Research Facilities & Resources
Alloy Fabrication Laboratory
At NETL’s Alloy Fabrication Facility, researchers conduct DOE research projects to produce new alloys suited to a variety of applications, from gas turbines to medical stents. Once ingots have been shaped into plates, sheets, rods, or other forms at the lab, researchers can better characterize their properties and assess how they can be used in real-world settings. Most work done in the lab involves exposing alloys to intense heat. The lab’s equipment includes a 500-ton hydraulic press and a hot rolling mill. The alloys produced in the lab are highly resilient and may facilitate new energy technologies.
NETL’s analytical laboratories gives researchers access to the equipment they need to thoroughly study the properties of materials at very small scales. The Albany lab houses X-ray diffraction equipment, electron microscopes, a metallographic laboratory, and a complete analytical chemistry lab. It also enables scientists to conduct wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy for chemical analysis. Researchers at the Albany lab can investigate materials on a micro scale in simulated environments on a micro scale. They can subject a material to thermal analysis to determine its melting temperature—crucial for assessing a material’s durability in hot environments, such as those found in power plants. Researchers can also use the Albany lab to discover the elements and compounds comprising a material, and if the material’s chemical composition is suited to various applications.
High-Pressure Immersion and Reactive Transport Laboratory
At the High-Pressure Immersion and Reactive Transport Laboratory, NETL researchers study subsurface geologic systems that are good candidates for carbon dioxide storage. The lab’s facilities can re-create the conditions found 10,000 feet underground, which can help scientists model them to gain a better understanding of how geologic formations would fare as long-term carbon-dioxide-storage sites. The lab is equipped with autoclaves that allow researchers to perform experiments under high temperatures and pressures. These autoclaves shed light on the reactivity of solutions, geochemistry of shale gas environments, response of microbes exposed to carbon dioxide, and other topics. Based on results from research conducted in the lab, scientists can predict the conditions that will be encountered in engineered geologic systems. They can also accelerate the progress of carbon storage technologies.
Mechanical Testing Laboratory
NETL’s Mechanical Testing Laboratory helps researchers investigate materials that can withstand the heat and pressure commonly found in fossil energy systems. They use the lab’s state-of-the-art equipment to test the mechanical behavior and performance of materials—in particular, how much pressure it takes to compress them, how much they can be stretched before they break, how they behave in response to cyclical mechanical loads, and under what circumstances they become deformed. They also conduct impact testing to determine a material’s toughness when it experiences a sudden blow, and hot hardness testing to determine how hard a material remains under drastic heating. The knowledge gained from these experiments speeds the development of materials that are rugged enough to be used in the demanding environments associated with cutting-edge energy systems.
Severe Environmental Corrosion Erosion Facility
NETL’s Severe Environment Corrosion Erosion Facility allows researchers to safely examine the performance of materials in highly corrosive or erosive settings. Research conducted at the facility supports NETL’s investigations into oxy-fuel combustion oxidation, refractory materials stability, and fuels. It also sheds light on how existing power plants, which subject materials to extremely harsh conditions, can best be upgraded. Materials are tested via exposure to conditions that mimic those found in power plants or gasifiers. Researchers can use the facility to conduct experiments at low or high temperatures, in pure- or mixed-gas environments, and in pure- or mixed-gas/liquid environments. The lab features a safety system that detects gas leaks both inside and outside of the lab’s six research modules, each of which can be exposed to 11 different gases (or dry air) at a researcher’s
Geoscience Analysis, Interpretation, and Assessments (GAIA) Computational Facilities
Researchers use the Geoscience Analysis, Interpretation, and Assessments (GAIA) Computational Facilities to perform a range of computational research. The GAIA facilities provide access to terabytes of geologic and environmental datasets on high-end computational workstations loaded with advanced tools, models, and software. In addition, the desktop and video sharing capabilities within the GAIA facilities support real-time research collaboration and analysis across all NETL sites and with outside collaborators.
The Geosciences Laboratory is an interdisciplinary research space to understand relationships and behaviors of geomaterials (natural and engineered) as well as interpreting experimental and field data. Sample characterization is conducted using tools such as various microscopes (light, confocal, oil immersion), particle size analysis, X-ray diffraction, and more.
