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DOE seeks innovative methods to use waste or reduce its generation

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March 27, 1992 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — For industry, reducing or eliminating wastes often can be an environmentally prudent, money-saving practice. Now, for innovators with ideas to help industry minimize waste, it can be a money-making experience.

Through its Pacific Northwest Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting innovative ideas for eliminating, reducing or using gas, liquid or solid waste streams. Innovators whose concepts are selected will receive $15,000 to $20,000 to conduct a preliminary investigation of their concepts' feasibility. The concepts will be presented to potential investors and collaborators at a Waste Stream Minimization/Utilization Technology Fair in May 1993 in Austin, Texas.

This will be the second Waste Stream Minimization/Utilization Technology Fair. A similar fair was held in April 1991 in Washington, D.C., attracting many people from industry, universities, government agencies and innovators.

Fifteen concepts presented at last year's fair each received $20,000, and seven of the 15 were linked with sponsors and received follow-on funding ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 within the last 10 months.

A decision was made to focus on the same topic again this year, due to the success of the 1991 fair, and the continued interest and potential in the topic.

The fair is part of DOE's Innovative Concepts Program, an effort that helps individuals and organizations with creative approaches for saving energy and expense identify potential users or developers for their concepts. The fair is being jointly sponsored by several offices within DOE, the Bureau of Mines, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Texas. With the added sponsorship of the state of Texas this year, we are hoping to increase industrial representation at the fair.

The fair is a chance for concept inventors to present, display and demonstrate their ideas to prospective investors, developers, sponsors and the media," said Battelle project manager, Raymond L. Watts. Battelle operates PNL for DOE and is organizing the fair. "Twenty-four of the 55 concepts displayed at previous fairs have received more than $11 million in follow-on funding from other sources," said Watts.

"There is tremendous potential for saving energy, reducing costs and preserving the environment by developing better processes that eliminate, reduce or use waste streams," said Watts. "For example, in the last fair, solutions for many waste stream problems were presented, ranging from high pressure waterjets to pulp and deink newsprint to a novel ion-exchange media for removing lead from wastewater streams."

Following are some of the potential areas for concepts to address. (This is not intended to be a complete list.)


  • prevention or recycling of plastic waste
  • new processes for recovering, enriching and smelting ore in the minerals industry
  • product recovery from mining wastes
  • new processes to replace those that generate waste streams
  • use or prevention of waste or scrap materials from manufacturing or subsequent construction projects
  • applications for waste generated by commercial and service establishments and by consumers
  • methods for cleaning waste streams which may contain nuclear materials.


According to Watts, concepts selected for presentation at the fair must have significant potential to reduce the energy and/or costs or environmental impacts involved in waste treatment. The concepts must be specific, must differ substantially from existing practice or applications and must not degrade the quality of the product or service being supplied.

In addition to emphasizing the potential of the concept to save large amounts of energy/expense and enhance the environment, evaluators will assess the potential for wide-scale application, previous investment of time or money by the innovators and the quality of the work plan.

"The seed money we award to innovators is designed to help them investigate the technical and economic feasibility of their concept," said Watts. "But what's most valuable about the program is the nonfinancial assistance we give them--the exposure at the fair, the assistance with promotional literature and professional advice. Innovators sometimes are shocked when we suggest they consider creating a business plan when they only are starting work on an immature concept. However, working on the technical and business aspects of the concept in parallel has been surprisingly successful in helping innovators find sponsors and move their concepts toward the marketplace."

The 1993 fair is the sixth fair under the auspices of the Innovative Concepts Program. Previous fairs have focused on energy-saving concepts for separations technology, other industrial processes, commercial buildings and retrofit concepts for existing buildings. Of the 55 concepts funded by the program, seven have been the basis for starting spinoff ventures, 24 have received additional funding from DOE and other sponsors, 13 have been patented or have patents pending and one has helped to justify the initiation of an $18 million consortium to better develop and utilize the concept presented. Many of the concepts have remained active and the innovators continue to get interest and inquiries as a result of the fairs.

Proposal materials for the 1993 fair should be requested by June 5, 1992. To receive material or further information on either the Waste Stream Minimization/ Utilization Technology Fair or the Innovative Concepts Program, contact Raymond L. Watts, K6-54, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, P. O. Box 999, Richland, Washington 99352.

Tags: Energy, Environment

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