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Three Pacific Northwest laboratory inventions honored

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September 09, 1992 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Three technology developments at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Laboratory have been recognized for Excellence in Technology Transfer by the Federal Laboratory Consortium. The citations, only 30 of which are awarded each year, honor federal laboratory employees nationwide for outstanding work in developing products and processes and transferring the technology to private industry.

This brings to 19 the number of such awards won by PNL since the FLC awards program was established in 1984. This year's awards were in recognition of three distinct technological developments by PNL staff.

Donald S. Trent and Loren L. Eyler received an award for joint development and commercialization of a highly sophisticated software product called Transient Energy Momentum and Pressure Equations Solutions in Three Dimensions, or TEMPEST. The software links a computer code commonly used in the nuclear industry with three-dimensional, stereo computer graphics. This enables researchers to illustrate air and fluid movements and temperature changes within confined environments such as buildings, geologic formations and even the human body.

"This technology significantly improves the ability of scientists to accurately model and describe complex, difficult-to-measure environments," Trent said. Since 1989, TEMPEST has been licensed to three industrial companies, five universities and two government agencies and has more than 70 users.

John W. Cary, Glendon W. Gee, Randy R. Kirkham, Carver S. Simmons and John F. McBride earned an FLC award for an electro-optic sensor that is expected to be highly successful in the commercial marketplace. Developed for DOE's Office of Health and Environment as part of the Subsurface Science Program, the sensor can detect extremely small amounts of organic compounds in soil and water or, conversely, it can be used to detect the presence of water in organic compounds. Among numerous other applications being considered is use of the sensor as a soil-moisture-content-measuring instrument. "This sensor will be particularly useful to agriculture in many Third World countries where irrigation is necessary, but very expensive," McBride said.

The new sensor is inexpensive, can be constructed from off-the-shelf materials and is highly reliable in a variety of wet and dry environments. FLC took special note of the speed with which this technology was transferred to the commercial marketplace, having gone from development to the market in only three years.

Frank P. Hungate, Lee R. Bunnell and William F. Riemath were cited for their pioneering work in developing a portable blood irradiator. The PNL team tackled the problem 20 years ago, at a time when Scandinavian researchers had flatly declared that the development of a portable blood irradiator was impossible. High cost and the long-term clinical human testing required by the Food and Drug Administration discouraged private industry from interest in marketing the new medical tool.

In 1990, the PNL research team was able to capitalize on years of association and work with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, some of which involved use of the blood irradiator. The blood irradiator technology was transferred to the center and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was negotiated in 1991. Under the CRADA, PNL will provide up to 10 irradiators for use in the center's efforts to eventually reduce radiation exposure to patients under treatment for leukemia. Researchers are investigating many other potential applications for the irradiator.


Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, Subsurface Science, Cancer Research

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