June 25, 2021
Three Berkeley Lab projects were awarded more than $2 million from the DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) to further collaborative research and development with industry partners on radioactivity detecting technology, next generation electrodes for electrolysis of water, and high performance sustainable aviation fuel. In addition, industry partners are matching the DOE funds for an additional $2 million.
Following are the R&D projects that received the DOE award:
Compact, portable, triple-mode detector for identification of radioactive materials
Awardee: Edith Bourret-Courchesne, Materials Sciences Division, Energy Sciences Area
Detection of radioactivity is an important part of ensuring safety and reducing technical risks during the development of nuclear reactors, and is essential to trace nuclear materials, control the safety of waste facilities and for forensics in general. Fissionable (radioactive) materials can be distinguished from normal materials by their emission of fast neutrons and neutrons moderated by surrounding materials, while radioisotopes can often be identified by their gamma-ray spectra.
Bourret-Courchesne’s team’s simulation work has shown that a compact device can provide simultaneous detection of the three signals. It shows that composite arrays of a lithium-containing inorganic scintillator and an organic scintillator sensitive to neutrons can provide excellent neutron detection over the full neutron energy range while simultaneously identifying gamma radiation. The small volume and portability of the device make it suitable for a variety of applications and schemes in various areas of nuclear energy production and forensics. The award allows the research team to collaborate with Radiation Monitoring Devices Inc. to further develop the technology.
Next-generation porous transport electrodes for water electrolysis
Awardee: Nem Danilovic, Energy Conversion Group, Energy Technologies Area
The electrolysis of water is a commercially-proven, electrochemical method for producing high purity hydrogen and oxygen from water and electricity. Applications include conversion of renewable electricity into hydrogen for transport, energy storage, as well as sustainable fertilizer products. The Energy Conversion team will partner with De Nora Tech LLC, a designer, manufacturer, and supplier of electrodes, to develop next generation Proton Exchange Membrane Water Electrolyzer (PEMWE) electrodes for both the anode and cathode. They aim to develop porous transport electrodes for the electrolyzers with a viscous ink electrode layer above, which simultaneously improves oxygen evolution reaction and reduces the overall cost of manufacturing of components and cell stacks. They hope to enable larger cell active areas while maintaining the performance and durability, which will be validated by NEL Hydrogen in commercial electrolysis stacks.
Scale-up and Business Aviation Test Flight of High-Performance Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Awardee: Eric Sundstrom, Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU), Biosciences Area
Eric Sundstrom’s research team will facilitate commercialization of a hybrid biosynthetic and chemical conversion route to make high-performance sustainable aviation fuels. The ABPDU team will refine and apply its innovative off-gas product recovery technology for isoprenol (3-methyl-3-buten-1-ol), which is produced by fermentation using an IP-protected strain developed by the Joint BioEnergy Institute. Isoprenol will be converted to DMCO (1,4 dimethylcyclooctane), using a proprietary process developed by the US Navy and Princeton University. DMCO is superior to conventional jet fuel (Jet-A1) because of its higher gravimetric and volumetric energy density, lower viscosity, improved freezing and flash points, and potential to replace aromatics due to its O-ring seal-swelling abilities.
The award will allow the team to partner with Praj Industries and an aerospace company to scale up to produce 2,000 gallons of DMCO for a test flight in a state-of-the-art business jet. Scale-up will demonstrate feasibility for commercial production, and the test flight will provide market validation of the sustainable aviation fuel. The team believes the technology offers superior performance in a market where renewable fuels and longer flight distances are highly valued.
The Technology Commercialization Fund program managed by the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) offers an opportunity for private industry to partner with DOE’s national labs to advance lab-developed energy technologies and intellectual property toward commercialization. TCF projects require that half of all project costs come from non-federal sources, including industry. More than $65 million in public and private funding was awarded to a total of 68 projects in this FY21 TCF round. Read DOE’s announcement listing all TCF recipients.
OTT expects to announce the call for the next round of TCF proposals in September 2021. The Lab’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Strategic Partnership Office (SPO) collaborated on the coordination of the Lab’s FY21 proposal submissions. IPO and SPO encourage researchers interested in participating in the next call for TCF proposals to contact Shanshan Li at firstname.lastname@example.org or Todd Pray at email@example.com. An informational webinar will be held for interested researchers.