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New Technology May Turbocharge Electrical Efficiency
October 2, 2018

An internal combustion engine similar to the one in your car could play a key role in making electrical generation far more efficient.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison team led by mechanical engineering Professor Sage Kokjohn is developing new technology that would use smaller, distributed electrical generation systems roughly twice as efficient as conventional fossil fuel-based power plants and provide more environmentally friendly power.

According to information, the technology could also offer an economical way to support the addition of a growing number of renewable energy sources to the power grid.

Most electricity fed into the power grid is generated by large power plants burning coal and natural gas. But these plants turn only about 36 percent of the energy released by their burning fuel into useful electricity. And by the time that electricity reaches customers, the amount drops to 34 percent due to losses over transmission lines.

Prof. Kokjohn is aiming to design a plant that can capture 70 percent of its fuel’s energy potential as electricity by integrating two technologies – an internal combustion engine and a solid oxide fuel cell – into a hybrid system that capitalizes on the unique characteristics of each. The Department of Energy is supporting the research with a $1.7 million grant from its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program.

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