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DOE Selects Projects to Develop Sensors and Controls for Next-Generation Power Plants

August 25, 2009 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy has selected seven projects to develop sensors and controls to support the full-scale implementation and operation of highly efficient power generation technologies with near-zero emissions. The total award value of the projects is nearly $7 million, which includes $1.4 million in cost-sharing from the recipients. The projects will be managed by the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Future power generation facilities are expected to be very complex, requiring a high level of system integration for efficient operation. To manage complexity and achieve performance goals, advances in instrumentation, sensors, and process controls are vital. In the newly selected projects, investigators will conduct research and development aimed at making these advances and enhancing the performance of next-generation fossil energy power systems. As an added benefit, the projects will support 25 jobs over their 3-year duration.

The projects will address four specific research areas: (1) advanced materials development for high-temperature sensing, (2) novel sensor constructs for harsh environments, (3) modeling the placement and performance of sensors, and (4) multi-zonal reduced order model development for gasification and combustion reactors. These research areas, and the projects selected under each, are described below:

Area of Interest 1: Advanced Materials Development for High Temperature Sensing

Real-time monitoring of the composition of combustion gases is important for improving the efficiency of the combustion process and reducing the emission of pollutants, but new materials are needed for sensing in harsh environments. Projects in this area of interest will seek to identify and develop materials that can be engineered for high temperature (700 °C - 1,600 °C) sensing applications.

  • University of Connecticut (Storrs, Conn.)--The aim of this proposal is to develop nanostructured materials that can serve as the basis for in situ and real-time gas sensors. Researchers will investigate the utility of multifunctional metal oxide/perovskite core-shell composite nanostructures for industrial and combustion gas detection at high temperature. (DOE share: $795,607; recipient share: $215,165; project duration: 36 months)

Area of Interest 2: Novel Sensor Constructs for Harsh Environments

These projects will focus on the development of novel sensors that enable online, in situ sensing of harsh environments produced in the combustion of fossil fuels. Researchers will use novel approaches to conduct real-time multidimensional mapping of key parameters via sensor networks, imaging techniques, and/or distributed and heterogeneous sensors designed for harsh environments.

  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Mo.)--Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla) will develop and demonstrate robust, multiplexed, micro-structured, single-crystal sapphire fiber sensors for deployment into the hot zones of advanced power and fuel systems to measure high temperatures and dynamic gas pressure. The University of Cincinnati will collaborate on this project. (DOE share: $896,838; recipient share: $234,962; project duration: 36 months)
  • Prime Research (Blacksburg, Va.)--In partnership with the Virginia Tech Antenna Group, Prime Research aims to develop a revolutionary wireless sensor technology capable of operating at extreme temperatures and in highly corrosive environments. Completely eliminating the need for cables connecting to the sensors, the technology is enabled by recent developments in radio frequency identification, high-temperature materials, and frequency selective metamaterials. The technology has the potential to completely transform how sensing is performed in harsh environments. (DOE share: $648,754; recipient share: $162,188; project duration: 36 months)
  • Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)--In this project, Stanford researchers will design, build, and test a new class of optical sensors--tunable diode laser (TDL) sensors--based on absorption of near-infrared laser light. The sensors will be able to provide real-time in situ monitoring of temperature and gas composition in a slagging, entrained-flow coal gasifier. (DOE share: $877,856; recipient share: $219,465; project duration: 36 months)
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando, Fla.)--This research project aims to develop accurate and robust wireless, passive high-temperature microsensors for in situ measurement of temperature and pressure inside combustion turbines for power generation systems. Two types of wireless passive high-temperature micro electromechanical system sensors--a temperature sensor and a pressure sensor--will be investigated based on recently developed multifunctional polymer-derived ceramics. (DOE share: $811,186; recipient share: $202,807; project duration: 36 months)

Area of Interest 3: Modeling the Placement and Performance of Sensors

Modeling and simulation are performed on advanced energy systems to assist in design, scale-up, performance, and control of individual components and integrated systems within a power plant. Research in this area of interest will focus on developing new fundamental algorithms and hybrid sensor architectures capable of describing and initiating new sensor-to-sensor communication networks based on intelligent sensors.

  • Oregon State University (Corvallis, Ore.)--Oregon State researchers will work to provide a comprehensive solution to the problem of sensor coordination by deriving criteria for assessing sensor effectiveness and system impact and by demonstrating effectiveness and reconfigurability of sensors to changing performance criteria. (DOE share: $708,218; recipient share: $178,389; project duration: 36 months)

Area of Interest 4: Multizonal Reduced Order Model Development for Gasification and Combustion Reactors

Advanced modeling and simulation solutions are needed to foster rapid technology development, reduce pilot and demonstration-scale facility design time and trial runs, and lower the cost and technical risk in realizing high-efficiency, near-zero emission plants of the future. These projects will develop process simulation and computational fluid dynamics software tools to solve the critical engineering and operating problems that arise throughout the lifecycle of a plant.

  • Reaction Design (San Diego, Calif.)--Reaction Design will enable an advanced form of reduced-order modeling for representation of key unit operations in flow-sheet simulations. Using high-fidelity fluid-dynamics models as input, Reaction Design will extend its existing technology which is designed to automatically extract equivalent reactor networks (ERNs) from the computational fluid dynamics solution. A key component of the project will be to encapsulate the CHEMKIN-based ERN models as CAPE OPEN-compliant objects that can be used in general flow-sheet simulation software. (DOE share: $817,384; recipient share: $218,723; project duration: 36 months)