Laboratory, partners secure $4.7 million in DOE funding

Private-sector partnerships will accelerate bringing promising energy technologies, solutions to the commercial market

July 14, 2021

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The Terrestrial Energy-Efficient Long-Range Network (TERN) for Remote Monitoring of power transmission lines in real time was one of five Los Alamos projects to secure Department of Energy funds.

Los Alamos, N.M., July 14, 2021Los Alamos National Laboratory and private-sector partners have secured a total of $4.7 million in Technology Commercialization Funds from the Department of Energy (DOE) to accelerate bringing cutting-edge energy technologies and solutions to the marketplace. 

“These partnerships are an example of what Los Alamos does best, fostering innovation in science and technology to meet the nation’s toughest energy challenges,” said Laboratory Deputy Director for Science, Technology, and Engineering John Sarrao. “We are advancing promising innovations for fuel-cell technology; remote, real-time monitoring of power lines; the use of machine learning on massive geothermal datasets; and more.”

The DOE awarded more than $65 million in public and private funding to 68 projects in late June to commercialize promising energy technologies from Los Alamos and other national laboratories, to help achieve President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We need to work with our nation’s savviest entrepreneurs to fast-track solutions from DOE’s National Labs into commercial-ready technologies,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a statement. “These projects will help us deploy game-changing innovations that position us to win the clean energy race, while creating jobs and opportunity across every pocket of the country.”

The Los Alamos projects and funding amounts are as follows:

  • Actinide-Molten Fluoride Salt Property Measurement and Low-Level Detection with Kairos Power of Alameda, Calif., $1.5 million
  • Additive Manufacturing of Carbon-Carbon Composites with Tailored Thermal Transport Properties with Northrup Grumman Corp. of Elkton, Md., $1.4 million
  • DME as a Renewable Hydrogen Carrier: Innovative Approach to Renewable Hydrogen Production with Oberon Fuels of San Diego, Calif., $1.5 million
  • Terrestrial Energy-Efficient Long-Range Network (TERN) for Remote Monitoring with a partner, $125,000
  • Unsupervised Physics-informed Machine Learning of Complex Natural and Engineered Geoscience Processes with Julia Computing Inc. of Newton, Mass., $250,000

Actinide-Molten Fluoride Salt Property Measurement and Low-Level Detection

Los Alamos, in partnership with Kairos Power (KP), will study molten salt as a coolant for safer, next-generation nuclear power—in support of the KP Fluoride-Salt-Cooled High-Temperature Reactor (FHP). A bath of molten salt with low fuel inputs and waste outputs could give nuclear energy a place in the renewable world. The Los Alamos molten salt team has expertise in actinide chemistry, materials science, and engineering. The team has demonstrated success in multiple molten salt reactor-related research and development efforts. In this project, the Laboratory and Kairos Power will work together to develop new technologies for the study of chemical reactions within, and thermophysical properties of, uranium- and plutonium-containing molten fluoride salt.

Additive Manufacturing of Carbon-Carbon Composites with Tailored Thermal Transport Properties  

Los Alamos and Northrup Grumman Corp. will use additive manufacturing processes for carbon-carbon manufacturing to address the problem of thermal management of complex systems. Almost all engineering systems require heat to perform work; however, heat loss to adjacent components that may be thermally sensitive creates complexities in designing efficient systems. This project features a unique approach to thermal management by channeling heat away from reactor locations that are sensitive to high temperature, while keeping the heat in locations most desirable to generating electricity, which is most efficient at high temperature.

DME as a Renewable Hydrogen Carrier: Innovative Approach to Renewable Hydrogen Production

The Oberon Fuels and Los Alamos partnership will accelerate Oberon Fuels’ innovative approach to advancing fuel-cell technology by developing renewable hydrogen (H2) from hydrogen-rich dimethyl ether (DME) molecules produced from waste and/or renewable resources. DME as a renewable hydrogen carrier provides the most economical and technical realizable pathway to store and transport hydrogen required for fuel-cell vehicles. This effort directly aligns with DOE’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technologies Office’s funded initiatives of H2@Scale, Hydrogen Storage and the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium.

Terrestrial Energy-Efficient Long-Range Network (TERN) for Remote Monitoring

Los Alamos and a partner will seek to provide real-time monitoring of power transmission lines, which is of paramount concern during extreme weather events such as the recent megafires, hurricanes, and tornados. Field operations to identify downed lines over the power grid are required to generate actionable information for utilities, and state and local government authorities. The Laboratory will use its award-winning Long-Range Wireless Sensor Network technology, an adaptive network of sensing nodes, to yield datasets with respect to GPS location and local weather conditions, such as wind speed and air temperature, to boost the data-to-actionable information collection timeframes from hours to seconds. The Lab plans to partner with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Center for Conservation Bioacoustics.

Unsupervised Physics-Informed Machine Learning of Complex Natural and Engineered Geoscience Processes

Los Alamos and Julia Computing will apply the Laboratory’s novel, machine-learning software suite SmartTensors to identify patterns in massive geothermal and oil/gas datasets to discover hidden features by finding intrinsic similarities among the data elements. The team will develop a commercial framework for SmartTensors tailored toward natural and engineered geoscience applications that will facilitate extracting hidden signatures in geothermal and oil/gas datasets. These hidden signatures will improve the understanding of geothermal and hydrocarbon extraction processes from field data at regional sites received from geophysical, satellite, and geothermal sources. The commercial SmartTensors framework also will be applicable to perform machine-learning analyses related to other areas including climate, wildfires, and watershed hydrology.

As an open-source platform, SmartTensors will be available to the community and industry to also analyze datasets at JuliaHub, a collaborative cloud computing service developed by Julia Computing.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.