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Two NETL Projects Advance to Finals in R&D 100 Awards

Two NETL projects have been named finalists in the prestigious 2020 R&D 100 Awards competition. C2G: NETL’s Low-Cost Coal-to-Graphene Manufacturing Process advanced in the Mechanical/Materials category and NETL’s IDAES PSE Computational Platform project was named a finalist in the Software/Services category.

The contest celebrates the top 100 ground-breaking technologies made in the past year. It will be a short wait for researchers on both NETL teams to learn if their projects will be named winners. The virtual award ceremony for the Mechanical/Materials category will be held Wednesday, Sept. 30, while Software/Services category winners will be announced the following day.

The coal-to-graphene project was submitted by NETL researchers Christopher Matranga, principal investigator, and team members Fan Shi, senior materials scientist, McMahan Gray, physical scientist, and Tuo Ji, research scientist.

Graphene is stronger than steel and possesses a higher electrical and thermal conductivity than copper. However, graphene has not been widely used in consumer products because of challenges and costs associated with producing large volumes of the material.

The NETL team developed a process to manufacture graphene from domestic coal feedstocks, which are substantially less expensive than graphite currently used. The Lab is partnering with industry and research universities to utilize its graphene for multiple purposes, including biosensing materials for detecting disease and materials for next-generation computer memory devices and microelectronics. NETL is evaluating the use of graphene as an additive to improve the strength and corrosion resistance of cement and concrete composites.

NETL’s Institute for the Design of Advanced Energy Systems (IDAES) seeks to be the foremost resource for the identification, synthesis, optimization and analysis of innovative advanced energy systems. Led by NETL’s Senior Fellow for Process Systems Engineering and Analysis, David Miller, IDAES is a collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, West Virginia University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Notre Dame. The IDAES Integrated Platform optimizes the design and operation of complex, interacting technologies and systems by providing rigorous modeling capabilities to increase efficiency, lower costs, increase revenue and improve sustainability.

IDAES provides revolutionary new capabilities for Process Systems Engineering that exceed existing tools and approaches. The IDAES Modeling & Optimization Platform helps energy and process companies, technology developers, academic researchers and the U.S. Department of Energy to design, develop, scale-up and analyze new and potential technologies and processes to accelerate advances and apply them to address the nation’s energy needs.

Now in its 58th year, the 2020 R&D 100 Awards received entries from 19 countries and regions for the 2020 competition. This year, the judging panel grew to include nearly 50 industry professionals across the globe, including new judges from Australia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

The coronavirus pandemic created some difficulties. “The process of submitting to the awards program is a lengthy one, and with staffs working from home or facilities temporarily closed, we realize how challenging this was. We were delighted to see these scientists and engineers come through, and the number of nominations for this year was almost exactly the same as in 2019,” said Vice President, Editorial Director for R&D World Paul J. Heney, the organizer of the awards competition.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide reliable and affordable solutions to America’s energy challenges. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States.