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

September 25, 2003

Renewable and Energy Efficiency Technologies Win 13 R&D 100 Awards

If there's any question about the importance of energy research and development (R&D) in our society, this year's R&D 100 Awards-announced in the September edition of R&D Magazine-should put those doubts to rest. DOE-funded research won 35 of the 100 awards, and DOE national laboratories contributed to many of the innovations. See the DOE press release.

Among all the awards, 13 relate to energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the renewable energy realm, First Solar, LLC and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have created a technique to deposit thin films of photovoltaic material at a rate of about one module per minute. First Solar is using the technology to produce cadmium telluride solar modules, but the process could be extended to other photovoltaic materials. Another award winner is a system that separates polluting solids, liquids, and noxious gases from steam that is vented from a geothermal power facility. Sandia National Laboratories not only contributed to that development, but also developed an acoustic telemetry device that could help provide information on a geothermal well as it is being drilled. The device transmits data from the drill bit by sending sound waves up along the well-drilling tubing.

In the energy efficiency arena, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory won an award for EnergyPlus, a computer program for modeling building energy performance. An additional award went to Los Alamos National Laboratory for developing an energy-efficient supercomputer that uses a cluster of 240 processors, yet requires no cooling. The cluster achieves up to 10 times more computing power per kilowatt of electricity than other supercomputing platforms.

Los Alamos was also one of four national laboratories that earned awards for advanced materials R&D relating to energy efficiency. Los Alamos developed a flexible tape made of high-temperature superconductor material. The conductive tape is able to carry 200 times the electrical current that copper wire can carry. Advanced materials also earned an award for Argonne National Laboratory, which helped develop a low-friction carbon-based coating that bonds extremely well even under severe conditions. The coating could help engines and other machinery run more efficiently and last longer. Engines may also benefit from a new cast stainless steel designed for durability and performance at high temperatures. Oak Ridge National Laboratory helped develop the new stainless steel, which will allow engines to operate at higher temperatures, achieving greater fuel efficiency. And Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helped develop a laser system that forms precise shapes in thick metal parts. Used in aircraft, the process could lead to lighter components and increased fuel efficiency.

But not all energy-efficiency innovations came from DOE projects. For instance, a team from Hitachi, Ltd. developed an electronic drive system for air conditioning motors that helps them to operate at peak efficiencies. IdleAire Technologies Corp. developed a system that provides power to trucks at truck stops, eliminating the fuel waste and pollution caused by idling trucks. The company is currently operating six installations and plans to open four in California and three in Texas in the near future. Praxair, Inc. developed a supplemental refrigeration unit for use at plants that liquefy atmospheric gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen. The supplemental system uses only about half as much electricity as a stand-alone liquefier. And Aspen Aerogels, Inc. created a blanket-type insulation using aerogels-extremely light, sponge-like structures of solid material-that insulates four times better than fiberglass.

See the R&D 100 Awards on the R&D Magazine Web site.