This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

September 26, 2007

Renewable Energy, Bioproduct Inventions Win Seven R&D 100 Awards

Researchers at DOE national laboratories and facilities contributed to 31 out of the 100 technology advancements that are being honored this year with R&D 100 Awards. As a top harbinger of innovative research and development, R&D Magazine has been recognizing the top 100 inventions of the year for the past 45 years. This year's awards include 18 that are related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, of which 7 are related to renewable energy. (The energy efficiency winners are covered in a separate article.) See the awards announcements on Beam/X-Ray Devices (PDF 99 KB), Energy (PDF 150 KB), Materials & Metals (PDF 243 KB), and Thermal technologies (PDF 105 KB) in R&D Magazine. Download Adobe Reader.

Among renewable energy technologies, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Spectrolab, a Boeing subsidiary, earned an award for building the first solar cell to surpass 40% conversion efficiency. That is, the solar cell is able to convert more than 40% of the sunlight hitting it into electricity. Other solar cell technologies include an improved transparent conductor made out of carbon nanotubes. Transparent conductors often form the top layer of thin-film solar cells and related devices, such as flat panel displays. A German company also won for inventing a small high-vacuum pump used in solar cell manufacturing that consumes one-third less power than earlier pumps. See the NREL press release.

Thanks in part to support from DOE's Inventions & Innovations program, Phenotype Screening Corporation won an award for a non-invasive system to image and characterize plant roots, a technology that could be important for biomass crop development. In addition, DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) helped to develop a gas turbine that can run on biogas, hydrogen, and other fuels; UTC Power worked with a hot springs resort in Alaska to develop a device that generates power from low-temperature geothermal resources; and Battelle Memorial Institute invented a biobased polyol, a chemical that could replace up to 3 billion pounds of petroleum-based polyols that are used each year in the United States to produce foams, coatings, and adhesives. Other biobased polyols have been developed recently, but the Battelle invention is reactive enough to form polyurethane foams. The chemical is also generated from glycerine, a byproduct of the biodiesel industry. See the press releases from LBNL, UTC Power, and Battelle.