The U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected six projects to receive funding through NETL’s University Coal Research Program, administered by the Crosscutting Research Technology Program. The University Coal Research Program funds research and development at U.S. colleges and universities for coal conversion and utilization.

Research funded by this program improves the fundamental understanding of chemical and physical processes for environmentally friendly coal conversion and utilization, byproduct utilization, and technological development. Through this funding, NETL enhances the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers, while upgrading the coal research capabilities and facilities of the academic environments in which they study.

Projects being funded will each last approximately 36 months and fall under two subtopic areas: (1) Sensors & Controls, and (2) Simulation-Based Engineering.

Project descriptions follow.

Sensors and Controls

Wireless 3D Nanorod Composite Arrays-Based High-Temperature Surface Acoustic Wave Sensors for Selective Gas Detection through Machine Learning Algorithms

The University of Connecticut (Mansfield, CT) plans to design, develop, and perform lab-scale testing on a passive wireless surface acoustic wave sensor for gas detection from 600–1,000 °C. The project will focus on design, selection, and cost-effective fabrication methods for high-temperature stable and multifunctional sensing composite nanomaterials, including metal oxide/perovskite 3D nanorod composites. The project will enable selective and reliable identification of gas species and concentration under multi-component gas environments through an advanced machine learning algorithm, which can be easily adapted into sensor systems.

Cost: DOE: $400,000/ Non DOE: $0/ Total Funding: $400,000 (Cost share: 0%)

Integrated Harsh Environment Gas and Temperature Wireless Microwave Acoustic Sensor System for Fossil Energy Applications

The University of Maine (Orono, ME) plans to develop a wireless integrated gas and temperature microwave acoustic sensor capable of operation from 350 to 1,000 °C. The work builds on a patented University of Maine wireless microwave acoustic sensor technology that operates at 1,000 ºC in harsh environments. The sensor system will be developed using rapid manufacturing techniques of photolithography/metallization steps to detect H2, O2, and NOx gases and monitor the gas temperature in the harsh environment. Temperature and gas composition data from wireless sensors in harsh environment locations in power plants can help increase fuel burning efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce maintenance costs.

Cost: DOE: $399,999/ Non DOE: $0/ Total Funding: $399,999 (Cost share: 0%)

Low-Cost, Efficient, and Durable High-Temperature Wireless Sensors by Direct Write Additive Manufacturing for Application in Fossil Energy Systems

Washington State University (Pullman, WA), in collaboration with University of Texas at El Paso (Texas), plans to design, characterize, and realize wireless conformal strain and pressure sensors using advanced materials and electronics that can operate at temperatures up to 500 °C. The project will use the scalable aerosol jet micro-additive manufacturing method to fabricate integrated sensor systems on curved surfaces. Researchers will observe mechanical degradation of the sensor module to determine sensor survival under various thermo-mechanical loading profiles relevant to fossil energy-based systems. This project should result in a low-cost sensor manufacturing method that uses fewer fabrication steps, less material, and less assembly time.

Cost: DOE: $399,932/ Non DOE: $88,806/ Total Funding: $488,738 (Cost share: 18.17%)

Passive Wireless Sensors Fabricated by Direct-Writing for Temperature and Health Monitoring of Energy Systems in Harsh Environments

West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) plans to demonstrate a wireless, high-temperature sensor system for monitoring the temperature and health of energy-system components between 500 and 1,700 °C to aid in process control. The active sensor and electronics for passive wireless communication will be composed of conductive ceramic materials, which can withstand the harsh environments of fossil energy-based systems. Researchers will investigate advanced manufacturing methods for sensor element fabrication. A “peel-and-stick” transfer process will also be developed to easily attach the entire sensor circuit to various energy-system components, such as solid-oxide fuel cells, chemical reactors, and furnaces.

Cost: DOE: $399,965/ Non DOE: $0/ Total Funding: $399,965 (Cost share: 0%)

Simulation-Based Engineering

Interfacing MFIX with PETSc and HYPRE Linear Solver Libraries

The University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND), in collaboration with University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT), plans to interface NETL’s Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFIX) code with Portable Extensible Toolkit for Scientific Computation (PETSc) and High Performance Preconditioners (HYPRE) linear solver libraries to reduce the time to solution for large, sparse matrix equations observed in advanced energy system simulations. The resulting technology will provide the energy industry with a quicker way to conduct simulations of multiphase particle flows, leading to more efficient fossil energy-based power generation.

Cost: DOE: $400,000/ Non DOE: $0/ Total Funding: $400,000 (Cost share: 0%)

High-Fidelity Computational Model for Fluidized Bed Experiments

The University of Texas at El Paso plans to develop a high-fidelity, user-friendly multiphase simulator based on the multiphase computational fluid dynamics software package Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFIX), developed by NETL. Researchers will leverage the state-of-the-art linear solver libraries from Trilinos, developed by project collaborator Sandia National Laboratory (Albuquerque, NM). Results from this advancement in computing infrastructures and framework will lower the computational expense of multiphase simulations.

Cost: DOE: $399,999/ Non DOE: $0/ Total Funding: $399,999 (Cost share: 0%)