The MIT Technology Review has recently posted an interesting article looking at five of the most interesting new energy projects that will receive government funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). In the latest announcement by ARPA-E, 66 new research projects will receive a total of $130 million.
Gas to Liquid Fuels – several projects received funding to find a method of turning natural gas into fuels that are liquid at room temperature, at a very low cost. It is hoped that this discovery will greatly decrease oil imports.
Pratt & Whitney, one of the companies with a gas-to-liquid fuel project, received $4 million to develop their system which would partially oxidise the natural gas at high temperatures and pressures inside a gas turbine. This process then creates new hydrocarbon compounds that are far easier to convert into liquid fuel.
Reducing Demand for Rare Earth Materials – Rare earth metals are vital to most modern technologies, especially clean energy technologies, in components such as magnets; but they are also rare, and very expensive.
Electron Energy has received $3 million to develop their revolutionary manufacturing technique which could drastically cut the amount of rare earth metals needed in the creation of magnets. Their technology mixes tiny amounts of rare earth metals in with much cheaper materials. The magnetic properties of the rare earth materials then transfer into the rest of the cheap material.
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Cheap Superconductors – following a very similar idea to the rare earth metals project mentioned above, Grid Logic will receive $4 million to develop a method of mixing small quantities of superconducting materials with other much cheaper materials. The superconductive properties then transfer into the cheap material, allowing long superconducting cables to be laid for the efficient transport of electricity, at very low cost.
Wind Turbine Blades Made of Cloth – Wind turbine efficiency increases with size, and for that reason wind turbines are getting larger and larger. However, the size is now at a stage where it is limited by the towns through which the turbine blades have to be transported. The extremely long, wide blades are constructed in a factory and then trucked to the site of the turbine, yet this is now proving difficult as the roadways are just not large enough to accommodate blades of a larger size.
GE Water and Power will receive nearly $4 million to design a new wind turbine blade that consists of a cloth stretched taught over a frame. The blades can then be transported in pieces and assembled on site, theoretically making the size of the blades, and the turbines, limitless.
Super Efficiency Natural Gas Plants – It is possible to burn natural gas in a mixture of pure oxygen to create incredibly high temperatures, reduce the consumption of natural gas, reduce the volume of carbon emissions, and overall vastly increase the efficiency of the whole process. However the problem has always been that the ultra-high temperatures can end up melting the materials that the gas turbine is made of.
Pratt & Whitney will receive $600,000 to use its knowledge and expertise in the field of liquid-fuelled rockets to develop a cooling system for gas turbines that could make burning the gas with oxygen at high temperatures a practical option.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com