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PNNL shares expertise at ARPA-E Summit

Projects include heat storage, A/C & heat for electric vehicles, cheap replacements for rare-earth magnets, and better rechargeable batteries; power grid expertise to be discussed

February 22, 2012 Share This!

  • Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will exhibit their projects aimed at dramatically improving how the U.S. produces and uses energy, including improving air conditioning and batteries for electric vehicles, at the at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.

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Researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be exhibiting their projects, progress and energy grid expertise at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, Monday, Feb. 27 through Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Below is an overview of PNNL's participation.

Metal hydrides for thermal energy storage

Booth #315

Solar power technologies provide a source of clean electricity generation without emissions. To enhance storage efficiencies and expand applications, there is a need for new materials that can function at higher temperatures. PNNL scientists Ewa Ronnebro and Kevin Simmons, along with metallurgical materials scientist Zak Fang at University of Utah will receive more than $700,000 to investigate a metal hydride material that can store 10 times the amount of heat per mass than conventional molten salt. The team will first develop a metal hydride with a suitably long lifetime. If successful, they will then create a small prototype system.

Molecular heat pump for electric vehicles

Booth #313

Internal combustion engines in today's cars generate a lot of heat, which is great for heating the passenger cabin in winter. However, energy efficient electric vehicles produce very little excess heat, so providing electricity for the same amount of heat would reduce their driving range by as much as 40 percent. PNNL scientists Pete McGrail and Praveen Thallapally, and University of South Florida chemists Mike Zaworotko and Shengqian Ma will receive $800,000 to develop a material called an electrical metal-organic framework, or EMOF for short, for vehicle heating and cooling systems. The EMOF would work as a molecular heat pump, which efficiently circulates heat or cold as needed. By directly controlling the EMOF's properties with electricity, their design is expected to use much less energy than traditional heating and cooling systems. For example, a 5-pound EMOF-based heat pump the size of a 2-liter bottle could theoretically handle the heating and cooling needs of an electric vehicle with far less impact on driving distance.

High-efficiency adsorption chillers

Booth #313

Current building cooling systems account for approximately 13 percent of electrical energy consumption in the U.S. PNNL scientists Pete McGrail and Praveen Thallapally, and partner companies Power Partners, Inc., and Arkema, Inc., received $2.54 million to improve the efficiency and test new refrigerants in a type of air conditioning unit called an adsorption chiller. The chiller takes advantage of PNNL's metal-organic heat carrier technology and is powered by waste heat (or by heat from solar collectors) has few moving parts, and uses almost no electricity to operate.  PNNL will be presenting results on super-hydrophilic and super-fluorophilic sorbents that offer the potential to double the efficiency and reduce the size of today's commercially available chillers by one-third, making them affordable enough to be used more frequently in commercial buildings.

Manganese-based permanent magnet

Booth #317

PNNL materials scientist Jun Cui and others will receive $2.3 million to develop a replacement for rare earth magnets - commonly used in wind turbines and electric vehicles - based on an innovative nano-composite using manganese-based alloys. Manganese composites could potentially be twice as strong as current state-of-the-art magnets at higher temperatures, possibly eliminating the need for a cooling system. Importantly, they are based on inexpensive and abundant raw materials. The team will develop stronger magnets by combining modeling with high throughput experiments of various metal composite formulations that do not contain rare-earth materials. If developed successfully, these composite magnets will reduce dependence on expensive rare-earth material imports, and reduce the cost and improve efficiency of green technologies.

Planar Sodium-beta batteries

Booth #232

EaglePicher Technologies is teaming with PNNL to develop the next-generation sodium-beta batteries for the nation's large-scale energy storage needs. The planar, or flat, sodium beta battery technology offers several advantages over a cylindrical battery, including reduced costs associated with manufacturing. The planar technology also is scalable in size, enabling a wide range of power and energy requirements to be met with the same platform thereby increasing the potential market applications.  Finally, these planar cells can be operated at lower temperatures which increase the operational lifetime of the battery.  The final outcome of this project will have direct impact on establishing U.S. leadership in stationary storage and will demonstrate a competitive path to cost effective electrical energy storage. PNNL scientists John Lemmon and Vincent Sprenkle will be on hand in EaglePicher's booth to discuss the current status of the project.

Special exhibit: Creating the 21st century power grid

Booth # 105

Maintaining a secure, reliable and affordable power system is paramount to national needs. PNNL is taking a system-wide approach to transform the nation's power grid into one that is increasingly clean, efficient, reliable and resilient. Tools developed at PNNL's Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center in Richland, Wash., can see the grid in real time like never before, help the power system respond to peak demand like never before, and help maintain a secure infrastructure. Carl Imhoff, lead of PNNL's grid business, will be available to discuss how the laboratory's expertise in system monitoring, demand response, renewable energy integration and energy storage, and cyber security and interoperability are revolutionizing the way grid operators, utilities and consumers can realize the benefits of a smarter power system.

Novel Membrane Air Dehumidifier

Booth #818

A team led by ADMA Products, and including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Energy Science Laboratory of Texas A&M University, is working to improve the efficiency of air cooling. The team is developing thin flat sheet molecular sieve membranes, made by Dr. Liu's team at PNNL, into prototype devices for efficient air dehumidification and conditioning. The moisture in humid air tends to condense into liquid water during air cooling, which reduces the overall efficiency for the process. Although presence of moisture is ubiquitous, currently there are no cheap and energy- efficient solutions to remove moisture. The membrane being developed by this team continuously sieves water molecule out of a humid air stream as it flows over the membrane surface. Thus, the moisture is removed without changing the temperature and pressure of incoming fresh air. The technology enables more than 50% energy savings for air conditioning in a hot humid climate, compared to the conventional technologies.  The thin metal foil-like design feature and exceptionally high water vapor permeance of the membrane could facilitate the mass production of a low-cost, compact dehumidification device.

Thermoelastic Cooling with University of Maryland

A team led by University of Maryland and including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory proposes to demonstrate a 0.01-ton prototype for cooling based on thermoelastic shape memory alloys with the goal of establishing the commercial viability of thermoelastic cooling. Thermoelastic cooling systems can be 175 percent more efficient than conventional vapor compression technology, currently used for 90 percent of U.S. space cooling. Replacing vapor compression technology with thermoelastic cooling will reduce U.S. annual primary electricity consumption by up to 2.2. quads per year, the equivalent of 250 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions. Thermoelastic cooling refrigerant is a solid state technology, which eliminates the need for high global warming potential refrigerants and requires a smaller operational footprint.

Tags: Energy, Energy Efficiency, EVs, Batteries, Smart Grid

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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