Five ARPA-E project teams were selected to participate in the upcoming National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, program. This 18 month program started at the beginning of 2013 and will run to mid-2014.
1. Michigan State University (OPEN 2009): Led by Principal Investigator Dr. Norbert Mueller, the team’s wave disk engine under development could perform in a more efficient thermal cycle in a smaller and lighter engine.
If successful, the wave disk enginere would reduce the weight of vehicles by up to 20%, improve their fuel economy by up to 60%, reduce their total cost by up to 30%, and reduce their CO2 emissions by 90%. The engines would be the size of a cooking pot and contain fewer moving parts–reducing the weight of the engine by 30%. It would also enable a vehicle that could use 60% of its fuel for propulsion.
2. University of Southern California (GRIDS): Led by Principal Investigator Dr. Sri Narayan, the team’s rechargeable iron-air battery under development is aimed at the need for inexpensive and robust large-scale electrical energy storage systems.
USC is developing an iron-air rechargeable battery for large-scale energy storage that could help integrate renewable energy sources into the electric grid. Iron-air batteries have the potential to store large amounts of energy at low cost–iron is inexpensive and abundant, while oxygen is freely obtained from the air we breathe. However, current iron-air battery technologies have suffered from low efficiency and short life spans. USC is working to dramatically increase the efficiency of the battery by placing chemical additives on the battery’s iron-based electrode and restructuring the catalysts at the molecular level on the battery’s air-based electrode. This can help the battery resist degradation and increase life span. The goal of the project is to develop a prototype iron-air battery at significantly cost lower than today’s best commercial batteries.
3. Virginia Commonwealth University (REACT): Led by Principal Investigator Dr. Everett Carpenter, the team’s new magnet manufacturing process and ferromagnetic material under development could mitigate rare earth magnets supply risk domestically.
VCU is developing a new magnet for use in renewable power generators and EV motors that requires no rare earth minerals. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to process, but they make electric motors and generators smaller, lighter, and more efficient. VCU would replace the rare earth minerals in EV motor magnets with a low-cost and abundant carbon-based compound that resembles a fine black powder. This new magnet could demonstrate the same level of performance as the best commercial magnets available today at a significantly lower cost. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate this new magnet in a prototype electric motor.
4. University of Houston (REACT): Led by Principal Investigator Dr. Philippe Masson, the team’s low-cost, high-current superconducting wire under development could be incorporated into motor and generator applications.
The University of Houston will develop a low-cost, high-current superconducting wire that could be used in high-power wind generators. Superconducting wire currently transports 600 times more electric current than a similarly sized copper wire, but is significantly more expensive. The University of Houston’s innovation is based on engineering nanoscale defects in the superconducting film. This could quadruple the current relative to today’s superconducting wires, supporting the same amount of current using 25% of the material. This would make wind generators lighter, more powerful and more efficient. The design could result in a several-fold reduction in wire costs and enable their commercial viability of high-power wind generators for use in offshore applications.
5. Georgia Institute of Technology* (IMPACCT): Led by Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Krista Walton, the team will look to generate a business model around various applications while addressing scalability challenges of promising metal organic frameworks. Principal Investigator Dr. David Scholl will serve as an adviser to the team.
A team of six faculty members at Georgia Tech is developing an enhanced membrane by fitting metal organic frameworks, compounds that show great promise for improved carbon capture, into hollow fiber membranes. This new material would be highly efficient at removing CO2 from the flue gas produced at coal-fired power plants. The team is analyzing thousands of metal organic frameworks to identify those that are most suitable for carbon capture based both on their ability to allow coal exhaust to pass easily through them and their ability to select CO2 from that exhaust for capture and storage. The most suitable frameworks would be inserted into the walls of the hollow fiber membranes, making the technology readily scalable due to their high surface area. This composite membrane would be highly stable, withstanding the harsh gas environment found in coal exhaust.
If successful, Georgia Tech’s design would create a composite membrane that efficiently pulls CO2 from exhaust for capture and storage at a cost of $25 per ton, a level significantly below both DOE targets and current-generation technologies.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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