American-Made Challenges

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CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize

Conductivity-enhanced materials for Affordable, Breakthrough Leapfrog Electric applications (CABLE) Prize for materials inventors

This challenge is closed

stage:
Won
prize:
$4,500,000

This challenge is closed

Overview

Challenge Overview

Conductive materials are fundamental to nearly all energy use applications. Developing manufacturing processes for conductivity-enhanced materials in motors, generators, and renewable power technologies could lower costs and climate impacts while improving energy efficiency and other performance.

The competition aims to unite a diverse collection of researchers and inventors to develop transformative, cost-effective approaches and technologies to accelerate American entrepreneurship and pinpoint pathways for further research and development funding and technology transition efforts.

The Conductivity-enhanced materials for Affordable, Breakthrough Leapfrog Electric and thermal applications (CABLE) Conductor Manufacturing Prize aims to help supercharge our U.S. energy and manufacturing industries. Competitors must demonstrate significant enhancements in conductivity and affordability that enable U.S. manufacturers to leapfrog to next-generation materials.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO)launched the CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize to encourage such breakthrough conductivity-enhanced materials. Up to 4 Grand Prize winners will be selected in this three-stage, three-year contest.

 

CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Stage Overview

Stage 1 (CLOSED):

Competitors submitted their breakthrough concepts to develop and manufacture a new, affordable, conductivity-enhanced material useable for electrical or thermal applications. Ten winners each received $25,000 in cash awards and a stipend for third-party testing of their material in Stage 2 of the prize. Stage 1 of the prize helped inform DOE about the minimum-conductivity enhancement and other property standards, as well as the types of support that competitors will likely need from DOE national laboratories or other American-Made Challenges Network providers in the next two stages of the prize. 

 

Stage 2 (OPEN December 2021):

Competitors will provide a sample of their material for electrical conductivity testing according to prize requirements to be published in early Winter 2021. Competitors will also provide preliminary plans to scale-up and manufacture the material. Up to 6 competitors each will win $200,000 in cash awards and $100,000 in noncash voucher support to work with a DOE national laboratory (including user facilities) or other American-Made Challenges Network provider in Stage 3. Any eligible entity can compete in Stage 2 regardless of whether they were a competitor in Stage 1. 

Stage 3:

Competitors successful in Stage 2 will develop a larger sample of their conductivity-enhanced material. Competitors also must provide substantial background information on how the sample was made and plans to commercialize the material. At least three testing organizations will evaluate each material sample for conductivity and other characteristics. Scores will be based, in part, on the conductivity enhancement (size and extent of breakthrough), other important material characteristics, and leapfrog manufacturability and affordability. Up to 4 competitors will split a total prize pool of at least $2,000,000.

 

You can review the Stage 1 official rules or the Stage 2 rules when they are ready here

 

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Timeline
Updates 12

Challenge Updates

Stage 1 Winners Announced!

Oct. 8, 2021, 11:29 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Congratulations to the 10 teams that have won Stage 1 of the competition! We’d like to thank all of the competing teams for their time, effort, and impressive submissions. 

All Stage 1 entries were top quality, and the selection process was highly competitive. The prize administration team encourages competitors who were not selected in Stage 1 to continue to refine their concept based on judges’ feedback and compete in Stage 2 of the competition. If you submitted an entry to Stage 1 of the CABLE Prize, we will be reaching out with an email notification and information regarding next steps shortly.  

Next up is Stage 2 of the prize, which is tentatively scheduled to open in December 2021.

Be sure to stay engaged on the HeroX forum, where we’ll share updates about Stage 2 of the competition. 

Thank you again and congrats to our Stage 1 winners!

 

- The CABLE Prize Administration Team

 


Stage 1 Submissions Due Tomorrow by 5 p.m. ET!

Aug. 18, 2021, 8 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Dear CABLE Prize Stage 1 Competitors,

 

This is a quick reminder to please submit your concepts by 5 p.m. ET tomorrow, August 19

 

Please review the official rules document for full details about the submission package.

We strongly encourage that you upload your submissions well ahead of the 5 p.m. ET deadline so that you don't have any last-minute technical difficulties. If you run into any technical difficulties or have any questions, please email us at cableprize@nrel.gov before the deadline. 

We look forward to receiving your breakthrough concepts!

Thank you, 

The CABLE Prize Administration Team


The CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Phase 1 submission deadline is only 1 week away!

Aug. 12, 2021, 2:43 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hi, Innovators—

 

We know you’re hard at work putting the final touches on your CABLE Prize submissions. Remember, the submission deadline is Thursday, August 19, 2021, at 5 p.m. EDT and we’ll need to see your Cover Page, 90-Second Video, Overview Slide, Technical Narrative, Letters of Commitment or Support, and Diversity and Inclusion Plan for this submission.

 

Post any questions you have on the CABLE Prize forum, or email us at .

 

We can’t wait to see your ideas!

 

- The CABLE Prize Administration Team


Attention Competitors: The Stage 1 Submission Deadline is Extended to August 19!

