Energy Department Projects Win 38 R&D 100 Awards for 2013

July 17, 2013

The Energy Department's national laboratories have been recognized by R&D Magazine with 38 R&D 100 Awards for the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supported a range of innovations, in the fields of battery technology, biofuels, fuel cells, and solar energy.

Now in their 51st year, the awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional new products, processes, materials, or software that were developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. The R&D 100 Awards are selected by a panel of independent judges based on technical significance, uniqueness, and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government, and academia. View the complete list of R&D 100 Awards.

In the bioenergy field, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) won an award for a high-throughput, high-speed chemical screening tool that is 100 times faster than conventional methods to support the development of lignocellulosic biofuels. Another LBNL award winner was the bacteriophage power generator, which provides power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity, to create a sustainable energy source for electronics and microdevices.

Solar energy innovations that received an R&D 100 Award include contributions by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to the innovative cell architecture from TetraSun, now a division of First Solar, Inc. The company has developed the architecture which allows for a greater percentage of incoming sunlight to be converted to electricity. Also, LBNL won an award for its universal smart window coating technology that enables dynamic control over how much of the sun’s heat and light enters a building through its windows. And Sandia National Laboratories' web-based tool addresses new federal guidelines requiring quantified assessments of glare from proposed solar installations by predicting a proposed array's annual energy production and evaluating alternative designs, layouts, and locations.

Among projects impacting energy efficiency, LBNL was honored for its conducting polymer binder, a new material for use in rechargeable batteries that can boost power storage capacity by 30%. And the Isothermal Battery Calorimeters, developed by NREL and NETZSCH, are the only calorimeters in the world capable of performing the precise thermal measurements needed to make safer, longer-lasting and more cost-effective lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, Point Source Power and LBNL won an award for the company’s Voto device, which is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood, or other types of biomass in order to charge the attached to circuitry in the handle. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was also recognized for three EERE-funded projects. The ClimateMaster Trilogy 40 Q-Mode Geothermal Heat Pump, developed by ClimateMaster and ORNL, uses the earth as its heat source and sink (absorber). The Da Vinci Fuel-in-Oil Measurement System, developed by Da Vinci Emissions Services Ltd., Cummins Inc., and an ORNL team, uses a fiber optic probe to obtain real-time measurements of oil in an operating engine to quantify the fuel dissolved in the lubricant oil. Finally, the SYMMETRIX HPX-F Nanocomposite Separator for Improved Lithium Ion Battery, jointly developed by Porous Power Technologies LLC and ORNL, lowers lithium ion battery costs and improves safety through the replacement of polymer separators with lower-cost ceramics and mineral fillers, a breakthrough membrane technology that could improve electric vehicles and grid storage.

Technologies which can help improve building efficiency that won an R&D 100 Award include Sandia National Laboratories' membrane projection lithography, a fabrication technique that enables the creation of a diverse array of microscopic 3-D structures with macroscopic impact. Currently, the technique is being licensed to make thermal antennas that can control the direction of heat emitted from an object, potentially easing cooling and heating needs for satellites or perhaps even buildings and cars. Also boosting energy efficiency is NREL's image processing occupancy sensor (IPOS), which hangs from ceilings in office buildings and retail stores, combining an inexpensive camera with computer vision algorithms that recognize the presence of human occupants. IPOS raises the accuracy of occupancy detection from about 75% to the upper 90% range, helping to achieve greater energy savings.

Since 1963, when R&D Magazine’s annual competition began, national laboratories have received more than 800 R&D 100 Awards in areas such as energy, national security, and basic scientific applications. See press releases from R&D Magazine, LBNL, NREL, ORNL, and Sandia.