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Novel Enzymes Enabling Microbial Fermentation of Sugar into Long Chain Alcohols

A novel group of enzymes with the potential to facilitate production of energy dense alcohols has been discovered for use in biofuel and chemical production.

Chemical Energy Storage Based on Nanoporous Aluminum

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA have developed a novel form of nanoporous aluminum hydride for storing hydrogen at room temperature and pressure.

System and Methods for Optimizing Availability and Performance of Light Water Reactors

More than a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels to produce heat and electricity. Nuclear energy plants do not emit criteria pollutants or greenhouse gases when they generate electricity. Thermal-neutron reactors are the most common type of nuclear reactor, and light water reactors (LWRs) are the most common type of thermal-neutron reactor, which uses normal water as the primary coolant. Localized corrosion in the primary coolant circuits (PCC) is a big problem in LWRs. The rate of corrosion is often determined by certain electrochemical properties, such as the electrochemical corrosion potential (ECP), solution conductivity, temperature, pH, flow rate, and the kinetics of the reduction of a cathodic depolarizer (e.g. O2) on the surfaces external to the crack. Mechanical loading (stress intensity factor on the crack) and micro-structural/micro-chemical factors (e.g. grain size, precipitates, degree of sensitization) may also contribute to this problem. To address this problem, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed an operating protocol in which the PCC are protected over wide ranges of parameters as the reactor progresses through a fuel cycle, including: temperature, pH, ECP, solution conductivity, flow rate, and stress intensity factor. Laboratory models using Berkeley approach suggest significant LWR optimization while adding levels of safety and lowering operational costs (e.g., by avoiding primary water stress corrosion cracking in Alloy 600 steam generator tubes, which is a major corrosion phenomena in operating a PWR). In fact, Berkeley’s solutions require minimal modification to the reactor PCC, and in most cases, can be implemented with no modifications at all.

A Novel, Eco-Friendly Continuous Flow Intersection

Background: Traffic signals at traditional intersections impede traffic flow thereby increasing harmful emissions, travel time and fuel-energy consumption. With over 250 million vehicles on the road, many municipalities are seeking novel ways to improve the current intersection design to be eco-friendly and safe for both drivers and pedestrians.  Brief Description: Unconventional Arterial Intersection Design (UAID) is the current approach in improving operative and safety performance in intersections for 2 approaching vehicle trajectories. UCR researchers have achieved real continuous flow and unsignalized intersections for all 4 vehicle trajectories. This novel design allows drivers to maintain their speed limit throughout the intersection and get from point A to B without ever stopping. As a result, it increases traffic capacity and land utilization while decreasing commute time and the likelihood of accidents by a 4-fold. They have also implemented a novel pedestrian passageway that protects them from pedestrian fatalities and direct exhaust emissions.

Planar, Nonpolar M-Plane III-Nitride Films Grown on Miscut Substrates

A method for growing planar nonpolar III-nitride films that have atomically smooth surfaces without any macroscopic surface undulations. 

Transparent Mirrorless (TML) LEDs

Minimizes the re-absorption of LED light by using transparent conductive oxide electrodes (ITO or ZnO) instead of mirrors. 

BRIGHT: Building With Radiant And Insulated Green Harvesting Technology

People spend a large part of the day inside a building for different purposes, e.g. living, working, and shopping. Lighting is one of the largest categories of end-use energy consumption in the commercial sector. In 2014, the Department of Energy reported that approximately 40% of total U.S. energy was consumed in residential and commercial buildings and costing $50 billion each year. Commercial buildings account for over 70% of U.S. electricity use and lighting accounts for approximately 30% of the building use. Traditional approaches have implemented passive or active efficient energy strategies, like electronic ballasts, LED technologies, compact fluorescent lamps, occupancy sensors, and common light bulb standards. One problem is that each of these technologies require a power supply or battery. Another problem is all of these have a lifetime and a replacement cost. To address these challenges, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have demonstrated a smart dynamic panel system for capturing and channeling daylight without gains and/or losses of heat and without compromising the structure of the building. The designed translucent panel for building envelopes (i.e. facades and/or roof) is a modular element that can be used as the primary physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment, or can also be used in specific parts of the designed building, or can be used in retrofitting existing buildings. The prototype panel has validated many useful aspects of the innovation including observations that report improvements of around 150-300% in the maximum light that is transmitted with light concentrators and modified optical fiber tips compared to a translucent panel with only embedded optical fibers with flat tips. From the analysis of operational energy, the panel is also shown to reduce the total energy consumption (heating, cooling, lighting, and fans) by 36%, which in turn curtails CO2 emissions by 34%. 

Highly Accurate Occupancy Estimation Using RF Signals and Wi-Fi

A framework that counts the number of people in an area based on RF signals and a Wi-Fi card or network. 

Piezoelectric Nanoparticle-Polymer Composite Foams

Mechanically flexible piezoelectric materials are highly sought after when building advanced sensors, actuators, and energy scavenger devices. The most common piezoelectric materials used in applications are focused on electroceramic thin films made from lead zirconate titanate or barium titanate. Although these materials can have large piezoelectric moduli, as thin films they are extremely brittle and difficult to shape into highly mechanically compliant structures. Improving mechanical flexibility of piezoelectrics, and creating higher order structures, is critical for driving new applications such as biological energy harvesting, compact acoustic transducers, and in vivo biodiagnostics.  There is a need to develop alternative materials that offer high piezoelectric coefficients while maintaining elasticity and isotropic mechanical integrity—that are also cheap to produce.

