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After taking first place in their respective regional Science Bowl competitions, Suncrest Middle School (Morgantown, West Virginia) and North Allegheny Cyber Academy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) competed in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® middle school preliminary and elimination rounds Saturday, May 8. Out of 52 teams consisting of 2,720 middle school students from across the country, Suncrest Middle School finished in the top 32 and North Allegheny Cyber Academy finished in the top 16. The National Science Bowl is a nationwide competition held annually to promote science and technology in education. High school students compete as teams in an action-packed quiz bowl format to answer questions on science, math and engineering. First-place winners of regional competitions from across the country competed over the weekend in three preliminary rounds, with the top 32 teams advancing to the elimination rounds. All events were held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In partnership with NETL, researchers from New Mexico State University and Arizona State University are taking cues from wildlife to create a new generation of autonomous robots to monitor and inspect vital energy and civil infrastructure. Power plants, chemical plants, gas, oil and water distribution networks all contain critical tubular structures for fluid transport, heat transfer, and more. Depending on the application, the structures might be subjected to numerous extreme conditions or sustain defects such as corrosion, cracks and stress-corrosion cracks throughout their service lifetimes. Inspection and maintenance of these components is vital for sustained and reliable operation, but several problems for human-based inspection exist. These include hazards, such as high temperatures and hard-to-reach places, that make it difficult and dangerous for humans to effectively inspect these structures.
Powerful Presentations
Throughout March, NETL’s inaugural Powerful Posters series provided the Lab’s research associates in the Professional Internship Program (PIP), Postgraduate Research Program (PGRP), and Faculty Research Program administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) with an opportunity to gain valuable research presentation experience. Powerful Posters allowed participants to display what they learned while researching under their respective NETL mentors currently in a virtual setting due to the pandemic. In addition to displaying their research, the participants got to connect with other NETL researchers, practice summarizing research and presenting it attractively, prepare for future poster sessions and competitions at professional meetings and conferences, and add to their presentation experience. A total of nine research associates presented their Powerful Posters to about 40 NETL researchers and staff.
Quantum Infromation
Projects supported by NETL in the emerging field of quantum information science (QIS) are opening doors to new technologies to better monitor operating conditions in advanced power plants and safeguard the nation’s energy infrastructure against cyberattacks. QIS, which investigates phenomena at the scale of nature’s smallest particles, is expected to profoundly change the practice of science and engineering in the coming decades. QIS technology exploits quantum phenomena for performing tasks that are impossible to do today, such as elucidating reaction mechanisms in complex chemical systems. NETL has launched an initiative for applying QIS to deliver integrated solutions to enable the transformation to a sustainable energy future.
Water Energy nexus
The spring 2021 edition of the Water Energy Nexus Newsletter is filled with updates concerning NETL’s ongoing water-energy research and related activities. The newsletter highlights the NETL Senior Fellow for Strategic Systems Analysis and Engineering and provides an overview of ProteusLib, a new, open-source library of water-specific models being created as part of the AMO-funded National Alliance for Water Innovation in coordination with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Another feature outlines NETL engagement with the Southwestern Pennsylvanian Commission’s Water Resource Center.  The commission provides technical assistance and educational resources for water resource conservation while serving as a regional information clearinghouse for water-related issues. Furthermore, the commission has expressed significant interest in the lab’s research on recovering rare earth elements and critical minerals from acid mine drainage.
NETL announced that two of its employees were honored with prestigious Excellence in Government Awards by the Pittsburgh Federal Executive Board for significant accomplishments, leadership, outreach and impact on the region and beyond. Winners of the 2021 Excellence in Government Awards were announced as part of Public Service Recognition Week, which is a nationwide public education campaign held the first full week of May each year to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. The awards program recognizes outstanding federal employees for efforts that encourage innovation and excellence in government, reinforce pride in federal service and call public attention to the broad range of services provided by federal employees. The awards were selected by an independent committee of federal executives.
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NETL researchers, in partnership with industrial research institutes, universities and other organizations, co-authored a newly released comprehensive white paper providing updated costing guidelines for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which are crucial to combatting climate change. Understanding the costs of these technologies is essential to guide research activities aiming to reduce cost and improve performance in different applications.  “In practice, the many different CCS technology options and potential CO2 sources pose challenges in establishing reliable and transparent cost estimates,” said NETL researcher and co-author of the white paper Tim Fout. “These new guidelines aim to enable more realistic and comparable assessments of economic potential and give new insights regarding the timeframe and requirements for cost competitiveness with existing or advanced technologies.”
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $17.3 million for college internships, research opportunities, and research projects that connect talented science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students and faculty with the world-class resources at DOE’s National Laboratories. Awardees represent academic institutions from all across America—including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)—highlighting DOE’s commitment to supporting a highly-skilled, diverse workforce that is equipped to tackle the science, energy, environmental, and national security challenges of today and tomorrow. “By investing in STEM students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, we can ignite the most creative and innovative ideas to solve our biggest problems and maximize our competitiveness,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE and the Biden Administration are committed to nurturing a skilled workforce that looks like America, and these awards will help us prepare rising stars everywhere to dream up the very best solutions for our nation and our people.”
Briggs White, technology manager, NETL, will be a featured presenter at the upcoming “Hydrogen — A Renewable Reliability Gap Solution?” webinar
Briggs White, technology manager, NETL, will be a featured presenter at an upcoming webinar to discuss the role of hydrogen as an affordable, reliable and clean platform on which to decarbonize the power sector and broader economy at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 5. White will be joined by a panel of experts who will address “Hydrogen — A Renewable Reliability Gap Solution?” The uptick of renewables, such as wind and solar power, to supply the electricity grid has raised concerns about grid reliability and the need for energy storage or low-carbon dispatchable power. Energy storage has been identified as one strategy to address scenarios that will occur when the wind stops blowing or the sun fails to shine. It can also provide a means to store energy when overly abundant and save it for long durations, if necessary, to support electricity needs. White and the panel, which will include regulatory and industry representatives, will explore how hydrogen provides another viable option to ensure grid reliability as variable renewables are used with greater frequency to decarbonize the U.S. energy sector.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of two projects to receive a total of approximately $99 million in federal funding. The projects will advance to Phase III (Construction/Operation) of funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001788, Fossil Fuel Large-Scale Pilots. The FOA was released with three phases, comprised of competitive selections made between phases: