NREL: Technology Commercialization Fund Awards NREL $5 Million To Bring Tech to Market

This year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funded 16 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) awards through its Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF). The $5 million funded by DOE—roughly a third of the available TCF budget allocated to the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)—is matched with another $5.1 million of non-federal funds provided by industry partners.

The TCF program aims to increase the number of energy technologies developed at DOE’s national laboratories that graduate to achieve commercial impact, as well as to enhance the department’s technology transitions system with a forward-looking and competitive approach to lab–industry partnerships.

“The TCF program supports collaborative development of NREL technologies toward market deployment,” said Eric Payne, TCF capture manager. “TCF bridges a perennial gap in federally funded RDD&D [research, development, demonstration, and deployment] in that funding is available for lab-scale development, scale-up, piloting, prototyping, further experiments, etc., needed to bring technologies from the lab bench to market.”

Across the national laboratory system, DOE announced $30 million through the TCF this year to mature a total of 68 projects featuring promising energy technologies.

A Path Forward for NREL Projects
From aviation fuel to self-healing distribution grids, NREL’s winning 2021 submissions span several technology areas. Four projects received half a million dollars or more, with “Energy Storing Efficient HVAC” receiving $595,557, “Grid-Edge Intelligent Distribution Automation System for Self-Healing Distribution Grids” receiving $550,000, and “Field Testing and Validation of HOPP” and “Inexpensive Superinsulation for Cryogenic and Highly Insulating Applications” receiving $500,000 each.

Another standout in a list of exceptional projects comes from NREL molecular biology researcher Min Zhang in partnership with Novozymes, North Carolina State University, and the University of Kentucky. The project, “Robust Carbonic Anhydrases for Novel Biological, Sustainable, and Low-Energy CO2 Scrubbing Process from Waste Gases,” will design and optimize novel enzymes, called “carbonic anhydrase,” to capture carbon dioxide from combustion emissions and convert them to bicarbonate, which can be used for myriad applications.

“In establishing the TCF program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress recognized that national labs innovate at an early stage of science and technology, but it would remain science fiction without proper funding and working with industry to actually deploy,” Payne said.

The full list of this year’s winning projects from NREL:

FueL Additives for Solid Hydrogen (FLASH) Carriers for Electric Aviation, $250,000
Commercialization of Distribution System Load Modeling Tool for Improved DER Interconnection Studies, $250,000
Inexpensive Superinsulation for Cryogenic and Highly Insulating Applications, $500,000
Particle Thermal Energy Storage and Efficient Heat Exchanger for Carbon-Free Industry Heat Supply, $249,500
Robust Carbonic Anhydrases for Novel Biological, Sustainable, and Low-Energy CO2 Scrubbing Process from Waste Gases, $250,000
Bio-based Insecticides from Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass, $100,000
Grid-Edge Intelligent Distribution Automation System for Self-Healing Distribution Grids, $550,000
Field Testing and Validation of HOPP, $500,000
Offshore Wind Turbine Digital Twin for the Prediction of Component Failures, $200,000
OpenOA, $249,950
Electrodialysis-Coupled Desiccant Air Conditioning, $250,000
Reducing Protein Production Costs to Enable Cell Free Biocatalysis, $400,000
Energy Storing Efficient HVAC, $595,557
HYdrogen based Power grid support using ElectrolyzeRs with Value stacking (HYPER-V), $250,000
Real Time-Optimal Power Flow Based Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS), $299,329
Development of High-Quality, Very-Large-Grained Cd(Se, Te) Thin Films for CdTe Solar Modules, $150,000
Long-Term Impact of TCF Awards
Since 2016, NREL has received more than $22.6 million in funding for 72 projects from the TCF. The funding provided to NREL researchers through the TCF has gone on to create game-changing technologies.

“Our ability to continue to receive a significant amount of the funding speaks to our researchers’ ability to work with partners and the quality of their proposals each year,” NREL Technology Transfer Office (TTO) Director Anne Miller said. “TCF is a program that supports NREL’s mission by enabling lab-developed technologies to be deployed.”

In 2019, an NREL project focused on flexible perovskite solar cells received $745,500 from the TCF to further investigate flexible PV technologies with low cost, high production rate, and high specific power, which could enable the use of portable or wearable PV devices. The novel perovskite material received a prestigious R&D 100 Award, an honor given to the 100 most innovative technologies of the previous year.

With $750,000 from the TCF in 2018, NREL’s collaboration with Autodesk is transforming how architects and engineers design buildings by ensuring the tool most used for this process, Revit, has energy-efficient aspects built in. By closely coupling building information modeling with building energy modeling, Revit makes it easy for buildings professionals to evaluate the impacts of their design choices on energy use.

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