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

Geothermal Technologies Office

Efficiency, Renewable Energy Projects Win 12 R&D 100 Awards

June 27, 2012

Photo of two men testing equipment in a laboratory.

NREL engineers Jason Woods, left, and Eric Kozubal conduct research on a prototype of DEVAP, which earned an R&D100 award.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Energy efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 12 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually to recognize exceptional new products, processes, materials, and software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. Overall, DOE won 36 awards, including those funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Scientists and engineers from DOE's national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges.

There were eight DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for four projects: NanoSHIELD, a protective coating that can extend the life of costly cutting and boring tools by more than 20%; the robotic hand, which costs approximately 10 times less than similar devices while commanding 10 times more power than other electric systems; the asymmetric rolling mill, which provides a way to efficiently process sheet and plate materials, accelerating the production and availability of low-cost magnesium; and the low-frequency RF plasma source, a low-cost plasma generator for research, development, and production of nanometer scale materials at lower temperatures, faster rates, and with enhanced properties. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its ultra-fast, large-scale efficient boriding—a thermo-chemical surface hardening process in which boron atoms are diffused into a surface—that can drastically reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance and reliability of machine components. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) won for its desiccant-enhanced evaporative air-conditioning (DEVAP) systems, which cool commercial buildings using a small fraction of the energy used by traditional coolers. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won for co-developing graphene nanostructures for lithium batteries, in which small quantities of graphene can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries so batteries last longer and recharge quickly. And, Sandia National Laboratories was honored for the Sandia cooler, technology that significantly reduces the energy needed to cool the processor chips in data centers and large-scale computing environments. See the press releases from ORNL, ANL, NREL, PNNL, and Sandia.

In renewable energy categories, there were four R&D 100 award picks. ANL and several partners developed a novel high-energy and high-power cathode material that is especially suited for use in lithium-ion batteries used in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was recognized for its platinum monolayer electrocatalysts for fuel cell cathodes, which have high activity, stability, and durability, while containing only about one-tenth the platinum of conventional catalysts used in fuel cells, significantly reducing overall costs. NREL was tapped for its SJ3 solar cell, which achieves a world-record conversion efficiency of 43.5% with the potential to reach 50% by using a three-layered SJ3 cell to capture different light frequencies, ensuring the best conversion of the energy from photons to electrons. And, Sandia's microsystems enabled photovoltaics were recognized because the glitter-sized PV cells created using microdesign and microfabrication techniques can be released into a solution and “printed” onto a low-cost substrate. See the press releases from ANL, BNL, NREL, and Sandia.

Since 1963, when R&D Magazine's annual competition began, DOE has received more than 800 R&D 100 awards in areas such as energy and basic scientific applications. See the DOE Progress Alert, the DOE press release and the complete list of R&D 100 winners.