News Release

Release Date: March 15, 2017

NETL Research Team Wins Carnegie Science Award


A research team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been honored with a Carnegie Science Award in recognition of the ways their work has serviced manufacturing and materials science in the western Pennsylvanian area.

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.