Aug. 3, 2021, 1:26 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hello CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Competitors!

The CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Stage 1 submission deadline has been extended to Thursday, August 19, 2021 5 P.M. ET.

The submission deadline has been updated in the Official Prize Rules Document, which is available here and on the American-Made Challenges website.  

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us on the forum. 

Thank you,

The CABLE Prize Administrative Team 


Reminder: Stage 1 Submissions Due Tomorrow by 5 p.m. ET!

Aug. 2, 2021, 8:31 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hello CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Community,

We hope the final touches on your Stage 1 submission package are coming along! Review the modified official rules document for full details on what to submit. 

We strongly encourage that you upload your submissions well ahead of the 5 p.m. ET deadline so that you don't have any last-minute technical difficulties. If you run into any technical difficulties or have any questions, please email us at cableprize@nrel.gov before the deadline. 

We look forward to receiving your breakthrough concepts!

Please let us know if you have any questions.

- The CABLE Prize Administrative Team


Forum 15
Teams 198
Entries
Resources
FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Solve this Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.

No, if you are a contest winner you are receiving the prize for meeting or exceeding the contest goals. 

Innovation is about making ideas happen. The American-Made Network will accelerate and sustain conductor materials innovation through a diverse and powerful network that includes national laboratories, energy incubators, facilities, and other valuable industry partners from across the U.S. who will engage, connect, mentor, and boost the efforts of CABLE Prize competitors.

See who is in the network.

If you encounter an issue when attempting to submit an entry to the challenge, you may need to contact HeroX or the Prize Administrator.

You may try to connect with HeroX using the online form which appears in the bottom right corner of your browser window, it says Leave a Message.

You may also send a message to the Prize Administrator inbox at CABLEprize@nrel.gov.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the Prize Administrator for the American-Made Challenges. In this capacity, NREL works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy to administer the challenges, maintain the website platform, assist in building the network, and pay prize money to the winning teams.

All of your files are uploaded as part of the submission form, access this by clicking the Begin Entry button.  The submission form contains an upload option for each of the required file entries.  Only PDF files will be accepted for upload.

The three classes of materials that are the subject of the CABLE Prize all involve nanoscience and nanotechnology at different nano-length scales. Class 1—metal enhanced with nanocarbon involves the addition of carbon allotropes such as 1-dimensional carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (spacing of 0.2-0.4 nm) and two dimensional Graphene (interplanar spacing of 0.3nm) to conducting metals such as silver, copper and aluminum to enhance the conductivity above that of the base metal    Class 2—metal enhanced without nanocarbon, involves the precise control of metal and other interfaces especially in metal matrix composites at the scale of >100 nms for metal grain sizes.  Class 3—Non-metals.  For those based on enhancing conductivity with nanoparticles of metal—the relevant nano length scales are the metal atomic mono-layer (~10s nm) for the deposition of metal nanoparticle films on the polymer.   

The April 7-9 2021 CABLE Workshop has a dual purpose.  First, it is intended to encourage partnering among material scientists, product developers, manufacturers, and other CABLE-relevant researchers to to network and strengthen the emerging field of conductivity-enhanced research, development and deployment (RD&D) as well as key workforce and education efforts.  In particular, the workshop will bring together the disparate existing elements of the CABLE Big Idea Research Ecosystem.  This ‘ecosystem’ includes Prize Competitors, SBIR applicants, and currently funded (or recently completed) CABLE-related national laboratory, company and university research teams) Also invited to the CABLE workshop are representatives of RD&D efforts from key CABLE application areas (including CABLE SBIR 20 b-h) such as electricity distribution systems (e.g. transmission cables TRAC awardees), transportation (e.g. ARPA-e’s DE-FOA-0001953 Topic Q: Connecting Aviation by Lighter Electric Systems competitors), energy efficiency (e.g. AMO FY19 MTFOA on nanocrystalline metals); and renewable energy.   

Second—like all AMO-sponsored RD&D workshops—this workshop will provide input to guide AMO’s future portfolio of RD&D investments.  

The interrelationship of the CABLE Prize, the CABLE workshop and other CABLE Big Idea activities are outlined and updated at the overall CABLE Big Idea website (cable-bigidea.anl.gov). 

The CABLE FY20 DOE Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR) Topic released last Fall-- Topic 20 entitled “Conductivity-enhanced Materials for Affordable, Breakthrough, Leapfrog Electric and thermal applications (CABLE) Materials and Applications—supported R&D for both CABLE materials and CABLE applications.   The first CABLE subtopic (20a) was focused on transferring a technology for a type of CABLE material from Argonne National Laboratory to the marketplace.  Any awardees for 20a might also compete for the CABLE Prize.  The rest of the CABLE subtopics (20-b-h) –though they may involve materials fabrication—are for applications of CABLE materials in various products ranging from transmission line cables to electric vehicles. Any proposers for the CABLE SBIR application subtopics (20b-h) that intend to fabricate their own materials may also compete for the CABLE Prize.  In addition, any such proposers that do NOT intend to fabricate their own material for the disruptive innovations they are planning for U.S. manufacturers of cables (for grid and EVs), motors, generators, and renewable power technologies are strongly encouraged to partner with CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize competitors.  The timing of the Prize is set so that CABLE Prize winners receive their government funding at about the same time that CABLE SBIR awardees grants begin.

