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:
New III-V Device Concept Gets Two-for-the-Price-of-One Benefit
NREL scientists, working with collaborators from the California Institute of Technology and University of New South Wales, have figured out how to integrate two design features of a solar cell to get better performance without increased deposition costs.
NREL, CSEM Jointly Set New Efficiency Record with Dual-Junction Solar Cell
Scientists set a new world record for converting non-concentrated sunlight into electricity using a dual-junction III-V/Si solar cell.
- NREL Photoelectrode Research Advances Hydrogen Production Efforts
Scientists have created a high-performing photo-electrode that boosts the ability of solar water-splitting to produce hydrogen.
- Uncovering the Operating Principles of Photoelectrodes
NREL researchers have developed a new probe to help design more efficient sunlight-to-fuel photoelectrodes.
- New Multijunction Design Leads to Ultra-Efficient Solar Cell
Four-junction III-V multijunction cell uses buffer layers and other innovations to reach 45.6% efficiency at 690 suns.
- Boosting Accuracy of Testing Multijunction Solar Cells
NREL developed a more precise technology for measuring efficiency of concentrating solar cells, enabling the industry to advance.
- NREL Study of Fielded PV Systems Demonstrates PV Reliability
Photovoltaic module quality has remained high even as module prices have declined.
- Post-Deposition Treatment Boosts CIGS Solar Cell Performance
NREL's use of potassium fluoride process improves the open-circuit voltage and conversion efficiency.
- NREL Particle Receiver Will Enable High-Temperature CSP
Near-blackbody enclosed particle receiver can support high-temperature thermal energy storage and high-efficiency power cycles.
- NREL Quantifies Value of CSP to the Grid
In California study, greater penetration of renewable energy means greater value of CSP with thermal energy storage.
- NREL Develops ZnSiP2 for Silicon-Based Tandem Solar Cells
Combining an Earth-abundant chalcopyrite with a silicon layer could significantly boost conversion efficiency above that of single-junction silicon solar cells.
- NREL Fights Corrosion to Cut Costs in CSP Plants
NREL investigates how best to protect tanks and pipelines used for thermal energy storage and heat transfer fluids.
- NREL Investigates Critical Properties of Perovskite Halides Solar Cells
Results give insight on a novel, promising class of photoactive materials for solar conversion applications.
- Technique Reveals Critical Physics in Deep Regions of Solar Cells
NREL's improved time-resolved photoluminescence method measures minority-carrier lifetime deep within photovoltaic samples to help develop more efficient solar cells.
- System Advisor Model Includes Analysis of Hybrid CSP Option
NREL has created an analytical model to study a hybrid power optionconcentrating solar power coupled with natural-gas-powered generation.
- Simple Method Quantifies Recombination Pathways in Solar Cells
NREL's analytic equation uses open-circuit voltage data to determine how much recombination occurs via different channels in a solar cell.
- New Pathway Developed to Silicon Quantum Dot Devices
Researchers create a way to prepare doped nanocrystal solutions for solar thin films that are nontoxic and less expensive than heavy metal-based thin films.
- Better Internal Optics Can Improve III-V Solar Cell Performance
NREL model that calculates external luminescent efficiency has potential to enhance performance of solar cells dominated by radiative recombination.
- 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.
- Inventing a New Way to Capture the Energy of Waves
Innovative NREL wave energy conversion technology enables greater control of wave loads to create a more economical source of renewable energy.
- NREL's Water Power Software Makes a Splash
Open-source software provides essential modeling and simulation help in water power research and development.
- NREL Advances Feedforward Control in Turbines
Researchers use lidar and feedforward algorithms to improve rotor speed regulation and reduce costs of maintenance and operation.
- NREL Software Models Performance of Wind Plants
Simulator fOr Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA) helps optimize layouts and controls of wind plant arrays.
- NREL Assesses National Design Standards for Offshore Wind
Report summarizes regulations, standards, and guidelines for the design and operation of offshore wind projects in the United States.
- New Framework Transforms FAST Wind Turbine Modeling Tool
A recent overhaul of the tool makes it a powerful, robust, and flexible modeling software to aid the development of innovative wind and water power technologies.
- NREL Report Redefines Wind as a Grid Stabilizer, Not a Liability
Study explores how wind power can support power system reliability, and do so economically.
- NREL Identifies Investments for Wind Turbine Drivetrain Technologies
NREL examines current U.S. manufacturing and supply chain capabilities for advanced wind turbine drivetrain technologies.
- 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.
