Back to Top
Skip to main content
 
 
 

Available Technologies

Title Date Posted Patent Information Sort descending Opportunity
Streamlining The Process To Extract Lithium, Rare Earth Elements From Natural Brines U.S. Patent Pending

Research is active on the development and refinement of a process for the extraction of lithium (Li) and rare earth elements (REEs) from natural brines. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge

Current leading technology to generate materials from natural brines requires a series of football field-sized slow evaporation ponds, as well as lengthy leaching, which takes approximately 18-24 months after leaving the well. Concentration processes of the selected materials require repeated pumping from one evaporation pond to another, followed by long-distance transportation (added expenses and carbon emissions) to a processing plant that generates the selected compounds by multiple carbonation steps by leaching. Current carbonation processes require various solid additives, including soda ash, lime, hydrochloric acid, organic solvent, sulfuric acid and alcohol. Several tons of additives may be required to produce only a ton of targeted material. Therefore, current operations are considered to be costly and environmentally harsh.

High-Temperature Sensors for Monitoring and Control of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells U.S. Patent Pending

Research is active on the application of embedded optical fiber based sensors to an operational solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) in conjunction with high-temperature stable distributed interrogation approaches to allow for local monitoring of the absolute value and spatial gradient of the chemical composition and temperature of an anode or cathode stream.

Improved Rare Earth Element Extraction Method from Coal Ash U.S. Patent Pending

This invention describes an improved method for extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from coal ash at ambient temperatures. This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge
As China currently controls the supply and prices of almost all the world’s REEs, developing a domestic supply is critical for the continued manufacturing of technologies that support nearly all modern devices, including critical systems for energy and national defense. REE extraction efforts from domestic sources of coal and coal-related resources have emerged as a viable solution, but successful methods must be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Current methods and technologies for REE extraction from ore and other sources can be hazardous and expensive to implement without harming the environment or workers. For example, common practices employ high temperatures and strong acids or bases. This technology seeks to overcome these and other issues with current REE extraction methods by turning to a material that is currently viewed as a waste – coal ash.

Downhole Laser System With an Improved Laser Output Production and Data Collection U.S. Patent Pending

This patent-pending technology establishes a novel system and method for laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) applications. The technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge

Low-cost, efficient monitoring of remote locations has and continues to be highly sought in the industry. For example, drilling production or injection wells for oil/gas extraction or carbon dioxide (CO2) storage always has the potential for leakage into the surrounding formations and environment. The ability to measure the subsurface fluids in and around the injection/production area before and after subsurface activities becomes more important when there is a suspected leak. Current downhole monitoring systems rely on bulk parameters such as pH and conductivity. Lab based systems can provide trace element measurements of subsurface fluids but require fluids to be taken from the field and digested prior to measurement. A system that can provide trace element measurements in real time while deployed in the subsurface is potentially of great value.

Current diode pumped solid state (DPSS) laser systems used for laser induced breakdown spectroscopy applications in fluid system measurements have numerous limitations. First, the systems are susceptible to dimensional changes caused by temperature and pressure swings in fluctuating environments in downhole applications. A second issue is the size of the laser spark that is produced in the fluid for measurements affecting signal strength. The third issue is the efficient collection and transmission of the plasma emission for analysis.

Microwave Active Metal Oxides for CO2 Dry Reforming of Methane U.S. Patent Pending

This patent-pending technology establishes a novel system and method for the microwave-assisted dry reforming of methane. The technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge

Traditional steam reforming of methane to produce hydrogen (H2), which is then reacted with carbon (CO) to produce methanol and other industrial commodity chemicals, is an extremely energy intensive process with large carbon footprint. For example, the steam reforming reaction produces 10 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every ton of H2. Methane dry reforming uses an alternative reaction that uses CO2 as a soft oxidant to produce CO and H2 from methane, which can be further processed into methanol or hydrocarbons. Further, using CO2 to produce commodity chemicals, such as H2 and CO, can generate revenue to offset carbon capture costs, reduce the carbon footprint of fossil-fuel powered processes, and allow sustainable use of fossil fuel resources.

Traditional dry reforming techniques are extremely energy intensive and require very high temperatures (>800C) that make it unpractical economically compared with the lower-temperature, carbon-positive, methane steam reforming. Microwave-assisted catalysis has been demonstrated as an enabling technology to promote high temperature chemical processes. Unlike traditional thermal heating, microwaves can rapidly heat catalysts to extremely high temperatures without heating the entire reactor volume. This reduces heat management issues of conventional reactors and enables rapid heating/cooling cycles. Ultimately, this can allow reactors to utilize excess renewable energy on an intermittent basis (load follow) to promote traditionally challenging, thermally-driven reactions for on-demand chemical production.

