Today, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions announced 2021 selections in the latest round of the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF)—a program that transitions national lab-based research and development (R&D) projects towards applied energy programs with potential for impact across industry.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office has selected three projects in 2021, all focused on developing different applications of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) patented Superhydrophobic Lubricant Infused Composite (SLIC) technology. SLIC provides antifouling performance, durability, and decreased hydrodynamic drag without using toxic materials that can help prevent biofouling of water power civil works in both freshwater and marine environments. More detail on these projects is listed below:

Enhancing Lifetime and Reducing Costs for Fish Diversion Netting Structures

Fish diversion netting in the United States is not protected with biofouling resistant coatings and presents a fundamental challenge for hydropower owner/operators’ operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. PNNL will work with a number of project partners (including WPTO’s Fish Passage Prize finalist Prometheus Innovations) to adapt and demonstrate SLIC’s antifouling capabilities for flexible fibrous structures commonly used in fish diversion. Through both lab and field-based testing in freshwater and seawater commercial environments, PNNL will evaluate the performance of SLIC to reduce biofouling of netting and anchor lines to enable longer operational lifetimes, reduced costs, and more reliable operations for fish diversion structures.

Scale up, Field testing, and Optimization of Nontoxic, Durable, Economical Coatings for Control of Invasive Mussels at Hydropower Facilities

Invasive mussels present a significant monetary challenge for the hydropower industry, with annual O&M cost estimates ranging between $100M-$1B/year. Traditional antifouling coatings have been less viable in recent years due to environmental restrictions and poor efficiency at lower water flow velocities commonly seen around hydropower structures. Leveraging insights from their 2018 Topic 1 award as well as industry connections made through participation in the Energy I-Corps Program, PNNL will conduct extensive field testing with partners such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to validate the performance of SLIC in freshwater environments and to build further trust with the hydropower industry. Topic 2 will also prioritize lab testing with industry partners to verify SLIC’s ability to meet industrial and consumer product performance needs such as shelf life and cure time, and to ultimately encourage interest in technology transfer.

Scale up, Field testing, and Optimization of Nontoxic, Durable, Economical Coatings for Control of Biofouling and Corrosion on Marine Energy Devices and Facilities

PNNL’s second Topic 2 award applies a similarly structured lab and field-based testing methodology but specifically focused on marine environments. Fouling and cleaning requirements within the maritime industry create significant safety concerns and are a key source of O&M costs, accounting for in upwards of 15% of total marine energy system costs. SLIC has the potential to not only reduce the levelized cost of energy for marine energy devices, but to also reduce hydrodynamic drag and fuel consumption for many different maritime devices. Key project objectives include final lab-based performance tests to measure SLIC’s saltwater-based durability, friction, and compatibility with other paint and primer types. The team will also work with coatings industry partners to co-develop blends of SLIC with solvents, curing agents, binders, and pigments to assess tensile strength, shelf life, cure time, and any impact on other performance metrics. PNNL’s Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory and project partner Taylor Shellfish Farms will also provide needed field test sites as part of the project.