Summer 2000 techNotes

July 25, 2000

Maximizing miniature power producers - Clean, affordable and highly efficient solid oxide fuel cells on the market in 10 years - that is the goal of a new industry-government-university consortium led by two Department of Energy labs - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Called the Solid-State Energy Conversion Alliance, SECA's aim is to develop a fuel cell that meets the diverse power needs of multiple markets and runs on abundant fossil fuels, such as natural gas, gasoline and military fuels.

Members of SECA believe they can reduce fuel cell costs through mass production of a versatile, five-kilowatt fuel cell module. In the future, the module is envisioned to meet energy needs in a range of markets, including residential, military and transportation. Nearer-term applications include auxiliary power to operate heaters, air conditioners and other accessories in autos and semi trucks, and complex electronics on military equipment. Developers also foresee modules that are "stackable," so units can be combined to accommodate larger power needs.

DOE funding for the consortium is projected to be $350 million over the next 10 years.

Tags target inventory of Army weaponry - Inventory control can be a costly business, even for the U.S. Army. But it's getting easier and faster with a new radio-frequency tag developed at Pacific Northwest. Engineers at the laboratory have designed a system for the U.S. Army's Logistics Integration Agency that tracks an inventory of small arms while stored in armories or checked out and used in the field.

Pacific Northwest engineers designed these RF tags to be securely mounted inside an M-16 rifle's grip and to hold a rifle's serial number for identification. Inventory control personnel use an electronic device called an interrogator to communicate with each tag and read the serial number. The system relies on passive RF reflection to communicate.

The interrogator also can program new information, such as a rifle's location, back into the RF tag when the weapon is checked out.

With the tags, military personnel will be able to stand in a warehouse full of tagged M16s, inventory up to 50 weapons a second and quickly know which weapons are being stored and which may be missing or in use.

Chemistry stops chromium contamination - Chromium contaminated soil - they're carting it up and carrying it away as part of cleanup projects at government and industrial sites throughout the United States. But researchers at Pacific Northwest have found a way to convert it to a less hazardous form that can be left in place.

By injecting diluted hydrogen sulfide into the subsurface, a chemical reaction converts highly toxic hexavalent chromium to trivalent chromium, which occurs naturally in soils.

This chemical reduction of chromium causes the material to cling to soil particles and not migrate down to the water table. Without conversion, the toxic form of chromium moves quickly through soil into groundwater and possibly into rivers, where it can harm juvenile fish.

Early demonstration of the technology shows potential for large cost savings. Additional tests are planned at a DOE site that has extensive chromium contamination.

Energy efficiency at 'core' of home - Home, sweet, energy-efficient home could be the sign hanging inside a manufactured home built with foam core panels designed to reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as half. This summer, Pacific Northwest researchers will monitor the potential energy efficiency of this new manufactured home.

At the laboratory's urging, the manufactured home is the first constructed of structural insulated panels, or SIPs.

The panel's foam core better insulates and controls air leakage than traditional building materials and less lumber is used to build the homes.

Through DOE's Building America program, researchers will analyze and report the home's energy efficiency, affordability and structural integrity.
-end-
More information on RF tag research is available at http://www.pnl.gov/nsd/commercial/rftags/.

The home was built with technical support from DOE at Champion Enterprises' factory in Silverton, Ore. More information is available at http://www.pnnl-sips.org/

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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