May 31, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

Scott Whalen Named 2023 PNNL Inventor of the Year

Materials scientist honored for new manufacturing process that produces high-strength aluminum products

Scott Whalen

Scott Whalen, a PNNL materials scientist, has been named the 2023 PNNL Inventor of the Year. Whalen developed a technology advancing a radically different method for the way metal is extruded—uniquely mixing and deforming solid feedstocks without melting or external heat treating. The innovation is a major contributor to his impactful PNNL portfolio of intellectual property.

(Photo courtesy of Scott Whalen | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Scott Whalen, a chief scientist in the Applied Materials and Manufacturing group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), has been named 2023 PNNL Inventor of the Year.

Whalen received the honor in May 2024 at the PNNL Pathway to Excellence event, which recognizes staff members for achievements that have helped enhance PNNL’s reputation internationally, nationally, regionally, and locally. The selection of PNNL Inventor of the Year is based on contribution to an intellectual property portfolio that has resulted in commercial engagement and impact.

Whalen is the primary inventor who developed intellectual property around the process, product, and tooling for PNNL’s Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE™) technology. His contributions are advancing a radically different method for the way metal is extruded—uniquely mixing and deforming solid feedstocks without melting or external heat treating. The energy savings and support of a closed recycling loop that this innovation affords, combined with the potential for improved material properties, enables benefits for a variety of industries.

Whalen credited teamwork for the prestigious award.

“I am very grateful for this award because it reflects the amazing work done by so many brilliant colleagues,” said Whalen. “What a privilege it is to work daily on world-class research teams where innovation is actively fostered.”

Only 19 others in PNNL history share Whalen’s distinction as Inventor of the Year, an honor that recognizes a technologist for significant scientific advancements that have resulted in the creation and commercial application of intellectual property.

"Scott’s recognition as Inventor of the Year reflects his leadership role in the invention of the ShAPE technology and for the team he has built and grown through his mentorship in this innovative technology field,” said Christina Lomasney, PNNL chief commercialization officer.

ShAPE can transform post-consumer scrap aluminum into usable extrusions that meet or exceed stringent national materials standards for strength and flexibility for common building-grade alloys. ShAPE technology unlocks the possibility of creating circularity in aluminum scrap markets, reducing dependency on imported primary aluminum and the massive amounts of energy and carbon associated with its production.

Whalen’s work has created the scaffolding from which others are now building research and development programs of their own with Department of Energy, Department of Defense, National Nuclear Security Administration, and industry.

From 2017 to 2023, Whalen has had the second most invention disclosures of inventors at PNNL. He has secured 11 U.S. patents, along with 20 pending U.S. patents and 16 pending international patents.