National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) - Pittsburgh, PA


FLC Region

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626 Cochrans Mill Road
P.O. Box 10940
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0940
United States

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The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) only Government-Owned, Government-Operated (GOGO) Laboratory. NETL possesses the competencies and capabilities to lead critical strategic initiatives that will advance America’s energy, economic, and manufacturing priorities. The research conducted at the Laboratory enables domestic coal, natural gas and oil to economically power our Nation’s homes, industries, businesses and transportation while protecting our environment and enhancing our energy independence. NETL has five locations across the country that support DOE’s mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy and environmental challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. The laboratory’s three research sites in Albany, OR, Morgantown, WV, and Pittsburgh, PA conduct a broad range of energy and environmental research and development (R&D). NETL also has strategic offices in Houston, Texas, and Anchorage, Alaska, that address challenges unique to those energy-rich regions.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania R&D NETL campus is a 62.6-acre campus located in Allegheny County in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh campus was established by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1945 as part of the Bureau’s Synthetic Fuels Research Branch. That research has evolved to include core capabilities in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials Science and Engineering focused on intelligent materials design; synthesis and testing of functional materials to facilitate gas separations; mitigation of pollutant emissions, such as mercury and sulfur from fossil energy effluent streams; enabling sensor technologies; and production and recovery of high-value products from fossil fuel resources. The Pittsburgh campus also has extensive core capabilities in Decision Science and Analysis and Systems Engineering and Integration to support the DOE mission.


The National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) mission focuses on the discovery, development, and deployment of technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. These advanced technologies enable fossil fuels to produce the clean, reliable, and affordable energy needed to support increased domestic manufacturing, improve infrastructure, enhance global competitiveness, revitalize the workforce, and free the U.S. from dependence on foreign oil.

Technology Disciplines

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A Unique Split Laser System for Environmental Monitoring
Allyl-Containing Ionic Liquid Solvents for Co2 Capture
Application of Immobilized Amine Sorbents for Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Aqueous Systems
Application of Oxide Dispersion Strengthening Coatings for Improved Transpiration Cooling
Capacitance Probe for Detection of Anomalies in Nonmetallic Plastic Pipe
Catalysts for Oxidation of Mercury in Flue Gas
Catalytic Coal Gasification Process for the Production of Methane-Rich Syngas
Chemical Looping Air Separation Unit and Methods of Use
Chromia Refractory Brick with Carbon Treatment for Resistance to Slag Penetration in Gasifier Environments
CO2 Separation from Low-Temperature Flue Gases


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Analytical Laboratories
Engineered Natural Systems Laboratory
Fuels Processing Laboratory
High Bay Reaction Chemistry & Engineering Laboratory
Polymer Synthesis Laboratory
Surface Science Laboratory
Water Tunnel Facility

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This Funding Opportunity Announcement is seeking financial assistance applications for projects to design, construct, and operate large-scale pilots of transformational coal technologies aimed at enabling step change improvements in coal powered system performance, efficiency, and cost of electricity.  The FOA will support the design, construction, and operation of two large-scale pilots for transformational coal technologies.

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For years, companies and manufacturers in the specialty metals industry have been unable to identify certain defects in the metals, or ingots, caused during the vacuum arc remelting (VAR) and electro-slag remelting (ESR) processes. Imperfections that occur during VAR melting can cause catastrophic failure during the ingot’s final application. Manufacturers complete thorough nondestructive testing of all ingots before sales to ensure that they eliminate defects that could lead to failures prior to sales, thus avoiding potential safety risks from parts made from these materials.

The added cost and inefficiency of such testing and the safety risks associated with the lack of control over furnace operations during the VAR process did not sit well with many manufacturers. Enter the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) arc position sensing (APS) technology. 

Developed by Drs. Paul King and Rigel Woodside, the APS system allows manufacturing operators to digitally monitor arc location during melting in real time through noninvasive magnetic sensing. Based on NETL’s patented electric current locator (ECL) technology, the APS technology utilizes the Maxwell-Ampere Law to relate magnetic fields to electric currents in cases where diffuse current paths are not available, such as in VAR and ESR melting.

Through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) established between NETL and the Specialty Metals Processing Consortium, King and Woodside completed research and development (R&D) of the APS technology in 2009 while Woodside was working on his doctorate under Dr. King’s tutelage at Oregon State University. During that time, both King and Woodside were employed by NETL. Much of the initial development of the APS system took place at NETL in Albany, Oregon, and was validated on an industrial VAR at Allegheny Technologies, Incorporated’s (ATI) Albany operations, where continuous operating data that was collected revealed exciting new operating characteristics and conditions that had previously been inaccessible through traditional measurements.

