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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory honored for transferring technology

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February 12, 1999 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Federal Laboratory Consortium (, which recognizes excellence in technology transfer, has honored Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers for their efforts in moving two technologies out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. The technologies - an environmentally friendly process for cleaning clothing and mechanical parts and a new type of radiation sensor - are among 15 honored this year by the FLC.

Each year, the FLC gives up to 30 "excellence in technology transfer" awards to government laboratory teams that are able to move their developments successfully to the private sector. Pacific Northwest, a Department of Energy national laboratory, leads all federal laboratories in the number of FLC awards for technology transfer.

A process using reverse micelles in supercritical fluids was licensed to MICELL Technologies Inc. (, which is now manufacturing and selling high-tech commercial cleaning systems. The fiber-optic neutron and gamma ray sensor technology was licensed to Tennelec/Nucleus, Inc., a subsidiary of Oxford Instruments Inc. ( one of the world's largest manufacturers of radiation detection technology.

MICELL Technologies created the MICLEAN/MICARE industrial cleaning process using novel surfactants or detergents they developed and Pacific Northwest's fundamental discovery of reverse micelles in supercritical fluids. The surfactants significantly increase the "scrubbing" power of liquid carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide-based systems are just as effective at cleaning clothes or mechanical parts as the more commonly used hazardous chemicals and regulated chlorinated solvents. However, carbon dioxide is environmentally friendly, doesn't deplete ozone in the atmosphere and also can be recycled. The technology was developed and transferred by Pacific Northwest researchers John Fulton, Max Phelps and commercialization manager, Nick Lombardo.

The new type of radiation sensor licensed to Tennelec/Nucleus Inc. uses glass fibers to detect radionuclides. Traditional neutron sensors use helium-filled tubes, but the innovative technology developed at Pacific Northwest uses glass fibers that are more flexible. This is important because fibers can be wrapped around a drum to inspect its contents or installed in an asphalt road to detect the transport of nuclear materials. In medicine, the sensor can be used with boron neutron capture therapy, a promising method for treating cancer. The sensor also can monitor real-time dose to prevent overexposure to radiation.

One of the biggest potential applications of the new sensor is in monitoring plutonium in spent fuel rods. The laboratory and Tennelec demonstrated this technology to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is evaluating technologies for this application worldwide. The laboratory team that developed and transferred the technology consists of Mary Bliss, Ron Brodzinski, Ned Wogman, Debra Barnett and Dick Craig.

Pacific Northwest is one of DOE's nine multiprogram national laboratories and conducts research in the fields of environment, energy, health sciences and national security. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, has operated Pacific Northwest for DOE since 1965.

A formal award ceremony honoring the technology transfer winners will be held during the 1999 FLC national meeting, April 19-23, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For more information, contact Dawn White, Media & External Communications at (509) 375-3688. Business inquiries on either technology can be directed to ( Information on other award winning technologies from Pacific Northwest can be accessed at (

Tags: Energy, Environment, National Security, Radiation Detection

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