Duy X. Luong, Ksenia V. Bets, Wala Ali Algozeeb, Michael G. Stanford, Carter Kittrell, Weiyin Chen, Rodrigo V. Salvatierra, Muqing Ren, Emily A. McHugh, Paul A. Advincula, Zhe Wang, Mahesh Bhatt, Hua Guo, Vladimir Mancevski, Rouzbeh Shahsavari, Boris I. Yakobson, and James M. Tour Rice University, Houston, TX

Winner of an HP Workstation

A new process can turn bulk quantities of just about any carbon source into valuable graphene flakes. The process is quick and cheap; the “flash graphene” technique can convert a ton of coal, waste food, or plastic into graphene for a fraction of the cost used by other bulk graphene-producing methods.

Flash graphene is made in 10 milliseconds by heating carbon-containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin (about 5,000 °F). The source material can be nearly anything with carbon content. Food waste, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, wood clippings, and biochar are prime candidates. A concentration of as little as 0.1 % of flash graphene in the cement used to bind concrete could lessen its massive environmental impact by a third. The process essentially traps greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills and converts those carbons into graphene. Adding that graphene to concrete lowers the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture.

Flash Joule heating for bulk graphene improves upon techniques like exfoliation from graphite and chemical vapor deposition on a metal foil that require much more effort and cost to produce just a little graphene. The process produces “turbostratic” graphene, with misaligned layers that are easy to separate.

The flash process happens in a custom-designed reactor that heats material quickly and emits all noncarbon elements as gas. Elements like oxygen and nitrogen that exit the flash reactor can all be trapped as small molecules because they have value. The flash process produces very little excess heat, channeling almost all of its energy into the target — the heat is concentrated in the carbon material and none in a surrounding reactor.

The researchers hope to produce a kilogram (2.2 pounds) a day of flash graphene within two years, starting with a project funded by the Department of Energy to convert US-sourced coal.

For more information, visit here .


Reducing Climate Change with Waste to Energy

P.D. Madden, Eco Energy International, Tustin, CA

This invention directly converts all forms of organic waste directly into hydrogen with no digesters and thus, no gases like methane. The organic waste is dissolved into a caustic solution that enters a reformer vessel with a catalyst at specific temperatures and pressures. The result is hydrogen and a carbonate byproduct that is marketable. The carbonate contains all of the carbon, so no CO2 is released.

For more information, visit here .

Thermionic Wave Generator (TWG)

John Read, Devin Vollmer, and Todd Mitchell, Space Charge LLC, San Diego, CA

This electronic, wafer-fabricated device enables inexpensive, efficient, direct conversion of thermal energy (heat) to electricity It will work across the spectrum of energy applications — residential through industrial and transportation – and consists of no moving parts or working fluid.

For more information, visit here .

TriboFuge — Water from Air Harvester

Philip Hardcastle, AquaFuge, New South Wales, Australia

TriboFuge (Tribo-electric Centrifuge) harvests water from air using a combination of an electrostatic precipitator and a centrifuge. It can produce almost limitless water for cattle, to grow crops, or to fill dams during the winter to have water ready to be used in the summer.

For more information, visit here .

Transformational Li-ion Batteries with ≥10x Longer Life/Safer than Current LIBs

Orlando Auciello, Elida I de Obaldia, and Jean F. Veyan, Original Biomedical Implants, Dallas, TX

This electrically conductive, corrosion-resistant, nitrogen-atom-doped ultrananocrystalline diamond (N-UNCD) coating provides chemically robust encapsulation of commercial natural graphite (NG)/copper (Cu) anodes and textured Si-based anodes, providing a solution to the problem of lithium-ion battery anode material degradation due to chemical corrosion induced by Li ions.

For more information, visit here .

See the rest of this year's winners: