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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL has issued a Notice of Intent for a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to advance energy storage technologies capable of improving the overall performance, reliability, and flexibility of fossil-fueled assets. The assets include fossil-fueled power generating facilities, fossil-fueled poly-generation facilities, and suitable fossil-fueled industrial applications.
Energy 101
As a world leader in high-performance and advanced materials research, NETL’s Crosscutting High Performance Materials Program presents the Regional Work Force Initiative (RWFI) Energy 101 Series, which shares how the Lab’s work and expertise translates to savings and benefits for industry and the local economy. The Lab’s Crosscutting High Performance Materials Program enhances the nation’s industrial high-temperature materials supply chain by accelerating the development of improved steels, superalloys, and new advanced manufacturing methods. NETL also assists in completing full-scale manufacturing trials of power plant components, along with creating solutions to address challenges for both the existing fleet and future power systems. The program spans several areas of research such as Computational Materials Design, Advanced Structural Materials, Functional Materials for Process Performance and Advanced Manufacturing, and seeks to solve various costs and challenges faced by multiple industries.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) recently implemented a significant update to the Energy Data eXchange (EDX), a virtual platform for public curation and functionality to promote data-driven collaboration on research from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE). The update offers improved and streamlined functionality so data from a wide variety of sources can be accessed with ease through a secure platform to further FE’s development of critical energy technologies. NETL and other DOE entities rely on previous research across many sources and platforms to deliver the next generation of energy advancements. Many resources critical to FE were previously stored as paper-based assets or saved on outdated forms of media. This made the discoverability, accessibility and reuse of valuable data from those studies challenging, if not impossible, to support FE research needs.
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As computational resources continue to evolve, NETL researchers look to new and more powerful tools to bolster their ability to model complex fossil energy power systems. The Lab has decades of experience developing this kind of software — known as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code — including the award-winning Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX). In recent years, machine learning (ML) techniques have been integrated into powerful computational platforms like Google’s Tensor Flow, which is revolutionizing the way NETL researchers write CFD code to accelerate the design of more energy-efficient systems.
Rare Earth
NETL-supported research to secure a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs) shows economic potential regarding efficiency and cost savings and progresses along the pathway to commercial viability. The Lab has funded and supported multiple projects across the nation to extract REEs from coal and coal-related byproducts. A notable example is coal acid mine drainage (AMD) and sludge originating from abandoned or still operating mines. However, NETL and its partners are making progress refining a method to clean up AMD in order to extract the vital REEs needed for the U.S. economy to stay competitive on the global market while providing environmental remediation. This sludge is enriched in REEs and contains an average total REE content several times higher than raw, untreated AMD. However, separating the valuable REEs can be very expensive.
Brian Anderson
NETL Director Brian Anderson shared the Lab’s contributions in addressing America’s long-term energy challenges while retaining environmental integrity at a gathering of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Energy Initiative. Anderson highlighted NETL’s advances in cost-effective implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies throughout the power-generation sector to ensure Americans continue to have access to clean, affordable and reliable energy. He also explained how NETL’s core competencies can be applied to many fields beyond fossil fuels. “If you’re a good geoscientist, you can apply your skills in geothermal, carbon sequestration, oil & gas recovery, nuclear waste storage or even seismic predictions. We do the same,” Anderson said. “The message I wanted to get across is that we’re more than just a fossil energy laboratory. Yes, we’re the fossil energy laboratory, but we’re applying our expertise across many energy sectors.” Anderson’s presentation at MIT focused on the Lab’s efforts to lower the nation’s costs of addressing carbon emissions with the right techniques and technologies.
The K-12 STEM Education and Outreach Team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) led several Science Bowl competitions in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and facilitated collaboration between organizations and community partners in February. Also during the month, several of the Lab’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Ambassadors visited career fairs and other science-themed events to share information about a career in energy, encourage students to explore science learning and bridge the gap between students and researchers at NETL.
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Advanced NETL technology that will enable power plants to operate at higher efficiencies and use less fuel while producing the same amount of energy has been selected to receive a prestigious award from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center. NETL researchers won in the Innovation in Energy category for their investigation of the use of single-crystal optical fibers capable of measuring numerous environmental parameters anywhere the fiber is installed — including the extreme environments of power generation systems. Award recipients were announced March 10 at a VIP reception. Awards will be presented at a May 8 celebration in Pittsburgh. To run a power plant with greater efficiency, it is critical to take measurements of numerous environmental parameters, including temperature, strain, and chemical composition. However, these measurements can be extremely difficult to obtain because conventional electric sensors can’t survive long in the extremely harsh environments present in most fossil or nuclear generation facilities.
North Allegheny Senior High School, and North Allegheny School District’s Marshall Middle School Team 1 claimed victory at the 29th annual Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl (WPASB), organized and sponsored by NETL. The event was held Feb. 22 and 29, 2020, at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) South Campus in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Forty teams from high schools and 32 teams from middle schools throughout the state participated in the competition. The WPASB tested students’ knowledge of math and science with round-robin and double-elimination competition rounds. High school teams competed Feb. 22, followed by middle school students Feb. 29.
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As the world enters a new decade, change is on the horizon — especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to Forbes, women in the U.S. currently earn the majority of bachelor’s degrees; however, they are underrepresented in fields such as computer science, engineering and mathematics. Additionally, women who earn science and engineering degrees often do not go on to careers in those paths. Closing the gap and ensuring equal female representation in science careers is important in generating new solutions to the nation’s technology challenges. NETL is greatly benefited by the contributions of its many female employees who perform outstanding work and serve as role models for future female leaders in STEM. From managing a wide number of NETL projects to discovering the next breakthroughs in energy technology, read about three women who are making a difference in the science and engineering community below. Patcharin Burke, Ph.D. — Technical Project Coordinator, Materials Science