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

July 14, 2010

DOE-Funded Clean Energy Projects Win Eight R&D 100 Awards for 2010

Photo of a researcher holding an electronic testing gauge near a bottle of green algae

Los Alamos researcher Greg Goddard's use of acoustic focusing technology to harvest algae for fuel won an R&D 100 award.
Credit: Leroy N. Sanchez

DOE national laboratories and researchers have won 39 of the 100 awards given this year by R&D Magazine for outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential, including eight awards for energy efficiency and renewable energy research projects. The sought-after R&D 100 Awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional new products, processes, materials, and software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. An independent panel of judges selects the awards 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 R&D Magazine for all R&D 100 Award winners for 2010.

Six of DOE's R&D 100 Awards in 2010 went to renewable energy research projects, including three awards for biofuels and biobased products. Biobased products replace petroleum products, so they reduce U.S. oil dependency. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) was cited for its Supercritical/Solid Catalyst (SSC), which converts discarded and environmentally unfriendly wastes, such as fats or oils, into biodiesel. SSC turns the worst of wastes into high-quality biodiesel fuels using a single step, a breakthrough that could replace 20% of petroleum diesel in the United States, representing crude imports of 800,000 barrels per day. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was honored for the Ultrasonic Algal Biofuel Harvester, a one-of-a-kind device that uses extremely high-frequency sound waves to extract oils and proteins from algae, separating out and recycling the water, all in one integrated system. And Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) was recognized for its development of a process to make propylene glycol from renewable sources. This project allowed PNNL researchers to develop a chemical catalyst that converts a plant-based compound into the additive. See press releases from INL and LANL, and PNNL.

Three awards went to solar power breakthroughs, including two for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL's "black silicon" solar cells, which have been chemically etched with a nanocatalytic solution, can better absorb the sun's energy. The one-step method, which reduces light reflection from silicon wafers to less than 2%, could reduce manufacturing production cost and capital expense. NREL also won an award for the Amonix 7700 Solar Power Generator, a concentrating photovoltaic system that produces 40% more energy than conventional fixed photovoltaic panels. The 53-kilowatt device, developed in partnership with Amonix, pairs an Amonix Fresnel lens with high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells. Also in the solar spotlight was the Micro Power Source, an ultra-small solar cell. Work on the Micro Power Source was performed jointly by Sandia National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Front Edge Technology, Inc. And in addition to the DOE awardees, Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. was presented with an award for its commercially manufactured monolithically integrated CIGS thin-film modules using a plastic substrate for applications ranging from automotive, portable power and roof tops. See the press releases from NREL and Sandia, and Ascent Solar.

And, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) won for two energy efficiency contributions. Home Energy Saver is a free online tool that identifies a range of energy-saving upgrades specific to each user's home construction and location. The tool, which is also known as Hohm, had more than 6 million unique visitors as of January 2009. In addition, LBNL researchers created rough silicon nanowires, thermoelectric material that can be used to recover waste heat from cars, airplanes, power plants, and other sources to cut energy use. See the LBNL press release.