Science and Technology Highlights
NREL researchers' accomplishments in fundamental energy science contribute to a clean energy future for the nation. Take a look at recent technical highlights and learn about the key results and impacts in NREL's energy science research involving:
- Thermal Scout Pinpoints Hard-to-Find Problems in CSP Fields
Updated receiver survey system uses an infrared camera, GPS technology, and computer software to rapidly analyze concentrating solar power (CSP) fields and locate defective receivers.
- Distant Observer Tool Quickly Identifies Costly Flaws in CSP Fields
Remote control digital photography and metrology are combined to accurately define optical efficiency problems in concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.
- Energetic Barrier Prevents Recombination in Organic Solar Photoconversion Systems
NREL researchers unravel the factors that affect charge generation and loss in high-performance conjugated polymer-fullerene blends used in organic solar cells.
- Nanostructured Transparent Conductors Have Potential for Thin-Film Photovoltaics
Possible alternatives to transparent conductors show promise for enabling new processes and reducing costs.
- NREL Develops Sub-Hour Solar Power Data Set
NREL data will help utilities incorporate solar energy into their electric power systems.
- NREL Sheds Light on Integration Costs of Variable Generation and Cost-Causation
Integration costs are generally manageable, but calculating costs is challenging.
- NREL Develops New Optical Evaluation Approach for Parabolic Trough Collectors
New analytical method makes it possible to carry out fast evaluation of trough collectors for design purposes.
- Technical Study Addresses a Key Challenge to Harmonizing U.S. and International PV Module Standards
NREL builds community and industry support by addressing concerns voiced by key standards organizations.
- New Fabrication Method Improves the Efficiency and Economics of Solar Cells
Synthetic fabrication strategy optimizes the illumination geometry and transport properties of dye-sensitized solar cells.
- State-of-the-Art Solar Simulator Reduces Measurement Time and Uncertainty
One-Sun Multisource Solar Simulator brings accurate energy-rating predictions that account for the nonlinear behavior of multijunction photovoltaic devices.
- Researchers Demonstrate Microstructure and Charge Yield in Semiconducting Polymers
Microstructure determines the yield of free charge in neat semiconducting polymers.
- NREL Determines Long-Lived Carriers and Differences in CdTe Superstrate and Substrate Cells
NREL study may provide future guidance in improving CdS/CdTe photovoltaic device performance.
- NREL Improves Hole Transport in Sensitized CdS–NiO Nanoparticle Photocathodes
Significantly improved charge-collection efficiencies result from a general chemical approach to synthesizing photocathodes.
- Improving PbS Quantum Dot Solar Cell Power Conversion Efficiency to an NREL-Certified 4.4%
Transition metal oxide improves overall efficiency and maintains performance with inexpensive metals.
- NREL Researchers Demonstrate External Quantum Efficiency Surpassing 100% in a Quantum Dot Solar Cell
A new device that produces and collects multiple electrons per photon could yield inexpensive, high-efficiency photovoltaics.
- New Tool Quantitatively Maps Minority-Carrier Lifetime of Multicrystalline Silicon Bricks
NREL's new imaging tool could provide manufacturers with insight on their processes.
- Vacuum-Based Time-Resolved Photoluminescence Measurement System Provides New Capability
New measurement capability measures semiconductor minority-carrier lifetimes in conditions that simulate thin-film photovoltaic manufacturing environments.
- NREL Determines Better Testing Methods for Photovoltaic Module Durability
NREL discoveries will enable manufacturers to produce more robust photovoltaic modules.
- NREL Measures IMM Solar Cell Performance for CPV
A new measurement capability supports the development of high-efficiency solar cells for concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) application.
- NREL Makes Substantial Progress in Developing CZTSe Solar Cells
By defining the deposition process, NREL has significantly improved the conversion efficiency of CZTSe solar cells.
- 200% Efficient Singlet Fission Observed
NREL scientists confirm the first molecular compound designed specifically to exhibit exciton multiplication.
- CIGS-Based Solar Cells Prepared from Electrodeposited Precursor Films
Researchers develop electrodeposition process to deposit coatings on substrates, eliminate the expensive physical vapor deposition step, and improve device quality.
- Manufacturing-Friendly Advance Seen in CIGS Solar Cell Processing
NREL scientists develop robust, high-performance IZO transparent contact for CIGS solar cells.
- Scientists Confirm Robustness of Key Component in Ultra-High-Efficiency Solar Cell
NREL researchers develop a new tool that confirms the stability of the IMM solar cell's 1-eV metamorphic junction.
- Harmful Shunting Mechanisms Found in Silicon Solar Cells
NREL scientists develop near-field optical microscopy techniques for imaging solar cell junctions and identify critical electrical breakdown mechanisms.
