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U.S. Department of Energy Projects Win 33 R&D 100 Awards for 2015

November 20, 2015 - 12:13pm


U.S. Department of Energy Projects Win 33 R&D 100 Awards for 2015

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researchers have won 33 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine for the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. The R&D 100 awards, sometimes called the “Oscars of Innovation,” are given annually in recognition of exceptional new products or processes that were developed and introduced into the marketplace during the previous year.  The awards were presented at a gala reception in Las Vegas on the evening of Friday, November 13th

“The pace of change for the basic sciences and for American energy technologies is dramatically accelerating,” said Under Secretary Lynn Orr.  “These awards demonstrate that some of the Nation’s most innovative research and development is taking place at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories.”

To be eligible for an award, the technology or process has to be in working and marketable condition -- no proof of concept prototypes are allowed -- and had to be first available for purchase or licensing during 2014.

Since 1962, when the annual competition began, the Energy Department’s National Laboratories have received more than 800 R&D 100 awards. The awards are selected by an independent panel of judges based on the technical significance, uniqueness and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government and academia.

The list of corresponding technologies and National Labs follows below. Please note that many of these were developed in collaboration with private companies or academic institutions.


  • The Binary Pseudo-Random Calibration Tool, developed by researchers at Argonne, Brookhaven and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories with collaborators at Abeam Technologies Inc., provides the highest resolution ever achieved, 1.5 nanometers, and is used to characterize all advanced imaging systems from interferometers to electron microscopes. This new technology can calibrate a broad range of optical instruments, including those used for extreme ultraviolet lithography and high-precision visible light optics. Metrology techniques are used in practically all branches of modern industry, including interferometric microscopes, scanning and transmission electron microscopes, X-ray microscopes, and atomic force microscopes.
  • Versatile Hard Carbon Microspheres Made from Plastic Waste: This technology, developed by researchers at Argonne and Purdue University, allows the inexpensive 2- to 5-micrometer hard carbon microspheres made from unsorted plastic waste to be turned into a wide range of high-value applications. The carbon microsphere manufacturing process completely destroys unwanted plastic waste in an environmentally responsible manner. The one-step, low-energy, solventless process produces carbon microspheres that can serve important tribological and advanced battery applications, in addition to having many other uses including inks, printer toners, and high-performance composites, ceramics, and polymers.

Read more about these projects at the lab:


  • aFCL is a novel superconducting fault current limiter that can transmit a large amount of electrical energy during the “on” state without any added conduction losses. The device can rapidly (within 1/8 of the cycle) interrupt the flow of energy when an emergency occurs (“off” state), such as a short circuit. The devices can be connected in parallel units and programmed to operate at a specified current level.

Read more about this project at the lab:


