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US Department of Energy National Science Bowl

Back to EurekAlert! A Service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science


NREL wins research and development awards

Anyone who knows his way around a kitchen is familiar with Teflon, the durable and scratch resistant non-stick coating that prevents food from sticking to a pan. A recent R&D 100 Award winner, Smart, High-Performace Polyphenylenesulfide (PPS) Coating System, works on the same principal as Teflon: the carbon steel coating resists corrosion at high temperatures and protect s steel from the environment.

This breakthrough, along with two additional technologies involving NREL researchers, recently won R&D 100 awards in the annual competitions for innovative technology sponsored by R&D Magazine.

The laboratory's three R&D 100 Awards for 2002 are for the PSS Coating System; a solar power system that produces electricity while still allowing sunlight to pass through it; and an incredibly thin ceramic fiber that effectively filters out bacteria and viruses and can enhance the performance of composite materials.

"Behind each award that NREL has received over the years is another success story about the important work performed by our research staff," NREL Director Richard Truly said.

The PPS Coating System, now being marketed under the trade name CurraLon, was in development for six years. PSS has a Teflon component to it that protects metals from the geothermal fluid that collects on the surface of metals known as scaling.

"The benefit of this product is three-fold," said NREL researcher and PSS lead developer Keith Gawlik. "There is a reduction in capitol costs as well as maintenance costs and the coated steel is easier to clean.

The award was jointly given to NREL, the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Ticona Corp. and Bob Curran & Sons Corp.

Another winner, the PowerView Semi-Transparent Photovoltaic Module, developed by NREL and BP Solar, is a novel system that serves as a roof or window while creating power for a building. The Power View modules are based on BP Solar's Millennia thin film amorphous silicon modules that are opaque. A special laser process removes small patterned portions of the photovoltaic material, typically five to 10 percent of the module area, allowing white light to pass through, creating a translucent effect similar to the border of a vehicle windshield treated with black dots for tinting.

"This product is really something that is down to earth," said NREL researcher Bolko von Roedern. "We take great pride in working with BP on this project."

The panels are seen as a functional replacement for conventional glass in walls, canopies, atriums, entrances and facades in commercial and residential architecture. BP already has incorporated the systems in more than 150 of its service stations.

NREL developers were Harin Ullal, Ken Zweibel and Roedern.

The third winner, the NanoCeram Nanoalumina Fiber, is a nanoscale alumina-based ceramic fiber that when incorporated in a filter can eliminate 99.99999 percent of viruses and bacteria from contaminated air or water. It can be used to clean heavy metals from polluted water, as a growth media for microbes for bio-medical purposes, and holds promise as a lattice for artificial bone growth. NREL won jointly with Argonide Corp., and the Design Technology Center of Tomsk, Russia.

NREL researchers on the project were David Ginley, Tanya Rivkin, Calvin Curtis, Alexander Miedaner and Kim Jones.

"We are still amazed at how versatile this unique fiber is proving to be," said Ginley, an NREL team leader who holds the distinction of working on separate projects that have resulted in four of the R&D 100 Awards that have gone to NREL. "This fiber material has led to breakthrough products in several areas, and more are on the way."

This year's awards are the 32nd, 33rd and 34th won by NREL since 1982.



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