Award Highlights

R&D 100 Awards Honor NETL Technology

The R&D 100 Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of innovation.” For over 50 years, R&D Magazine, a publication dedicated to research and development efforts across the globe, has been recognizing excellence in technological innovations—honoring the efforts put forth by scientists and engineers and bolstering the success of new, ground-breaking technology. In 2016, NETL was the recipient of three individual R&D 100 Awards for innovations it discovered and developed that were judged by an independent panel to be among the most significant game-changing technologies of the year. These three award-winning innovations are just a few of the Laboratory’s initiatives, which seek to discover, integrate, and mature technologies that enhance the nation’s energy security and protect the environment for future generations.

Computationally Optimized Heat Treatment of Metal Alloys


Conventional processes for homogenizing metal alloys are trial-and-error in their approach, resulting in increased process cost and limits to the possible paths that may be explored. NETL’s Computationally Optimized Homogenization Heat Treatment Process provides an easy method to optimize heat treatment to achieve the desired degree of homogenization with a minimum of furnace time.

The primary application for this technology is for alloys that are exposed to extreme environments, including heat-resistant alloys or those needing corrosion/oxidation resistance. A properly homogenized alloy will not only perform better but will also have an extended lifecycle.

Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI) Toolset


The CCSI Toolset is the only suite of computational tools and models specifically tailored to help maximize learning and reduce risk during the scale-up process for carbon-capture technologies. This is critically important because carbon-capture pilot projects represent an expensive, limited opportunity to collect the data necessary to move to commercial scale. Each module in the toolset is specifically tailored to properly guide experimental and pilot-scale testing to acquire important data.

HVAC Load Reduction Technology for Commercial Buildings


Leveraging the laboratory’s proven expertise in sorbent technology development, NETL partnered with enVerid Systems to create unique multi-functional sorbents that can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds at ambient temperatures and which regenerate below 60 degrees Celsius. With these new sorbents, enVerid was able to develop an HVAC load reduction (HLR) technology, which uses a module integrated into existing HVAC systems to scrub the air of dangerous indoor air contaminants. This technology helps to reduce energy use and lower costs by recirculating already-cooled inside air.

NETL Researcher Alexandra Hakala Received U.S. Government’s Highest Honor for Early Career Research Scientists


Dr. Alexandra Hakala, (a geochemist at NETL), has been named as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)—the highest honor the U.S. government can bestow on scientists or engineers in the early stages of their research careers.

The awards were announced by the White House on January 9, 2017. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. The awards are conferred annually by the president and are based on recommendations from participating government agencies.

Dr. Hakala was selected for her impressive accomplishments, innovation, and technical leadership. Her work has focused on increasing the efficiency of domestic energy production while minimizing the environmental impacts associated with the use of fossil fuel.

Dr. Cynthia Powell, executive director of NETL’s Research and Innovation Center said, “Ale is an excellent geochemist, and her research is making a tremendous impact on our understanding of how fossil energy development can impact the environment. She is a tireless advocate for sustainable energy systems, and an inspiration to her colleagues at the laboratory and her friends in the community. It is easy to see why she was selected to receive the PECASE award.”
Dr. Hakala joined NETL in 2008 and has made contributions to research on groundwater chemistry, carbon capture and storage, and shale gas development. Her environmental geochemistry skills have greatly improved understanding of toxic and nontoxic metal mobility in ground water systems, long-term geologic storage of CO2, and safe natural gas development—important to long-term energy resource development.

Dr. Hakala serves as one of the Energy Department’s representatives on the Technical Subcommittee for the Interagency Oil and Gas Task Force. She also serves as a Science Ambassador for the National Academies of Science and Engineering, sharing her enthusiasm and dedication to her profession and encouraging others to pursue careers in the science and technological fields. In addition, Dr. Hakala mentors students and postgraduate researchers through the ORISE research associate program at NETL, and serves as an external committee member for PhD dissertation and MS thesis committees.

PECASE Awards have encouraged and accelerated American innovation to grow the economy and tackle scientific challenges. In addition to Dr. Hakala, this year’s award recipients are from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Veterans Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Institution; and the intelligence community.

NETL Research Team Wins Carnegie Science Award


An NETL research team has been honored with a Carnegie Science Award in recognition of work supporting manufacturing and materials science.

In a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, NETL assembled a multi-disciplinary team tasked with developing high-performance optical sensors capable of operating in harsh environments, such as those found in fossil-fuel power generations systems including solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).

Western Pennsylvania relies on the coal and natural gas industry, which provides jobs and stimulates the local economy while also serving as primary energy sources for the region. However, the environments in fossil fuel–based power generation and advanced manufacturing processes can be extreme, with temperatures ranging from 800 °C to 1,600 °C and highly oxidizing, reducing, erosive, or corrosive conditions. Sensor technology is meant to monitor and maximize the efficiency of industrial and power generation processes, but it often fails under these conditions—limiting the ability of operators to optimize efficiency, minimize environmental impacts, and transition to next-generation processes.

The research team set out to develop high-performance sensors capable of withstanding the environmental factors to which previous sensor technology would succumb. Particular attention was paid to the development of sensors compatible with SOFC systems—a promising, emerging technology for electricity generation, which can be fueled by coal-derived syngas. The team demonstrated a new optical sensor technology capable of measuring temperatures and gas compositions inside an operating SOFC. This cutting-edge technology holds promise for future commercialization and industrial adoption, resulting in regional economic growth and job creation.

The Carnegie Science Awards were created by the Carnegie Science Center two decades ago to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in western Pennsylvania. The achievements of the multi-disciplinary team assembled between NETL and the University of Pittsburgh are remarkable and will benefit the region for decades to come.