The interrelationships of the CABLE Prize, the DOE Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) FY 2021 Phase I Release 2 CABLE Topic, and the CABLE workshop are outlined and updated at the overall CABLE Big Idea website (cable-bigidea.anl.gov).

Stage 2 competitors will be required to submit a microscale sample (1 gram minimum, other size requirements to be provided in Stage 2 rules) of their material for electrical conductivity testing. Two or more geographically diverse approved testing locations will be identified in the Stage 2 Rules.

Winners of Stage 1 will receive a testing stipend for Stage 2.  New competitors may enter the prize in Stage 2 but will need to self-fund required testing at an approved testing facility.

More information about Stage 2 testing will be included in the Stage 2 official rules document to be released prior to the Stage 2.

Unlike superconductors, "conductivity-enhanced materials" have reliable enhanced conductivity at room temperature and promise even more enhancement at elevated industrial process temperatures. Enhanced conductivity materials support transformational technologies ranging from electric cars, trains, and planes, to smartphones, heat pumps, and everything else in our daily lives that involves the conduction of electric and thermal energy.

Building a clean energy economy and addressing the climate crisis is a top priority of the Biden Administration. This Prize will advance the Biden Administration’s goals to achieve carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and “deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050” to the benefit of all Americans[1].

This prize will push frontiers of science and engineering and drive American innovation for materials that can lead to the deployment of clean energy technology that is critical for climate protection. It also will catalyze clean energy jobs through the research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) done by Prize competitors. 

In addition to their benefits for clean energy technologies, conductivity-enhanced materials can help deliver a clean energy future by enabling the grid expansion needed to deliver affordable, cleaner, lower-impact electricity that ensures environmental justice and inclusion of disadvantaged communities. The competitors’ activities supported under this Prize will enhance the government-wide approach to the climate crisis by lowering the costs of conductors to advance the goals of carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and industrial electrification to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050.

[1]  Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” January 27, 2021.

It is the policy of the Biden Administration that:

[T]he Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government. Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies (agencies) must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.  By advancing equity across the Federal Government, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone[1].

As part of this whole of government approach, this Prize seeks to encourage the participation of disadvantaged communities and underrepresented groups. As recognized in section 305 of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017, Public Law 114-329:

"(1) [I]t is critical to our Nation’s economic leadership and global competitiveness that the United States educate, train, and retain more scientists, engineers, and computer scientists; (2) there is currently a disconnect between the availability of and growing demand for STEM-skilled workers; (3) historically, underrepresented populations are the largest untapped STEM talent pools in the United States; and (4) given the shifting demographic landscape, the United States should encourage full participation of individuals from underrepresented populations in STEM fields."

Competitors are highly encouraged to include individuals from groups historically underrepresented[2] in STEM on their teams[3].  As part of the Prize application, competitors are required to describe how diversity and inclusion objectives will be incorporated in the project. Specifically, competitors are required to submit a Diversity and Inclusion Plan that describes the actions the competitor will take to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment, support people from underrepresented groups in STEM, and encourage the inclusion of individuals from these groups in the project; and the extent to which the project activities will be located in or benefit disadvantaged communities. The plan should include SMART milestones supported by metrics to measure the success of the proposed actions.

Further, Minority Serving Institutions, Minority Business Enterprises, Minority Owned Businesses, Woman Owned Businesses, or entities located in a disadvantaged community[4] that meet the eligibility requirements (See Section 6 below) are encouraged to apply. As described in section III.13, the Selection Official may consider the inclusion of these types of entities as part of the selection decision.

 

[1] Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” (Jan. 20, 2021).

[2] Historically, minorities and women have been vastly underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields that drive the energy sector. In the U.S., Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians make up 24 percent of the overall workforce, yet only account for 9 percent of the country’s science and engineering workforce. DOE seeks to reverse this troubling trend by working to inspire underrepresented Americans to pursue careers in energy and supporting their advancement into leadership positions. https://www.energy.gov/articles/introducing-minorities-energy-initiative.

[3]  As recognized in section 305 of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017, Public Law 114-329. 

[4]  DOE defines “disadvantaged communities” to be areas that most suffer from a combination of economic, health, and environmental burdens, such as, poverty, high unemployment, air and water pollution, presence of hazardous wastes as well as high incidence of asthma and heart disease. Example include, but are not limited to: economically distressed communities identified by the Internal Revenue Service as Qualified Opportunity Zones; communities identified as disadvantaged communities by their respective States; communities identified on the Index of Deep Disadvantage referenced at https://news.umich.edu/new-index-ranks-americas-100-most-disadvantaged-communities/, and communities that otherwise meet the DOE definition of a disadvantaged community.

Additional FAQ answers related to the Stage 1 Modification can be found under the resources tab .