Energy Data eXchange (EDX)
Energy Data eXchange (EDX) is an online collection of capabilities and resources developed to support a range of energy-related research. EDX development and maintenance are driven by researchers and technical staff at NETL to support on-going research efforts and technology transfer for DOE-NETL research. EDX supports a variety of research needs by ensuring (1) long-term curation of both historic and current data and information from a wide variety of sources, (2) reliable access to research that crosscuts multiple NETL projects and programs and energy science needs, (3) efficient discovery of data and information, including
technical products from NETL-affiliated research, and (4) innovative analytics to support today’s research needs, including
supporting secure collaboration and coordination between various agencies, organizations, and institutions through EDX’s
Multiphase Computational Fluid Dynamics Facility
Multiphase gas-solid, gas-liquid and gas-liquid-solid flows are found in many industrial systems including those in the energy sector. These systems are traditionally difficult to design, troubleshoot and scale-up given the complex behavior of the involved phases. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used to provide insight into the dynamics and overall behavior of these systems. Research efforts here focus on developing and applying physical and numerical models in CFD codes to energy applications such as gasification and carbon capture.
The primary purpose of the Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) Laboratory is to perform model validation for MHD energy conversion applications, and to conduct materials performance evaluations for those applications. MHD is a scientific discipline interested in the interaction of an electrically conductive fluid with a magnetic field. In an “MHD generator”, this interaction leads to useable electric power without any moving mechanical parts; hence this process of MHD energy conversion is sometimes called direct power extraction. In essence, an MHD generator is a new type of turbine. Since there aren’t any spinning shafts or vanes, such a device can function at much higher temperatures than traditional turbines. This leads to the possibility of higher thermal efficiencies for combined cycle power plants. A secondary purpose of the MHD laboratory is to develop the components to conduct the materials and model validation research. Further, these components may also serve as precursors to future full-scale systems. Major test hardware in the lab includes an oxy-fuel combustion system capable of producing high temperature supersonic gas flows, a 3 Tesla capable electromagnet, and an ultraviolet excimer laser.
Current Research Highlights
Natural Gas Pipeline Safety
Natural gas pipelines carry most of the fuel used by electrical power plants that can ramp up quickly to balance grid requirements. This is important as renewable sources of electricity become more prominent in the nation's energy supply. Impurities in natural gas can corrode steel pipelines. Pipeline corrosion can lead to methane leaks that are bad for the environment and dangerous to people.
Albany researchers are presently looking for ways to prevent pipeline corrosion by blocking the diffusion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide through liners used to protect the inside of steel pipes. Metal-polymer composite barrier films have long been used in the packaging industry to extend the lifetime of foods and medicine. The same barrier physically blocks corrosive impurities from reaching the steel surface in a composite liner.
Efforts are presently underway to scale up the manufacturability of these composite barrier liners from lab-scale coupons to pipeline-relevant dimensions. Composite barrier liners may play an important role in future pipeline-based transport of CO2 for sequestration or hydrogen for a decarbonized economy by preventing the corrosion or embrittlement of steel pipelines.
Rare Earth Elements
Rare earth elements (REE) are used in products ranging from smartphones to electric cars. Growing demand for REE's means we need to find new ways to produce them cheaply from new domestic sources. Albany researchers are looking into new ways of extracting these valuable metals from clay, mine tailings, and coal ash with eco-friendly solutions to make it cheaper to produce REE's domestically.
High Entropy Alloys
NETL Develops, Manufactures, and Tests New High Entropy Alloys for Use in Energy-Related Hardware
Amid the heat, noise, and commotion in NETL’s alloy fabrication laboratory, researchers are experimenting with the design, development, manufacture, and testing of advanced heat-resistant alloys, superalloys and novel alloys such as high-entropy alloys that can meet escalating efficiency improvement challenges and help create the next generation of energy industry hardware.
NETL is focusing on the development of high entropy alloys (HEAs) – substances that are constructed with equal or nearly equal quantities of five or more metals, combining the strength and characteristics of the individual elements into a superior substance. HEAs have attracted research attention because they have potential to exhibit unique properties when compared to traditional alloys including increased strength, wear-resistance, and corrosion- and oxidation-resistance – properties that increase the longevity, efficiency, and effectiveness of hardware used during energy production.
NETL experts are producing and testing new HEAs suitable for a variety of energy applications. The researchers rely on quantum mechanics simulations and CALculation of PHAse Diagrams (CALPHAD) methods to develop the formation, thermodynamics, and elasticity of single-phase HEAs, examining hundreds of HEA possibilities using empirical data.
US-UK Collaboration on Fossil Energy R&D
NETL and ARC have a leadership role in the United States-United Kingdom Collaboration on Fossil Energy R&D between national laboratories, academia, and industrial partners. The collaboration is currently in Phase 3 of the collaboration. Two of the Phase 2 closeout documents for Steam Oxidation and Materials for Advanced Boiler and Oxy-combustion Systems are embedded.