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Three Pacific Northwest National Laboratory inventions win R&D 100 Awards

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July 21, 2003 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Three Pacific Northwest National Laboratory inventions have made the 2003 list of the world's 100 most important scientific and technical innovations, according to an annual competition by R&D Magazine. This brings the PNNL R&D 100 Awards total to 62 since the contest's inception in 1969, 55 of them since 1988.

The Department of Energy laboratory was recognized for PASS, a handheld tool that enlists ultrasound pulses to assay the contents of sealed containers without having to open them; for Starlight, an information visualization system-software that graphically depicts connections among disparate pieces of information from large, complex and dynamic collections; and for FT-MS Proteome Express, an instrument that may trim years off the time required to analyze a proteome, or the entire protein set of an organism.

PASS, or Product Acoustic Signature System, works by bouncing sound off a container's contents, then collecting a telltale echo from what's inside. An official can run PASS, which looks like a power drill crossed with a blow-dryer, over a tanker truck or barrel to distinguish crude oil from vegetable oil or chemical weapons agents. The device can also unmask hidden packages, reveal secret compartments and determine a container's fill level. PASS can save time and protect law enforcement and border inspectors from potentially hazardous materials. Aaron Diaz, PNNL senior research scientist, led the development of the PASS technology, which is licensed to Mehl, Griffin, & Bartek Ltd. of Crystal City, Va. MGB shares the award.

Starlight was originally developed for the U.S. intelligence community to identify terrorist threats. That same technology can elicit relationships in a diverse array of arenas, from competitive intelligence and fraud detection to epidemiology and bioinformatics.

In one application, a Global 100 company is using Starlight to identify new research or products appearing in open literature that relate to a potential competitive threat or opportunity at a very early stage.

It has even been used to retrieve the top 100 pages in a Google search of the term "information visualization," plus all pages that linked to or from the pages in the query. The search yielded 1,500 pages that, mapped out in Starlight, showed the detailed hyperlink structure of the various information visualization groups' Web pages. A glance at the map could enable anyone to see instantly who was who in the information-visualization universe at the time of the query. John Risch, PNNL senior research scientist, led the software development team.

FT-MS Proteome Express is an automated, ultra-high resolution combined separation and mass spectrometer-based system that measures the large and complex proteins in any organism at any time. (FT-MS stands for Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer.) PNNL researcher and Battelle Fellow Richard D. Smith was the principal investigator in its creation. Measuring proteins and their abundances at different times, and especially the proteins present in only tiny amounts, is the key to understanding molecular-level cell function and disease progression, treatment and prevention. In experiments at PNNL, the Proteome Express has demonstrated more than 100-fold improvements in speed and sensitivity over previous methods, and demonstrated its applicability in projects that range from how microorganisms absorb atmospheric carbon to how certain viral proteins cause blindness. This is Smith's seventh R&D 100 Award.

R&D 100 Awards honor the most promising new products, processes, materials or software developed throughout the world and put on the market the previous year. Awards are based on each achievement's technical significance, uniqueness and usefulness. The winning inventors will be recognized in October at R&D Magazine's 41st annual awards banquet held in Chicago, where the magazine is based.

Business inquiries on research and PNNL technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail: Inquiries on PASS may be directed to Chip Block of Mehl, Griffin, & Bartek Ltd., phone: (703) 413-5092.

Tags: Energy

PNNL LogoInterdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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