- PV Performance Correlated to Processes, Conditions
Scientists develop data origami approach to find optimal process routes in photovoltaics.
- Charge Dynamics Breakthrough May Improve Organic-Based PV Device Efficiencies
NREL research provides new insight into the fundamental role that nanoscale morphology plays in organic device applications such as solar cells, offering the potential to design more efficient organic-based PV devices.
- Low-Cost Nano-Patterning Process Makes Millions of Holes in Silver Film, Boosting Light-Capturing Qualities of Solar Cells
NREL researchers demonstrated a simple, low-cost way to pattern nano-sized holes in thin silver films in order to trap light waves and boost the transmission of photons into usable energy.
- NREL Certifies First All-Quantum-Dot Photovoltaic Cell; Demonstrates Stability, Performance
Researchers certified the first all-quantum-dot photovoltaic cell, which was based on lead sulfide and demonstrated reasonable quantum dot solar cell performance for an initial efficiency measurement along with good stability.
- Improved Transparent Conducting Oxides Boost Performance of Thin-Film Solar Cells
NREL researchers identified a pathway to producing improved TCO films that demonstrate higher infrared transparency. To do so, they modified the TCOs in ways that did not seem possible a few years ago.
- National Wind Technology Center to Debut New Dynamometer
New test facility will be used to accelerate the development and deployment of next-generation offshore and land-based wind energy technologies.
- New Facility to Shed Light on Offshore Wind Resource
Chesapeake Light Tower facility will gather key data for unlocking the nation's vast offshore wind resource.
- NREL Collaborates with SWAY on Offshore Wind Demonstration
NWTC researchers gain valuable data from one of the first floating offshore wind prototypes.
- NREL Develops Simulations for Wind Plant Power and Turbine Loads
NREL researchers are the first to use a high-performance computing tool for a large-eddy simulation of an entire wind plant.
- Building State-of-the-Art Wind Technology Testing Facilities
The new Wind Technology Test Center is the only facility in the nation capable of testing wind turbine blades up to 90 meters in length.
- Advanced Wind Turbine Controls Reduce Loads
National Wind Technology Center provides the world's only dedicated turbine controls testing platforms.
- NREL Establishes a 1.5-MW Wind Turbine Test Platform for Research Partnerships
Research turbine supports sustained technology development.
- NREL Developing Numerical Simulation Tool to Study Hydrokinetic Energy Conversion Devices and Arrays
New code will help accelerate design improvements by providing a high-fidelity simulation tool to study power performance, structural loading, and the interactions between devices in arrays.
- NREL Collaborates to Improve Wind Turbine Technology
NREL's Gearbox Reliability Collaborative leads to wind turbine gearbox reliability, lowering the cost of energy.
- Alstom 3-MW Wind Turbine Installed at NWTC
The 3-MW Alstom wind turbine was installed at NREL's NWTC in October 2010. Test data will be used to validate advanced turbine design and analysis tools.
- Landmark Report Analyzes Current State of U.S. Offshore Wind Industry
New report assesses offshore wind industry, offshore wind resource, technology challenges, economics, permitting procedures, and potential risks and benefits.
- Turbine-Turbine Interaction and Performance Detailed
A next-generation modeling capability assesses wind turbine array fluid dynamics and aero-elastic simulations.
- New Aerodynamics Simulations Provide Better Understanding of Wind Plant Underperformance and Loading
Researchers develop a high-fidelity large-eddy simulation model designed to predict the performance of large wind plants with a higher degree of accuracy than current models.
- New Modeling Tool Analyzes Floating Platform Concepts for Offshore Wind Turbines
Researchers developed a modeling and analysis tool to analyze floating platform concepts for offshore wind turbines. This new simulation tool will enable the development of cost-effective offshore technologies capable of harvesting the rich offshore wind resources at water depths that cannot be reached using current technology.
- NREL Study Finds U.S. Wind Energy Potential Triples Previous Estimates
The maximum potential to generate wind power in the contiguous United States is more than three times greater than previously estimated. The new analysis is based on the latest computer models and examines the wind potential at wind turbine hub heights of 80 meters and 100 meters.
- NREL Demonstrates Photocatalytic Conversion With Mutant Microbe
Breakthrough will facilitate future research on photosynthetic production of biofuels.
- NREL Shows How Cyanobacteria Build Hydrogen-Producing Enzyme
Results will help researchers improve microbial hydrogen production.
- NREL Produces Ethylene via Photosynthesis
Environmentally friendly process offers intriguing alternative to fossil-fuel-based ethylene for chemicals and transportation fuels.
- Potential Benefits of Manmade Opals Demonstrated for First Time
NREL experiments show that disordered inverse opals significantly scatter and trap near-infrared light, with possible impact on optoelectronic materials.
