Month: June 2012

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects Win 12 R&D 100 Awards for 2012

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:

Advanced Manufacturing

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.

Composting toilets aren’t gross at all

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

When you hear the words “composting toilet,” there’s a good chance you immediately begin imagining some sort of terrifying box with a hole in it you want nothing to do with. That’s certainly what I pictured. I envisioned a pungent wooden contraption used primarily by log-cabin dwelling, tie-dye clad, shoeless men who used to follow the Grateful Dead. So, when I was asked to interview the manager of a composting toilet manufacturer, I was fully prepared to respond to everything he said with, “Oh, cool. Gross.”

Composting toilets, if you haven’t already figured this out from context clues, are toilets that collect your waste and break it down into compost rather than using a plumbing system like we have in NYC to sweep everything away into a septic system or a sewage grid. You simply remove the dry compost from the toilet a couple of times a year. But, the idea of waste being swept far, far away just seems much more comforting than the thought of it being naturally broken down inside one’s own home.
It turns out, however, that composting toilets are — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — not gross. I spoke to Fraser Sneddon, manager of the Sun-Mar Corp., and immediately got down to the most important question: Do composting toilets smell? I figured if the answer to that question was yes, there wasn’t much need for any other questions.

Sustainable Publishing in the 21st Century

Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 01:00 PM EDT
Register at

This webinar will provide participants with information on existing tools and best practices to forward paper procurement policies and provide a snap shot and update on global forest hotspots, including the Great Bear Rainforest, Canada’s Boreal Forest and the rainforests of Indonesia.

Staff from Canopy will also join the Green America Better Paper Project to help answer questions on how to engage your suppliers and mills to promote lasting solutions that provide certainty both in terms of supply of environmental paper for your company, as well as ecological protection of our global forests.

A Peek Inside Google’s Healthy Materials Program

Read the full story at GreenSource.

Google is way out front of other organizations — both public and private — when it comes to screening materials for hazardous ingredients in its workplaces.

Three Decades and Counting: A Historical Review and Current Assessment of Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Activity in the States

Download the document.

Providing programs to electric utility customers to reduce their energy use through improved energy efficiency is an innovation with roots in the energy crises of the 1970s. The concept that energy utilities should substitute electricity savings in new and existing end-uses for more costly alternative sources of electricity was a radical departure from the regulatory and business models established and followed by energy utilities since their inception in the early part of the 20th century. From these early roots, energy efficiency programs for electric utility customers have grown rapidly, despite some fluctuations in funding and support. Electric utility restructuring led to a precipitous decline in program funding in the late 1990s. Since then, electric utility energy efficiency programs have grown continuously and rapidly. In 2010, total budgets for these programs were $4.6 billion. Numerous policy and program innovations have occurred to drive such changes and to reach goals established for these programs. Over three decades of experience with these programs have demonstrated their ability to reduce energy use and thereby provide significant economic, environmental, and system benefits. The emergence of energy efficiency as a valuable, cost-effective, and significant energy resource has established the foundation for a new era of energy efficiency, an era marked by continued expansion and innovation.

Mandatory Organics Recycling to Become Law in Vermont

Read the full story at Waste360.

Vermont has passed a law phasing in mandatory recycling and composting of food and organic waste, eventually banning those materials from landfills.

Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law House Bill 485 that calls for all residents to recycle or compost food waste by 2020 and prohibits the disposal of recyclable and compostable materials in landfills.

The law takes effect July 1, and the phasing-in begins with large food waste generators in 2014.

New from the GAO on environmental satellites

Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellites: Changing Requirements, Technical Issues, and Looming Data Gaps Require Focused Attention. GAO-12-604, June 15.
Highlights –

Geostationary Weather Satellites: Design Progress Made, but Schedule Uncertainty Needs to be Addressed. GAO-12-576, June 26.
Highlights –

Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Mitigate Program Risks, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-12-841T, June 27

Sustainability is more than just packaging, says report

Read the full story from Management Today.

A new report from PwC has found that the packaging industry is calling it a wrap with ‘sustainability’, looking for a broader and deeper approach to the whole supply chain.

6th Annual Trash 2 Treasure Generates Crowds and Revenue

Read the full story from Swarthmore College.

Trash 2 Treasure, the charity-driven yard sale held annually in the Lamb-Miller Field House, has grown into a Swarthmore-scale Black Friday as community members assemble in the early hours of the morning for a first peek at the treasures abandoned by departing students. With approximately 100 bargain hunters lined up by 8 AM on Friday for the “early bird” sales, the event, now in its sixth year, has grown both in scope and in generated revenue. This year, the sale brought in more than $26,000 for the United Way of Southeast Delaware County – a new record. The inaugural sale in 2006 raised $12,000.

A worldwide first: Berkeley steps up to the plastic-waste challenge

Read the full story from UC-Berkeley.

Stepping up to the global challenge of trying to keep plastic waste from clogging waterways, coastlines and landfills, UC Berkeley is the first university in the world to embrace the Plastic Disclosure Project.

The project aims to use the concept of a plastic footprint — like a carbon footprint — as a way of stimulating change in the way the world deals with an important but problematic resource. It was co-founded by Berkeley alum Doug Woodring, who swam for the Golden Bears and graduated in 1988.

%d bloggers like this: