This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
DOE Small Business Awards Reveal Cutting Edge Research Topics
DOE awarded $116 million on July 31st to small businesses for innovative research, and the awardees paint a picture of the frontiers for energy research. For hybrid vehicles, for instance, the focus is on lithium-ion batteries and ultracapacitors, two energy storage methods that could cut the cost of future hybrids. To make all vehicles lighter, a number of projects are examining nanotechnologies and lightweight aluminum and magnesium alloys. And to fuel our future vehicles, hydrogen technologies run the gamut from water electrolyzers to storage tanks to fuel cell components, all with the aim of cutting costs and improving efficiency.
Several projects could yield efficiency improvements for buildings and industries. Research projects for light emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs are all aimed at white-light sources for use in buildings. For industries, a wide range of membranes and catalysts are being employed to create more efficient ways to produce and separate chemicals and other products. Some companies are also applying membrane technologies to ethanol production, trying to lower costs and energy use by finding easier ways to separate ethanol from water. One company is even examining an ethanol drying technology that could make it easier to send ethanol through pipelines. And to help wean industries off their use of petrochemicals, one company plans to develop a biobased solvent.
In terms of renewable power sources, the emphasis is on wind turbines and solar cells. Several projects look toward materials and coatings to make wind turbine blades and gearboxes last longer, while companies are applying a variety of technologies for producing less-expensive solar cells. Solar thermal energy is also included, as one company is trying to apply nanotechnology to mirrors for solar concentrators, another is examining solar-driven water desalination, and a third is examining the use of thermal photovoltaic devices to convert heat directly into electricity. Even ocean energy is represented through a project to use buoys to capture the energy of ocean waves. See the DOE press release and the full list of awardees on the DOE Office of Science Web site.