Honors Gallery

ERDC & DOE: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Award: Interagency Partnership

Year: 2018

Award Type: National

Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC)

Since 2010, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) has operated the long-standing and successful US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Internship/Partnership Participation Program under an Interagency Agreement between the ERDC and the US Department of Energy (DOE).

ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) under contract with the DOE. ERDC’s participation in the Internship/Research Participation Program provides opportunities for postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, visiting scientists, postgraduate interns, and students to participate in programs, projects, and activities supportive of ERDC. Since the partnership began, 221 postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, visiting scientists, postgraduate interns and students have participated in ERDC research and programs.

A high priority research project at the ERDC Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), entitled “CNT-Based Textiles for Electricity Generation” addressed a problem faced by soldiers in the field—maintaining access to a source of power for portable electronic communication devices. Solar powered devices require relatively strong sunlight, which is not always available. An innovative alternative solution was to design and test a portable system to harvest lower speed wind energy to both generate and store electrical power.

Four months of constant measuring in an open field showed that during darkened evening hours 70 percent of average wind speed was less than or equal to three meters per second – too slow for a wind turbine, but enough to make a light strip of fabric flutter – a significant discovery.

The resulting technology is the Flutter-Mallard portable sustainable electrical generation device. The device generates electricity at remote locations for very low and variable wind situations through flexible strips affixed to pick-up coils with magnets that convert the vibrating energy into electrical charge. The electronic device turns the constantly changing wind speed, and therefore varying power, into a steady electric current. The device generates about three watts of power. Researchers are now experimenting with strips made of flexible photovoltaic cells that could serve as additional sources of energy during the day.

The team also addressed the need to develop supercapacitor technology to store the generated energy. The result is a CNT-based flexible supercapacitor storage technology.

Uses for this technology include Army forward facilities, Special Forces, disaster/humanitarian relief efforts, sustainable energy generation (including in dense urban settings and in flowing water), and electrical energy storage applications both fixed and mobile (i.e., vehicles).

Multiple publications and awards resulted from this partnership research project, and the technology was featured at the first Pentagon Laboratory Demonstration Day (11-15 May 2015) held in Washington, DC. Two resulting patents have been filed (“Fluid Generator System” and “Polymer Supercapacitor and Method of Manufacture”) and multiple CRADAs with industry partners have been signed in the area of electrical energy storage.

Contact: Dr. Phoebe Lenear, (217) 373-7234, [email protected].