U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Geothermal Technologies Office

Research and Development Successes and Awards

To establish renewable geothermal energy as a significant contributor to America's future electricity, the Program partners with industry, academia and the national laboratories to discover new geothermal resources; research, develop, and demonstrate innovative technologies; and facilitate commercialization.

Read more about the award-winning advancements that are changing the geothermal industry below.

R&D 100 Awards

R&D 100 Awards

2012: NanoSHIELD Coatings

Nano-Super Hard - Inexpensive - Laser Deposited Coatings, or NanoSHIELD Coatings, are created by laser fusing a unique iron-based powder to any type of steel, which forms a strong metallurgical bond that provides wear resistance between two and ten times greater than conventional coatings.

  • Can extend the life of costly cutting and manufacturing tools by more than 20%, potentially saving millions of dollars over the course of a project.

  • Designed to protect high-wear tools used for tunnel boring and construction, but its potential for Navy applications and geothermal drilling tools also is being explored.

  • Developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Strategic Analysis Inc., Ozdemir Engineering Inc., Colorado School of Mines and Carpenter Technology Corp.

2007: Low-Temperature Power Conversion

Photo of Low-Temperature Power Conversion device.

Low-Temperature Power Conversion device allows commercial energy conversion at lower temperatures, expanding site selection and development options.

  • In use at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska, which at 165°F is the lowest temperature geothermal resource used for commercial energy conversion

  • Previously lowest temperature for commercial energy conversion was at 208°F

  • Developed by UTC Power and United Technologies Research Center as a demonstration partner of DOE, Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and the Denali Commission.

2006: HTSS10V - Solid-State High-Temperature Battery

Photo of Sen. Pete Domenici, Gloria Chavez, and Randy Norman.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., receives a briefing at a recent Sandia event by Gloria Chavez and Randy Normann about the HTSS10V high-temperature batteries for deep drilling exploration. (Photo by Randy Montoya - 2006)

Solid-state fluoride batteries consist of nontoxic fluoride and solid components, making safest choice for high-temperature drilling operations.

  • Can be transported on commercial aircraft, while lithium sulfuryl chloride batteries can only be transported by ground and must be stored in explosive containers when on a drill rig.

  • Longer shelf life and greater reliability in emergency situations, giving them advantages for battery backup or life support systems during a fire or other emergencies.

  • Developed by U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories in conjunction with High Power Battery Systems Company in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and General Atomics.

2003: Acoustic Telemetry Device

Photo of an Acoustic Telemetry Device.

Acoustic Telemetry Device quickly and reliably transmits data to the surface of a geothermal well to improve drilling, increase production, and lower well costs.

  • Advantages compared to existing techniques are a ten-fold improvement in data rates and no blocking of fluid flow path.

  • Acoustic telemetry technology uses the well-drilling tubing as the data transmission medium and sound waves as the data carrier.

  • Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with Extreme Engineering, Ltd.

2003: The Low Emissions Atmospheric Metering Separator

Photo of the Low Emissions Atmospheric Metering System (LEAMS).

The Low Emissions Atmospheric Metering Separator (LEAMS) helps geothermal power plants achieve "clean energy" status.

  • The technology's primary use is to safely contain and clean atmospheric vented steam of polluting solids, liquids, and noxious gases. Currently, no atmospheric cyclone separator can perform all these functions as well under a single system.

  • Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with Drill Cool Systems, Inc., and Two-Phase Engineering and Research.

2002: PPS Coating Technology

Photo of pipes with PPS coating.

PPS coating on the left and a failed coating on the right.

  • Polyphenylenesulfide (PPS) is a revolutionary material developed by Brookhaven National Laboratory and tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and won a 2002 R&D 100 award and a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer.

  • The coating prevents corrosion and inhibits buildup of scale from mineral-rich geothermal brines and caustic industrial fluids, reducing maintenance and capital expenditures.

  • The PPS system can be exposed to production geothermal fluid at 350°F, and has been successfully transferred for commercialization to Curran International, an established company with experience using epoxy and phenolic coatings.

2001: Silica Recovery from Geothermal Brine

Photo of Mow Lin, Brookhaven chemist, one of the inventors of the silica recovery process.

Brookhaven chemist Mow Lin, one of the inventors of the silica recovery process.

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Caithness Operating Company won a 2001 R&D 100 Award for developing a technology to recover commercial-quality silica from geothermal brine, a byproduct of geothermal energy production. Retrieving this valuable product from brine, which is generally disposed of as waste, results lower maintenance costs and in cheaper energy production.

  • The notably pure (~99.9%) recovered silica — much purer than most silica on the market today — can be used for new commercial applications, such as in nanoscale materials, sub-micron electronic circuits, and fiber optics.

  • Silica is used widely as a drying agent for products such as salt; a polishing agent for commodities such as toothpaste; as a filler, extender or reinforcer for plastics, paper, paint and rubber; and as a catalyst for refining oil.

2000: Geothermal Well Cement

Photo of Dr. Sugama.

Dr. Sugama wins R&D 100 Award.

  • The harsh, hostile environment of a geothermal well rapidly degrades conventional cements that are supposed to keep the well intact.

  • Dr. Toshifumi Sugama of the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory developed a high-performance cement that increases useful well life by a factor of 20 or more.

  • This new cement means savings of $150,000 per well per year over a 20-year lifetime of the well!

1999: Advanced Direct Contact Condenser

Photo of Desikhan Bharathan.

NREL's Desikhan Bharathan receives his R&D 100 Award.

  • The advanced direct-contact condenser (ADCC) that uses sophisticated geometric shapes to provide optimal surface area for condensing spent steam.

  • The technology has been employed at Unit #11 at The Geysers, where it has improved production efficiency by 5%, has cut the chemical cost for emission abatement in half, and total power generation potential by 17%.

  • ADCC also can be used for fossil-fuel power plants and for food processing or any other industrial process in which steam is condensed.

  • Also won a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer.