Georgia Tech receives grants to address energy needs

Georgia Tech received about $9.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Wednesday to advance research projects that can lead to breakthroughs on solutions to energy problems.

The award is part of a $130 million program to fund 66 projects that support “transformational, breakthrough technologies that show fundamental technical promise but are too early for private-sector investment,” the announcement said.

“We are not looking for incremental improvements,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during a media conference call. “We are looking for things that could potentially change the game.”

Energy is one of the biggest issues affecting society and Georgia Tech has long worked to be part of the solution, said Stephen Fleming, a vice president at Tech and head of its Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Tech received three grants that will allow it to:

— Develop a method to capture energy from wind vortices that harvest the thin layer of hot air along the ground created by the sun. If successful, this approach could cost 25 percent less than conventional wind power and 60 percent less than traditional solar power. Award amount: $3.7 million.

— Develop a high-efficiency solar reactor to produce solar fuel. The planned method would minimize the loss of solar heat. The system would enable cost-effective solar fuel to be produced that could be used for transportation and other purposes. Award amount: $3.6 million.

— Develop a supercapacitor that would be able to store energy at a greater density, while doing it at lower cost. Supercapacitors store energy like a battery but can charge and discharge faster. Award amount: $2.1 million.

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