Strength in Numbers: I AM Hydro Prize Partnerships

Jan. 12, 2021

Photo of a dam with a reservoir in the foreground.
The I AM HYDRO Prize partners are helping to reach unlikely applicants with outside-the-box solutions. Photo by Bryan Egner, U.S. Department of Energy

The power of advanced manufacturing is being leveraged across countless industries, revolutionizing the way products are designed and built—lowering costs, improving designs, and shrinking production timelines along the way.

In June, to support the development of tomorrow's hydropower technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) launched the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize.

With $175,000 on the table, the competition challenged advanced manufacturing aces and hydro heroes to dramatically lower the costs of hydropower components and systems designs through the magic of manufacturing and material advancements. Nurturing relationships with the advanced manufacturing community was where the prize partners came into play.

Meet the Partners

I AM Hydro partners—the American Institute of Chemical Engineers: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing Society, the Manufacturing Leadership Council, and Women in Manufacturing—supported WPTO in getting the word out about the prize and making inroads with key players in the manufacturing community.

The single-stage I AM Hydro Prize aimed to spur innovation by engaging a national community of visionaries—both within the hydropower industry, as well as those who are not typically associated with it. And part of the uniqueness of this prize came from the collection of partners who supported it.

By providing outreach to their respective networks, these partners helped WPTO solicit creative, multidisciplinary submissions:

  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing Society (AMPs): The mission of AMPs is to promote education, research, and community outreach in the field of manufacturing and processing sciences and engineering. The society seeks to provide the latest information, education, and technology on the forefront of science and engineering that promotes global manufacturing supply-chain cost and energy use reductions. Join to learn about AMPs and their upcoming events.
  • The Manufacturing Leadership Council: The National Association of Manufacturers' Manufacturing Leadership Council is the world's first member-driven, global business leadership network dedicated to senior executives in the manufacturing industry. The council's mission is to help senior executives define and shape a better future for themselves, their organizations, and the industry at large by focusing on the intersection of critical business and technology issues that will drive growth today and in the future. The council offers an extensive portfolio of leadership networking, research, thought leadership content, and professional development products, programs, and services.
  • Women in Manufacturing (WiM): WiM is the only national trade association dedicated to providing year-round support to women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. At present, more than 5,000 individual members representing nearly 1,000 manufacturing companies have joined their growing ranks of industry professionals. WiM encompasses manufacturers of all types and welcomes individuals from every job function. Membership is available to women and men working within the manufacturing sector.

Last Splash on October 30; 11 Winners Rose to the Top

The I AM Hydro Prize accepted submissions through the end of October.

Submissions were required to include a proposed solution, comparisons to state-of-the-art technologies, and a justification for how the idea could lead to levelized cost of electricity reductions.

At the close of 2020, 11 prize winners were selected, each receiving a share of the $175,000 cash prize pot. Learn more about the winning concepts and the teams behind them:

  • Top honors went to Cadens LLC for their Grand-Prize-winning submission. Recipient of a $25,000 prize, the Utility of Large Area AM for Small Hydro concept involves the design and construction of 3D-printed turbine components via additive manufacturing to produce a low-cost, readily customizable, modular small hydro system.

Additionally, 10 promising submissions were awarded the Innovator Prize, receiving a cash prize of $15,000 each:

Skuld LLC's Additive Manufacturing Evaporative Casing (AMEC) is a platform technology capable of a vast array of component designs in thousands of ferrous and nonferrous alloys. Intended as a process replacement of current casting plus machining options, the process can create large components easily and is scalable.

The AI-Driven Design Optimization of Turbines concept focuses on increasing the performance and efficiency of existing water turbines and presents a 3D additive production method that uses a Cold Spray 3D-printing machine to modify existing turbines and to build new large-diameter turbines on site.
Developed by Interphase Materials (IPM), the Anti-Fouling Coating for Hydropower Cost Reduction concept involves an innovative non-toxic, water-based surface coating called THERMOPHASE, engineered to reduce fouling and corrosion while also improving heat transfer.
Fusion-Free Fabrication's Augmented Repair via Additive Manufacturing combines a novel additive manufacturing technology with modern advances in robotics to enable superior repair in less than half the time of current methods. The concept employs Additive Friction Stir Deposition (AFSD) for solid-state additive repair, as opposed to conventional arc welding.
The Composite Magnet for Hydropower Generators concept employs 3D-printed, variable-speed, permanent-magnet generator components to achieve higher efficiency over the entire range of optimum turbine speeds, as well as to improve motor and generator power density and efficiency.
CRUST is a chemically bonded phosphate ceramic (CBPC) coating solution for application to hydropower steel structures. This anti-corrosion approach is durable, weatherable, and effectively triples the expected lifespan of traditional coatings.
Multiscale Systems' Lowering Costs with Mechanical Metamaterials proposes on-site 3D printing of mechanical metamaterial components to address the hydroelectric levelized cost of energy drivers. Using mechanical metamaterials, the concept allows for the engineering of enhanced performance tailored to the operational conditions of hydroelectric generators.
RCAM Technologies' Retrofitting of Non-Powered Dams (NPDs) Using 3D Concrete Printing concept proposes the use of new, large-scale 3D-printing technologies with low-cost concrete in a process called 3D Concrete Printing (3DCP) to manufacture low-cost retrofits for a wider variety of NPDs than is presently possible using conventional manufacturing technologies.
Mazdak International Inc.'s Semi-Solid Casting for Hydro-Turbines combines the benefits of forging and casting via a special two-chambered cokeless furnace to manufacture strong, cavitation-resistant blades for hydro turbines.

The Super-Frictionless Surfaces Quasi-R® will reduce friction in hydropower components to reap improved energy production and reduced manufacturing time and wear and tear on components, decreasing the system costs and improving performance of the hydropower system.

Interested in helping us accelerate innovative advanced manufacturing technologies and transform tomorrow's hydropower?

Though the I AM Hydro Prize has come to a close, consider partnering with us via the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize.

With a goal of capturing new ideas to cut the costs, timelines, and risks associated with foundation development for small hydropower, the prize inspires innovators to compete for $300,00 in cash prizes. Up to nine innovative concepts for improving small greenfield hydropower foundation development will be selected.

Learn more about the I AM Hydro Prize, our partners, and join the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize team today.