- Reliable Characterization for Pyrolysis Bio-Oils Leads to Enhanced Upgrading Methods
NREL's efforts to standardize techniques for bio-oil analysis inform upgrading processes to economically produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biomass.
- NREL Explains the Higher Cellulolytic Activity of a Vital Microorganism
A newly discovered category of scaffolded enzymes in C. thermocellum has the potential for superior conversion of biomass into biofuel.
- NREL Advancements in Methane Conversion Lead to Cleaner Air, Useful Products
NREL research has developed an effective genetic engineering strategy that converts methane waste into valuable chemicals and transportation fuels.
- High Titer and Yields Achieved with Novel, Low-Severity Pretreatment Strategy
A new, less toxic, NREL-developed deacetylation and mechanical refining (DMR) process achieves unexpectedly high sugar titers and yields for fermentation into advanced biofuels and chemicals.
- New Catalyst Reduces Wasted Carbon in Biofuel Process, Lowers Cost
NREL researchers have shown that incorporating copper-modified catalysts into the dimethyl ether-to-fuels pathway increases carbon efficiency and decreases overall production costs.
- New Cyanobacteria Metabolic Pathway Critical to Energy Conversion
A little-known metabolic pathway in photosynthetic organisms is actually a major pathway for converting carbon dioxide to biofuels and bioproducts.
- NREL's Cyanobacteria Engineering Shortens Biofuel Production Process, Captures CO2
The flexibility of cyanobacterial metabolism supports direct conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ethylene.
- New NIR Calibration Models Speed Biomass Composition and Reactivity Characterization
Using near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, NREL researchers have developed powerful tools to rapidly estimate biomass feedstock characteristics.
- Algal Pretreatment Improves Biofuels Yield and Value
Advanced process for algal biofuel production captures the value of both the lipids and carbohydrates for conversion to biofuels.
- Improving Catalyst Efficiency in Bio-Based Hydrocarbon Fuels
New study determines the effect of catalyst structure on product yields and coking during vapor phase upgrading of biomass pyrolysis products.
- NREL Overcomes Obstacles in Lignin Valorization
Using a "funneling" pathway inherent in nature, NREL researchers show that lignin can be converted into renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials.
- New Screening System Detects Algae with Increased H2 Production
NREL's high-throughput screen facilitates the selection of novel hydrogen-producing algae.
- Advantages of Enzyme Could Lead to Improved Biofuels Production
Cellulase C. bescii CelA, a highly active and stable enzyme, exhibits a new cellulose digestion paradigm promoting inter-cellulase synergy.
- Closer Look Reveals New Insights on Enzymatic Catalysts for H2 Production
Researchers use spectroscopic tools to analyze H2 activation by [FeFe]-Hydrogenase HydA1 from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
- Novel Combination of Enzyme Systems Could Lower Biofuel Costs
Two biomass-degrading enzyme systems that work in very different ways are shown to be more effective at releasing plant sugars when used together.
- 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.
- 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.
- NREL Produces Ethylene via Photosynthesis
Environmentally friendly process offers intriguing alternative to fossil-fuel-based ethylene for chemicals and transportation fuels.
- NREL Collaboration Breaks 1-Volt Barrier in CdTe Solar Technology
Reaching a critical voltage milestone provides path for CdTe solar technology to undercut electricity costs from traditional sources.
- NREL Studies Carrier Separation and Transport in Perovskite Solar Cells
The discovery of a p-n junction in these solar devices may help to advance R&D toward better cell performance.
- A New Method to Stabilize Solar Water-Splitting Electrodes
A two-step surface modification of high-efficiency III-V photoelectrolysis materials provides corrosion protection without sacrificing conversion efficiency.
- High-Efficiency CdTe Ink-Based Solar Cells Using Nanocrystals
NREL researchers create a solution-processable "ink" to produce high-efficiency solar cells using low temperature and simple processing.
- NREL Simulations Provide New Insight on Polymer-Based Energy Storage Materials
Atomistic simulations correlate molecular packing and electron transport in polymer-based energy storage materials.
- NREL Demonstrates Efficient Solar Water Splitting by Metal Oxide Photoabsorber
New development demonstrates that inexpensive and robust metal oxide photoabsorbers hold great promise as photoanodes for water oxidation.
ResStock — Targeting Energy and Cost Savings for U.S. Homes
The ResStock analysis tool is helping states, municipalities, utilities, and manufacturers identify which home improvements save the most energy and money.
- Virtual Oscillator Control Maintains Grid Operations with High Inverter Penetrations
A new control strategy helps the grid run normally with lower percentages of spinning, synchronized power sources.
