Researchers funded by the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) have won 12 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine for the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. The Energy Department announced last week that it received a total of 36 awards across all of its research and development programs, including EERE. The coveted awards—now in their 50th year—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 highlight some of the successes achieved by the Department’s national laboratories in technology transfer, moving basic research results into commercial products.
Since 1962, when R&D Magazine’s annual competition began, the Department’s national laboratories have been the recipient of over 800 R&D 100 awards in areas such as energy, national security, and basic scientific applications.
R&D 100 awards are selected by an independent panel of judges based on the technical significance, uniqueness, and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government and academia. View the complete list of R&D 100 awards.
A list of EERE’s winning program areas, technologies, and national laboratory partners is below:
Ultra-fast and Large-Scale Boriding (Argonne National Laboratory): This green, efficient industrial-scale boriding process can drastically reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance and reliability of machine components, such as engine tappets, agricultural knife guards, pump seals, and valves. This new process increases surface hardness of these components by factors of three to ten.
Low-cost, lightweight robotic hand based on additive manufacturing (Oak Ridge National Laboratory): This technology costs approximately 10 times less than similar devices while commanding 10 times more power than other electric systems. Composed of only 46 parts, this simplified, lightweight robotic hand can be manufactured and assembled within 40 hours. It has robotics, prosthetics, remote handling and biomedical and surgical applications.
Asymmetric Rolling Mill, co-developed with FATA Hunter Inc. (Oak Ridge National Laboratory): The Asymmetric Rolling Mill provides a way to efficiently process sheet and plate materials, accelerating the production and availability of low-cost magnesium a lightweight metal. Commercial use of magnesium has been limited because of the high cost associated with its multistep production process. This technology is likely to reduce processing steps, thereby reducing the cost of finished magnesium components and allowing for the replacement of aluminum with magnesium in many commercial goods. The widespread use of magnesium instead of aluminum in cars would reduce vehicle weight and lead to improvements in transportation by improving fuel economy.
Low Frequency RF Plasma Source (LFRF-501), co-developed with Structured Materials Industries, Inc. (Oak Ridge National Laboratory): LFRF-501 is a low-cost plasma generator for research, development and production of nanometer scale materials at lower temperatures, faster rates and with enhanced properties. These materials are enabling new developments in many technologies, including microelectronics, renewable energy, sensors and LEDs.
Advanced Manufacturing and Geothermal
NanoSHIELD Coatings (Oak Ridge National Laboratory): NanoSHIELD is a protective coating that 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. It is 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 10 times greater than conventional coatings. NanoSHIELD was 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.
Desiccant-Enhanced Evaporative Air-Conditioning (National Renewable Energy Laboratory): Developed with AIL Research and Synapse Product Development LLC: DEVAP systems cool commercial buildings at a small fraction of the energy use of a traditional cooler, provides superior comfort in any climate, releases far less carbon dioxide, and could cut costly peak electricity demand by 80%.
The Sandia Cooler (Sandia National Laboratories): Also known as the “Air Bearing Heat Exchanger,” this technology will significantly reduce the energy needed to cool the processor chips in data centers and large-scale computing environments. The Sandia Cooler also offers benefits in other applications where thermal management and energy efficiency are important, particularly heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC).
Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
Platinum Monolayer Electrocatalysts for Fuel Cell Cathodes (Brookhaven National Laboratory): Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for fuel cells, but platinum-based catalysts are expensive, unstable, and have low durability. The new electrocatalysts 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.
SJ3 Solar Cell (National Renewable Energy Laboratory): Co-developed with Solar Junction, the cell achieves a world-record conversion efficiency of 43.5% with potential to reach 50%. Like a three-blade safety razor that uses all its blades for a closer shave, the three-layered SJ3 cell captures different light frequencies, ensuring the best conversion of photons to electrons. The 43.5% efficiency occurs under lens-focused light having 418 times the intensity of the sun.
Microsystems Enabled Photovoltaics (Sandia National Laboratories): Tiny, glitter-sized PV cells are created using microdesign and microfabrication techniques, released into a solution and “printed” onto a low-cost substrate. The technology has potential applications in buildings, houses, clothing, portable electronics, vehicles and other contoured structures.
High-Energy Concentration-Gradient Cathode Material for Plug-in Hybrids and All-Electric Vehicles (Argonne National Laboratory): Argonne and several partners have developed a novel high-energy and high-power cathode material for use in lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries especially suited for plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. It provides much higher energy and longer life than any other Li-ion cathode material, and as such is also ideal for batteries in hybrid vehicles and a wide range of consumer electronics applications.
Graphene Nanostructures for Lithium Batteries, co-developed with Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup Md. and Princeton University (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory): Small quantities of graphene—ultra-thin sheets of carbon atoms—can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries. Graphene Nanostructures could lead to the development of batteries that last longer and recharge quickly, drastically reducing the time it takes to charge a smartphone to as little as ten minutes and charging an electric vehicle in just a few hours.