  • OpenMSI is a Cloud-based platform that allows users to view, analyze and manipulate cutting-edge mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) data directly in a Web browser. Scientists use MSI to study tissues, cell cultures and bacterial colonies in great detail, but as resolution of those images increases, so does the size of their data sets. Most MSI data sets now range from tens of gigabytes to several terabytes in size, which makes even basic tasks challenging. However, with OpenMSI, scientists can view, analyze and manipulate MSI data wherever they have an Internet connection. They can also share data and analyses with collaborators by sending them a URL.
  • The Continuous Active-Source Seismic Monitoring (CASSM) system offers scientists a continuous imaging of the subsurface – almost to a “movie” of the subsurface – opening a multitude of possibilities for understanding Earth processes. That’s important, since scientists exploring Earth’s subsurface constantly need to know what is there and what is happening. In emerging fields like geologic carbon sequestration, enhanced oil recovery and earthquake prediction, such knowledge is critical. However, monitoring the subsurface has been hampered by limitations in current monitoring technologies which produce “snapshots” of the subsurface.
  • SIREN addresses a key market gap in the gas sensor, detector and analyzer industry. It provides a sensitive, selective, cost-effective, non-toxic and easy-to-use sensor platform for applications ranging from environmental protection, security and health. This technology employs bionanofilms with tunable functionality to create portable devices for detecting small molecules of interest. This is achieved by leveraging genetic engineering and molecular recognition concepts. The biomimetic manufacturing of these films is inspired by nature; turkey skin-like collagen-bundled nanostructures that change color as they are exposed to certain molecules. This invention is also a breakthrough in the concept of nanomanufacturing, as it exploits the unique and natural ability of the bacteriophage to synthesize materials in a self-replicating manner and produce responsive structural color films through a self-assembly process.
  • V2G-Sim quantifies second-by-second energy use for any number of different plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) while driving under varying driving conditions, or while charging. V2G-Sim couples unique sub- models of vehicle powertrain dynamics, vehicle charging and discharging and automated methods to rapidly initialize and execute large numbers of individual vehicle models. Users can also activate built-in models for automated trip-specific drive cycle generation and electrochemical models to predict the internal dynamics and degradation of a vehicle battery. That’s importance, since the field of vehicle-grid integration (VGI) has the potential to transform two major energy sectors in the U.S.: transportation and the electricity grid. For this to happen, however, grid operators, the electric power industry and the automobile industry need a tool to accurately predict exactly where and when electricity demands from plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will take place, and whether individual PEVs will have the flexibility to provide grid services while still meeting the mobility needs of each driver.
  • Extended Pressure Inductive Coupled Plasma-synthesized Boron Nitride Nanotubes (EPIC BNNTs) address a constraint that has severely limited the scientific study and industrial application of boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) – the lack of availability of the synthesized materials. The EPIC BNNTs technology represents a new high-throughput, scalable synthesis method, EPIC, which enables continuous production of BNNTs. EPIC BNNTs are the lightest, strongest material ever made. In addition, EPIC BNNTs have chemical and thermal stability greater than that of carbon fiber, which enables their use in metal and ceramic matrix composites for ultra-high toughness and fracture-resistance alloys and high-performance ceramics.
  • A high-capacity anode has been moved from technology to product thanks to a team at Berkeley Lab and Zeptor Corp. – incorporating the technology into a high-capacity rechargeable battery that can double the lifespan of a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery and increases capacity by 40%. This technology uniquely enables the practical, economical and commercial use of silicon in an anode – ushering in the long-awaited shift from low-capacity graphite anodes to high-capacity silicon ones. At pilot scale, the technology is being tested with initial results showing higher capacity, longer lifespan, significantly improved safety, and lower costs than state-of-the-art battery technologies.

Read more about these projects at:


  • The Large Area Projection Micro Stereolithography (LAPµSL) technology is a 3-D printing device; an image projection micro-stereolithography system that rapidly produces very small features over large areas, by using optical techniques to write images in parallel, as opposed to conventional techniques, which either require mechanical stages move or the rastering of beams to expose pixels in series. That makes LAPµSL distinct from other state-of-the-art 3-D printers, which sacrifice overall part size in exchange for small feature size. Parts produced with LAPμSL can be used as master patterns for injection molding, thermoforming, blow molding and various metal-casting processes. Other commercial applications envisioned for the LAPμSL system include medical devices, dentistry and microfluidics.
  • Zero-order Reaction Kinetics (Zero-RK) is a computer code that has significantly advanced predictive computer science for designing next-generation car and truck engines. The code provides an innovative computational method that speeds up simulations of realistic fuels a thousand-fold over methods traditionally used for internal combustion engine research.
  • The High-power Intelligent Laser Diode System (HILADS) is a new laser pumping system that employs advances in laser diodes and electrical drivers to achieve two-to-three-fold improvements in peak output power and intensity over existing technology, in a 10 times more compact form that can scale to even larger arrays and power levels. Developed by a team of LLNL scientists and engineers, in partnership with Tucson, Arizona-based Lasertel, HILADS improves upon other laser technologies by providing significantly more optical power at significantly higher intensity in a system with a substantially smaller footprint and a higher degree of integration. These developments enable the creation of more energetic laser systems that exhibit higher wallplug efficiency.

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  • SHMTools (Structure Health Monitoring Tools) is a software suite that serves as a modular framework to quickly develop, modify and evaluate custom-designed analysis processes for SHM applications. SHM is quickly becoming an essential tool for improving the safety – and efficient maintenance – of critical structures, such as aircraft, pipelines, bridges, buildings, power plants and wind turbines. Developed by engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, SHMTools provides more than 100 advanced and fully documented algorithms, all of which include references to SHM literature. The algorithms cover the complete analysis workflow from data acquisition through data processing and statistical modeling to decision making. SHMTools, including its standardized data sets and examples, is publicly available as open source for use and expansion by both SHM researchers and practitioners.

Read more about this project at:


  • EYESIM v2.3 Immersive Real-Time Virtual Reality Software for Improving Energy Plant Operations and Safety, developed by the NETL, Schneider Electric and West Virginia Univ., is a comprehensive software solution that provides a continuous, realistic view of commercial-scale energy plant operations by combining a high-performance, immersive 3-D virtual reality engine with a high-fidelity, real-time, dynamic plant simulator. EYESIM recreates the look-and-feel and sounds of an actual operating plant. By enabling hands-on interaction with process equipment, EYESIM enables industry users to optimize plant operations, control and maintenance, as well as safety procedures for process malfunctions and abnormal situations. To provide better process understanding, the EYESIM product also offers augmented virtual reality that enables users to open and view the internals of plant equipment during operation.

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  • A method to make bioethylene using genetically modified cyanobacteria, rather than the traditionally used petroleum, was developed by NREL scientist Jianping Yu. That traditional method of producing ethylene produces as much as three tons of CO2 for every ton of ethylene. Yu's method redirected the cyanobacteria to use a portion of the CO2 to produce ethylene, not only a valuable product, but a gas capable of migrating out of the cell walls and enabling continuous production. That could lead to a greener future where ethylene production could actually help mitigate CO2 from the environment.

Read more about this project at:


  • BAAM-CI, or Big Area Additive Manufacturing-CI is a large-scale manufacturing platform developed by ORNL researchers and Cincinnati Inc. BAAM-CI allows arbitrary geometric components to be 3-D printed on a scale 10 times larger than any other commercial system and to deposit material 200 times faster than existing processes, while being more efficient than traditional manufacturing methods like stamping and blow molding. BAAM-CI is also the first manufacturing project capable of depositing carbon fiber reinforced plastic into printed materials, endowing objects with greater strength and four to seven times the material's original stiffness.
  • Collective Offloads Resource Engine Direct Technology (CORE-Direct) is an application acceleration and scaling technology that improves efficiency by offloading complex data-exchanging patterns to the network hardware. Developed by a team of ORNL researchers and Mellanox Technologies, CORE-Direct is based on an open architecture and supports a wide variety of data exchanging patterns. Applications using it have demonstrated a 51 percent improvement in completion time.
  • Hyperion, or Automated Behavior Computation for Compiled Software, assesses and computes software or malicious behavior with precise mathematics to prevent inappropriate or illegal access to computer systems. Hyperion can also capture, share and reuse malware analyst intelligence to detect and eliminate malicious behavior in future scenarios.
  • The Multifunctional Superhydrophobic Transparent Glass Coating, which was developed by researchers at ORNL and United Protective Technologies, can be customized to be superhydrophobic, fog-resistant and antireflective. That makes it ideal for solar panels, lenses, detectors, windows, weapons systems and many other products. The coating can be fabricated through industry standard techniques, which makes it easy and inexpensive to scale up and apply to a wide variety of glass platforms.
  • The Porous Graphene Desalination Membrane was created to desalinate and purify water for human consumption. The membrane contains a single layer of graphene, and its permeability is engineered to reduce energy consumption found in traditional techniques. A smaller surface area adds to the technology's cost effective appeal and potential to replace standard desalination techniques, minimizing capital cost and a desalination facility's footprint in large-scale operations.
  • GENOA software is 3-D printing simulation platform developed by ORNL researchers in collaboration with Alpha STAR Corp. That software accurately predicts the printability of products with the focus on deflection, residual stress, damage initiation and crack growth formation observed during the 3-D printing process.
  • The Infrared Nondestructive Weld Examination System developed at ORNL received a silver special recognition award in the Market Disruptor Services category. The highly reliable welding quality inspection and monitoring system can evaluate vehicle parts during and after welding, sending continuous feedback to production lines to correct any internal issues.

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  • CHAMPION (Columnar Hierarchical Auto-associative Memory Processing in Ontological Networks), an analytical software developed at PNNL allows users to sort through massive amounts of data from digital networks and hone in on true threats. PNNL licensed the software to Champion Technology Company Inc. to pursue applications in cybersecurity, financial services and healthcare.
  • SPIN, or Subambient Pressure Ionization with Nanoelectrospray is a technology developed at PNNL to improve the accuracy and sensitivity of mass spectroscopy. SPIN increases the size of the samples that can be captured by the detectors in mass spectrometers by nearly 50 percent, which could lead to a range of improvements, from increasing the sensitivity of assessing the runoff of chemicals in soils to catching the signs of cancer in blood earlier than thought possible.
  • Hydrothermal Processing (HTP) to Convert Wet Biomass into Biofuels is a new chemical processing system developed by PNNL researchers that turns biological materials into biofuels in much more energy-efficient fashion than previous methods. PNNL has licensed the technology to Genifuel Corp. for further development and is also working with the Water Environment Research Foundation to demonstrate the process’s effectiveness with municipal wastewater.
  • The Pressurized Magic Angle Spinning Technology for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy is a technique that allows scientists to watch molecular interactions as they occur in conditions that mimic their real surroundings – whether on the tundra, in the deep ocean, or far underground. The technology has already applied the technology to studying carbon sequestration, recreating the ultra-high pressures of fracking, and tracking the complex chemical reactions that occur in the making of biofuels.
  • The Power Model Integrator is a new forecasting tool that delivers up to a 50-percent increase in the accuracy of energy use forecasts. By simultaneously analyzing multiple models and determining how to combine them in a more accurate forecast of future energy needs, the technology has the potential to reduce blackouts and save millions of dollars in wasted energy costs.