- Evaluating Membrane Processes for Air Conditioning
NREL compiles state-of-the-art review on membrane processes for air conditioning to identify future research opportunities.
- Understanding Energy Impacts of Oversized Air Conditioners
NREL research reveals the effects of parasitic power losses on the energy consumption of oversized residential air conditioners.
- NREL and Industry Advance Low-Cost Solar Water Heating R&D
NREL and Rhotech develop cost-effective solar water heating prototype to rival natural gas water heater market.
- NREL Improves Access to Building Product Energy Data
Technology Performance Exchange helps move projects to implementation.
- NREL Enables Efficient Data Exchange for Home Performance Companies
NREL supports standard data transfer protocol to streamline communication of home performance tracking systems and upgrade analysis software.
- Lab Tests Demonstrate Effectiveness of Advanced Power Strips
NREL engineers evaluate the functionalities of advanced power strips and help consumers choose the right one for their plug loads.
- NREL Launches Collaborative Resource for Field Test Best
Dynamic portal documents and shares state-of-the-art residential field test tools and techniques.
- 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.
- New Mobility Paradigms Influence Electric Vehicle Charging Requirements
Analysis pinpoints increased demand for fast-chargers as ride-hailing companies consider adding electric vehicles to their fleets.
- Fleet DNA Brings Fleet Data to Life, Informs R&D
NREL employs data fusion, multivariate analysis, and innovative visualization techniques to help industry partners optimize advanced vehicle technologies.
- Wide Bangap Technology Enhances Performance of Electric-Drive Vehicles
Wide bandgap power electronics devices enable reduced component size, increase efficiency, and improve performance for hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
- Innovation Meets Performance Demands of Advanced Lithium-ion Batteries
Novel surface modification methods are enabling ultrathin coatings to adhere to highly textured battery surfaces.
- New Analysis Methods Estimate a Critical Property of Ethanol Fuel Blends
Methods developed at NREL disclose the impact of ethanol on gasoline blend heat of vaporization with potential for improved efficiency of spark-ignition engines.
- Optical Thermal Characterization Enables High-Performance Electronics Applications
Critical experimental data for thermal performance of advanced materials help to develop next-generation electronic components.
- NREL Develops High-Speed Scanner to Monitor Fuel Cell Material Defects
The fuel cell scanner could provide effective in-line quality control in a high-volume manufacturing facility.
- NREL Evaluates Performance of Hydraulic Hybrid Refuse Vehicles
Initial results indicate that the hydraulic hybrids offer substantial fuel savings compared to similar conventional vehicles.
- Assessing the Fuel-Saving Potential of Semiautomated Truck Platooning
An NREL study found that platooning of long-haul trucks reduces fuel consumption at all tested highway speeds.
- Making Fuel Cells Cleaner, Better, and Cheaper
NREL helps reduce contaminants in fuel cells, enabling the industry to cut costs and commercialize state-of-the-art technologies.
- NREL Reduces Climate Control Loads in Electric Vehicles
NREL demonstrates that zonal climate control can reduce air conditioning power and improve range while maintaining driver thermal sensation.
- Analysis Reveals Impact of Road Grade on Vehicle Energy Use
Findings of study indicate that, on average, road grade could be responsible for 1%3% of fuel use in light-duty automobiles, with many individual trips impacted by as much as 40%.
- NREL Uses Fuel Cells to Increase the Range of Battery Electric Vehicles
NREL analysis identifies potential cost-effective scenarios for using small fuel cell power units to increase the range of medium-duty battery electric vehicles.
- Fueling Robot Automates Hydrogen Hose Reliability Testing
Automated robot mimics fueling action to test hydrogen hoses for durability in real-world conditions.
- Second-Use Li-Ion Batteries to Aid Automotive and Utility Industries
Repurposing Li-ion batteries at the end of useful life in electric drive vehicles could eliminate owners' disposal concerns and offer low-cost energy storage for certain applications.
- Fuel Cell Vehicles Enhance NREL Hydrogen Research Capabilities
Expanded research, development, and testing activities will help advance fuel cell electric vehicle technology.
- Demo Projects Introduce New Class of Natural Gas Vehicles
NREL teams with industry and government stakeholders to identify and address technical and marketplace barriers.
- Study Reveals Fuel Injection Timing Impact on Particle Number Emissions
Start of injection can improve environmental performance of fuel-efficient gasoline direct injection engines.
View past Science and Technology Highlights in NREL's Publications Database.