Sensors, Controls, and Novel Concepts

Improving fossil energy and carbon management systems through advanced sensors and controls technologies

The Hydrogen with Carbon Management Sensors, Controls, and Novel Concepts program is conducting research and development for technologies that will provide pivotal insights into optimizing performance, reliability, and availability of integrated energy and carbon management systems. NETL develops, tests, and matures novel sensor and control technologies that are operable in next-generation energy systems, including hybrid plants incorporating components such as hydrogen-powered turbines and fuel cells, renewables, and energy storage applications. These sensors enable responsiveness to varying conditions in real time, maintaining high efficiencies and reducing emissions. This research will aid in the achievement of DOE goals which include net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and a decarbonized wider economy by 2050.

Sensors and Controls advances integration of technologies across the following primary research areas:

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Harsh Environment Sensors

As part of the Sensors, Controls, and Other Novel Concepts program, sensor efforts enable and enhance carbon management technologies ranging from hydrogen fuel production and power generation to post-combustion carbon capture. This research optimizes sensor arrays, allowing for optimal parameters such as temperature, pressure, fluid composition, and the state of materials. Researchers investigate a range of advanced manufacturing techniques (e.g., 3D printing) to determine the feasibility of embedding sensors with condition-based monitoring algorithms to operate in extreme environments, including pipes and tubing to turbine blades, anticipating maintenance needs and reducing plant downtime. Research optimizes sensor placement, allowing for optimal characteristic readings such as temperature, pressure, fluid composition, and the state of materials. The information apprises operators of component health and performance in real time. Robots, ranging from drones to crawlers, have transformed the inspection and repair of equipment for a wide variety of systems. These advances in remote inspection are improving performance, reliability, and economics for future energy infrastructure.

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Advanced Controls and Cyber Physical Systems

Controls research at NETL enables optimized performance, increased energy system complexity. Optimized controls will reduce emissions including carbon dioxide and methane, while ensuring safe and efficient performance. Smart control systems enable an optimal balance between operational performance and reliability. Advanced controls will also manage complex interactions of hybrid power systems (featuring renewable generation, energy storage, carbon management, etc.) and other subsystems. The resulting technologies help facilitate carbon emissions reductions.

One prominent crosscutting technology is Hybrid Performance (HYPER), a cyber-physical platform that combines virtual numerical models with physical hardware to realize advanced controls and design. For example, HYPER is a test bed for novel control strategies and cyber security concepts that will improve the performance of existing power plants and optimize next-generation power plants.

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Other Novel Concepts

Novel/emerging technologies are being developed to support energy applications that will prove essential to an equitable, clean energy future. These activities start with next-generation technologies such as quantum sensors, visible light communications, and direct power extraction and move towards technology maturation and then transition to the marketplace. These efforts are complemented with cybersecurity projects including blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

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News: NETL-Supported Project Develops First-of-its-Kind Gas Sensor for Early Warning Detection
University of New Mexico (UNM) and SensorComm Technologies Inc., with support from NETL, have developed a first-of-its-kind field-deployable technology that can accurately sense, identify and quantify the presence of natural gas as an early warning system for leakage.

News: NETL Patents Fiber Optic Sensor Technology for Hydrogen Leak Detection
NETL researchers have been awarded a patent for a new fiber optic sensor designed to detect hydrogen (H2) leaks at storage facilities that can save time and money compared to traditional methods — progress that can help accelerate the drive to put H2 to work as a dependable fuel to advance America’s decarbonization efforts.

Funding Opportunity Announcement: U.S. Department of Energy Announces $28 Million to Develop Clean Hydrogen
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) announced $28 million in federal funding for research and development (R&D) and front-end engineering design (FEED) projects that will advance clean hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel for transportation, industrial use and electricity production.

News: 2023 FECM / NETL Carbon Management Research Project Review Meeting Proceedings Posted
The proceeding from the 2023 FECM / NETL Carbon Management Research Project Review Meeting held August 28 - September 1, 2023 are posted for the following programs: Point Source Carbon Capture, Carbon Dioxide Removal, Carbon Conversion, and Carbon Transport & Storage.

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plus_icon Additional Links and Resources

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Energy Data eXchange (EDX)

The Energy Data eXchange (EDX) is the Department of Energy (DOE)/Fossil Energy and Carbon Management's (FECM) virtual library and data laboratory built to find, connect, curate, use and re-use data to advance FECM and environmental R&D. Developed and maintained by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), EDX supports the entire life cycle of data by offering secure, private collaborative workspaces for ongoing research projects until they mature and become catalogued, curated, and published. EDX adheres to DOE Cyber policies as well as domestic and international standards for data curation and citation. This ensures data products pushed public via EDX are afforded a citation for proper accreditation and complies with journal publication requirements.

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The Science-Based Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Institute (SAMI)

The Science-Based Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Institute (SAMI) builds off NETL’s unique strengths in science-based modeling and research data curation and management capabilities. It also capitalizes on NETL’s world-class capabilities in high-performance scientific computing. This simulation science is driving breakthroughs in advanced materials design and discovery and reducing the cost and risk of carbon capture utilization and storage. More information about SAMI is available at its data exchange webpage.

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NETL’s Strategic Systems Analysis and Engineering

NETL’s Strategic Systems Analysis and Engineering group conducts a variety of energy analyses to identify and evaluate promising R&D opportunities. Check out their website for specific studies related to sensors and controls technology.

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Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER)

Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) To find out more about DOE Cybersecurity initiatives, check out the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) webpage.

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Blockchain Technology BLOSEM

Blockchain Technology BLOSEM is a multi-lab collaboration, led by NETL, that seeks to develop energy-sector guidance, standardized metrics, and testing environments for technology maturation of novel blockchain-based concepts for device security, secure communications, and grid resilience. Check out their website.

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NETL implements this effort as part of DOE’s Hydrogen with Carbon Management Research Program.