Water Power Projects Among Technology Commercialization Fund Selections

September 10, 2018

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The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Technology Transitions recently announced its selections for the latest round of the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF)—a program that leverages research and development (R&D) funding in applied energy programs to mature promising technologies with the potential for high impact. The Water Power Technologies Office has funded the below projects in the latest round of the TCF program, all of which will be led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

  • Lab-on-a-Fish transmitter: PNNL will develop and prototype an acoustic Lab-on-a-Fish transmitter that can monitor the behavior and physiology (e.g., motion, pressure, temperature and heart rate) of a tagged aquatic animal. The transmitter will be capable of transferring current and historical sensor data to receivers, which will provide valuable information for long-term animal behavior studies. Because the Lab-on-a-Fish can provide locations of tagged aquatic animals, it can also function as a sensor for remotely calculating specific river conditions. Data generated from tools like this can be a major asset for acquiring or reapplying for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license, which requires evidence that dam operations do not significantly impact fish populations or endangered species.
  • Super-hydrophobic lubricant infused composite material: Biofouling and corrosion from invasive mussel species can present operational and environmental challenges to hydropower systems as well as marine energy infrastructure. With TCF funding, PNNL and BioBlend Renewable Resources, LLC, of Illinois—a leading producer of environmentally-friendly lubricants—will develop and demonstrate nontoxic, durable, and economical coatings known as super-hydrophobic lubricant infused composite (SLIC) material. The lab's proprietary coating will reduce colonization and attachment through a renewable, abrasion-resistant and slippery antifouling surface. PNNL will utilize research facilities operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and by the Bureau of Reclamation in addition to lab's Marine Science Laboratory over the course of one year to refine and mature the coatings for future commercialization.
  • Cold spray repair technique: Cavitation occurs when air bubbles form and breakdown due to rapid pressure variations in water moving through a turbine, which can lead to turbine material erosion and efficiency loss. Standard modes of equipment restoration, such as arc welding, can result in additional impacts to turbines due to heat and melting as well as delays in operation. PNNL has developed a cold spray repair technique, which involves high velocity dispersal of metal particles to a damaged area to create a weld with potential for improved hardness and wear resistance. Funding from TCF will enable optimization of the material used in the cold spray as well as the procedures for application and evaluation of the technology. Additionally, PNNL will conduct field tests in collaboration with Oregon-based Bonneville Power Administration's Technology Innovation Program on a damaged hydropower turbine currently operated by Idaho Power.