Power Generation and Storage
Power Generation and Storage
The development of devices, processes and systems that generate and store electrical, mechanical or fluid power or energy.
Carbon Nanotube Tower-Based Supercapacitor
This invention provides a four-part system that includes: (1) first and second, spaced-apart planar collectors; (2) first and second arrays of Multi-Wall Carbon Nanotube (MWCNT) towers, serving as electrodes, that extend between the first and second collectors, where the MWCNT towers are grown directly on the collector surfaces without deposition of a catalyst or a binder material on the collectors surface; (3) a separator module having a transverse area that is substantially the same as the transverse area of either electrode; and (4) at least one MWCNT tower that acts as a hydrophilic structure with improved surface wettability. The growth of MWCNT and/or Single Wall Carbon Nanotube (SWCNT) towers is done directly on polished, ultra-smooth alloy substrates containing iron and or nickel, such as nichrome, kanthal and stainless steel. The growth process for generating an MWCNT tower array requires heating the collector metal substrate in an inert argon gas atmosphere to 750 C. After thermal equilibration, 1000 sccm of 8/20 ethylene/Hs gas flow results in the growth of carbon nanotube towers.
Pyroelectric Sandwich Thermal Energy Harvester
This technology harvests electrical energy utilizing a pyroelectric device that generates voltage when cyclically heated. The device consists of a pyroelectric material sandwiched between two electrodes, which in turn are contained within two thermally conductive protective layers, an electrical circuit designed to harvest the voltage generated thermally, and an energy storage unit. The technology will enable more efficient utilization of solar and thermal energy production through harvesting energy that is currently lost as waste heat. The technology has been demonstrated to produce electricity in the milliwatt range and requires further development to maximize power generation.
Battery Charge Equalizer System
The innovation consists of a transformer array connected to a battery array through rectification and filtering circuits. The transformer array is connected to a drive circuit and a timing and control circuit, which enables individual battery cells or cell banks to be charged. The timing and control circuit connects to a charge controller that uses battery instrumentation to determine which battery bank to charge. The system is ultra lightweight because it uses much fewer than one transformer per battery cell. For instance, 40 battery cells can be balanced with an array of just five transformers. The innovation can charge an individual cell bank at the same time while the main battery charger is charging the high-voltage battery system. Conventional equalization techniques require complex and costly electrical circuitry to achieve cell monitoring and balancing. Further, such techniques waste the energy from the most charged cells through a dummy resistive load (regulator), which is inefficient and generates excess heat. In contrast, this system equalizes battery strings by selectively charging cells that need it. The technology maintains battery state-of-charge to improve battery life and performance. In addition, the technology provides a fail-safe operation and a novel built-in electrical isolation for the main charge circuit, further improving the safety of high-voltage Li-ion batteries.
Cryogenic Flux Capacitor
Storage and transfer of fluid commodities such as oxygen, hydrogen, natural gas, nitrogen, argon, etc. is an absolute necessity in virtually every industry on Earth. These fluids are typically contained in one of two ways; as low pressure, cryogenic liquids, or as a high pressure gases. Energy storage is not useful unless the energy can be practically obtained ("un-stored") as needed. Here the goal is to store as many fluid molecules as possible in the smallest, lightest weight volume possible; and to supply ("un-store") those molecules on demand as needed in the end-use application. The CFC concept addresses this dual storage/usage problem with an elegant charging/discharging design approach. The CFC's packaging is ingeniously designed, tightly packing aerogel composite materials within a container allows for a greater amount of storage media to be packed densely and strategically. An integrated conductive membrane also acts as a highly effective heat exchanger that easily distributes heat through the entire container to discharge the CFC quickly, it can also be interfaced to a cooling source for convenient system charging; this feature also allows the fluid to easily saturate the container for fast charging. Additionally, the unit can be charged either with cryogenic liquid or from an ambient temperature gas supply, depending on the desired manner of refrigeration. Finally, the heater integration system offers two promising methods, both of which have been fabricated and tested, to evenly distribute heat throughout the entire core, both axially and radially.
