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2016 year in review: Propulsion and Energy

2020 Olympics seen as clean energy test


The Terrestrial Energy Systems Technical Committee works to advance the application of engineering sciences and systems engineering to the production, storage, distribution and conservation of energy for terrestrial uses.

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympic Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to demonstrate the potential for developing low-carbon-emissions communities through the use of hydrogen technologies. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Ministry of the Environment are promoting technologies for the production and utilization of hydrogen. The Olympics provide an opportunity for the workforce to demonstrate how low-carbon communities can be created through the combination of these technologies to produce and use carbon dioxide-free, hydrogen-based power at a lower cost. Japanese officials are urging the science community in Japan to create “energy carriers,” such as ammonia and methyl-cyclohexane, so that they can store energy that may be converted later to other forms of work such as mechanical or heating. The government is trying to make the athletic village for the 2020 Olympics kickstart a transition to a hydrogen-powered society.

In the power storage field, several faculty members from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, UWM, opened small laboratories within the new battery research facility set up on campus in 2015 with the support of Global Technology and Innovation, a research center in Milwaukee operated by Johnson Controls Power Solutions. The battery facility is being shared with Johnson Controls, whose primary goal is to make rechargeable lithium ion batteries very reliable and less costly by simplifying the number of components and improving the in-cell monitoring function. That will be done by employing nanomaterials. Li-ion batteries are useful in hybrid-powered vehicles because they are lightweight, maintain their charge for a long time and have a higher power density than many other energy sources. The development of these batteries will significantly promote and help internal-combustion engine-based automobiles shut the engine off when the vehicle is idling to save fuel use and emissions. Work is underway on nanoscale in-cell sensors that will monitor conditions including heat inside the battery. UWM researchers are working on tin-based materials to enhance Li-ion anodes. The anode and cathode are the parts of a battery that facilitate the chemical reaction that creates an electrical current.

In the field of wind energy, UWM’s College of Engineering and Applied Science conducted research this year in a 30-meter high, 12-kilowatt wind turbine on the campus. The researchers captured power from the wind and monitored it through the system’s microgrids, which are part of the system that converts wind energy to electric energy. This wind power research is coordinated by the Midwest Energy Research Consortium. In addition, new shrouded wind turbines are being designed and tested in Japan at the Research Institute for Applied Mechanics at Kyushu University. Such shrouded wind turbines equipped with a flanged diffuser demonstrated power augmentation for a given turbine diameter and wind speed by the power coefficient of about 2 to 5 compared to a standard (bare) wind turbine.

Hydropower is an important source of renewable energy in the U.S., given the approximately 80,000 dams in the country. The majority of these dams are older than 50 years and will need to be improved. To support that need, UWM in July finished setting up a lab for hydro turbine research at the university’s Global Water Center, under the sponsorship of U.S. Department of Energy. Researchers will test various technologies with the goal of more efficiently converting water currents into electricity. In particular, researchers will experiment with a Kaplan turbine, which is one sized for laboratory research. ★

2020 Olympics seen as clean energy test

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