Friday, August 07, 2009
Sandia, LANL Receive Funds for Projects
By Sue Major Holmes
Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories will receive $56 million to fund three projects under a new initiative called Energy Frontier Research Centers.
Sandia will receive $18 million as the lead agency in a project to study improvements in solid state lighting, while Los Alamos is receiving $38 million, equally divided between projects to design better materials for converting sunlight into electricity and to study materials under extreme stress.
Money for the research centers will be spread over five years.
Solid state lighting is important because lighting accounts for about 22 percent of U.S. electrical use, and existing technology is inefficient. About 80 percent of the energy used to power fluorescent lights is wasted, and incandescent bulbs waste about 95 percent, said Jerry Simmons, chief researcher for the Sandia project.
The Albuquerque-based lab says its approach to solid state or LED lighting can reduce that waste to 50 percent or less, he said.
The Energy Frontier Research Center will allow the lab to look at the fundamental science barriers to achieving very high efficiency lighting, allowing "more revolutionary research, very high-risk, challenging projects that would really revolutionize solid state lighting and achieve higher efficiencies than would be possible otherwise," he said.
One Los Alamos center, directed by lab Fellow Victor Klimov, proposes to exploit the properties of nanomaterials structures so tiny they cannot be seen by the naked eye to convert solar energy into electrical power more efficiently or develop such materials as highly efficient solar collectors that could be painted onto a surface to generate electricity.
The research has the potential to make solar energy more viable, Klimov said when the centers were selected in May.
The second Los Alamos center, led by Fellow Michael Nastasi, is aimed at developing materials robust enough to withstand extreme conditions such as constant bombardment by radiation or mechanical beatings. Such materials would be able to handle the rigors of nuclear reactors, allowing them to function reliably and safely for long periods with less maintenance, Nastasi said.
The New Mexico projects were among $377 million awarded Thursday by the Department of Energy for 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers at universities, federal laboratories and private and nonprofit firms across the nation. Stimulus funds are paying for $277 million in grants; the rest comes from the DOE budget.
In announcing the awards, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said there's an urgent need to reduce American dependence on imported oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as worldwide demand for energy grows.
Meeting those goals will require significant scientific advances, Chu said.
Projects were picked from among proposals solicited last year by the DOE's Office of Science.
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