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PNNL recognized for tech transfer

Lab earns two Federal Laboratory Consortium awards

News Release

January 15, 2010 Share This!

  • Two views of a 142 mm pilger die show the groove where metal tubing is passed through to reduce tube diameter and wall thickness. PNNL worked with LSP Technologies and Sandvik Special Metals to treat such dies with laser shock peening to prevent die failure.

  • While the traditional protein digestion method (right) can take several hours , the pressurized process developed by PNNL and PressureBioSciences (left) takes just a few minutes.

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RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been recognized for partnering with outside companies to either develop new or improve existing technologies or processes. The award-winning partnerships are helping rapidly and reproducibly analyze proteins and reduce the size of metal tubes.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium has announced that PNNL won two awards in 2010 for Excellence in Technology Transfer. The consortium is a nationwide network that encourages federal laboratories to transfer lab-developed technologies to commercial markets. The announcement brings PNNL to a total of 71 FLC awards since the recognition program began in 1984, which is more than any other federal laboratory.

Pressurized system speeds up protein analysis

Analyzing proteins helps researchers learn how tissues and organisms work and could lead to better disease diagnosis and life-saving drugs. But one key step in their analysis - breaking proteins up into smaller parts by digesting them with enzymes - can take several hours, or even overnight. PNNL scientists discovered that putting proteins under high pressure dramatically sped up the process to just a few minutes. The quick turnaround allows scientists to do many more protein studies than was previously possible and reduces processing and analysis costs.

PNNL scientists used an instrument made by Pressure BioSciences, Inc. of South Easton, Mass. (NASDAQ: PBIO), to develop a pressurized process that quickly digests proteins. Pressure BioSciences contacted PNNL after the company heard of the new approach at a scientific conference. Six months later, Battelle, which operates PNNL, licensed the patent-pending process to the small, publicly traded company. PNNL continued to work with the company to help develop a specially engineered sample tube to hold proteins for the digestion process. The collaboration contributed to at least one new product line for Pressure BioSciences - the PCT MicroTube Adapter System - which is being sold to a variety of customers involved in life sciences research. PNNL and Pressure BioSciences are now developing an in-line high-pressure digestion system that allows proteins to be digested and analyzed in one step, instead of having to transfer proteins to analytical equipment after they're digested. This system should completely automate protein analysis by mass spectrometry.

Metal-forming dies last longer with new process

PNNL engineers teamed with LSP Technologies, Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, and Sandvik Special Metals, LLC, of Kennewick, Wash., to advance a metal treatment process that could reduce manufacturing costs for automakers and other industries. Special tools called pilger dies are used to reduce the circumference and wall thickness of metal tubes. But the tube reduction process results in frequent die failures, requiring the dies to be replaced and slowing production. LSP Technologies specializes in using lasers to improve material performance with a process called laser shock peening, which was invented in the 1970s by Battelle researchers in Columbus, Ohio. LSP Technologies and PNNL developed the method to extend steel die life. It deters die failure by using intense laser pulses to create deep, compressive residual stresses in the die's surface.

PNNL researchers working with auto manufacturers thought it could be used with high-strength steels, which carmakers are considering to reduce vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency. Dies used by automakers are costly, which prompted PNNL to examine relatively inexpensive tube-reduction dies instead. PNNL partnered with LSP Technologies and tube manufacturer and die maker Sandvik to refine the method. They found dies treated with laser shock peening can last up to six times longer than normal dies. Sandvik and LSP Technologies are now working together to further advance the method. And PNNL and LSP Technologies are studying how the automotive, aerospace and internal combustion engine industries could benefit from the method.


The awards will be presented in April at the consortium's annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M.


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

Tags: Awards and Honors, Technology Transfer and Commercialization

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory is the nation's premier laboratory for scientific discovery in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics and for 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 FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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