Dr. Isaac Gamwo (left) works with Dr. Ward Burgess (right) at the National Energy Technology Laboratory.  Photo Credit: NETL.The practical application of an elite researcher’s life: Isaac K. Gamwo

For a man whose expertise includes reactive multiphase fluid dynamics, complex fluid properties, and chemical looping combustion processes, Dr. Isaac Gamwo is surprisingly easy to comprehend. 

“The research we do in this lab is not confined to the world of academia,” he notes, “it has tangible impacts on the way we produce energy.”

As senior research chemical engineer at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Dr. Gamwo is currently focused on complex fluid properties at high temperatures and pressures. His recent work includes research applicable to ultra-deep hydrocarbon exploration and production.

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NREL Principal Scientist Mowafak Al-Jassim holds a TetraSun PV cell in the cathodoluminescence lab at NREL. The TetraSun cell combines increased efficiency and low cost, breaking the usual rules for solar cells. Credit: Dennis SchroederNew solar cell is more efficient, less costly

American innovators still have some cards to play when it comes to squeezing more efficiency and lower costs out of silicon, the workhorse of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules worldwide.

A recent breakthrough — the product of a partnership between manufacturer TetraSun and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — could spark U.S. solar manufacturing when the approach hits the assembly line next year. The innovative design, simple architecture, and elegant process flow for fabricating the cells make the technology a prime candidate for large-scale production.

Solar industry leader First Solar acquired TetraSun in April 2013, about the time R&D Magazine honored TetraSun and NREL with one of its coveted R&D 100 Awards for the year's top innovations.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 404  |
  • January 6, 2014
  • Smashing science: Livermore scientists discover how explosives respond to shockwaves

    A schematic representation of the shock experiment. The resulting energy release pushed the shock front to the left. Image by Liam Krauss/LLNL. Researchers at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have combined ultrafast time-resolved experimental measurements with theory to reveal how an explosive responds to a high-impact shock.

    The work involved advances in both ultrafast experimental shock wave methods and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation techniques, and the combination of experiment and simulation is a milestone in understanding chemical initiation and detonation.

    When an energetic material is hit hard and fast enough it will explode. What occurs between the moment of initial impact and the time the explosion occurs continues to be a highly studied topic.

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  • High-temperature sensor technologies to increase power plant efficiency

    Transmission electron microscopy results obtained for selected Al-doped ZnO films prepared using the sol–gel technique including bright field images (a–d), a representative selected area diffraction pattern (e), and a low-magnification bright field image illustrating micron-scale film wrinkling (f). The sensors team at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory is working on sensor technologies to enable embedded gas sensing at high temperature. The team’s goal is to develop novel materials with large optical responses and high-temperature stability for integration with optical sensor platforms. High-temperature harsh environment conditions are relevant for a diverse range of advanced fossil energy applications, including solid oxide fuel cells, gas turbines, and advanced combustion systems. Real-time monitoring of critical process parameters could significantly impact existing power plants by increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. It would also encourage the successful adoption of next-generation fossil fuel-based power generation technologies. For high-temperature environments, optical sensor technologies offer benefits over alternative chemi-resistive gas sensors, which are limited by a need for electrical wiring to the embedded location and unstable electrical contacts and connections.

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  • PPPL joins forces with Princeton in a new center to study volatile space weather and violent solar storms

    Computer simulation of the solar wind in contact with the Earth’s magnetosphere. The streaming wind compresses the magnetosphere on the side of the Earth that is nearest the sun, and stretches the magnetosphere into a long “tail” as the wind blows past the Earth and farther away from the sun.Researchers at Princeton University and DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have launched a new center to study the volatile heliosphere — a complex and frequently violent region of space that encompasses the solar system. This region is carved out by the solar wind — charged plasma particles that constantly stream from the sun — and gives rise to space weather that can disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and knock out power grids.

    Such stormy weather results from solar flares and coronal mass ejections — huge solar eruptions that periodically hurl millions of tons of electrically charged plasma particles into the heliosphere. Eruptions that slam into the magnetosphere — the magnetic field that surrounds the earth and extends some 75 million miles into space — can trigger disturbances called geomagnetic storms. One notable outburst blacked out the Canadian city of Montreal and most of the province of Quebec for 12 hours in 1989.

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  • Polar impress: Scientists improve detection of Arctic clouds

    A multifilter rotating shawdowband radiometer (MFRSR) measures direct and diffuse sunlight in Barrow, Alaska. Now that PNNL scientists have a new method for screening out the thin clouds prevalent at this site, MFRSR measurements of aerosol particles will be much more accurate. Photo courtesy of the ARM Climate Research Facility.Thin Arctic clouds can no longer hide, thanks to scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Atmospheric data gathered by skyward-pointing instruments can be “contaminated” by clouds so wispy that they appear to the instruments as tiny, suspended particles or aerosols, which are actually the desired target. The team showed how a simple modification to the typical methods used to detect denser clouds and remove them from the data results in more accurate measurements of aerosols. With these improvements, scientists can better understand how aerosols influence climate changes in the Arctic.

    “Thin and almost uniform Arctic clouds are occasionally undetected by well-established methods,” said Dr. Evgueni Kassianov, atmospheric scientist and the study’s lead author. “Our research found a minor modification of these methods that substantially improves the detection of these clouds, thereby reducing cloud contamination of aerosol data sets.”

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  • Scientists invent self-healing battery electrode

    Stanford postdoctoral researcher Chao Wang holds a solid piece of the stretchy, self-healing polymer used to coat and protect silicon battery electrodes. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)Researchers have made the first battery electrode that heals itself, opening a new and potentially commercially viable path for making the next generation of lithium ion batteries for electric cars, cell phones and other devices. The secret is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation, said the team from the DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.

    They reported the advance in a recent issue of Nature Chemistry.

    “Self-healing is very important for the survival and long lifetimes of animals and plants,” said Chao Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford and one of two principal authors of the paper. “We want to incorporate this feature into lithium ion batteries so they will have a long lifetime as well.”

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