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

July 29, 2009

DOE-Funded Clean Energy Research Projects Win 19 R&D 100 Awards

DOE national laboratories have won 46 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine for the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential, including 19 awards related to energy efficiency and renewable energy. The coveted R&D 100 Awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional new products, processes, materials, or software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. The awards are selected by an independent panel of judges based on the technical significance, uniqueness, and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government, and academia. See the DOE press release for the full list of DOE-funded award winners, and see a list of all the R&D 100 Award winners on the R&D Magazine Web site.

Photo of a large, curved, mirrored surface, supported by a metal lattice and towering over several people. A glass tube runs along the center of the mirrored surface at its focal point.

The SkyTrough solar collector, shown here during testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, promises to cut the cost of parabolic trough collectors for concentrating solar power systems. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Pat Corkery

Three of DOE's R&D 100 Awards relate to renewable energy, including an award for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Solexant for their joint development of nanocrystal solar cells that are expected to cut solar cell costs by a factor of five. The solar cells employ tiny semiconductor particles that can be produced at high volume, suspended in a liquid, and applied to a substrate using inexpensive processing techniques. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and SkyFuel, Inc. also won a joint award for the SkyTrough solar collector, a parabolic solar concentrator that replaces heavy glass mirrors with a lightweight and weatherproof reflector material. This innovation enabled improvements to the support structure and the sun-tracking system, cutting the installed cost by 35%. Parabolic troughs, such as the SkyTrough solar collector, are typically the most expensive part of concentrating solar power systems. And in the hard-to-categorize department, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Perpetua Power Source Technologies won an award for the Perpetua Power Puck, which generates electricity from temperature differences in its surrounding environment. The Power Puck can replace conventional chemical batteries and can be used for data collection at remote sites, such as monitoring the structural integrity of dams, bridges, and pipelines. See the press releases from LBNL, NREL, and PNNL.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was the big winner for energy efficiency-related technologies, garnering five awards, including one for the first-ever fire-resistive phase-change material, which can provide thermal energy storage when incorporated into the walls and ceilings of buildings. ORNL also won two awards for material processing techniques, including a technology that uses superconducting magnets to cut down on the energy used in heat-treating materials, as well as a system that uses light pulses to rapidly heat inks and films to high temperatures, without overheating the paper or plastic substrates on which they are deposited. ORNL also developed a stainless steel that is corrosion-resistant at high temperatures and an improved high-temperature superconducting cable, which can reduce energy losses in the power grid. See the ORNL press release.

Six other R&D 100 Awards went toward innovations related to energy efficiency, including one shared by Ames Laboratory, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Reaction Engineering International, all of which jointly developed a process simulator for designing high-efficiency industrial plants. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) won two efficiency-related awards, including one for a hard and slick coating that can allow all types of mechanical systems, such as engines, to operate more efficiently, and one for an improved lithium-ion battery, developed jointly with Envia Systems. And Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) won three efficiency-related awards, including one for a power module that can convert electricity from one form to another (such as alternating current to direct current) with only half of the power loss of today's power modules, one for a communications platform that enables optical data transmission and routing with 100 times less power consumption than traditional electronic approaches, and one for an innovative nanotechnology for producing platinum catalysts, which can be used in fuel cells and solar cells. See the press releases from Ames Laboratory, ANL, and SNL.