Microwave absorption is a function of the electronic and magnetic properties of the material, and a properly designed catalyst may function as a both a microwave heater and a reactive surface for driving the desired reaction. Microwave absorption is extremely sensitive to the catalyst’s chemical state and electronic structure, and effective catalysts must maintain microwave activity across a wide range of temperatures in both oxidative and reductive environments.

 

Spouted Bed Reactor for the Fluidization of Fine Particles U.S. Patent Pending

Research is active on the design of a spouted bed with a spoutable media to more easily fluidize the fine particles involved in industrial processes by improving mixing and increasing contact area between the fluidizing gas and the particles. This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Integration of Thermal Energy Storage into Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Systems U.S. Patent Pending

Research is active on the design and development of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems featuring thicker interconnects for increased thermal energy storage. A large amount of heat can then be extracted from the interconnects and used to quickly increase the electric load in a hybrid power system. This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

Bottom-Up Assembly of Graphene Quantum Dots to Form Two-Dimensional Amorphous Carbon Film U.S. Patent Pending

This invention describes a uniquely engineered 2-D amorphous carbon film and a memristor fabricated with coal-derived carbon quantum dots as the dielectric (switching) media for resistive random-access memory (RRAM). The atomic dielectric carbon layer can provide large storage density and 3-D packing ability, allowing memory and logic devices to be integrated in one chip, providing faster data processing with low energy consumption. This patent application is jointly owned by NETL and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) and it is available for licensing and/or further collaboration.

Challenge
Memory is essential to future computing with the exponential growth of data. These emerging memory technologies aim to revolutionize the existing memory hierarchy. Various emerging memory technologies are actively being investigated to meet ideal performance characteristics. RRAM has various advantages such as easy fabrication, simple metal-insulator-metal structure, excellent scalability, nanosecond speed, and long data retention. RRAM has been commercialized since 2013. Despite showing great promise over conventional RAM and its popularity in academia, RRAM has not become commercially popular. This is due to high device variability and high operation voltage.

Creep Resistant Ni-Based Superalloy Casting and Manufacturing U.S. Patent Pending

This invention describes an improved casting and manufacturing method for a creep-resistant nickel-based superalloy for advanced high-temperature applications. This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge
In the future, advanced ultra-supercritical (A-USC) and/or supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power plants are expected to raise efficiencies of coal-fired power plants from around 35 to greater than 50%. However, these advanced systems feature components that operate at high pressures and temperatures exceeding 760 degrees Celsius. These conditions cause gradual permanent deformation, known as creep, in components manufactured with currently used alloys like ferritic-martensitic high-strength steels and austenitic stainless steels.
Certain nickel-based super alloys such as Inconel 740H (IN740H) currently meet requirements for use in A-USC in a wrought version, but using the alloy in a cast form would be valuable in terms of the range of component size, geometries and complexities, and cost.
Previous efforts at casting IN740H have resulted in poor creep performance when compared to wrought versions. Furthermore, several compositions within the nominal specified range for IN740H have been investigated but failed to provide a material in the as-cast form that would withstand long-term, high temperature exposure in creep.
 

Catalysts for Thermal Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Carbon Monoxide or Synthesis Gas Using Fuels U.S. Patent Pending

This invention describes novel iron-based catalysts for conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce valuable gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) or syngas in the presence of fuel (biomass, coal, methane) for commercial and industrial applications while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Challenge
Syngas production from solid fuels such as biomass or coal is commercially conducted via a solid fuel gasification process. However, conventional solid fuel gasification processes are generally capital-intensive and require significant amounts of parasitic energy. Typically, the gasification process involves partial coal combustion with either O2 or air. When air is utilized, nitrogen (N2) may enter the syngas, diluting the syngas and making extraction difficult. When oxygen (O2) is utilized, expensive oxygen production units tend to generate high parasitic losses. As a result, the development of alternative methods for syngas production from solid fuels are a significant area of current interest. For oxygen-based commercial solid fuel gasification, oxygen must be separated from air, which requires an air separation unit. Cryogenic air separation has been used and is very expensive. In addition, steam is also required for the process. Gasification of solid fuel with CO2 has many advantages over conventional solid fuel gasification with oxygen/steam. 
Syngas production from methane is currently conducted via catalytic steam methane reforming and the process is energy intense with high carbon footprint. Catalytic methane dry reforming using CO2 to produce syngas has a potential to be more economical route for syngas production.  However, the catalysts used for methane dry reforming are either very expensive or has shown poor performance stability due to catalyst deactivation. Therefore, catalyst development is important for methane dry reforming technology to be commercially viable.