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University Training and Research

Preparing the next generation to meet future energy challenges

The University Training and Research (UTR) program within the Crosscutting Research portfolio supports novel, early-stage research at U.S. colleges and universities that advances the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) mission of delivering integrated solutions related to minimizing the environmental impacts of fossil fuels while working towards net-zero emissions.

By investing in the education and training of America’s future scientists and engineers, this program highlights the key role technology plays in addressing America’s energy challenges, promotes the development of innovative and disruptive technologies, and reinforces workforce development as a part of our nation’s continued economic prosperity. With a special emphasis on diversity and inclusion, UTR program provides opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities in STEM fields

The University Training and Research program supports the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions (HBCU–OMI) and the University Coal Research (UCR) programs. The core mission of both programs is the following:

  • To educate and train the next generation of engineers and scientists to help develop and contribute to a highly skilled, inclusive, and competitive U.S. workforce and economy
  • To support novel, early-stage research at U.S. colleges and universities that advances the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s mission of delivering integrated solutions related to fossil energy and carbon management and enable transformation to a sustainable, low-carbon energy future
  • To increase research and development (R&D) opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities within the United States and tap into the innovative and diverse thinking of student researchers at HBCU–OMI institutions of higher learning
  • To ensure that students are being equipped with cutting-edge, translatable skill sets that will allow them to contribute to the U.S. workforce and greater economy over the course of a long and enduring career.

Between fiscal years 2010 and 2021, the UTR program made 122 R&D awards valued at more than $41.6 million and helped to support 189 students at various stages in their academic careers, including undergraduate, master’s, and PhD levels. The UTR program conducts a nationwide competitive solicitation each year. Research and development projects are awarded as grants ($250-500K) with a typical duration of 2–3 years. This educational outreach initiative enhances DOE’s ability to develop and sustain a national program of university research that seeks technology development to reduce carbon emissions and also train the workforce of the future that is prepared to address the global challenge of climate change.

A yearly breakdown of the awards is shown in Figure 1.

Awarded projects
Figure 1. Yearly Awarded Projects Since 2010.


FUNDAMENTAL AND APPLIED RESEARCH ADVANCES ENERGY COMPETITIVENESS

The program provides a mechanism for cooperative research among minority-focused institutions, the private sector, and Federal agencies. The central thrust of the program is to generate fresh ideas and tap unique talent, define applicable fundamental scientific principles, and develop advanced concepts for generating new and improved technologies across the full spectrum of fossil energy and carbon management R&D programs. Since its inception, the program has emphasized improving the energy and environmental capabilities of advanced coal, oil, gas, and environmental technology concepts. The program supports DOE’s Strategic Plan to advance domestic and global industrial competitiveness, clean energy research, national security, diversity initiatives, and environmental quality.

As of October 1, 2021 (first quarter of FY21), there are 42 active UTR projects, the product of five different Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). Figures 2 and 3 below show locations of participating universities and colleges states and city locations for both HBCU-OMI and UCR programs.

HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AND OTHER MINORITY INSTITUTIONS PROGRAM

For more than 30 years, NETL has supported the HBCU–OMI program, making it one of the longest-running university training initiatives within FECM. The key objective for HBCU–OMI program includes providing R&D opportunities for traditionally underrepresented populations in STEM fields. These activities align with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative which seeks to advance environmental justice and revitalize the economies of disadvantaged communities.

Figure 2 below show locations of participating universities and colleges states and city locations for HBCU-OMI program.

HBCU-OMI Success Map
Figure 2. Participating HBCU-OMI States and City Locations

UNIVERSITY COAL RESEARCH (UCR) PROGRAM

The UCR program emphasizes research and development efforts that are structured to achieve FECM strategic goals in concert with student education in relevant carbon management topics. Key research areas supported include (but are not limited to): near-zero-emission power plants, carbon capture, computational energy sciences, development of advanced high-performance materials, sensors and controls, and the development of hybrid power generation systems.

Figure 3 below show locations of participating universities and colleges states and city locations for UCR program.

