Sandia Labs a Source of Clean Energy Innovation
Clean energy innovations are coming out of Sandia National Laboratories like waves in the ocean on a windy day. And some of them involve both wind and waves.
Researchers in marine hydrokinetics are using expertise developed for wind power generation to accelerate progress in tidal and wave energy generation. In this field and others, Sandia scientists are developing new materials and processes that have real-world applications.
Other environmentally significant innovations coming out of Sandia include:
•Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) that can capture and remove radioactive gas from spent nuclear fuel. The process has applications in nuclear fuel reprocessing, cleanup of nuclear plant accidents, and high-level waste reduction.
•Experimental “smart outlets” that can measure, monitor and control electric loads without connection to a central computer. The idea is that the next generation of semiconductors will lead to a smart grid that can reconfigure itself as conditions change.
•Nano-engineered synthetic membranes that mimic how the smallest bits of nature purify water. Using reverse osmosis technology, the new membranes improve water purification tenfold over existing state-of-the-art membranes. The development has huge potential for parts of the world that lack access to clean water.
•A demand response inverter that brings down the cost of using solar power. The inverter is designed to make photovoltaic power more efficient, more reliable and more cost-effective, and encourage addition of solar systems to the electric grid.
Two of the projects – the inverter and the purification membranes – captured R&D Magazine’s 100 Awards in June 2011. Considered “the Nobel prizes of technology,” the annual evaluation highlights outstanding advances in applied technologies, with a focus on practical impact.
Part of Sandia’s focus in hydrokinetics is a partnership with Verdant Power, a New York City company that will operate the first U.S. commercial tidal power plant. Sandia researchers have studied different blade shapes and materials, fluid dynamics and other factors, looking at the issue just as researchers a generation or more ago studied the challenges and promise of wind power.
“We want to take what we’ve learned to compress the development from the 30 years it took wind energy down to 10 years,” says Daniel Laird, manager of Sandia’s Water Power Technologies Department.