- Measurements of Spin Dynamics Reveal that Shape of Excitons in Quantum Rod Heterostructures Changes with Size
Using femtosecond cross-polarized transient grating (CPTG) and polarization anisotropy, NREL was able to probe the extent of electronic delocalization in CdSe/CdS quantum rod heterostructures (QRH) with a "dot-in-rod" geometry.
- Enzyme Fusions Optimize Photosynthetic Hydrogen Production in Algae
Research at NREL is demonstrating that engineering enzymes has the potential to improve efficiencies.
- Scientists Identify New Family of Iron-Based Absorber Materials for Solar Cells
The use of Earth-abundant materials in solar absorber films is critical for expanding the reach of photovoltaic technologies.
- Density Functional Theory Simulations Predict New Materials for Magnesium–ion
Multivalence is identified in the light element, B, through structure morphology.
- Scientists Identify New Quaternary Materials for Solar Cell Absorbers
NREL research provides insight for exploring use of earth-abundant quaternary semiconductors for large-scale solar cell applications.
- NREL Scientists Reveal Origin of Diverse Melting Behaviors of Aluminum Nanoclusters
Research reveals the active role of cluster symmetries on the size-sensitive, diverse melting behaviors of metallic nanoclusters, providing insight to understanding phase changes of nanoparticles for thermal energy storage.
- Lighting Up Enzymes for Solar Hydrogen Production
NREL researchers developed new, hybrid materials that function as H2 producing photocatalysts leading to a breakthrough that can help guide the development of artificial solar-to-hydrogen processes.
- New Cellulase Identification Method Holds Promise for Lower-Cost Biofuels
A new computational approach to genomic data effectively distinguishes cellulases and non-cellulases within the protein family GH48, a key component for degrading lignocellulose for biofuels.
- NREL Breaks New Ground in Plant Pretreatment for Biofuels
NREL researchers use imaging technologies to broaden knowledge of plant cell wall structures and identify ideal pretreatment of plant material.
- Probing Product Binding in Cellulase Enzymes
Simulations uncover potential new strategies for increasing the desired effects of enzymes for biofuels.
- Computer Simulations Reveal Multiple Functions for Aromatic Residues in Cellulase Enzymes
NREL researchers use high-performance computing to demonstrate fundamental roles of aromatic residues in cellulase enzyme tunnels.
- Glycosylation Helps Cellulase Enzymes Bind to Plant Cell Walls
Computer simulations suggest a new strategy to design enhanced enzymes for biofuels production.
- Transgenic Plants Lower the Costs of Cellulosic Biofuels
A new transgenic maize was observed to be less recalcitrant than wild-type biomass, as manifested through lower severity requirements to achieve comparable levels of conversion.
- New Combined Laser Ablation Platform Determines Cell Wall Chemistry
NREL has designed and developed a combined laser ablation/pulsed sample introduction/mass spectrometry platform that integrates pyrolysis and/or laser ablation with resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization (REMPI) time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
- High-Speed Pipeline Revs Up Biomass Analysis
A new biomass evaluation process opens up research avenues into understanding and manipulating biomass recalcitrance.
- Supercomputer Provides Molecular Insight into Cellulose
NREL scientists used high-performance computational simulations to calculate the work needed to pull a cellodextrin chain out of crystalline cellulose forms.
- NREL Develops Method to Evaluate Accuracy of Home Energy Scoring Tool
Using data from existing homes, NREL researchers boost the accuracy of the new software tool.
- NREL Solves Residential Window Air Conditioner Performance Limitations
Comprehensive performance tests lead to enhanced modeling capability and affordable methods to increase energy efficiency.
- NREL Demonstrates Game-Changing Air Conditioner Technology
Testing of DEVAP prototype validates modeled predictions of 40% to 85% energy savings.
- AHEM Lab Opens Doors to New Technology Test Bed at NREL
NREL studies smart sensors and dynamic control systems to help homeowners conserve energy, save money, and live comfortably.
- Solar Water Heater Roadmap Leads Path to Market Expansion
Innovative strategy to reduce installed cost of solar water heater systems can rival conventional natural gas water heaters in the marketplace.
- NREL Improves Window Heat Transfer Calculations
Analysis of algorithm discrepancies helps to promote market confidence in EnergyPlus and DOE-2.
- NREL Documents Efficiency of Mini-Split Heat Pumps
A new report delivers mini-split heat pump (MSHP) performance data for use in whole-building simulation tools.
- NREL Develops Heat Pump Water Heater Simulation Model
A new simulation model helps researchers evaluate real-world impacts of heat pump water heaters in U.S. homes.
