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Renewable Fuel Options, Fish Tags, and Energy Forecasts: A Few of R&D Magazine's Favorite Things

August 2015
Renewable Fuel Options, Fish Tags, and Energy Forecasts: A Few of R&D Magazine’s Favorite Things
PNNL’s new injectable acoustic fish tag, shown here next to grains of rice, is so small it can be inserted into a fish with a syringe. The new tag is three times lighter than earlier versions, making it safer for fish and able to more accurately record fish passage through dams.
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The editors of R&D Magazine have announced their finalists for the 2015 R&D 100 Awards, and three of them are from PNNL's Energy and Environment Directorate. From renewable fuel options, to injectable tags for tracking fish, and a new system for forecasting energy availability, here is a quick summary of our finalists.

Injectable Tags for Tracking Salmon

Researchers have upped their fish tracking capabilities once again with a new injectable tracking device, the length of two grains of rice. The injectable device can be inserted into young fish in just 20 seconds via syringe, eliminating the need for surgery and reducing handling time by more than 80%.

The injectable tags, previously called the Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System, but now referred to as InjectaTag™, are the culmination of tag development at PNNL that goes back to 2001. Due to tag weight and side effects from surgery, data gathered by these early tag versions were less reliable. The new tags are smaller and lighter; they last more than five times longer, and include a host of new features.

For more information on the injectable tags, read the PNNL press release.

Algae slurry, biocrude oil, and refined biocrude
(L-R): Algae slurry; biocrude oil; and, with further processing, refined biocrude which contains mostly the makings of gasoline and diesel fuel.
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Hydrothermal Processing

For organic renewable energy sources, such as algae, the tremendous cost of cultivation, harvest, and conversion has been a roadblock to market acceptance as an available and affordable renewable fuel option. Recognizing the need for more cost-effective biomass fuel options, DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office invested in the idea of using hydrothermal liquefaction, a form of dehydration, to streamline and optimize the algae-to-biocrude conversion process.

The continuous process uses heat and pressure to chemically and physically change the algae into biocrude in a matter of minutes (see video). The new process can reduce the cost of the algal fuel enterprise by nearly 90 percent, and it also works with other wet biomass and food waste feedstocks. Researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory worked with industrial partner Genifuel Corporation to advance their lab scale research to the pilot scale in September 2014, ultimately leading to a commercial license for the technology.

For more information on hydrothermal processing, read the PNNL press release.

PNNL's Power Grid Integrator
PNNL's Power Grid Integrator has demonstrated up to a 50 percent improvement in forecasting future electricity needs over several commonly used tools. Project lead Luke Gosink, right, consults on the use of the new tool, which could save millions in wasted electricity costs.
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Power Model Integrator

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. Now, a new forecasting tool delivers up to a 50 percent increase in accuracy and has the potential to save power system operators millions.

Until now, forecasters relied on a combination of personal experience, historical data, and often a preferred forecasting model. Researchers at PNNL theorized that they could develop a method to guide the selection of an ensemble of models with the ideal, collective set of attributes in response to what was occurring on the grid at any given moment. The resulting Power Model Integrator tool, developed with funding from PNNL's Future Power Grid Initiative, has the ability to adaptively combine the strengths of different forecasting models continuously and in real time, significantly improving forecast accuracy compared to a single model.

For more information on energy forecasting, read the PNNL press release.

The winners will be announced in November at the R&D 100 Awards Banquet in Las Vegas.


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