Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 1, 2021, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel solvent that results in a more efficient process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries. According to ORNL’s press release, this new method supports a stable domestic supply chain for new batteries and keeps old ones out of landfills.
 
Currently, the recycling process of batteries involves smelting, which is an expensive, energy-intensive process that releases toxic gas. This new process developed by ORNL, however, recovers cathode materials and aluminum foils from lithium-ion batteries using a less hazardous solvent. It is a wet chemical process that uses triethyl phosphate to dissolve the binder material that adheres cathodes to metal foil. This process results in efficient recovery of cobalt-based cathodes and graphite, among other valuable materials, such as copper foils, that can be reused in new batteries. ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak stated that, in addition to repurposing materials, the new process reduces toxic exposure for workers. The full publication of ORNL’s study is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 1, 2020, DOE’s EERE announced that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) issued a Notice of Opportunity (NOO) providing small businesses and other industry partners with more affordable access to ORNL’s Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC). The NOO allows small businesses to undertake collaborative, short-term R&D projects that accelerate the development of new energy-efficient building technologies. Funded by DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO), selected participants will have access to ORNL’s experienced staff, equipment, and research capabilities. This NOO is particularly designed to significantly reduce the time, cost, and risk of bringing a novel product to market and to accelerate and streamline partnering processes. Each project cost share will be reduced from 50 percent to 20 percent to encourage innovation despite economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ORNL is requesting proposals from industry to assess whether their technological approaches could contribute to BTO’s goal of 30 percent reduction in building energy usage by 2030 relative to the 2010 baseline. Technology areas of interest include:

  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), water heating, and appliances;
  • Windows and building envelope;
  • Solid-state lighting;
  • Building energy modeling;
  • Sensors and controls;
  • Grid-interactive efficient buildings; and
  • Residential and commercial building integration.
Tags: DOE, ORNL

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On February 25, 2020, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel technique to closely observe the nanostructure of biomaterials without damaging the sample. Using a nonintrusive soft mechanical nanoablation (sMNA) technique can confirm structural features in starch, which is an important carbohydrate in the production of biofuels. ORNL’s chief scientist for systems biology and biotechnology, Brian Davison, highlighted the importance of plant cell wall structures in the next generation of biofuels, stating that the “study used starch as an example of how this technique can start to access some of these nanomechanical structure materials” that currently cannot be observed. ORNL’s study was published on February 6, 2020. ORNL scientists believe the novel technique can also be applied to nonliving materials and used on synthetic polymers or even three-dimensional-printed materials.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) resulted in the successful modification of a microorganism to produce a versatile fermentation intermediate that can be upgraded into valuable biobased fuels and chemicals.  NREL’s cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism (Zymomonas mobilis), is capable of exclusively producing 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products.  Techno-economic modeling was performed to study the potential of producing hydrocarbon fuel precursors and co-products in a cost effective manner.  The first breakthrough occurred with genetic modifications to eliminate the ethanol pathways to ensure that sugar metabolism pathways also produced 2,3-BDO.  ORNL continues to explore modifications to its catalytic upgrading system to achieve further process simplifications and cost savings.