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NETL presents the latest edition of our publication that showcases the Lab’s research on emerging energy technologies. NETL Edge shares the latest developments our talented scientists and engineers are advancing to use our nation’s energy resources efficiently and safely to bolster American’s energy independence. Check out the newly released edition to learn more about key laboratory initiatives in shale gas utilization, alloy development, artificial intelligence and machine learning, microwave characterization reaction chemistry and more. Click here to read more.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL announced plans to provide up to $22 million for research aimed at achieving breakthroughs in the effort to capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air.  The initiative encompasses two concurrent funding announcements—one by DOE’s Office of Science (SC) and another by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE)—and will span the spectrum from fundamental research in materials and chemical sciences to field testing of prototypes.  “Accelerating success in direct air capture of carbon dioxide would strengthen America’s energy security and open new avenues for commercial applications,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “While we’ve seen real progress in this field, both basic and applied research are needed to develop highly effective direct air capture technologies on a large scale.”
The heart of the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) research site in Albany, Oregon, is its cutting-edge metallurgy and materials research capabilities. Situated on 42 acres, NETL’s Albany complex has specialized facilities for materials fabrication and performance testing of advanced high-temperature, corrosion-resistant structural ceramic composites and metal alloys. NETL-Albany traces its origins to 1943 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the U.S. Bureau of Mines had selected Albany as the site for the new Northwest Electro-Development Laboratory. Today NETL-Albany is internationally recognized for its leadership in designing, developing and deploying advanced materials for use in energy applications and extreme service environments.
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As a young boy in Taiwan, NETL’s Chung Yan Shih, Ph.D., enjoyed playing with Legos and similar toys. But while many children tended to place their Legos in large piles, Shih preferred to organize his blocks into small, separate groupings based on size and other characteristics. He found that approach made it possible to piece together buildings and other structures that sprang from his inquisitive mind with assembly-line efficiency. “I was always interested in new stuff and challenging stuff. I dreamed about finding ways to make processes more efficient,” Shih recalled. Today, as a senior strategic data scientist, Shih is living that dream. Using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data analytics algorithms, Shih and his NET colleagues are resolving complex research challenges to provide Americans with affordable and reliable energy from the nation’s abundant fossil fuel resources.
Energy 101
As a world leader in high-performance and advanced materials research, NETL’s Crosscutting High Performance Materials Program presents the Regional Work Force Initiative (RWFI) Energy 101 Series, which shares how the Lab’s work and expertise translates to savings and benefits for industry and the local economy. The Lab’s Crosscutting High Performance Materials Program enhances the nation’s industrial high-temperature materials supply chain by accelerating the development of improved steels, superalloys, and new advanced manufacturing methods. NETL also assists in completing full-scale manufacturing trials of power plant components, along with creating solutions to address challenges for both the existing fleet and future power systems. The program spans several areas of research such as Computational Materials Design, Advanced Structural Materials, Functional Materials for Process Performance and Advanced Manufacturing, and seeks to solve various costs and challenges faced by multiple industries.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) recently implemented a significant update to the Energy Data eXchange (EDX), a virtual platform for public curation and functionality to promote data-driven collaboration on research from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE). The update offers improved and streamlined functionality so data from a wide variety of sources can be accessed with ease through a secure platform to further FE’s development of critical energy technologies. NETL and other DOE entities rely on previous research across many sources and platforms to deliver the next generation of energy advancements. Many resources critical to FE were previously stored as paper-based assets or saved on outdated forms of media. This made the discoverability, accessibility and reuse of valuable data from those studies challenging, if not impossible, to support FE research needs.
Mac Kay
Working with university and industry partners, NETL is finding new ways to use concrete, a widely available and inexpensive building material, to create next-generation energy-storage systems and ensure the availability of reliable, affordable electricity as the nation shifts to renewable sources such as wind and solar. Concrete thermal energy storage (CTES) systems may be significantly less expensive than other technologies and have the potential to meet longer-duration storage needs, which will be critical as more renewable intermittent energy sources come online. NETL-supported projects under way are investigating how to transfer high-temperature, high-pressure steam produced by fossil fuel-burning power plants to concrete modules, where the thermal energy can be stored until needed and returned to the power plant to generate electricity in response to grid demand. As the research arm of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE), NETL is developing a comprehensive strategy to expand FE’s current portfolio to include an Energy Storage Technology Research Program.
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The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) serves the United States in a critical capacity, providing innovative solutions and cutting-edge research to power your computer, keep the lights on in your home and provide businesses, industries, hospitals and schools with abundant and affordable electricity. Although our work impacts nearly every aspect of American life, NETL isn’t exactly a household name. That’s why we invite you to take a few minutes and watch a short video that explains what we do and our commitment to enhancing the nation’s energy foundation while protecting the environment for future generation. For more than 100 years, NETL, one of 17 U.S. Department of Energy national labs, has helped to develop the energy that powers the nation. The work we do is taking on heightened significance as we add more renewable, intermittent energy sources to the grid to combat climate change while pioneering new technologies to expand domestic energy production and find new and cleaner uses for fossil fuels.
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As computational resources continue to evolve, NETL researchers look to new and more powerful tools to bolster their ability to model complex fossil energy power systems. The Lab has decades of experience developing this kind of software — known as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code — including the award-winning Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX). In recent years, machine learning (ML) techniques have been integrated into powerful computational platforms like Google’s Tensor Flow, which is revolutionizing the way NETL researchers write CFD code to accelerate the design of more energy-efficient systems.
Rare Earth
NETL-supported research to secure a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs) shows economic potential regarding efficiency and cost savings and progresses along the pathway to commercial viability. The Lab has funded and supported multiple projects across the nation to extract REEs from coal and coal-related byproducts. A notable example is coal acid mine drainage (AMD) and sludge originating from abandoned or still operating mines. However, NETL and its partners are making progress refining a method to clean up AMD in order to extract the vital REEs needed for the U.S. economy to stay competitive on the global market while providing environmental remediation. This sludge is enriched in REEs and contains an average total REE content several times higher than raw, untreated AMD. However, separating the valuable REEs can be very expensive.