Renewable and Efficient Inventions Earn Nine R&D 100 Awards for DOE

July 23, 2008

Researchers at DOE's national laboratories and its Y-12 National Security Complex garnered 30 out of the 100 awards given out by R&D Magazine this year, nine of which were in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The annual R&D 100 Awards mark the 100 most technologically significant new products and processes of the year. DOE's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) were honored with R&D 100 Awards for their innovative work in photovoltaic solar cells, biofuel production technologies, lithium batteries for vehicles, appliance controllers, energy-saving materials, and measurement tools. See the DOE press release.

NREL and PNNL were the only DOE national laboratories to win R&D 100 Awards for renewable energy innovations this year. NREL received two awards for its work in photovoltaic solar cells, one of which was for the inverted metamorphic multi-junction solar cell, a flexible solar cell that is 94% lighter than conventional solar cells and converts solar energy with greater than 40% efficiency. That technology is being commercialized by Emcore Corporation for both space and terrestrial applications. NREL was also recognized for its Hybrid CIGS, a simplified and flexible method of manufacturing thin-film solar cells made of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). Developed with HelioVolt, the Hybrid CIGS process involves spraying inks onto common materials, such as metal or glass, and bonding them with a quick process that forms a layer of large-grain CIGS crystals. The technique can be used with complex shapes, allowing photovoltaic layers to be integrated into common building materials. Meanwhile, PNNL contributed to work by Velocys, Inc. to develop a small, modular system to produce biofuels using Fischer-Tropsch catalysts. See the press releases from NREL and Velocys (PDF 62 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Regarding energy efficiency, both ANL and LBNL won R&D 100 Awards for lithium batteries. ANL teamed up with EnerDel to develop an inexpensive, powerful, and long-lasting lithium-ion battery that costs much less than today's nickel metal-hydride batteries. The use of a nanostructured lithium titanate anode is a key technology for the battery, which could open the door to cheaper hybrids and affordable plug-in hybrids. LBNL also applied nanotechnology to batteries, creating a solid-state lithium battery containing a nanostructured polymer electrolyte. The battery has the high energy density needed for practical electric vehicles, which led start-up company Seeo Inc. to license the technology. ORNL also won for a vehicle-related technology by developing a spectrometer that can take samples in confined spaces like automotive catalytic converters, fuel reformers, or fuel cells. For building technologies, PNNL won for a controller that shuts down appliances when the power grid is under stress. Finally, both ANL and ORNL won additional awards for applying nanotechnology to material surfaces. ANL developed low-friction pump seals that save energy while improving the reliability of industrial pumps, while ORNL developed a inexpensive, easily made water-repellant coating that can reduce the energy needed to propel waterborne vessels or to pump water through pipes. See press releases from ANL, LBNL, ORNL, and PNNL.