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News Release: Federal Laboratory Consortium Highlights NREL Research

September 16, 2009

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer’s (FLC) Mid-Continent Region recently recognized the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and its partners with two awards for excellence in technology transfer.

The SkyTrough™ Parabolic Trough Solar Concentrating Collector uses a reflector material developed by NREL and its collaborative research partner, SkyFuel Inc., to create a ground-breaking and low-cost system for utility-sized power generation. The SkyTrough™, an advanced parabolic trough solar concentrator designed by SkyFuel, uses ReflecTech® Mirror Film, a glass-free, slide-in mirror that is lightweight and weather proof. This innovation coupled with improvements to items such as the hydraulic-based rotational system and the sun-tracking controller enables SkyTrough™ to reduce the installed cost of a parabolic trough field by more than 30 percent and substantially improves return on investment. This price reduction makes installation costs competitive with natural gas-fired power plants. NREL researchers who worked on the project are Gary Jorgensen, Tim Wendelin, Allison Gray, Mark Mehos, Frank Burkholder and Kent Terwilliger.

The PowerPlane UX Microbattery is a safe, rechargeable, deep-cycle, thin-film lithium microbattery. Its ideal applications are remote wireless sensors, smart homes, smart cars and medical sensing devices. Unlike traditional batteries, the PowerPlane UX Microbattery has a long cycle life even if it is frequently and fully discharged. It uses a solid glass electrolyte — lithium phosphorus oxynitride (LiPON ) — to give the battery its longer cycle life and improve its tolerance to high temperatures. NREL developed the buried-anode architecture used in the microbattery. This innovation involves lithium being intercalated, or chemically trapped within, the cathode layer and plated out as the anode during the first charge cycle. This removes at least one process step in manufacturing and provides improved shelf life. NREL researchers who worked on the project are Roland Pitts, Ed Tracy and Dane Gillaspie. NREL’s partner for this project is Planar Energy Devices.

“These awards showcase NREL’s efforts to reduce the cost of renewable energy technologies and help commercialize them,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu said. “This recognition also bolsters our ongoing record of R&D accomplishments. I’m proud of the work being achieved by the creative and innovative researchers at NREL.”

It’s been a summer of recognition for these technologies. In July, both the SkyTrough™ Parabolic Trough Solar Concentrating Collector and the PowerPlane UX Microbattery were named as top 100 innovations for 2009 by R&D Magazine. Also in July, the World Technology Network named the PowerPlane UX Microbattery as its Corporate Award Winner in Energy at the 2009 World Technology Summit.

FLC presented its awards in early September at the regional meeting in San Francisco, Calif. FLC was founded in 1974 and is a nationwide network of federal laboratories. It provides a forum to develop strategies as well as opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace; more than 250 federal laboratories and their parent departments and agencies are FLC members.

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


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—Heather Lammers