Control and Tracking for Tethered Airborne Vehicles
The technology of the system controls and tracks the flight of tethered vehicles. Comprised of a camera, load cells, encoders, an anemometer, and software, the tracking system is based on digital photo analysis. The system tracks where the kite is 30 times every second. The controller makes an adjustment to the tether winch to keep the kite in the controlled trajectory to maximize high velocities without exceeding the limits of the hardware. The design consists of two tethers (each with its own servo motor) and a pan-tilt unit to extend the field of view of the camera. NASA has flown a conceptual scaled system. A video of the demo is available on the website (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCfw1B2XGQc). The system software is considered to be at the pre-beta stage.
Relaxor Piezoelectric Single Crystal Multilayer Stacks for Energy Harvesting Transducers (RPSEHT)
Energy management is one of the most challenging issues in the world today. Accordingly, various energy harvesting technologies have gained attention, including harvesting energy from ambient vibration sources using piezoelectric materials. However, conventional piezoelectric energy harvesting transducer (PEHT) structures have effective piezoelectric constants that are lower than about 10^4 pC/N, (resonant mode). These low piezoelectric constants lead to conventional PEHTs not being able to harvest electric power effectively. Further, for a specific vibration/motion source, it would be advantageous to maximize the mechanical energy captured from the vibration structure into the piezoelectric device and to convert a greater fraction of that mechanical energy into electrical energy more efficiently. This invention is a system and method using multistage force amplification of piezoelectric energy harvesting transducers (MFAPEHTs) to increase the effective piezoelectric constant to >10^6 pC/N and to increase the mechanical energy input to the device. The invention utilizes 33 mode PZT to permit maximum coupling between the input mechanical energy with the piezoelectric material, and multilayer construction of single crystal PMN-PT material to significantly amplify the voltage/charge generation and storage from the applied mechanical force.
Portable Compact Thermionic Power Cell
This compact thermionic cell (CTI) technology can be manufactured efficiently and economically using existing semiconductor fabrication technology. Its design consists of a top electron collector, separated by a vacuum gap from an electron emitter adjacent to the heat source, a thin plate of 238Pu enclosed by a thin-film insulator to protect the emitter and collector layers from overheating by the 238Pu. For a smart phone battery size, the invented compact thermionic (CTI) cell requires about 5 g maximum of 238Pu. Such small quantities are more readily available and producible, and could be reused for recycling when the CTI cell is dismantled. The emitter surface is topologically modified to have array of spikes, achievable using current semiconductor microfabrication technology. Various other geometries of emitter plates may also be used, such as an array of ridges. The smaller the emitter tips, the higher the voltage concentration.
Optimum Solar Conversion Cell Configurations
A solar cell manufactured from this new optical fiber has photovoltaic (PV) material integrated into the fiber to enable electricity generation from unused light, including non-visible portions of the spectrum and visible light not transmitted to a lighting application. These new solar cells are based around cylindrical optical fibers, providing two distinct advantages over the flat panels that lead to increased efficiency. The core fiber, used to transmit light, can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of available light that is transmitted to the lighting application at any point in real time. This invention can be applied wherever optical concentrators are used to collect and redirect incident light. Wavelengths as large as 780 nanometers (nm) can be used to drive the conversion process. This technology has very low operating costs and environmental impacts (in particular, no greenhouse gas emissions). The fiber uses low-cost polymer materials. It is lightweight and flexible, and can be manufactured using low-cost solution processing techniques. Such multifunctional materials have great potential for the future of solar and photovoltaic devices. They will enable new devices that are small and lightweight that can be used without connection to existing electrical grids.
Metallization for SiC Semiconductors
To avoid catastrophic failure, traditional electrical ohmic contacts must be placed at some distance from the optimal position (especially for sensors) in high-temperature environments. In addition, conventional metallization techniques incur significant production costs because they require multiple process steps of successive depositions, photolithography, and etchings to deposit the desired ohmic contact material. Glenn's novel production method both produces ohmic contacts that can withstand higher temperatures than ever before (up to 600°C), and permits universal and simultaneous ohmic contacts on n- and p-type surfaces. This makes fabrication much less time-consuming and expensive while also increasing yield. This innovative approach uses a single alloy conductor to form simultaneous ohmic contacts to n- and p-type 4H-SiC semiconductor. The single alloy conductor also forms an effective diffusion barrier against gold and oxygen at temperatures as high as 800°C. Glenn's extraordinary method enables a faster and less costly means of producing SiC-based sensors and other devices that provide quicker response times and more accurate readings for numerous applications, from jet engines to down-hole drilling, and from automotive engines to space exploration.
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