Innovative Process Technologies

Innovative Process Technologies

Innovative Process Technologies is concerned with the development of innovative costeffective technologies that promote efficiency, environmental performance, availability of advanced energy systems, and the development of computational tools that shorten development timelines of advanced energy systems. NETL, working with members of the NETL-Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA), will focus on five research tasks:

  • Sensors

  • Power Electronics and Energetic Materials

  • Innovative Energy Concepts

  • Computational Materials

  • Multiphase Flow

Better sensing of operating conditions and control strategies improves environmental performance and reduces emissions during power systems operation. Sensors and controls for process monitoring are of critical importance for advanced fossil energy applications, including oxy-fuel combustion, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), advanced turbines, coal gasification, and advanced boiler systems.

Power Electronics and Energetic Materials
Application of grid scale energy storage devices will improve reliability and stability of the grid; provide capacity to “peak shave or load shift,” enabling peak loads to be met during periods when generation, transmission, and distribution assets cannot yet be brought online; enable the integration of large scale renewable energy plants into the grid; and provide more stable and efficient delivery of electrical power— including power generated from fossil fuel sources. This will result in more stable and efficient delivery of electrical power, while reducing overall COemissions.

Innovative Energy Concepts
Advanced power generation concepts such as direct power extraction, pressure-gain combustion, supercritical COcycles, and other innovative ideas have the potential to increase the efficiency and offset the penalty associated with capturing COfrom power generation from fossil fuels. Although these innovative energy concepts (IECs) have significant potential advantages, practical development is stymied by uncertain component performance, the need for new materials, or simply the cost of development. The goal of the IEC is to utilize validated, computational simulations that can predict performance of these IECs to identify gaps in simulations and technology and guide development and accelerate the deployment of IEC technologies.

Comparison of (A) conventional power generation via a turbogenerator and (B) direct power extraction
via a technique such as MDH.

Computational Materials
Advanced carbon capture and storage power systems will require cost-effective materials for a variety of fossil energy applications. Complex materials structures (e.g., multicomponent or multi-phase materials) offer distinct advantages over single-component or single-phase materials. The properties of complex structures can be tailored or tuned by the appropriate combination and distribution of elements, constituents, or phases. However, most development efforts for complex systems are Edisonian in nature, due to the lack of predictive models and simulations for these systems. Thus, a predictive multi-scale computational framework will be fostered to guide the development of these advanced materials. The proposed effort will integrate multi-scale computational approaches with focused validation experiments. The computational tool sets developed through this research will assist in accelerating the design, development and deployment of materials for advanced Fossil Energy (FE) and other extreme environment applications.

Integrated multi-scale computational approach with focused validation experiments
for accelerating the development and deployment of advanced materials.

Multiphase Flow

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes for multiphase reacting flows require critical research before their routine and confident employment for design and optimization. The MFIX CFD solver simulates hydrodynamics, heat transfer, and chemical reactions in fluid-solids systems. MFIX was developed at NETL to address critical aspects of fossil-fuel energy production, such as gasification or COcapture. Improvements and enhancements to the MFIX solver could reduce time to solution and improve the basic understanding of polydisperse reacting flows and methodology needed to reduce data sampling for uncertainty quantification in the numerical results.

Circulating Fluidized Bed.

Project Overview

The Sensors and Controls task will develop advanced sensor materials, advanced optical sensors, and platforms (advanced materials) for high-temperature sensing, and will test novel control systems. The advanced optical sensors effort includes pre-commercial field testing, improvement of critical components, and technology transfer of a novel instrument that uses Raman scattering of a laser to measure real-time gas composition. It also includes research on using Raman scattering in a multipoint, fiber optic gas sensor. The advanced sensors materials effort is focused on synthesizing innovative thin films with a mixture of two or more different nanoscale phases having distinct electrical, optical, magnetic, and/or catalytic properties. Efforts will also focus on assessing graphene for high temperature sensor applications. The novel control system research effort will utilize the NETL Hyper facility as a platform to test novel control approaches for power generation systems, for both the MESA project with Ames Laboratory and multiple-in multiple-out (MIMO) controls.

Portable Raman Gas Composition Sensor Prototype.

Power Electronics and Energetic Materials

The Power Electronics and Energetic Materials task will develop and demonstrate at laboratory scale an integrated electrochemical (anode-electrolyte-cathode) architecture with performance characteristics suitable for grid-scale power electronics and energy storage technologies. The task will continue development of a magnesium- (Mg) based battery system.


NETL-RUA Developed novel organo-metal (OM) based non-aqueous electrolyte wherein reversible Mg/Mg2+ deposition/dissolution observed within the electrochemical potential window of ~3V.

