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NETL’s 2021 Crosscutting Research and Advanced Energy Systems Project Review Meeting continues through May with seven days of presentations showcasing innovations to enhance the efficiency and reliability of electricity production and increase domestic supplies of rare earth elements (REEs). During more than 80 virtual sessions between May 17 and May 26, 2021, engineers and scientists working on NETL-supported projects will also discuss research driving technologies to lower water use in energy production and advancing the use of sensors and controls to gain pivotal insights into optimizing power plant performance.
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University-Led R&D Projects Look to Increase the Performance and Reliability of Hydrogen Power and Advance Zero-Emissions Technology  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced eight university-led projects will receive nearly $6.2 million in federal funding for research and development projects aimed at advancing hydrogen—a clean burning fuel—as a high-performing, efficient gas for turbine-based electricity generation. Increasing the reliability, efficiency, and performance of hydrogen power will reduce carbon emissions and advance the Biden-Harris administration's goal of a 100% clean electricity by 2035.  “Our economic competitors are getting serious about harnessing carbon emissions free power from hydrogen, and so the U.S. must as well,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Congress has entrusted DOE as the nation’s leading funder of the physical sciences, and we’re proud to invest in the brilliant scientific minds in our nation’s university system that are helping us ensure every American can access reliable, zero-carbon power.”  
Machine Learning
NETL is collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University to make faster and more accurate predictions on the properties of heat-resistant alloys and develop cost-effective, corrosion-resistant materials needed in flexible energy systems that will be highly efficient, produce fewer emissions and help meet the nation’s decarbonization goals while producing reliable supplies of electricity. To produce durable alloys to manufacture turbine blades, pressure vessels, heat exchangers and other equipment, NETL is collaborating with CMU on a two-year project to further explore the “PSP connection” — a fundamental tenet of materials science that maintains Processing generates the microStructure that mediates material Properties. The NETL-managed project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy High Performance Materials program, focuses on collecting microstructure image data and property metadata, and using  computational tools to discover new PSP connections and design microstructures to achieve desired properties.
With NETL funding, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are building a new prototype sensor for rapid in-field detection and characterization of rare earth elements (REEs) in fossil fuel-based resources and waste materials. REEs are vital in the construction of medical equipment, energy components, defense technologies, modern electronics and a host of other consumer goods. In many cases, these REEs cannot be substituted with other minerals, and other countries control most of the world’s REE supplies. The LANL researchers are combining their expertise to develop a backpack-size field-portable unit to provide simultaneous chemical and mineralogical analysis of REEs. Specifically, the LANL team is leveraging their research in laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) combined with Raman spectrometry.
Brian Anderson
NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., discussed “Paving the Way to a Decarbonized Energy Future” during his keynote address at the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources (BESR) Spring 2021 Meeting: Energy and Resources Needs for a Nation in Transition, which was held Monday, May 10. The focus of the BESR meeting, held by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, was framed around current energy and Earth resources research priorities, with an emphasis on how addressing those priorities could mitigate climate change while simultaneously decreasing adverse social and environmental impacts. In his address, Anderson highlighted NETL’s highly successful record of technological achievements to transition the U.S. to an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. He also outlined the critical role NETL scientists and engineers will play to address the Biden Administration’s ambitious climate goals of a carbon emissions-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
RWFI E-note Monthly
The April 2021 edition of RWFI E-Note Monthly is filled with updates on the latest opportunities to work with federal partners to jump-start community economic development efforts and establish strategies for revitalization and growth. The newsletter’s “Funding Spotlight” explores the FY21 U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center Competition, which enables institutions of higher education to establish and operate university centers specifically focused on using university assets to build regional economic ecosystems that support innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship. Another feature in this edition outlines how to apply for the U.S. Department of Energy traineeship in Accelerator Science and Engineering, which provides support to address critical, targeted workforce development needs in fields of interest that support the department’s mission. Information is also listed about programs to diversify the nation’s STEM (science, technology engineering and math) workforce.
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After taking first place in their respective regional Science Bowl competitions, Suncrest Middle School (Morgantown, West Virginia) and North Allegheny Cyber Academy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) competed in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® middle school preliminary and elimination rounds Saturday, May 8. Out of 52 teams consisting of 2,720 middle school students from across the country, Suncrest Middle School finished in the top 32 and North Allegheny Cyber Academy finished in the top 16. The National Science Bowl is a nationwide competition held annually to promote science and technology in education. High school students compete as teams in an action-packed quiz bowl format to answer questions on science, math and engineering. First-place winners of regional competitions from across the country competed over the weekend in three preliminary rounds, with the top 32 teams advancing to the elimination rounds. All events were held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Through an NETL-funded project, researchers from New Mexico State University and Arizona State University are taking cues from wildlife to create a new generation of autonomous robots to monitor and inspect vital energy and civil infrastructure. Power plants, chemical plants, gas, oil and water distribution networks all contain critical tubular structures for fluid transport, heat transfer, and more. Depending on the application, the structures might be subjected to numerous extreme conditions or sustain defects such as corrosion, cracks and stress-corrosion cracks throughout their service lifetimes. Inspection and maintenance of these components is vital for sustained and reliable operation, but several problems for human-based inspection exist. These include hazards, such as high temperatures and hard-to-reach places, that make it difficult and dangerous for humans to effectively inspect these structures.
Powerful Presentations
Throughout March, NETL’s inaugural Powerful Posters series provided the Lab’s research associates in the Professional Internship Program (PIP), Postgraduate Research Program (PGRP), and Faculty Research Program administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) with an opportunity to gain valuable research presentation experience. Powerful Posters allowed participants to display what they learned while researching under their respective NETL mentors currently in a virtual setting due to the pandemic. In addition to displaying their research, the participants got to connect with other NETL researchers, practice summarizing research and presenting it attractively, prepare for future poster sessions and competitions at professional meetings and conferences, and add to their presentation experience. A total of nine research associates presented their Powerful Posters to about 40 NETL researchers and staff.
Quantum Infromation
Projects supported by NETL in the emerging field of quantum information science (QIS) are opening doors to new technologies to better monitor operating conditions in advanced power plants and safeguard the nation’s energy infrastructure against cyberattacks. QIS, which investigates phenomena at the scale of nature’s smallest particles, is expected to profoundly change the practice of science and engineering in the coming decades. QIS technology exploits quantum phenomena for performing tasks that are impossible to do today, such as elucidating reaction mechanisms in complex chemical systems. NETL has launched an initiative for applying QIS to deliver integrated solutions to enable the transformation to a sustainable energy future.