The opening session for Energy I-Corps Cohort 15 was held Sept. 12–16, 2022, and the closing session was held Nov. 15–17, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Cohort 15 was composed of 10 teams from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Sandia National Laboratory (SNL).
Teams and Technologies
Team 179: APeX Imaging – NREL
- Principle Investigator: Axel Palmstrom
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Kelly Schutt
- Industry Mentor: Kendon Shirley
Most of the global population cannot afford medical imaging. In the developed world, medical imaging is ubiquitous, but doses of ionizing radiation have doubled in recent decades. Affordable perovskite x-ray (APeX) imaging can address both problems—improving the affordability of life-saving imaging while reducing cancer risks. Our technology addresses critical barriers for perovskite imaging detectors through a scalable, solution deposition process and novel device electronics.
Team 180: AVIAN-SOLAR – ANL
- Principle Investigator: Adam Szymanski
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Yuki Hamada
- Industry Mentor: Terry Jennings
We have developed an automated camera system that detects and monitors bird activity at solar facilities. It uses artificial intelligence to differentiate between birds and other moving things and is able to determine what actions the bird was taking with an emphasis on collisions. The system continuously collects bird activity data over an extended period of time to allow for understanding of potential impacts of solar energy facilities on bird populations.
Team 181: Efficient Isotopes – PNNL
- Principle Investigator: Sam Morrison
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Dana Arbova
- Industry Mentor: Matt LeVasseur
Simultaneous isotope production and purification was developed at PNNL using a novel micro-scale target design. Traditionally, isotope production involves a multistep process, in which the isotopes are produced, and later separated from the starting material. The traditional process results in large quantities of waste (25% total cost) and low material utilization efficiency (1%). Our approach was engineered for isotope ejection from the target material during isotope production, resulting in reduced waste cost (2.5% total cost) and high material utilization efficiency (99%). The improved material utilization efficiency and reduced waste cost enables higher availability of isotopes at a lower cost.
Team 182: Solar Dry Reforming – SNL
- Principle Investigator: Christopher Riley, PI
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Judy Hendricks, EL
- Industry Mentor: Robert Delcampo
The U.S. currently wastes a huge amount of natural gas. This gas is extracted from oil fields but is deemed impractical to capture and use, so it is instead burned on-site (flared). Our technology provides a decentralized system for upgrading this underutilized gas into value-added products through the dry reforming of methane reaction. This reaction converts methane and carbon dioxide—two potent greenhouse gases—into industrially valuable synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. To perform this reaction, we have designed effective catalysts and integrated renewable solar thermal energy for process heat.
Team 183: Tough Adhesive – ORNL
- Principle Investigator: Md Anisur Rahman
- Entrepreneurial Leads: Menisha Mahappu Koralalage, Sylas Rehbein, Bokyung Park
- Industry Mentor: Gary Rawlings
We developed an exceptionally strong and tough adhesive that could be used in a variety of applications—including automotive, aerospace, and construction industries. This adhesive is upcycled from a low-cost, commodity, thermoplastic elastomer that is commonly used in daily life (e.g., toys, household products). This adhesive adheres to surfaces so strongly that a thin square centimeter can hold roughly 300 lb. Also, the enhanced thermal stability up to 400°F makes the adhesive attractive for both ambient and high-temperature applications. This adhesive can be applied and detached with heat and pressure as well as reused several times.
Team 184: Mixed Plastic Upcycling – ORNL
- Principle Investigator: Tomonori Saito
- Entrepreneurial Leads: Md Arifuzzaman, Jackie Zheng
- Industry Mentor: Gary Rawlings
Approximately 80% of more than 400 Mt of plastics produced annually is turned into waste—losing approximately $100 billion annually. To tackle the global challenge of plastic recycling, we have developed an extremely efficient organocatalyst that can deconstruct mixed plastic waste (PET, PC, PU, PA) such as bottles, packaging, foams, carpet, etc., into valuable chemicals. The developed technology enables a mixed waste plastic deconstruction in a single batch—eliminating costly sorting. This process will reduce plastic waste from landfills and add significant commercial value to current plastic wastes—opening a new paradigm of plastic recycling.
Team 185: O2SAF – PNNL
- Principle Investigator: Mond Guo
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Udishnu Sanyal
- Industry Mentor: Alison Nelson
The Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) team presents an efficient catalytic process that leverages existing commercial process and utilizing renewable feedstocks to produce SAF. Syngas is an attractive feed source as it can be derived from renewable and waste feedstocks via gasification, while benefiting from existing petrochemical infrastructure. Methanol synthesis followed by methanol-to-olefin processing offers an established commercialized pathway to mixed light olefins, primarily ethylene and propylene. This mixture can be directly oligomerized to jet-range products in a single step. Elevating this single operation to industrial scale would complete an end-to-end commercial pathway for producing SAF from syngas.
Team 186: HighWind – NREL
- Principle Investigator: Ashesh Sharma
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Marc Henry de Frahan
- Industry Mentor: Shreyas Ananthan
The HighWind team, spanned across multiple institutions, has developed a suite of open-source high-fidelity modeling tools capable of enabling the simulation of flows across a range of length scales, as much as 10 orders of magnitude apart, from O(µm) near the blades to O(10) km in the atmosphere. These high-fidelity models, validated with targeted experiments, are expected to drive innovation in the turbine technology by providing a validated "ground truth" foundation for new design models, plant siting, and operational controls.
Team 187: ALFa-LDS for Methane – LANL
- Principle Investigator: Mavendra Dubey
- Entrepreneurial Lead: Aaron Meyer
- Industry Mentor: Rajat Barua
Leak detection from the vast natural gas infrastructure is challenging and currently done by manual methods that are slow, sporadic, ineffective, and expensive. We have developed and successfully tested an autonomous machine-learning algorithm that analyzes continuously collected methane concentration and wind data to locate and quantify leak size in real time. Our copyrighted software can be paired with any sensor hardware to find leaks remotely, quickly, effectively, and affordably via IoT communications and analysis on the cloud. Our technology can be tailored to any gas extraction, distribution and use infrastructure to contain fugitive emissions for safety, waste-reduction and environmental-compliance.
Team 188: Pipeline Sensors – NETL
- Principle Investigator: Ruishu Wright
- Entrepreneurial Leads: Nageswara Lalam, Jagannath Devkota
- Industry Mentors: Jessica Sinclair, Kerry Hanahan
Distributed sensor technologies developed at NETL enable safe and secure natural gas transport and delivery pipelines. The sensors are developed to detect early-stage leaks and incipient failures in real-time to prevent costly and disruptive incidents through direct detection of methane or monitoring strain, temperature, corrosion, and acoustic vibrations over kilometers range. The novel detection technology that includes distributed optical fiber and passive wireless sensors in combination with artificial intelligence/machine learning methods will enable intelligent pipelines and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.