July 10, 2020

Innovative Energy Technologies Move Closer to Commercial Use

$9 million matching commercialization funds will advance research projects to create products and services

Copper Rotors (Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

As part of a Technology Commercialization Award, joining dissimilar materials—copper and aluminum—through a specialized friction stir welding process will be tested as a way to produce rotors for electrical vehicles.

Andrea Starr | PNNL

A method to reduce weight and improve motors in electric vehicles. A new electrolyte that enables fast charging and high-energy density lithium batteries for electric vehicles. Improved software platforms to save millions of dollars in building energy costs.

These are a few of the 12 energy-related technologies developed at PNNL that were selected for additional technology maturation funding to help move them from the laboratory and field tests to the marketplace. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) funds, combined with fifty percent matching funds from industry partners, bring the total award for PNNL-technologies to more than $9 million.

In total, DOE will provide more than $33 million in funding for 82 projects supported by the OTT’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF).  TCF connects DOE’s national laboratories with private sector companies, which are critical for maturing and deploying  emerging technologies to the marketplace.

“As recently as last year, TCF was instrumental in greatly accelerating the commercialization of a technology PNNL developed to create realistic decoys within operational technology networks to attract hackers trying to manipulate remote systems, and keep them engaged while countermeasures are taken” said Lee Cheatham, PNNL’s Director of Technology Deployment and Outreach. “Attivo Networks was able to use the funds to build out a deception defense platform for cyber-physical systems. We are excited to see similar success stories with the partners and technologies selected by OTT.”

The TCF projects are funded for three to five years with PNNL researchers working directly with private partners to accelerate innovations toward commercial products and services.

PNNL projects awarded 2020 TCF funding include:

  • Deep Learning for Fish Identification from Sonar Data

Industry partners: Electric Power Research Institute, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, SOUND METRICS, The Eel Passage Research Center, The Technical University of Munich, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center

Machine learning-based identification of American eels in images generated from sonar data will be optimized into a user-friendly software used to produce much needed behavioral information to help mitigate challenges that declining eel populations face while navigating hydroelectric dams.  

  • Electrolyte Development for Fast-Charging High-Energy-Density Lithium Batteries

Industry partners: American Lithium Energy Corporation, Navitas Advanced Solutions Group

Patented, novel localized, high-concentration electrolytes, which have outperformed conventional electrolytes in laboratory tests, will be optimized as a 'drop-in replacement’ in the quest for better batteries. The optimized electrolytes will enable faster charging of current-generation lithium-ion batteries and greater cycling stability for next-generation lithium-metal batteries.  

  • HIPPO – An Electricity Market and Power System Research Platform

Industry partners: MISO Energy

 The high-performance power-grid optimization (HIPPO) tool allows users to perform complex production planning and unit commitment calculations ten times faster than existing capabilities with its patent-pending parallel and distributed computing software algorithms. Now, HIPPO will be broadened to develop future market designs, prototype analytical models, and algorithms needed for future energy markets that will become increasingly complex with the incorporation of additional  renewable resources.

  • Magnetic Nanoparticle Extraction of Lithium from Produced Waters

Industry partners: Canada Natural Resources Limited, Conoco-Phillips Corporation, Hatch Engineering, Moselle Technologies LLC

Promising iron-based nanoparticles will be tested as a new means of collecting valuable lithium and other rare earth metals from briny waters produced by oil and gas development.

  • Manufacturing Hybrid Copper-Aluminum Rotors for High Power Induction and Permanent Magnet Electric Motors

Industry partners: General Motors Research and Development

Joining dissimilar materials—copper and aluminum—through a specialized friction stir welding process will be tested as a way to produce rotors for electrical vehicles. The greater electrical conductivity benefits of copper create more efficient motors, while replacing the end caps with aluminum will reduce weight of the car for greater fuel efficiency.

  • Multi-Purpose Advanced Coatings for Protection of High Temperature Alloys in Harsh Industrial Processes

Industry partners: Praxair, Inc.

As industrial chemical conversion aims for increased efficiency, the associated higher temperatures and pressures can damage operating equipment like seals and membranes. Novel glass coatings are being developed to protect metal alloys in all kinds of high-temperature industrial processes to effectively seal the components and prevent damage from corrosion. The coatings can also facilitate improved chemical conversion.

  • Optimization and Commercialization of the Juvenile Eel/Lamprey Acoustic Transmitter and Micro-battery

Industry partners: Advanced Telemetry Systems and Innovasea Systems, Inc.

The smallest acoustic transmitter developed to tag and track tiny young eel and lamprey. The tag that is used to better understand their behaviors and survival rates is being advanced to boost battery life and signal strength, improve transmitter design and frequency accuracy, and enhance firmware. The project also includes demonstrating the technology near hydroelectric plants—facilities that may contribute to declining numbers of eel and lamprey.

  • Optimize the Autonomous Sensor Fish Device for Understanding Interactions of Aquatic Animals with Marine and Hydrokinetic and Hydro Systems

Industry partners: Advanced Telemetry Systems, Electric Power Research Institute, Natel Energy, Inc., University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington

PNNL’s Sensor Fish, a package of acoustic sensors and telemetry used to study physical effects on fish as they pass through hydroelectric dams, will be redesigned to provide agencies and companies with data on how sea life might interact with or be affected by marine energy machines, such as wave power devices or tidal turbines, that are being developed for future use.

  • Production of High-Pressure Hydrogen from the Decomposition of Formic Acid

Industry partners: OCO Chem

The team will demonstrate that hydrogen produced from formic acid, which comes from carbon monoxide, can efficiently power fuel cells to provide clean back-up power for large industrial facilities, hospitals, military bases, and data centers. The technology offsets the need for dirty and noisy diesel generators.

  • Retro-Commissioning Sensor Suitcase for Energy Efficiency

Industry partners: BC Hyrdro, GreenPath Energy Solutions, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, University of Idaho, Zepher

The Sensor Suitcase, which packs the knowledge of a seasoned energy-efficiency professional into a high-tech suitcase containing easy-to-use sensors and other equipment, makes it possible to easily identify energy-saving opportunities in small commercial buildings for non-experts. The technology will be enhanced to include more sensors and new algorithms for determining how small changes can mean big savings.

  • Smart Building Start

Industry partners: Verdicity

The partners will create the Smart Building Start application based on the Eclipse VOLTTRONTM platform to optimize energy start sequences in commercial buildings. Eclipse VOLTTRONTM is an open source distributed sensing and control software operating system that provides enhanced deployment of supervisory control for the automation systems that manage heating, cooling, lights, and grid services in buildings.

  • Smart Monitoring and Diagnostic System (SMDS) for Packaged Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps for Small/Medium Commercial Buildings: Preparation for Commercialization

Industry partners: JouleSmart Solutions, Inc.

Smart Monitoring and Diagnostic System (SMDS) algorithms and software will be deployed in systems that heat and cool commercial buildings to automatically detect performance degradation, such as an incorrect refrigerant charge. They system also looks for selected faults, like a compressor running continuously.

To learn more about available technologies and partnership opportunities, please contact us


About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://www.energy.gov/science/. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: July 10, 2020