Efficiency, Renewable Energy Projects Win 11 R&D 100 Awards

June 29, 2011

Photo three scientists looking into a metal ovenlike device.

R&D 100 awardees Pauls Stradins, Brian Egaas, and David Young of DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory take a look inside the instrument that measures how solar cells respond to different wavelengths of light.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder

Efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 11 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional new products, processes, materials, or 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 13 DOE's national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges.

There were four DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for three projects: the NextAire packaged gas heat pump, a means to heat and cool small and medium sized buildings by using fuel (typically natural gas) instead of electricity; CermaClad, a technology that fuses various substances onto metal substrates 25 to 50% more cheaply, and 10% to 100% faster than current technology; and a new stainless steel alloy tooling for high temperature presses that can increase the life of products. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its advanced ceramic film capacitors, which could yield less expensive capacitors for power electronics in electric drive vehicles. See the press releases from ORNL and ANL.

In renewable energy categories, there were seven R&D 100 award picks. ANL's enhanced renewable methane production system was picked because it accelerates biological methane production rates at least fivefold and could enhance biological methane production at waste-water treatment plants, farms, and landfills. Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) gained recognition for its demand response inverter—designed to reduce the levelized cost of energy from solar photovoltaic power by being more efficient—and for the ultra-high-voltage silicon carbide thyristor, a power control device for the next-generation "Smart Grid" that is up to 10 times smaller and lighter than current silicon-based technologies. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) garnered a prize for nanostructured antifogging coatings that can provide a more transparent, less costly coating for solar panels. And the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scored three firsts: a flash quantum efficiency system to assess the quality of solar cells about 1,000 times faster than previous methods; an optical cavity furnace, which could produce higher quality and higher efficiency solar cells at a fraction of the cost of conventional thermal ovens; and the Innovalight silicon ink for high-efficiency solar cells, the first time that silicon has been sold in the marketplace as a liquid, potentially improving the bottom line of a typical solar production plant by 20% while boosting cell efficiency. See the press releases from SNL, the LBNL, and NREL.

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