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  • LED Pulser is a low-cost, high-brightness, fast- pulsed, multi-color light-emitting diode (LED) driver. The technology uses custom electronic circuitry to drive high-power LEDs to generate light pulses with shorter duration, higher repetition frequency and higher brightness than commercial off-the-shelf systems. A single device can emit up to four different colors, each with independent pulse timing. The four colors are emitted from a nearly coincident source area, which is crucial for light-beam forming in many optical applications. These capabilities have enabled various science, engineering and R&D applications that are otherwise possible only with far more expensive light sources and optics.
  • IC ID is a technology that addresses the crucial and increasingly visible problem of maintaining the integrity of the integrated circuit (IC) supply chain, both for consumer electronics and national security and military systems. On the consumer side, counterfeit ICs sold as authentic diminish market share, introduce product safety and quality shortcomings and damage suppliers’ reputations. The Semiconductor Industry Association estimates that counterfeiting of ICs costs the U.S.-based semiconductor industry more than $7.5 billion per year. In response, IC ID uses physical unclonable functions to allow cryptographic authentication of ICs without requiring the storage of any secret values. IC ID can be used to detect counterfeited or modified ICs, and it can be integrated into smart cards, credit cards and other authentication tokens to improve their security.
  • The Lightweight Distributed Metric Service (LDMS) is a monitoring software that provides the continuous system-wide platform awareness that system administrators, application developers and users need to understand and troubleshoot application resource contention, network congestion, I/O bottlenecks and associated causes of compute delays. The LDMS is monitoring software that provides continuous, high-fidelity snapshots of system status across an entire HPC platform. These snapshots offer insights into how platform resources are being utilized, stressed or depleted due to the aggregate workload.
  • CO2 Memzyme addresses the grand challenge of efficient carbon capture. Designed by Sandia National Laboratories and the Univ. of New Mexico, it represents an advance in gas separation technology. The memzyme captures carbon dioxide from a gas mixture at high rates (2,600 GPU) and with high selectivity (>500 CO2/N2), surpassing a fundamental barrier in polymeric membrane technology and realizing the first technology that meets/exceeds DOE targets for cost-effective carbon capture (< $30/ton). The memzyme simultaneously produces nearly pure carbon dioxide (99%) for industrial re-use. In addition to being a 2015 R&D winner, this technology was also recognized with a Gold Special Recognition Award in Green Tech.
  • The 6.5kV Enhancement-Mode Silicon Carbide JFET Switch addresses the fact that rising global energy usage has placed unprecedented demands on an aging electrical grid, which must be revolutionized to not only become more efficient, but become more reliable through the integration of renewables and energy storage systems. The key to enabling next-generation power-conversion technology lies in not only using high-voltage SiC devices and reducing current throughout a system, but in greatly reducing the switching losses. United Silicon Carbide Inc. and Sandia National Laboratories’ 6.5-kV SiC device and power module – the 6.5kV Enhancement-Mode Silicon Carbide JFET Switch – represents a high-voltage module based on reliable, normally off SiC JFETs. It reduces switching losses over that of Si-IGBTs by a factor of 20, and exhibits the fastest turn-on and turn-off of any 6.5-kV-rated power module.

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  • ChIMES (Chemical Identification by Magneto-Elastic Sensing) is a new passive, low-cost chemical sensing technology. ChIMES sensors are based on a set of target response materials (TRMs) that expand when they are in the presence of a target. The expanding volume is used to impose mechanical stress on a magneto-elastic alloy, changing its magnetic properties in ways that can be detected wirelessly. The response takes less than 1 min. The sensing element is tiny – 12.7 mm in length and 3.8 mm in diameter—and multiple elements can be ganged for detection of multiple and variable targets. In addition, the separation of the sensing element and the detection system means there’s exceptional latitude in miniaturizing the sensor and tailoring its shape, size and appearance to suit a specific application.

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