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Morgan State University Collaboration Developing Ultra-High Temperature Thermocouples

In support of NETL’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions (HBCU-OMI) program, the Lab consistently engages new organizations such as Morgan State University (MSU), which is developing robust high-temperature sensors that will unlock higher power plant efficiencies as part of their first‑ever collaboration with NETL.

“Higher efficiencies are key to reducing carbon emissions,” said Maria Reidpath, who manages the MSU project. “As a result, accurate temperature monitoring is critical to achieving these goals. That is why the MSU work is so important — the team is developing much-needed temperature sensors and making sure they will survive in the extreme environments of advanced power generation systems.”

The sensors under development at MSU are ceramic-based, super-high temperature thermocouples that are corrosion resistant and erosion resistant up to 1800 degrees Celsius and 1000 PSI. The ceramic thermocouples are as economical as traditional metal-based thermocouples while providing the ability to work under extreme conditions in the same ways as more expensive optical and acoustic sensors.

“So far, the MSU team has successfully synthesized the ceramic compound that will be used in the thermocouples and is working to optimize experimental conditions for mass production.,” Reidpath said.

In addition to the technological advancement of the thermocouple, the project is also contributing to the training and academic advancement of students at MSU. As part of the project, students are already being trained to use Python computer programming language to collect and analyze experimental data.

"The project that I got the opportunity to work on is both technically challenging and rewarding,” said MSU undergraduate student Alexander Nanor. “I feel lucky to have gotten the chance to work on a project involving coding and thermal imaging as an undergraduate. I feel as if this experience will serve me well in both my career and future research."

The team has coded temperature, pressure and gas sensors for in situ recording of experimental conditions and physical values. Specifically, a thermocouple was physically connected, coded and programmed using Python on low-cost single-board computers. The Python-based program can then convert the thermocouple electromotive force (emf) to temperature.

Projects such as the NETL collaboration with MSU highlight NETL’s commitment to increase R&D opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities within the U.S. and tapping into the innovative and diverse thinking of student researchers at HBCU-OMI institutions of higher learning.

The HBCU-OMI program is supported by NETL’s University Training & Research program within Crosscutting Research.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide clean energy while safeguarding the environment. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy and environmental challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.