US Department of Energy invests more than $100 Million in energy efficiency research

US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has announced $103.6 million in research awards will be given to 18 organizations and five universities to develop new means of energy efficiency and clean energy science and technology.

Large-scale investment in clean energy was promised by President George W. Bush in his recent review of energy policy (see related story). Many of the projects will support development of technologies for use in vehicles and buildings, hydrogen production, purification and storage for transportation as well as engine technologies. Other awards will support research for distributed power generation, industrial and building systems, transportation and stationary power applications.

A high proportion of funding will be in fuel cell research, which will be primarily focused on overcoming technical barriers to introducing these new technologies to the public, such as high component costs, size, weight, and start-up time. Hydrogen projects will address on-board hydride storage systems, off-board reforming and storage, and hydrogen enrichment. The engine technology research will focus on gasoline-fuelled Homogeneous-Charge, Compression-Ignition engines, a technology that can approach the efficiency of diesel engines, but with the potential for extremely low oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and lower cost.

The recipients of the largest awards for fuel cell research are:

  • Nuvera Fuel Cells from Cambridge, Massachusetts which receives more than $11 million to develop an advanced high efficiency quick-start fuel processor for transportation applications;
  • DeNora North America from Somerset, New Jersey, selected for a $13.3 million contract to develop improved cathodes and high temperature membranes for fuel cells;
  • Catalytica Energy Systems of Mountain View, California, will receive more than $11 million to develop fuel-flexible fuel processor capable of running on reformulated gasoline;
  • International Fuel Cells from South Windsor, Connecticut, which receives $14.5 million for fuel cell electrodes capable of operating at high temperatures, motor-blower technologies for ambient pressure fuel cell systems and chemical and physical property sensors required for fuel cell systems; and
  • Honeywell, Torrance of California, which will receive $9 million to develop a more cost-effective air compressor, physical property sensors and a low-cost, high-performance, thermal and water management system with integrated lightweight heat exchanger technology and air management system.

Recipients of grants for hydrogen research include

  • Air Products and Chemicals Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania, selected for a $7.4 million contract to develop a commercial hydrogen fuelling station based on steam reforming of natural gas, which will achieve commercial cost viability for a stand-alone, fully integrated hydrogen fuelling station;
  • United Technologies of East Hartford, Connecticut, receives $4.5 million to develop technology capable of producing on-board high purity hydrogen from an integrated fuel processor for fuel cell transportation systems and a novel metal hydride hydrogen storage system having a 5 kg hydrogen capacity and capable of installation in a fuel cell-powered, mid-sized sedan; and
  • GE-Energy & Environmental Research Corporation of Irvine, California, receiving $4.8 million to develop, design, fabricate, and install a hydrogen fuelling system based on autothermal cycling reforming.

In addition, both the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin will each receive $4 million to perform research on Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) Combustion . The University of California at Santa Barbara will recieve $3 million for a revolutionary solid-state device that produces “very high light output” 15 times more efficiently than ordinary incandescent lamps. In total, more than two-thirds of the awards will be cost-shared, with industry or outside organisations providing a 20-25% share of the total project costs.

“Enhancing energy efficiency is an important goal of the President’s National Energy Policy,” Abraham said. “Fuel cells, hydrogen technology and advanced combustion energy engines are among the most promising areas of the department’s research and development work. By working together with partners from industry and the academic community we can make the technological advances and scientific breakthroughs needed to fully realise the potential of these technologies.”

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