Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Breakthroughs Magazine

Special Report - Commercial Partnerships: Working with a National Laboratory

Licensed to kill...metal contaminants

A nanomaterial designed to capture and remove mercury and other toxic substances from waste streams has been licensed for commercial use.

Battelle has licensed the SAMMS™ technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Steward Environmental Solutions, LLC, a manufacturer of advanced powders and nanomaterials.

SAMMS, or Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, is an advanced technology that can be tailored to selectively remove specific metal contaminants without creating hazardous waste or by-products.

Steward Employees Xing Dong (left) and Ashley Mullins (right). Steward Environmental Solutions, LLC has signed two licensing agreements for the production of SAMMS. Photo courtesy of Steward Environmental.

Steward signed the first licensing agreement in November 2005 and intends to initially market SAMMS for treating gaseous emissions such as those from coal-fired power plants, municipal incinerators, and other similar plants where testing has begun. They have also begun testing on other complex aqueous and organic waste streams.

The original SAMMS application for mercury-removal from water and waste streams is being modified to work with Steward's proprietary powder technology for application to a broad category of waste streams. The two technologies are combined to remove mercury and other toxic metals from applications where it is difficult to use traditional physical filter technology. The combination of the two technologies reacts with mercury and removes it from the emissions stream prior to release into the atmosphere.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that coal-fired power plants contribute about 48 tons of mercury to the U.S. environment each year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes that roughly eight percent of American women of childbearing age have mercury concentration in their bodies that exceed safety limits. In March 2005, the EPA issued the first federal rule to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions for coal-fired power plants, making the United States the first country in the world to regulate mercury emissions.

"The greatest benefit may be to the public," said Shas Mattigod, PNNL staff scientist. "By providing industry with simple, inexpensive and highly efficient methods to reduce or remove contamination to the environment, the impact to human health is significantly reduced."

In March 2006, Steward signed a second license agreement for the manufacture and sale of SAMMS for multiple fields of use. "SAMMS can be easily adapted to recover toxic substances from contaminated streams, lakes, and storm sewers," said PNNL SAMMS commercialization lead Rick Skaggs.

In the past, despite SAMMS' demonstrated advantages in treating heavy metals, the absence of a manufacturer left many companies with the impression that it is a research-level technology not applicable to solving real problems. "Now that SAMMS is commercially available from Steward, we anticipate even greater interest in using SAMMS to solve problems in many fields of use," Skaggs said.

Since the initial development of the technology, PNNL has continued to refine and test new applications that will broaden the range of contaminants effectively treated by SAMMS. Steward hopes to work with PNNL on the production of these applications. "We have received terrific support from several leading electric utilities, as they are truly committed to finding the best environmental technology," said Steward's vice president Bob Jones. "SAMMS earliest deployments appear to be in aqueous or organic solutions where a fast and economic solution is required such as municipalities, process industry, hospitals, and utilities."

Steward began producing SAMMS at an industrial scale in March 2006. "We are pleased with the comments about potential savings and performance advantages we have gotten from our first customers," Jones said. "We have planned a continuing increase in manufacturing capability so that we are able to meet demand."

Breakthroughs Magazine

In this issue...