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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Awards and Successes

Photo of Research and Development 100 Award

In collaboration with DOE and industry, NREL's energy storage team has received numerous awards for innovative technologies that now benefit industry and consumers around the world.

R&D 100 Awards

Two prestigious R&D 100 awards were won by the energy storage team. These awards, which have been called "the Nobel Prizes of applied research," are presented annually by R&D Magazine and recognize the world's top 100 technologically significant products.

Current-Interrupt Charging Algorithm Developed

In 2001, NREL's energy storage team, Recombination Technologies, Optima Batteries, and the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium were recognized with an R&D 100 Award for developing a current-interrupt charging algorithm that extends the life of lead acid batteries. Lead acid batteries are less expensive, more recyclable, and better prepared for high-volume production for electric vehicles (EVs), but their relatively short deep life cycle has been the major hurdle for wider use—until now. This breakthrough development extends the cycle life of these batteries by 300% to 400%, which provides an economically rational energy storage device and helps promote EV technologies. For more information see "Charging Algorithm Extends the Life of Lead-acid Batteries (2001)".

"By increasing potential battery life by a factor of three or more, the cost of energy storage on a yearly basis is drastically reduced; thus the current-interrupt method developed by this work promises to be a significant breakthrough in providing an economically rational energy storage device, and thus an enabler of electric vehicle technologies."
-Ron Brost, Ford

BENCHMARC Catalytic Converter Invented

Photo of NREL's R&D 100 award winning team for the BENCHMARC converter.

In 1996, the energy storage team and Benteler Industries, received an R&D 100 Award and an Energy@23 Award nomination for inventing the BENCHMARC catalytic converter. This converter can dramatically reduce automobile emissions and urban air pollution. However, it performs effectively only after reaching operating temperatures of approximately 600°F, so 60% to 80% of all vehicle emissions occur while the converter is heating up.

The team solved this problem by using variable conductance vacuum insulation and phase-change heat storage on the converter to retain heat from one motor vehicle trip to the next. By staying at an efficient operating temperature for as long as 24 hours after the engine is shut off, the converter eliminates about 80% of "cold-start emissions" to reduce overall automotive emissions by more than half, which also extends the life of the engine. The converter technology was licensed to Benteler Industries, Inc., a major automobile manufacturer supplier, which plans to install the converters in future model year cars, pending EPA approval.

Vincent Bendix Award

Photo of winning team for the Vincent Bendix Award.

NREL's energy storage team leader, Ahmad Pesaran, and coauthors Thomas Stuart of the University of Toledo and Cyrus Ashtiani of DaimlerChrysler, received the Vincent Bendix Automotive Electronics Engineering Award for the best paper at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2004 World Congress in Detroit, Michigan, in March 2004. DOE's Vehicle Technologies Office sponsored the work behind this paper titled, "A Modular Battery Management System for HEVs."

TR100 Award

In 2002, Energy Storage team member Matt Keyser received a TR100 award from MIT's Technology Review magazine for being one of the world's 100 top young innovators.

Federal Laboratory Consortium Award

In 1997, we received an award for excellence in technology transfer for the development and transfer of the catalytic converter technology.

Technology Transfer Society (Colorado Chapter)

In 1997, the team was awarded for the "federal laboratory to business" category for the transfer of a variable conductance vacuum insulated catalytic converter.

Discover Award (Finalist)

In 1996, we were Discover Award finalists for the variable conductance insulation catalytic converter.