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Pacific Northwest developments earn spots in top 100 list

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July 20, 1999 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Pacific Northwest's technologies that won R&D100 Awards are leading to:


  • tiny personal and home heating systems
  • fuel cells for automobiles
  • better radiation monitoring
  • enhanced scientific measurements
  • advanced chemical modeling
  • safer drinking water.

RICHLAND, Wash. - Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory aren't in the business of winning awards, but their commitment to solving some of the nation's most complex problems rarely fails to garner attention. Six of the laboratory's technologies are part of R&D Magazine's list of the 100 most significant innovations of 1998.

The magazine conducts the annual R&D 100 Award competition to honor the most promising new products, processes, materials or software developed throughout the world. Awards are based on each achievement's technical significance, uniqueness and usefulness. Pacific Northwest researchers have received 51 R&D 100 Awards since 1969 - 25 of those within the last five years.

The researchers and their technologies will be honored at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on September 23. The winning technologies are:

MicroHeater. This palm-sized combustion unit weighs less than .2kg (5 oz.) and can provide heat for portable personal heating/cooling devices, in-line water heaters, fuel cell systems and indoor heating systems such as baseboard heaters. An array of units can heat a house efficiently and reduce energy loss by 45 percent compared to conventional natural gas central heating. It's the first device of its kind and offers special opportunities for miniaturizing heating and heat pump devices. MicroHeater achieves its small size, affordability and very low emission levels by relying on high rates of heat and energy mass transfer through specially fabricated microchannels carrying hot water.

Compact Microchannel Fuel Vaporizer. This miniature fuel vaporizer is a key component of a multi-step fuel processing system that will convert gasoline in a vehicle to hydrogen. Hydrogen is required to operate fuel cells to power electric cars, which have low emissions compared to standard internal combustion engines. Fuel cells exist, but the problem is that hydrogen isn't available at gas stations, and systems to convert gasoline to hydrogen have been too large to fit in a car. But the compact fuel vaporizer is small - about the size of a soda can - and weighs four pounds. The entire fuel processing system is expected to be less than 10 liters in volume. This technology brings the fuel cell-powered automobile a significant step closer to reality.

PUMA Fiber Optic Neutron and Gamma Ray Sensor. PUMA is a specialized radiation sensor that is comprised of lightweight, flexible glass fibers that provides portable, real-time measurements of neutrons and gamma rays. Called PUMA for plutonium measurement and analysis, the sensor is both more flexible and rugged than rigid gas tube sensor technology. The fibers emit light to indicate various levels of radiation and can be embedded in a variety of materials or wrapped around objects of various shapes to analyze contents. The technology is adaptable to a wide range of applications, from environmental restoration and nonproliferation to cancer treatment. PUMA has been licensed to Canberra Industries of Meriden, Conn.

Electrodynamic Ion Funnel. This revolutionary tool significantly improves the sensitivity of certain mass spectrometers and other analytical instruments. Mass spectrometry is a tool widely used in environmental, biotechnology and drug testing applications, as well as in medical, biological and other broad areas of research. Conventional mass spectrometers retrofitted with an Electrodynamic Ion Funnel use a series of conductive ring electrodes to confine and more effectively focus and transmit ions to be measured. A nearly 100 percent efficiency in moving ions to the analyzer results in an enormous gain in sensitivity, improved data collection, new applications and greater understanding of the substances analyzed. The tool will be especially useful in biological research, where greater sensitivity allows smaller samples to be analyzed, as in "micro" biopsies.

Molecular Sciences Software Suite (MS3). MS3 is the first general-purpose software that allows a broad range of chemists to easily use high-performance, massively parallel computers for a wide range of applications. It's a comprehensive, integrated suite of software that enables researchers to focus advanced simulation and modeling techniques on understanding the chemical phenomena associated with complex issues such as environmental cleanup and global change. The software suite allows chemists to model, simulate and predict the characteristics of chemical systems with a level of accuracy equal to that of the most sophisticated experimental approaches.

Centrate Ammonia Recovery Process. CAR is a reversible chemical binding process that controls the spread of ammonia - and subsequently nitrates - to waterways and drinking water. Nitrates are harmful to human health and a widespread environmental problem. Incorporating a newly designed adsorption resin and regeneration solution, the CAR process extracts ammonia out of sewage treatment liquid and livestock waste then converts it into standard commercial-grade, ammonium sulfate fertilizer, a dry odorless product. The technology was jointly developed by Pacific Northwest, Battelle and Scotts Co., which collaborated with ThermoEnergy Corp. and Foster Wheeler on a demonstration plant on Staten Island, New York.

Congratulating Pacific Northwest and other national laboratories on winning R&D 100 Awards, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said, "These awards are both a tribute to the creative genius of the scientists and engineers at our national labs that made these technologies possible and a recognition of the practical contributions that the Department of Energy research makes to the country."

More information on these and previous Pacific Northwest R&D 100 Awards can be found at Business inquiries on Pacific Northwest technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail:

Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, Emissions, Fuel Cells, Mass Spectrometry and Separations

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