Growth of High-Performance M-plane GaN Optical Devices

A method using MOCVD growth conditions to achieve high performance m-plane GaN optical devices, including LEDs and LDs. 

Autonomous Thermoelectric Energy-Harvesting Platform for Biomedical Sensors

UCLA researchers in the Department of Electrical Engineering have a developed miniature implantable thermoelectric energy-harvester with true energy autonomy.

UV Optoelectronic Devices Based on Nonpolar and Semi-polar AlInN and AlInGaN Alloys

A device structure that can be used to create high-power and high-efficiency LEDs and LDs in the UV range of the spectrum. 

Optimization of Laser Bar Orientation for Nonpolar Laser Diodes

A method for the growth and fabrication of nonpolar laser diodes. 

Efficient Solar-based Thermoelectrochemical Framework

Thermochemical cycles combine heat sources with chemical reactions. Energy production from thermochemical cycles are quickly evolving as global researchers develop better processes to generate electricity from sustainable yet intermittent resources like solar. Typical thermochemical processes generate chemical reactants for thermochemical storage. One problem is with efficiency, where these chemical reactants are merely burned together again to recreate heat, which is then converted into mechanical energy that is subsequently converted into electrical energy. Another problem relates to flexibility, in terms of being limited to hydrogen and oxygen as the chemical reactants. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are developing a generalized closed-cycle thermoelectrochemical framework with expected chemical conversion efficiencies above 80% and high overall system efficiencies using innovative combined-cycle design.

Low-Cost Molybdenum-Based Reactor for Accelerated III-Nitride Growth

A new reactor made of Titanium Zirconium Molybdenum (TZM) and other Molybdenum alloys. 

A Robust Hybrid Control Algorithm for a Single-Phase DC/AC Inverter

Along with fossil and nuclear-based power, future energy distribution systems ought to be capable of interconnecting diverse renewable sources, such as hydroelectric generators, photovoltaic arrays, and wind turbines, as well as energy storage systems. The development of “Smart Grid” is needed due to increasing electricity demands and the need regulate input power sources. However, a particular challenge anticipated by a “Smart Grid” is the high variability of the power provided by the renewable sources, mainly due to their high dependence on environmental conditions. In turn this variability imposes a challenge to power conversion in particular, between DC and AC signals. Single-phase DC/AC inverter, using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is one of the most common topologies used in power conversion. However, one of the main shortcomings of converters controlled by PWM-based algorithms is that they are not robust to changes in the input DC voltage, which limits their use in renewable energy applications.

Nonpolar III-Nitride LEDs With Long Wavelength Emission

A method of growing III-nitride films on nonpolar planes where the MQW barrier thickness can be manipulated. 

Self-Calibrating Automatic Controller To Determine The End Of Cycle In Clothes Dryers

Researcher at the University of California, Davis has developed a self-calibrating dryer controller which effectively determines the optimal shut-off point of the dryer.  The controller improves performance of the dryer by ensuring that clothes are dry and improves energy efficiency by shutting off the dryer as soon as possible. 

Determining Integrity Of Concentric Neutrals In Energized Underground Cables

Maintaining and repairing underground electric power cables is a costly challenge for electric utilities. These cables typically have a central conductor surrounded by an insulator, and then by a number of separate conductors (e.g., 8-12) that are known as concentric neutrals (CNs). Natural corrosion and other forms of damage can reduce the diameter of CNs (thereby increasing their electrical resistance) or even sever the CNs. If more than a certain percentage of CNs have unusually high resistance or are severed, the utility may be required to replace the cable - which is expensive and disruptive. To determine the condition of CNs, a utility must de-energize a cable and access both ends of the cable to take resistance measurements. That testing is costly and interrupts service. To address this problem, researchers at UC Berkeley have developed an approach and corresponding device that evaluates the integrity of CNs while the cable is in service (not de-energized) and only from a single end of the cable. The Berkeley device is inexpensive and easy to use. It can indicate the particular length of a defective cable hundreds of feet away from the test location. In addition to testing CNs, the device can also be used to measure total power transmitted and monitor currents in a large variety of cables, ranging from underground power distribution to ribbon cables.

3D Fabrication of Piezoelectric Polymer Composite Materials

Piezoelectric materials are key components in a range of devices including acoustic imaging, energy harvesting, and actuators and typically rely on brittle ceramic monoliths to perform their functions. To control the size and or shape of the piezoelectrics, it is common to use mechanical dicing or saws. However, this limits not only the size of the piezoelectric element but also the dimensionality. It is nearly impossible with current cutting techniques to shape brittle ceramics into higher order 3D structures, which could have a huge impact on compact sensor designs, tunable acoustic arrays, efficient energy scavengers, and diagnostic devices. There is an unmet need for simple approaches to fabricating 3D structures in piezoelectric polymers or multilayered architectures which would open up infinite possibilities in the design of more complicated device geometries.

Microstructured Cathode for Self-Regulated Oxygen Generation and Consumption

UCLA researchers have developed a cathode that generates oxygen, consumes the oxygen as needed, and stops the oxygen generation when it is not consumed, all in a self-regulated fashion.

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