ENG/EFRI FY 2010 Awards Announcement

Renewable Energy Storage (RESTOR) Awards

The Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) office awarded 14 grants in FY 2010, including the following four on the topic of Renewable Energy Storage (RESTOR):

A nanostructured capacitor
The project “Novel Ceramic Glass Composites for Improved Electrical Energy Storage” (1038272) will be led by Douglas Chrisey of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), with colleagues Ram Katiyar of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and Minoru Tomozawa of RPI.

While capacitors have become ubiquitous in consumer electronic devices, this team envisions creating new capacitive materials that can be charged with unprecedented quantities of energy.  They will optimize the properties of ceramic and glass materials and shape them into a nanostructured composite.  The composite will be processed into thin, uniform layers that form a capacitor.  The design of the composite and the fabrication process will be optimized for performance and future commercialization.   Ultimately, by achieving rapid and efficient charging and discharging of large amounts of energy, the nanostructured capacitor may store energy from renewable sources. 

Offering the sun’s energy on demand
The project “Thermochemical Routes to Efficient and Rapid Production of Solar Fuels” (1038307) will be led by Sossina Haile of the California Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Bruce Dunn of the University of California, Los Angeles, and with Jane Davidson and Wojciech Lipinski of the University of Minnesota. 

Changes in temperature can induce certain metal oxides to store and release oxygen.  At high enough temperatures, this phenomenon may be harnessed to transform carbon dioxide into methane—a chemical fuel that may then be converted to electricity whenever it’s needed.  Building on new understanding of metal oxide behavior, the researchers will optimize the oxide’s thermodynamic and kinetic characteristics by careful introduction of impurities.  They will also engineer a prototype reactor constructed with special materials and optics to demonstrate the technical feasibility and potential efficiency of a thermochemical approach to creating and storing energy from the sun’s warming rays. 

Trapping the wind
The project “Novel Compressed Air Approach for Off Shore Wind Energy Storage” (1038294) will be led by Perry Li of the University of Minnesota, with colleagues Stephen Crane of LightSail Energy, Inc., Eric Loth of the University of Virginia, Terrence Simon of the University of Minnesota, and James Van de Ven of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
On windy days, a wind turbine may generate more energy than is needed; at other times, the demand for energy may exceed what the wind turbine can provide.  This project aims to develop an efficient method to store excess energy from off-shore wind turbines until it is needed.  The research team will develop a localized compressed air approach that can directly store and extract wind energy, without first converting it to electricity.  Their major challenge will be to create an efficient and power-dense air compressor/expander capable of very high pressure ratios.  A novel “open accumulator” system that operates at nearly constant temperature will be used to take advantage of the power density, efficiency, and bandwidth of hydraulic actuation as well as the energy storage capability of compressed air.  

Re-imagining fuel cells
The project “Regenerative Hydrogen-Bromine Fuel Cell System for Energy Storage” (1038234) will be led by Trung Nguyen of the University of Kansas, in collaboration with Wei-Jen Lee of the University of Texas at Arlington, Eric McFarland and Horia Metiu of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Peter Pintauro of Vanderbilt University.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate the potential of the regenerative hydrogen-bromine fuel cell system for cost-effective, efficient, and reliable large-scale storage of energy from renewable sources.  To improve the fuel cell itself, the researchers will design and create low-cost and durable electrocatalysts that are optimized for the hydrogen and bromine reactions, develop highly selective and robust proton-conducting membranes, and create electrode microstructures and cell designs that maximize the efficiency of energy storage and use.   They will also determine the best system configurations and operation for integrating the fuel cell into the electrical grid.


Summaries of the Science in Energy and Environmental Design (SEED) Projects

- Cecile J. Gonzalez, NSF, cjgonzal@nsf.gov -