UCR Program Success
Figure 3. Participating UCR States and City Locations


CURRENT RESEARCH EFFORTS

The University Training and Research program develops a wide array of technologies in its two components, University Coal Research and Research by Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions. The active solicitation issued in 2021 and seeks projects in five areas of interest:

  • Energy-Water Nexus Implications and Opportunities of a Hydrogen Economy focuses on evaluating water consumption and production of current and future hydrogen-economy scenarios to develop a baseline understanding from which the Department of Energy and stakeholders can make investment decisions that account for energy-water implications.
  • Electromagnetic Energy-Assisted Approaches to Convert Fossil Fuels to Low-Cost Hydrogen seeks innovations in the use of alternative energetic processes including microwave, radio frequency, plasma, and other electromagnetic modalities, for low-cost hydrogen production from fossil fuels.
  • Process and Materials Co-optimization for Production of Blue Hydrogen is developing an integrated framework to co-optimize processes and functional materials, taking into account the specific characteristics and integration opportunities inherent in selected hydrogen production processes.
  • High-Temperature Materials Supply Chain supports materials research, development, testing, and validation to enhance the nation’s materials supply chain and lead to broader deployment of advanced materials enabling higher-performance boilers, steam and gas turbines, and novel energy conversion systems such as supercritical CO2 power cycles.
  • 5G Wireless Technologies supports research and development projects that help answer outstanding questions regarding the implications of fifth-generation wireless technology as applied to fossil energy generation.

Funding opportunity announcements of recent years (with still-active projects) have sought projects in these areas of interest:

  • Quantum for Energy Systems and Technologies leverages quantum information sciences for high-impact applications such as accelerated materials design for harsh environments, enhanced cybersecurity of fossil energy infrastructure through quantum communications techniques, and new sensing modalities that enable lower levels of detection for critical parameters of interest.
  • Novel Sensors and Controls for Flexible Generation develops concepts for continuous online monitoring and control of coal-based generation processes undergoing flexible operations.
  • Machine Learning for Computational Fluid Dynamics works toward a general drag model in assemblies of non-spherical particles for a wide range of Reynolds and Stokes numbers; solid volume fractions; and particle densities, orientations, and aspect ratios, which can be used to train an artificial neural network for use in computational fluid dynamics software.
  • Fast, Efficient, and Reliable Fossil Power with Integrated Energy Storage addresses the physical integration of energy storage technologies with fossil-fueled electric generating units, focusing on (1) reduced cycling damage and greater flexibility, (2) increased system reliability and resiliency, and (3) reduced impact to the environment via reductions in emissions or waste streams and water use.
  • Application of Novel Analytic Method(s) to Determine Arsenic and/or Selenium Concentration in Fly Ash Waste Streams Generated from Coal Combustion focuses on the adaptation and development of measurement techniques in non-traditional areas (such as physical and/or biological sciences) to determine both qualitatively and quantitatively the speciation and mass distribution of arsenic and/or selenium, both total and with valence states, as appropriate, within coal fly ash.
  • Cybersecure Sensors for Fossil Power Generation explores emerging technologies such as blockchain and decentralized per-to-peer internet protocols to secure process signal data and other information flows within distributed sensor networks for fossil-based power generation systems. These systems include machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
  • Modeling Existing Coal Plant Challenges using High Performance Computing aims to develop insight into existing fossil plant challenges and mitigation solutions using advanced modeling tools, particularly those leveraging high-performance computing resources, to produce analytical results.
  • Coal Plant Effluent Water Reuse matures advanced effluent treatment technology with performance at scale and manufacturing cost entitlement to represent a step-change improvement in cost and/or energy requirements over the state of the art.
  • Automated Plant Component Inspection, Analysis, and Repair Enabled by Robotics works toward the integration of several technologies (e.g., automation, NDE, robotics, repair) for application in the fossil-based power generation context. Applicants will be asked to make progress toward any or all of the following sub-objectives:
    • Robotics-enabled inspection
    • Robotics-enabled repair
    • Automation of inspection data gathering and analysis
  • Real-Time Modeling for Cyber-Physical Systems advance numerical methods for performing real-time modeling of energy components for cyber-physical systems.

Together, the projects within the University Training and Research program are educating the next generation of scientists and engineers and helping to advance innovative and fundamental research focused on coal-based, fossil energy resources.

 


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NETL implements this effort as part of DOE’s Crosscutting Research Program.
Technology Area Contact:

Sydni Credle

HQ Program Manager:

Bhima Sastri