R&D 100 awards recognize seven Berkeley lab innovations

Seven innovative technologies from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) were awarded with an R&D 100 Award 2022. The prize, awarded by R&D review and selected by an independent jury, recognizes the 100 most innovative and disruptive technology products of the year from industry, academia and government-sponsored research.

Berkeley Lab’s winning technologies diagnose disease, generate green hydrogen, improve battery performance and recyclability, and increase energy efficiency. The winning teams will be celebrated at the R&D 100 Gala Banquet in San Diego on November 17.

Here are the descriptions of the technologies:

Spectral phenotyping with MirroRx

(Credit: Jenny Nuss)

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are difficult to diagnose before symptoms appear, while others, such as aggressive cancers, need to be detected early to improve survival rates. Berkeley Lab scientists have developed MirroRx, a biomarker technology that accurately predicts disease state. The disease phenotype is analyzed by measuring how the patient’s endogenous molecules vibrate upon exposure to infrared light. The difference in the vibrational profile of diseased and control samples is so visible that the spectral process resembles a “cellular fingerprint”. Early tests with presymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease patients accurately predicted those who will eventually develop the disease.

The development team led by Cynthia McMurray includes Edward Barnard, Ben Brown, Dhruba Ghosh, Lila Lovergne and Aris Polyzos.

Hydra I/O: a system for highly resilient inter-chip communications

Close-up of microchips.

Failed ASICs in this tile can be routed automatically with the Hydra I/O system. (Credit: Brooke Russel)

In traditional networked application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) systems, chip-to-chip data paths are typically hardwired or use shared data buses. This approach jeopardizes the reliability of the entire system when individual ASICs fail, especially in situations where repairing or replacing individual ASICs is inconvenient or impossible. Hydra I/O is a system for creating ad hoc networks of software-defined ASICs that can be automatically reconfigured to bypass individual failed ASICs without compromising the entire network. Hydra I/O helps improve system reliability in extreme environments for space, submarine, defense, communications and scientific applications. For example, a 1600 ASIC Hydra I/O system was recently used successfully in a hard-to-reach -200 degree Celsius particle physics detector.

Investigators: Daniel Dwyer (IP), Carl Grace (IP), Dario Gnani, Armin Karcher, Peter Madigan and Brooke Russell.

Solar fuel generator including catalytic mesh

Close up of a solar fuel generator.

Solar fuel generator device. (Credit: Karl Walczak)

Green hydrogen is a clean, renewable alternative to the hydrogen that is today produced from fossil fuel sources. This invention generates unlimited amounts of green hydrogen, using only sunlight and water and producing only oxygen as a byproduct. Its self-contained and modular nature promises to bring the benefits of clean hydrogen everywhere, even where there is no power grid or large-scale manufacturing infrastructure as required by current electrolyzer technology.

Investigators: Jeff Beeman (Berkeley Lab, retired), Frances Houle (Berkeley Lab), David Larson (Twelve), Gideon Segev (Tel Aviv University) and Ian Sharp (Technical University of Munich) and Karl Walczak (Sandia National Laboratories).

Quick-Release™ binder for recyclable batteries

Green energy, batteries background and one with green recycle sign.

(Credit: Maxx-Studio)

The quick releaseMT Binder solves a major material recovery challenge for the direct recycling of Li-ion batteries. The current recycling process, which includes shredding, grinding and pyrolysis of materials, is very energy intensive and has a large environmental footprint. The Quick-Release Binder eliminates these processes, as well as the production of toxic gases, by using process water for manufacturing and recycling. All battery components simply dissociate in pH-adjusted water and are easily recovered and reprocessed. As an inexpensive, non-toxic and efficient product, the Quick-Release binder represents a major technological advancement, and it facilitates the use and expansion of green energy storage, supporting international efforts to create a circular economy.

Investigators: Gao Liu (PI), Robert Kostecki (PI) and Steve Sloop (PI, OnTo Technology), Chen Fang, Xin He, Zhimeng Liu and Yangzhi Zhao.

Stable and high performance single crystal LiNixMnyCo1-x-yO2 cathode materials (SC-NMC)

Scientific figures of SC-NMC (bottom right) versus commercial polycrystalline particles (top right).

SC-NMC (bottom right) compared to commercial polycrystalline particles (top right). (Credit: Guoying Chen and Yanying Lu)

Next-generation lithium-ion batteries must have higher energy density and power density at lower cost, with better safety and longer life. Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a method for producing single-crystal NMC cathode materials (SC-NMC) that eliminates fracturing and reduces side reactions at particle surfaces. The cathodes using the resulting product remain mechanically intact. The method’s processes can be adopted into existing production lines, and SC-NMCs made with this method offer significantly improved performance and stability over commercial polycrystalline materials.

Investigators: Guoying Chen (PI) and Yanying Lu.

City Buildings, Energy, and Sustainability (CityBES) Web Tool for Climate Change Strategies

Commercial buildings in San Francisco with the results of the energy retrofit modeling.

CityBES showing a cluster of commercial buildings in San Francisco with the results of the energy retrofit modeling.

Buildings generate 39% of global CO2 emissions, but evaluating and prioritizing cost-effective technical solutions for individual buildings at the city scale poses a significant challenge for city stakeholders. CityBES is a free and powerful modeling and analysis tool that enables rapid and quantitative assessments of actionable recommendations to decarbonize buildings and improve their thermal resilience against extreme weather conditions at the urban scale. CityBES leverages open city datasets, international data standards, the powerful EnergyPlus simulation engine, a library of mitigation and adaptation measures, and 3D GIS visualization to inform building decision-making urban, energy and sustainability.

Researchers: Tianzhen Hong (PI), Mary Ann Piette (PI), Max Wei (PI), Wanni Zhang, Yujie Xu, Han Li, Kaiyu Sun, and former Berkeley Lab researchers Yixing Chen and Xuan Luo.

The SEED Platform: Decarbonizing Cities Through Robust Data Management

Upward view of high-rise buildings.

(Credit: Sean Pollock)

Maintaining building performance data (as required by a benchmarking ordinance) can be costly and time-consuming for states, local governments, and other organizations. A team from Berkeley Lab, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has developed building energy efficiency data management software called the Standard Energy Efficiency Data Platform (PLANT). It is an open source software application designed to manage building performance data; it helps users combine data from multiple sources, clean and validate it, and generate queries and reports.

Researchers: Paul Mathew, Robin Mitchell and Nicholas Long (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

For more information on licensing the above technologies, contact [email protected]

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Founded in 1931 on the belief that the greatest scientific challenges are best met by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been awarded 14 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers are developing sustainable energy and environmental solutions, creating useful new materials, pushing the boundaries of computing, and probing the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists around the world rely on the facilities of the laboratory for their own scientific discovery. Berkeley Lab is a multi-program national laboratory, operated by the University of California for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The DOE’s Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.

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