Shortly after completion of the technology, King and Woodside began to receive considerable interest from industry, as well as several accolades. In 2013, the APS system earned an R&D 100 Award as one of the year’s top innovations and an FLC Far West Regional Award for Outstanding Technology. In 2010 Woodside also received the IEEE 12MTC Best Graduate Paper Award for his outstanding development of the APS technology. 

Based on the positive industry feedback, King and Woodside knew they had a novel technology that could be commercialized to benefit the specialty metals processing market. In 2014, King left NETL to focus on commercializing the APS technology. The two formed KW Associates, LLC, later that year, and in 2016 began doing business as Ampere Scientific (AmpSci).

In 2015, AmpSci undertook a service contract with ATI to design, build and install an industrial hardening APS system at the company’s Millersburg location. AmpSci’s work was awarded an Oregon BEST Commercialization Gap Grant to further develop the APS system and create an online tool for arc event identification.

AmpSci has since deployed the APS system, now branded VARmetric, which includes software tools ObserVAR and AnalyVAR, and which allows operators to see inside the remelting process as well as define, detect, and process arc distribution data during melting. AmpSci often compares VARmetric’s visual detection capability for remelting furnace systems as similar to that of an MRI machine to the human body, in that before its existence operators were unable to see the full parameters and data of their work. In addition to advancements in the technology, the company has grown from two employees to five, and is looking to add more in the near future as the product and clientele progress.

The development of the APS system, VARmetric, and the success of AmpSci continue to evolve and provide safety-critical, energy-efficient applications to a growing number of industry manufacturers. 

The APS system has truly revolutionized the specialty metals manufacturing industry by allowing operators to physically see, obtain and analyze data from the VAR melting process that was not possible before the development of this technology. In using the APS technology as the driving force behind the additional tools that AmpSci is developing, manufacturers and operators agree that VAR analysis capabilities have advanced far beyond what anyone in the industry thought possible. In addition, the specialty metals industry will save millions of dollars in energy costs due to a drastic decrease in nondestructive ingot testing that previously would frequently occur. The success of this commercialized technology continues to reach its full potential as many companies in the industry begin to adopt the APS-driven VARmetric system and apply it to their commercial needs.

NETL has licensed one of its patented CO2 –removal sorbents to Boston-based technology company enVerid Systems ( enVerid has adopted the sorbent for use in their proprietary Heat Load Reduction (HLR) module, a retrofit air-recirculation system designed to increase the energy efficiency of commercial HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.

HVAC is one of the largest draws of electric power in the United States. In many cities, it consumes more than half of the load on the electric grid. When HVAC systems operate in commercial and public buildings, exhaled CO2 quickly builds up, as do organic vapors from cooking, cleaning, and other activities. Typical air-handling systems remove contaminants by replenishing indoor air with outdoor air. Bringing fresh air to temperature, however, contributes significantly to the energy demands of HVAC; efficiently maintaining air quality at low cost is one of the industry’s primary goals.

In response, enVerid developed the HLR solution to clean and recirculate indoor air, allowing the building to maintain superior indoor air quality without the need for constant inflow of large amounts of outside air. The system draws recirculating air in, cycles it through a series of purification processes, and returns it to the building at its original temperature.

Though NETL’s CO2-removal sorbents are primarily developed to control CO2 emissions from power plants, enVerid sees promise in using them to perform CO2-removal as part of the HLR’s overall function. The selected sorbents can be regenerated at low temperatures, saving energy and costs in comparison to currently available, high temperature products. Importantly, they are also unaffected by the moisture inherent in HVAC systems, a limitation of many commercial sorbents.

Under the patent license agreement, NETL will receive royalties as enVerid begins commercial sale of its HLR technology.

Converting heavy hydrocarbons, such as diesel and coal-based fuels, into hydrogen-rich synthesis gas is a necessary step for fuel cells and other applications. The high sulfur and aromatic content of these fuels poses a major technical challenge since these components can deactivate reforming catalysts. Taking on this challenge, NETL researchers invented a novel fuel-reforming catalyst that overcomes limitations of current catalysts by efficiently reforming diesel fuel while maintaining thermal stability and resistance to sulfur, aromatics, and carbon formation.

