ConocoPhillips, Penn State award Energy Prize to rural cogeneration

October 19, 2010

Houston and University Park, Pa. -- Electricity and hot water for remote, off-the-grid health clinics and schools is the focus of the "Small Scale Solar Organic Rankine Cycle for Rural Cogeneration" project that is the winner of the 2010 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, awarded by ConocoPhillips and Penn State.

The ConocoPhillips Energy Prize recognizes new ideas and original, feasible solutions in three areas that can help improve the way the U.S. develops and uses energy: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency and combating climate change.

Matthew Orosz and team STG have developed a solar generator that could bring electric power to remote areas around the world. As in large solar generating plants, mirrors feed the sun's energy to run a small, Rankine engine using a low-temperature fluid to generate electricity and waste heat to provide hot water.

There are more than 30,000 health clinics in Africa, South Asia and South America and many more schools that are off the grid. The team plans to manufacture most of the solar collector parts and the engine locally and to train local people to maintain the equipment. These cogeneration plants could also be used in remote off-the-grid locations in the U.S.

STG originated in Cambridge, Mass., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently testing its cogenerator in Lesotho.

More than 200 entries were submitted for evaluation by a panel of energy and environmental experts, which selected five finalists on the basis of creativity, scalability, commercial viability and sustainability.

The first runner up was Gregory Stephanopoulos, professor of chemical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for "Bioprocess and Microbe Engineering for Total Carbon Utilization in Biofuel Production," an approach that uses either carbon dioxide alone or with plant carbohydrates to produce biofuels. The process uses a specially designed microbe that can convert carbohydrates to oil and carbon dioxide, and another microbe converts the carbon dioxide to ethanol or other organic substances.

The second runner up was Mark Venettozi for "Epitrochoidal Crankshaft," an innovation that improves the power output and efficiency of an internal combustion engine. The new crankshaft design allows the engine to use the energy produced by the entire piston stroke improving power and energy efficiency.

The five finalists included C. Charles Dismukes, professor, and Martha Greenblatt, Board of Governors professor, department chemistry and chemical biology, Rutgers University, for "Renewable Fuels from Sunlight: Bioinspired Catalysts for Solar-Driven Water Splitting," a process that uses a solar powered photovoltaic cell and specially designed organic catalysts to product hydrogen fuel from water. Hydrogen is a renewable clean fuel that does not produce greenhouse gases.

Also among the five finalists was Pedro Santos and team, OsComp Systems, for "Hybrid Rotor Compressor/Expander for Compressed Air Energy Storage," which uses a non-geographically tied approach to compressed air for energy storage. The process uses off-the-shelf gas industry piping and a water-cooled hybrid rotor compressor to compress air that can be stored above ground and used as an energy source at a later time.

Each of the five finalists received an award of $25,000 to further the development of their concept. The winner received an additional $100,000; the first and second runners-up received an additional $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.

The awards were presented Oct. 18 at a ceremony held at ConocoPhillips corporate offices in Houston following formal presentations by the five finalists to the panel of judges. The judges were: Charles Bierbauer, dean, Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina; Ralph Cicerone, president, National Academy of Sciences; Peter Jackson, Senior Director, Oil Industry Activity, Cambridge Energy Research Associates; James Kimble, Fellow, Biofuels and Long-Range Technology (retired), ConocoPhillips; and Chunshan Song, director, Earth and Mineral Sciences Energy Institute and professor of fuel science and chemical engineering, Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, Penn State.

In 2009, ConocoPhillips and Penn State awarded the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize to Scott Anderson, Palm Beach, Fla., and Kenai, Alaska and his team for the ECO-Auger, a hydrokinetic machine that converts moving water from river and ocean currents to renewable electric energy.

More information about the prize and the finalist is available at

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Last Updated October 21, 2010