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Breakthroughs Magazine

Notable Achievements

Award-winning technologies a potential goldmine for medical, manufacturing fields

An improved cancer treatment and a new way to manufacture titanium parts are among the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory innovations that received international acclaim this year from R&D Magazine. Known as the "Oscars of Invention," the R&D 100 awards honor the top 100 scientific and technical products and advancements worldwide each year.

In total, PNNL has won 71 R&D 100 awards since it first began submitting entries in 1969. The Laboratory and its partners received this year's awards for five technologies.

  • Cesium-131 Brachytherapy Seed. This tiny seed, used to treat prostate and other cancers, delivers a highly targeted therapeutic dose of radiation to tumors quickly and with potentially fewer side effects than other treatment options. PNNL shared this award with IsoRay Medical, Inc., of Richland, Washington, which developed the technology with assistance from PNNL. A public company, IsoRay Medical is manufacturing the seeds and distributing them to hospitals and other medical centers nationwide.
  • SIM. This surface-induced mineralization technique allows drug-enhanced calcium-phosphate coatings to be applied to orthopedic implants and medical devices, enhancing bone-bonding and reducing bacterial growth. The technology has been licensed to Bacterin of Belgrade, Montana.
  • When fully commercialized, the product is expected to help the body accept foreign objects like knee implants or catheters, while also inhibiting post-surgical infection. Last year, Fortune magazine featured the technology and Bacterin in its 25 Breakout Companies list of entrepreneurial firms.
  • e-RESS. This technology uses supercritical fluids and electric fields to deposit nanoparticle-size coatings onto the surfaces of medical devices such as cardiovascular stents. Therapeutic agents may also be encapsulated in the coatings, allowing for more consistent drug delivery and reducing the need for replacement surgeries caused by the buildup of tissue. PNNL shares this award with Micell Technologies of Raleigh, North Carolina, which licensed the technology this year for use with medical devices.
  • MilliWave Thermal Analyzer. This patent-pending instrument uses millimeter-wave electromagnetic radiation to measure the temperature, amount of energy emitted, and physical changes of materials, processes and systems in real time. PNNL shares this award with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina.
  • Ti MIM. This technique for titanium metal injection molding that enables production of high-quality titanium metal parts for biomedical, aviation and automotive industries at lower cost, higher production rates and better quality than existing production processes. The Ti MIM process was licensed to a Fortune 500 chemical company this year.

(Photo caption 1: Radiation-emitting "seeds" are being used to treat hundreds of prostate cancer patients nationwide with cesium-131, which delivers a more aggressive dose and leaves the body much faster than other isotopes, dramatically reducing unnecessary radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissue.)

(Photo caption 2: Applying calcium-phosphate coatings with the SIM process allows the body to accept metal implants as bone material.)

(Photo caption 3: Ti MIM is a proprietary binder for injection-molded titanium without impurities. For manufacturers, this means faster, lower-cost production of high-strength parts for the biomedical, aviation and automotive industries.)

PNNL physicist wins presidential science award

In July 2006, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Yanwen Zhang, a materials physicist, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent career. Zhang was also presented with the Department of Energy Office of Science Early Career Scientists and Engineers award. Both awards recognize her extensive research in materials physics—most notably in ion-beam technologies.

Over a decade ago, the National Science and Technology Council created this award program to honor and support the extraordinary achievements of young professionals within the science and technology fields. Zhang was nominated by PNNL and DOE for this award, which also entails a five-year funding research commitment on behalf of DOE.

Zhang holds two doctoral degrees—one in engineering physics from Lund University in Sweden and another in materials science from Beijing Normal University in China. Currently working in the DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory in Richland, Washington, her research focuses on the interaction of energetic ions with solid materials. Her original and innovative method for measuring the energy loss of particles as they pass through materials solved the historical problem of inaccurate and inefficient measurements. Zhang's successfully implemented time-of-flight spectroscopy process was a significant scientific breakthrough. Her discoveries have potential impact in nuclear power, national security, nuclear waste management and energy-efficient electronics.

With more than 100 publications and several ongoing research collaborations, Zhang is widely recognized for her significant contributions to the scientific community. She also is active in several professional societies, has received other science and academic awards and is involved in educational and community service activities.

(Photo caption: Yanwen Zhang)

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