This catalyst technology was exclusively licensed to start-up company Pyrochem Catalyst Corporation in 2011. Established with financial support from Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works, Pyrochem Catalyst intends to conduct its research and development activities in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is hoped that the successful commercialization of the catalyst will lead to the creation of high-technology jobs in the region. This agreement marks the first time that an NETL-licensed technology has been used as a basis for the creation of a start-up company.

Developing stable catalysts to convert diesel fuel to pure hydrogen is an important advance in the implementation of fuel cells in areas such as stationary power generation and transportation. The ability to produce hydrogen at the diesel source point will allow for more efficient and economical generation of hydrogen and lead to greater adoption of fuel cell technology.

The use of pyrochlore catalysts, in conjunction with hydrogen-based fuel cell auxiliary power systems, will reduce the economic and environmental costs of diesel engine idling. Significant monetary savings will be realized through decreased fuel consumption and extended engine life. Environmentally, reduced diesel usage will result in lower emissions of oxides and particulate matter.

This technology was the recipient of a 2011 Federal Laboratory Consortium award for “Excellence in Technology Transfer”.

Refractory materials are used to line the interior of slagging gasifiers, where a carbon-based feedstock such as coal, petcoke, and/or biomass, is converted at high temperatures in an oxygen-deficient environment to produce synthesis gas, which can be used in power generation.

The refractory lining is necessary to protect the steel shell of the gasification chamber from the harsh environment occurring during gasification. Refractory materials that can withstand severe operating conditions for long periods of time are needed to ensure the gasification process is continuous, efficient, and reliable. High chrome oxide refractory materials traditionally used as gasifier linings fail in 3 to 24 months, requiring a gasifier to be completely shut down for material replacement. The poor service life, replacement time, and costs associated with the gasifier shutdown have been major drawbacks, reducing on-line gasifier availability and reliability, as well as limiting commercial deployment of gasification.

To address this issue, NETL researchers developed a phosphate-modified high-chrome oxide material that increases service life up to 50 percent over traditional liner materials. Additionally, the new refractory material reduces operating costs by improving on-line availability. NETL collaborated in this effort with Pittsburgh-based Harbison-Walker Refractories to produce and evaluate the novel refractory lining. Harbison-Walker Refractories subsequently licensed the refractory for commercialization as AUREX™95P, which is marketed as a liner material for commercial gasifiers. Since introduction in 2007, Harbison-Walker has experienced steady sales growth and AUREX 95P, a material which has become the industry standard for high wear areas in slagging coal gasifiers.

The continued advancement of gasification technology requires new and improved refractory materials, such as AUREX 95P, that will increase the cycle time between maintenance shutdowns, as well as increase the gasifier’s reliability and availability. The AUREX 95P represents the most significant improvement in gasifier refractories in over 30 years and will help eliminate roadblocks that limit the use of gasification technology for electric power and other product production.

An NETL-inspired partnership that combined MDS Coating Technology Corporation’s BlackGold® coating innovation with the in-the-trenches knowledge of end users like Delta Airlines, and the materials performance expertise resident at NETL, has resulted in a new nanotechnology breakthrough in the marketplace.

During aircraft operation, gas turbine engines are continuously ingesting erosive media, such as dirt, sand, rain and sea water, and corrosive agents that are suspended in the air. These particles reach very high speeds in the gas flow through the engine, damaging and eroding the parts that they strike, and in particular the fast moving blades in the compressor section. The deterioration of the blades leads to expensive repairs, reduced performance, increased fuel consumption, and unscheduled engine downtime. The engineered nanostructure of the BlackGold® coating makes it highly resistant to erosion and when applied to compressor airfoil surfaces can significantly reduce material loss. This leads to improved engine performance, resulting in significant reductions in fuel costs, spare parts costs, and reduced maintenance.

MDS Coating Technologies Corporation developed the composition of the BlackGold® coating technology. Delta Airlines evaluated this coating on high pressure compressor rotor blades in its engine fleet. Dr. Cynthia Powell and Dr. David Alman of the National Energy Technology Laboratory supported and contributed to this project by providing testing to optimize process variables and obtaining FAA certification. As a result of this collaboration, these three organizations helped bring this new nanocoating technology to market for airfoils in gas turbines.

The Federal Aviation Administration-approved nanocoating has the potential to save the U.S. commercial aviation industry up to 100 million gallons of fuel annually and could provide a cost savings greater than $300 million per year at today’s jet fuel prices.



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