At Earth Day Texas 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the 38 small businesses that will collaborate with national lab researchers through the Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. SBV facilitates access to the DOE national labs for American small businesses, enabling them to tap into the intellectual and technical resources they need to overcome critical technology challenges for their advanced energy products and gain a global competitive advantage. Eight DOE national laboratories will receive funding to partner with 38 competitively selected small businesses across the country.
“Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and those working on advanced energy technologies play an important role in ensuring our nation’s energy security and independence," said Energy Secretary Rick Perry during his remarks at Earth Day Texas. "The Small Business Vouchers program is a great example of how DOE's innovative public-private collaborations are ensuring our investments in DOE national labs are maintaining and strengthening U.S. competitiveness long-term."
In the first two rounds of the program, 12 DOE national labs received funding to partner with 76 small businesses. With this announcement, SBV will have forged partnerships between 114 American small businesses and the national labs. A full list of SBV projects and participating DOE national labs is available online.
The eight DOE national laboratories participating in the new round of collaborations are home to some of the most advanced, cutting edge facilities in the world, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, Argonne National Laboratory's Prototype Cell Fabrication Facility, and Sandia National Laboratories’ Scaled Wind Farm Technology Facility.
Small businesses developing advanced technologies often need unique facilities and experts to test, develop, and validate their innovative products. DOE national labs house these capabilities, but accessing the labs is a challenge most small businesses can’t overcome. SBV facilitates access to the DOE national labs for qualified small businesses by making the contracting process simple, lab practices transparent, and the labs’ unique facilities available.
DOE labs participating in the new round of collaboration include: Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Savannah River National Laboratory.
The new collaborations with small businesses focus on the following energy technology areas:
- Advanced Manufacturing: Eleven projects will focus on improving manufacturing processes specifically by developing more efficient production methods for alloys, microchannel heat exchangers, semiconductors, extreme ultraviolet materials, nanocrystals, and lithium ion batteries, among others. Six national laboratories will work with small businesses to validate their work, help scale-up production methods, and improve the efficiency of existing manufacturing processes.
- Bioenergy: Five projects in the bioenergy area will focus on advancing research and development of biofuels, renewable biomass, hydrothermal carbonization liquids, and other fuel and chemical technologies used to improve the U.S. bioeconomy. Six national laboratories will work with small businesses on this research.
- Buildings: Three projects in the buildings technology area will focus on developing more efficient commercial refrigeration systems, advanced modeling tools to assist municipalities with tracing their energy consumption, and an inexpensive and noninvasive BTU meter to replace existing models. Two national laboratories will collaborate with small businesses on this project.
- Fuel Cells: Two projects in the fuel cells area are focused on analyzing the design and performance of low-pressure hydrogen storage systems and testing a low-friction, low-loss, versatile rotary magnetic wheel seal test apparatus. Two national laboratories will work with small businesses on these projects.
- Geothermal: One collaboration in the geothermal area will integrate a solar topping cycle at the Raft River Geothermal Power Plant. Two national laboratories will work with small businesses on this project.
- Solar: Five solar projects will focus on improving solar technology by creating advanced modeling software, weatherizing solar panels, quantifying data-collection from solar energy, and creating more efficient tools and storage systems. Three national labs will collaborate with small businesses on these solar projects.
- Vehicles: Four projects in the vehicles area will work to advance vehicle technologies. These projects will create power stations for electric vehicles, validate and scale different methods for extracting magnesium, improve the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries, and improve the conversion of feedstock into synthetic oils for automobile lubricants. Three national laboratories will work with small businesses on these four projects.
- Water: Four projects in marine hydrokinetics and hydropower will focus on improved modeling and efficiency, refining and testing fish-friendly turbines, and reviewing water treatment plants for new conduit projects. Three national laboratories will collaborate with small businesses on these projects.
- Wind: Three projects in the wind technology area will focus on ways to optimize wind farm performance, maximize blade life, and build taller wind turbine towers. Two national laboratories will collaborate with small businesses on these wind projects.
Small Business Vouchers is part of the Tech-to-Market Program within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Tech-to-Market is focused on strengthening the innovation ecosystem by eliminating common barriers that prevent market exploration of new energy technologies.