliminates the need for a conductive additive and increases the cycling stability of Si. SiO is prelithiatied with SLMP® to further enhance the stability and performance of the electrode. The resulting SiO anode has a proven outstanding specific capacity >1000 mAh/g and a 90% capacity retention for ~500 cycles. At C/3 in a lithium ion fuel cell the electrode showed a >80% capacity retention.
Silicon’s high theoretical specific capacity and natural abundance makes it a great material for the development of high-capacity anode materials. However, there has been no widespread application due to the large costs associated with producing a stable Si based electrode. This Berkeley Lab technology provides an inexpensive and scalable method of producing electrodes for commercialization with unmatched performance.
High reliability and lower maintenance and operating costs make magnetic levitation (maglev) technology integral to advancing the nation’s transportation networks. In urban settings maglev has additional advantages over conventional mass transit and transport systems, including lower noise, higher efficiency, and higher grade and turn capabilities that allow vehicles to run on elevated tracks to eliminate the constraints and costs of underground tunnel operation. Germany and Japan have developed large urban maglev transit systems, and other nations have maglev systems in development or on the drawing board.
Despite maglev’s compelling advantages, conventional maglev technologies have drawbacks. Electromagnetic (EMS) maglev systems have problems with levitation instability. Electrodynamic (EDS) maglev systems require magnetic shielding to protect onboard electronics, and energy efficiency is eroded by the cooling requirements of the cryogenic superconducting magnetic coils used in those systems.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed an improved maglev design that is more energy efficient and more stable than conventional maglev-based systems. Inductrack, as the design is known, is a passive EDS system that uses Halbach arrays of permanent magnets for both levitation and propulsion. Energy-intensive cryogenically cooled superconducting coils are eliminated, as are control electronics and hardware necessary to maintain stable levitation.
In one design, Inductrack vehicles glide over track constructed with circuits that form a ladder-like array of “rungs” of cabled insulated wire. As the vehicle moves over the track, Inductrack magnets induce a current in the track circuitry. This current generates a magnetic field that repels the magnet arrays. The result is levitation with greater inherent stability. Inductrack’s unique technology is safer, while saving energy and maintenance expenditures. Several additional energy-efficient Inductrack designs have been developed for particular transit system applications.