Renewable Energy Lab Wins Three R&D 100 Awards

An ultra-accelerated weathering system, a parabolic trough solar concentrating collector, and a microbattery — all developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — were honored on July 22 as top 100 innovations for 2009 by R&D Magazine.

The Ultra-Accelerated Weathering System (UAWS) is a multifaceted ultraviolet solar concentrator used to speed up the exposure of coatings, paints, and other materials to determine their durability and resistance to weathering. Industry applications include coatings used for solar panels while other uses for the UAWS include paints or finishes used on homes, cars or even bridges. The UAWS provides test results 12 times faster than other accelerated weathering systems and can replicate years of sun damage in just a few weeks.

NREL shares this award with Atlas Material Testing Technology and the Institute of Laser Optical Technology. NREL researchers who worked on the project are Gary Jorgensen, Al Lewandowski (retired), Carl Bingham and Judy Netter.

The SkyTrough™ Parabolic Trough Solar Concentrating Collector uses a reflector material developed by NREL and its collaborative research partner, SkyFuel, to create a groundbreaking and low-cost system for utility-sized power generation.

The SkyTrough™ uses ReflecTech® Mirror Film, a glass-free, slide-in mirror that is lightweight and weather proof. This innovation coupled with improvements to items like the hydraulic-based rotational system and the sun-tracking controller enables SkyTrough™ to reduce the installed cost by 35 percent and substantially improves the financial return to investors. This reduction to the price barriers brings the installation costs into competition with 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 life cycle even if it is frequently and fully discharged. It uses a solid glass electrolyte—lithium phosphorus oxynitride (LiPON)—to give the battery a longer cycle life. NREL developed the buried-anode architecture used in the microbattery. This innovation involves lithium being intercalated, or chemically trapped within, the cathode layer. The battery also is tolerant of high temperatures.

NREL shares this award with Planar Energy Devices. NREL researchers who worked on the project are Roland Pitts, Ed Tracy and Dane Gillaspie.

"The Department of Energy's national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I'm proud they are being recognized once again for their remarkable work," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge, increasing our nation's energy security, and protecting our environment. I want to thank this year's winners for their work and congratulate them on this award."

The R&D 100 Awards are known in the industry as the "Oscars of Invention" and the awards showcase the best new technologies from around the world. The 2009 awards gala will be held Nov. 12 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld in Florida.

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