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NREL Scientists and Engineers Recognized for Top Innovations as Lab Celebrates another Record-Breaking Year of Inventions

May 3, 2016

Today during its annual Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards ceremony, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recognized researchers and staff for 169 new innovations, a record-breaking number of scientific and engineering inventions in fiscal year 2015 (FY15). This is a 33 percent increase from last year.

The annual event acknowledges NREL's innovation and partnering successes and honors the scientists and engineers behind them, including this year's Distinguished Innovator David S. Ginley and Rising Stars Cory Kreutzer, Derek Vardon, and Jason Woods. The laboratory also recognized precision-engineered products manufacturer SPX Heat Transfer LLC for its commercialization successes. 

In opening remarks before the awards presentation, Dr. David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recognized NREL's most innovative and impactful work this year leading to the commercialization of clean energy technologies.

"NREL continues to be a global epicenter for game-changing clean energy innovation. Our world-class researchers at NREL have once again set a new annual record for the number of new inventions, and I am so proud of the whole team for taking their innovation game to a whole new level over the past year," Danielson said. "The researchers being honored today truly embody the spirit of EERE's National Lab Impact Initiative - under which we are laser-focused on expanding the industrial impact of the work at DOE's National Labs."

Danielson joined Molly Kocialski, director of the Rocky Mountain United States Patent and Trademark Office, who noted the connection between her office's mission of promoting, fostering, and protecting American innovation in the global marketplace and NREL's mission of developing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and practices, advancing science and engineering, and providing knowledge and innovations to integrate energy systems.

"As this event demonstrates, NREL continues to be a powerhouse of science and engineering innovation," Kocialski said. "The inventors recognized today exemplify the opportunities of moving intellectual property from the laboratory into the marketplace." 

Ginley Named Distinguished Innovator

During his nearly 25 years at NREL, David S. Ginley has contributed 20 issued patents-plus 15 additional patents prior to coming to NREL, more than 360 publications, and is credited with establishing 22 partnerships between the lab and private industry. His work is primarily focused on developing new atmospheric processing approaches to photovoltaics; his current activities are in areas of the general class of defective transition metal oxides. Another focus of his work includes the development of new nano-materials for organic electronics and biofilters. Ginley also was instrumental in the establishment of the Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States to develop revolutionary solar electricity technologies without borders.

New Awards for Research Publication Impact

To help expand the recognition of NREL's science and engineering staff, two new awards were added this year: The Highest Impact Publication Award, based on the publications field-weighted citation index, and the Director's Publication Award. This year's awardees are:

Kreutzer, Vardon, and Woods Named Rising Stars

Rising Star awards recognize employees with fewer than six years of service at NREL and who have demonstrated increasing engagement with the laboratory's commercialization and technology transfer process. The three winners for FY15 are Cory Kreutzer, Derek Vardon, and Jason Woods.

  • Kreutzer's research focuses on the design and implementation of vehicle technologies to reduce thermal loads in plug-in hybrids and heavy-duty trucks, focusing on heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, computer-aided engineering human comfort and sensation, vehicle cabin, and full vehicle system analysis. 
  • Vardon leads efforts in catalyst process design and integration for renewable chemical and fuel production, including producing renewable carbon fiber precursors, bioplastic, and bio-nylon intermediates. 
  • Woods' expertise is in numerical and experimental heat and mass transfer, membrane HVAC processes, and liquid desiccant air conditioning. In 2012, he received an R&D 100 Award for his work in evaporative liquid desiccant air conditioners.  

"NREL's scientists and researchers have been leading clean energy innovations for more than 35 years, and last year's invention record demonstrates the impact our technologies are making," said NREL's Associate Lab Director of Innovation, Partnering, and Outreach Bill Farris. "We congratulate today's winners and celebrate their accomplishments."

SPX Heat Transfer LLC Recognized for Outstanding License

After entering into a collaborative research and development agreement (CRADA) with NREL in 1998 to improve geothermal power plant condenser technologies, SPX Heat Transfer has successfully commercialized the advanced direct contact condenser (ADCC) technology for geothermal and thermoelectric applications. This technology has been deployed in the 45-megawatt geothermal power plant in Germencik, Turkey; 38-megawatt geothermal plant in San Jacinto, Nicaragua; and four 70-megawatt steam turbines in the Rift Valley of Kenya.  

"One of the laboratory's primary goals is to conduct cutting-edge research and move those innovations to market," said Kristin Gray, director of NREL's Technology Transfer Office. "We're proud to recognize SPX Heat Transfer for advancing the use of clean energy technologies in the marketplace."

NREL partners with hundreds of industry, government, academia, small business, international organizations, and nonprofits organizations. CRADAs are one of many ways that private industry partners with the lab. Every dollar the Energy Department invests in a CRADA attracts another $5 in total value from all industry contracts.

NREL added 15 new CRADAs in FY15 for a total of 129 active CRADAs-among the highest across the DOE complex. Overall, there were 236 new partnership agreements signed in FY15, boosting the lab's number of total active partnerships to 696. Also in FY15, the lab signed 24 new intellectual property agreements and filed 82 new patent applications. NREL has a total of 230 issued U.S. patents and 60 issued foreign patents.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

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