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PNNL recognized for commercializing technology

News Release

February 03, 2003 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been recognized for transferring technologies that are keeping weapons and contraband from crossing U.S. borders, reducing the toxicity of vehicle emissions and helping communities prepare for natural and other disasters.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium announced this week that it is honoring PNNL with three 2003 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards for the laboratory's Acoustic Inspection Device, engine exhaust aftertreatment system and EMAdvantage emergency management software.

The PNNL technologies were among 22 recognized nationwide by the FLC this year. With 54 awards, PNNL has been honored by the FLC more than any other federal laboratory since the recognition program began in 1984.

Acoustic Inspection Device

On a typical day, the U.S. Customs Service examines 1.3 million passengers and more than 400,000 vehicles, aircraft and ships as it patrols the vast borders of the United States. To help it with this daunting task, the Customs Service now has access to the PNNL-developed Acoustic Inspection Device (

Acoustic inspection is a non-invasive approach that allows rapid and reliable assessment of the contents of sealed, liquid-filled containers. AID can determine the characteristics of the liquid as well as detect foreign objects, contraband or explosives hidden inside the containers.

AID is a handheld device roughly the size and shape of a large cordless drill. It contains a sensor head, is tethered to a personal digital assistant and is linked to a data library. AID works by transmitting ultrasonic pulses and detecting return echoes to identify the characteristics of container contents.

AID originally was developed by PNNL for inspection of chemical weapon stockpiles in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, and for U.S. and Russian chemical weapons bilateral treaty verification. The technology was modified, and in January 2002 PNNL signed a licensing agreement with Mehl, Griffin and Bartek, of Arlington, Va., to manufacture and sell the device to the Customs Service. A similar version of the device is being used along borders in Eastern Europe to detect smuggled goods there.

Engine Exhaust Aftertreatment System

By combining an electrically charged gas with a specialized catalyst, PNNL researchers and industry partners have developed a system that substantially reduces harmful vehicle exhaust emissions from diesel and gasoline engines. These reductions are critical to meeting government-mandated vehicle emissions and fuel economy requirements that will take effect toward the end of the decade.

The novel approach converts harmful oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter from vehicle engines into components of clean air. Oxides of nitrogen react with water vapor in the atmosphere to form acid rain and are a precursor to ozone, a major component of smog. Particulate matter emissions are a source of respiratory irritation and potentially contribute to chronic health effects.

The need for a technology to reduce the toxicity of vehicle emissions is so great the lab successfully transferred the exhaust aftertreatment technology ( to three organizations - Delphi Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and the Low Emissions Partnership of USCAR, a government-industry program that involves Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and General Motors Corp.

Delphi canceled its non-thermal plasma exhaust aftertreatment program in October 2002. Delphi has stopped work with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to further research and develop a non-thermal plasma exhaust aftertreatment solution.

EMAdvantage© Emergency Management Software

In an emergency, getting accurate information to decision makers in time to make good decisions can save lives and property. This is true for natural disasters as well as industrial accidents that involve toxic, explosive or other hazardous materials.

EMAdvantage enables decision makers within an emergency operations center to make informed decisions and share information in real time with the larger emergency management community, including incident command centers, shelters, schools, hospitals, joint information centers and others involved in emergency planning and response activities.

The system combines modeling, visualization and communications capabilities that enable emergency managers to identify hazards, perform threat and risk analysis, declare emergencies, execute and track responses, register and reunify evacuees, and make and implement informed protective action decisions.

The software system is based on a PNNL-developed package that was created to safeguard communities near the nation's chemical weapons depots.

Recently, EMAdvantage was customized to address situations specific to the oil industry, translated into Spanish and installed at the Minatitlan Refinery in Mexico where it is helping officials plan for and respond to events ranging from fires and explosions to toxic gas dispersion.

Annually, the FLC recognizes federal laboratories and their employees who have made significant contributions in transferring important federally funded technology into the private sector. The FLC is comprised of more than 700 federal laboratories and centers nationwide.

A formal ceremony honoring the winning entries will be held at the FLC's 2003 National Meeting in Tucson, Ariz., on May 8, 2003.

Business inquiries on the award-winning technologies can be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or

Tags: Energy, Environment, Operations, Emissions

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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