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Success Stories and Accomplishments

NREL has a rich history of success in scientific discovery and developing innovative technologies to meet the challenges of a clean energy future.

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Examples of NREL's breakthrough research results.

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Recent advances in scientific and technical research.

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Award-winning science, scientists, and initiatives.

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Builds batteries backwards for high performance

Builds batteries backwards for high performance

NREL researchers build batteries in reverse order, burying the fragile lithium metal anodes that typically rest on the top of the battery, where cracks can develop and lead to rapid failure. The "buried anode" technology triples the performance of today's lithium-ion batteries at half the cost and should lower the overall price tag of plug-in vehicles.

Demonstrates the merit of multi-junction solar cells

Demonstrates the merit of multi-junction solar cells

NREL shows that two thin-film materials sandwiched together can absorb enough light to compete with thicker, more expensive, single-layer solar cells. The breakthrough ushers in an era of multi-junction cells, proving that the layered cells not only use a fraction of the precious electronic materials used by the bulkier flat-plate cells, but also generate more electricity over the course of a day.

Tests behemoth wind turbines

Tests behemoth wind turbines

The largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world conduct lifetime endurance tests at NREL to gauge 30 years' worth of wear to drive trains and gearboxes - all in a matter of months. NREL's powerful dynamometer runs at torque levels up to 9.6 million inch-pounds to simulate the effects of various wind conditions on the giant turbines, each of which can power hundreds of homes. Validation of their reliability can lead to less expensive energy.

Engineers a smarter window

Engineers a smarter window

NREL researchers are metaphorically putting sunglasses on buildings with a new generation of highly insulated "dynamic windows" that change color to modulate interior temperatures and lighting. If broadly installed, windows like these could save about 5 percent of the nation's total energy budget.

Creates a manikin to test and improve air conditioning in cars

Creates a manikin to test and improve air conditioning in cars

NREL researchers design a life-sized manikin called ADAM (Advanced Automotive Manikin) that sweats and shivers, reacting like a human would to the sweltering or freezing temperatures inside a car. Auto manufacturers turn to ADAM to try to lower air-conditioning fuel use, which accounts for about 7 billion gallons of U.S. fuel use each year.

Makes energy information more accessible than ever

Makes energy information more accessible than ever

NREL's public website OpenEI.org uses linked open data to gather local, national, and international energy information useful to consumers, utilities, and professionals. Also publicly available is NREL's Solar Advisor Model, a free, user-friendly tool that examines detailed performance, costs, and financing to determine the overall economic value of existing or proposed solar projects across all markets.

Shows the Army how to go green

Shows the Army how to go green

NREL's scorecard for the Net Zero Installation Energy program is pushing military bases to achieve net zero status. Fifty-three Army installations are shooting for Net Zero Energy, Net Zero Water, or Net Zero Waste. They reach these goals by installing solar panels or wind turbines, maximizing efficiency, and turning trash into energy.

Engineers enzymes that convert biomass to ethanol faster—and cheaper

Engineers enzymes that convert biomass to ethanol faster—and cheaper

With partners Novozymes and Genencor, NREL engineers three cellulase enzymes that more quickly attack non-food biomass and turn it into sugars ready to be processed into ethanol. The breakthrough helps lower enzyme costs from $4 a gallon to about 12 cents a gallon, a giant leap toward making biomass-based fuel cost-competitive with gasoline.

Multiplies the power of photovoltaics

Multiplies the power of photovoltaics

NREL concentrates sunlight up to 500 times its usual intensity by coupling highly efficient multi-junction solar cells with inexpensive lenses in the utility-scale Amonix 7700 Concentrated Photovoltaic Solar Power Generator. The technology's unprecedented efficiency allows for reduced cost and land use — both crucial for solar electricity to reach cost parity with fossil fuels.

Printable version of NREL's 35 Years of Innovation