Innovative Energy Concepts
The Innovative Energy Concepts task will assess advanced concepts — magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), pressure gain combustion, and Ultra Super Critical (USC) COpower cycle — using validated simulations, to accelerate the deployment of these potentially transformational systems. Advanced CFD coupled with targeted validation experiments will assess the technologies and identify gaps in simulations tools.

Computational Materials
The Computational Materials task will demonstrate a discovery and design methodology that is generally applicable to materials needed for advanced FE systems. The goal is to develop a validation computational framework that facilitates the design and development of materials by elucidating chemical and mechanical properties at conditions and time scales consistent with application. The computational tools developed through this research will assist in accelerating the design, development and deployment of materials for FE applications. Research is focused on developing computational frameworks to: (i) predict alloy oxidation behavior in a variety of relevant environments (O2, H2, H2O and CO2) — initial focus is on predicting alloy composition necessary for the formation of passive (protective) surfaces in Ni-Fe-Al alloys; (ii) predict microstructural stability — and therefore materials properties and performance under relevant time scales for alloys under consideration for application in advanced FE systems, including A-USC power plants; and (iii) aid in Electroslag Remelting (ESR) melt processing of alloys under consideration for advanced FE systems, including A-USC power plants, by establishing the thermodynamics of ESR melting and developing a thermodynamic data base for oxide and fluoride slag components used in ESR melting of Ni-alloys.

Phase field simulation for microstructural evolution in alloys. This simulation is for the effect of alloying element
on the coarsening of gamma prime phase in the nickel base superalloy Haynes 282.

Multiphase Flow
The Multiphase Flow task seeks to develop an improved physics-based CFD capability for simulating reacting multiphase flows. This effort will focus on (i) the reduction of “time to solution” of multiphase CFD simulations through porting of NETL’s open-source multiphase flow solver MFIX to graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture; (ii) improving the fidelity of multiphase CFD simulations by accounting for particle size and density distribution in reacting multiphase flows, and developing predictive capability at the porous microstructure scale of solid sorbent particles used in COcapture; and (iii) including uncertainty quantification as an integral part of simulations, with incorporation of a stochastic analysis with minimal sampling technique to reduce the data sampling required.

Impacts and Benefits
The following impacts are possible through this proposed research.

  • Fast optical gas composition sensor will allow engine operators to adjust control system to accommodate wide gas composition fluctuations expected in fuel flexible power generation, and gasifier operators to quickly diagnose changes in gasifier operation.

  • Investigation of new materials for sensors, including nanocomposite thin films, or graphene films, may permit high-temperature gas speciation that is needed for future power plant operation, or lower cost energy harvesting for wireless sensors and other applications.

  • Evaluation of advanced distributed control architectures will provide NETL and SCC a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the benefits of new distributed control methods applied to power plant operation.

  • Testing of advanced sensors in the High Pressure Combustion Facility will allow DOE to push the development of new harsh environment sensors more quickly and cost effectively from laboratory research into the market.

  • A novel, environmentally benign Mg-based battery architecture with performance characteristics that are potentially superior in terms of economics and performance compared to NaS and Zebra batteries for grid scale applications.

  • Determination of the performance potential of innovative concepts like pressure-gain combustion and direct power extraction. Results will define the technical barriers that must be addressed to produce the desired benefits of the technology. Validation data is needed to insure that predicted performance is correct.

  • Provide needed validation data on reacting flows that are relevant to current power generators, like turbines and oxyfuel combustors, as well as future innovative technologies.

  • Validated simulations will be useful to predict the behavior of current turbines, and will allow engine operators to predict/avoid combustion dynamics, flashback in hydrogen turbines, and emissions performance.

  • A predictive computational framework for rapidly screening composition and configuration space for complex, multicomponent materials. Computational tool sets and databanks for assessing oxidation behavior, microstructural evolution and mechanical performance of alloys in environments and times scales indicative of advanced energy systems. These tool sets and databanks will accelerate the discovery, design and development timelines for advanced materials for use in extreme environments.

  • Databank of phase stability and physical properties for oxide, fluoride and mixed oxide-fluoride slags suitable refining and improving ESR melt processing.

  • It is expected that the GPU acceleration of MFIX yield a 2- to 8-fold reduction in time to solution. Along with improvements in reacting gas-solid models in MFIX, the reacting multiphase ROM and reduction in the number of data sampling requirements for uncertainty quantification, the simulation capabilities put in place at the successful completion of these projects will enhance NETL’s predictive capabilities to design and optimize reactors used in fossil energy systems.

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