- NREL Tests Dehumidifiers, Defines Simplified Simulation Model
Study of residential dehumidifiers results in practical performance curves for use in whole-building simulation tools.
- Advanced Energy Design Guides Slash Energy Use in Schools and Retail Buildings by 50%
Owners, contractors, engineers, and architects can easily achieve significant energy savings by leveraging the complex analyses and expertise captured in these guides.
- NREL Evaluates Thermal Performance of Uninsulated Walls to Improve Accuracy of Building Energy Simulation Tools
NREL researchers discover ways to increase accuracy in building energy simulations tools to improve predictions of potential energy savings in homes.
- Improving Building Energy Simulation Programs Through Diagnostic Testing
New test procedure evaluates quality and accuracy of energy analysis tools for the residential building retrofit market.
- NREL Provides Guidance to Improve Air Mixing and Thermal Comfort in Homes
NREL research determines optimal HVAC system design for proper air mixing and thermal comfort in homes.
- NREL Evaluates Performance of Heat Pump Water Heaters
NREL evaluates energy savings potential of heat pump water heaters in homes throughout all U.S. climate zones.
- National Residential Efficiency Measures Database Reduces Risk for Home Retrofit
A new database of residential building measures and estimated costs helps the U.S. building industry determine the most cost-effective means of improving efficiency of existing homes.
- New Version of BEopt Software Provides Analysis Capabilities for Existing Homes
NREL researchers enhanced a building energy optimization tool to analyze existing homes and identify upgrade packages that achieve specified energy efficiency levels at the lowest possible cost.
- Layering Mismatched Lattices Creates Long-Sought-After Green Light-Emitting Diode
Scientists invent a deep green LED that can lead to higher-efficiency white light and lower electric bills.
- NREL Technical Reports Guide the Way to 50% Energy Savings in Hospitals, Office
Researchers provide recommendations to help designers and operators of large office buildings and hospitals achieve at least a 50% energy savings using existing technology.
- Study Reveals Fuel Injection Timing Impact on Particle Number Emissions
Start of injection can improve environmental performance of fuel-efficient gasoline direct injection engines.
- Partnership Helps Alleviate Electric Vehicle
NREL, Clean Cities, and industry leaders join forces to create the first comprehensive online locator for electric vehicle charging stations.
- Internal Short Circuit Device Helps Improve Lithium-Ion Battery Design
NREL's emulation tool helps manufacturers ensure the safety and reliability of electric vehicle batteries.
- Study Pinpoints Sources of Polluting Vehicle Emissions
Unburned lubricant produces 60%–90% of organic carbon emissions.
- Low-Temperature Biodiesel Research Reveals Potential Key to Successful Blend Performance
Relatively low-cost solutions could improve reliability while making biodiesel blends an affordable option.
- Basic Science Simulations Provide New Insights to Aid Hydrogen Gas Turbine
Massive first-principles simulation provides insight into flame anchoring in a hydrogen-rich jet in cross-flow.
- Tool Helps Utilities Assess Readiness for Electric Vehicle Charging
NREL research helps answer a fundamental question regarding electric vehicles: Is the grid ready to handle them?
- Analysis Tool Generates Custom Vehicle Drive Cycles Based on Real-World Data
NREL's DRIVE tool delivers precise and easy-to-interpret assessments in a fraction of the time.
- Electric Vehicles Could Benefit from 50% Improvements in Packaging Thermal
Enhanced surfaces lead to increased heat transfer and power density.
- Cellulose Simulations Demystify High-Temperature Behavior
Molecular simulations that model cellulose microfibrils at high temperature indicate regions that may be easier to break down, which could lead to more efficient processing of cellulose into biofuel.
- NREL Carbon Metabolism Modeling Intends to Make Biofuels Engineering Routine
NREL scientists assembled and simulated a model of key eukaryotic carbon metabolism that intends to move biochemical simulations into new realms of chemical fidelity.
- Cellulosic Ethanol Technology on Track to Being Competitive With Other
Researchers are driving down the cost of cellulosic ethanol and overcoming technical challenges—major milestones toward the goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012.
- Computer Modeling Illuminates Degradation Pathways of Cations in Alkaline Membrane Fuel Cells
Cation degradation insights obtained by computational modeling could result in better performance and longer lifetime for alkaline membrane fuel cells.
- New Biohybrid Structure Produces High-Performance Hydrogen Electrodes
Union of carbon nanotube networks and the hydrogenase from Clostridium acetobutylicum amps up the process of electrode electrocatalysis.
- NREL Team Creates High-Activity, Durable Platinum Extended Surface Catalyst for Fuel Cells
NREL's new extended surface catalysts have exceeded the DOE target for specific activity per surface area for a fuel cell catalyst, potentially allowing for lower-cost catalysts.