News Archive 2009
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced the inception of a pilot program that could hasten the development of certain “green” technology inventions.
Under this new program, qualifying patent applications will be reviewed on an accelerated basis. Read the entire press release.
Caption: The Power Puck uses the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester technology developed at PNNL. Photo courtesy of Perpetua
Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a technology that extracts energy from its surrounding environment, creating a perpetual power source for compact, low-power devices such as wireless sensors or radio frequency transmitters. The Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester exploits naturally occurring temperature differences, producing electricity whenever it detects these differences across the device's two ends.
The self-sustaining nature of this technology is especially valuable for monitoring the integrity of dams, buildings, bridges, and pipelines—applications where sensors communicate with remote facilities, and maintenance or repair is costly and logistically difficult. Energy harvesters can replace or extend the life of traditional batteries used for these applications, as they are expected to last as long as the sensors and transmitters they power. Thus, the operating life and lifecycle costs of remote monitoring systems are no longer directly or indirectly dictated by the 5- to 10-year typical lifespan of traditional power sources, allowing for much more efficient use of operational resources.
The environment also benefits from the use of this unique, renewable power source. With no moving parts, the energy harvester provides a more efficient and cost-effective power source for a number of applications. And its long lifespan virtually eliminates the need for disposal of harmful chemicals present in batteries and other power sources.
The energy harvester technology was introduced to the private sector when a group of University of Oregon graduate students created a business plan and marketing strategy for the technology through the joint UO/PNNL Technology Entrepreneurship Program. Along with technology veterans from Hewlett-Packard, one of the students founded Perpetua Power Source Technologies to build upon and commercialize the technology.
The Corvallis, Ore.-based company received an exclusive license from PNNL to incorporate the technology into its new product called the Perpetua Power Puck™. Its operating technology is based on a portfolio of novel, patent-pending thermoelectric generator (TEG) designs that allow the conversion of ambient thermal energy into electric power for a variety of low-power uses. The Perpetua energy harvester products are currently being marketed for industrial automation, military and other uses.
PNNL received a 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer for its license of this groundbreaking technology to Perpetua.-This article was provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.-
Caption: Elena Shevchenko, recently named one of Technology Review's top young innovators, is a member of Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials. (Photo courtesy Technology Review.)
(Click image to download hi-res version).
Elena Shevchenko, nanoscientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has joined a select list of the world's youngest top innovators chosen by Technology Review magazine for her work at Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials.
"I am honored to be considered one of the Top 35 young innovators and will continue to work diligently to live up to the honor," Shevchenko said. "Nanoscience is a burgeoning field of science with so many discoveries to be made. There are so many possibilities for the future and I am excited to be a part of it. Self-assembly is a natural pathway to create matter at atomic and macromolecular levels. By being able to mix and match different types of nanocrystals and having control over the interaction of neighboring constituents, we have enormous flexibility in material design with low cost."
Every year since 2005,Technology Review has recognized 35 innovators under the age of 35 for their work in developing new technologies or a creative use of existing technology. The 2009 TR35 were selected from more than 300 submissions by the editors of Technology Review in collaboration with a panel of judges from leading organizations such as the California Institute of Technology, Flagship Ventures, Google, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), PureTech Ventures and the University of California, Berkeley.
TR35 winners will be profiled in the September/October issue of Technology Review and online. In addition, the EmTech@MIT 2009 Conference, to be held September 22–24 at MIT, will honor the winners in a series of “Meet the TR35” presentations, dedicated breakout sessions, and receptions.
Shevchenko received her master's degree in chemistry from Belarusian State University, Minsk and her Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from the University of Hamburg in Germany. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the IBM T.J Watson Research Center and Columbia University.
She was a staff scientist at The Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and scientist at the Center for Nanoscale Materials since August of 2005, where her work has been supported by the DOE Office of Science. Her specific areas of interest lie in synthesis of nanoscale materials (magnetic, semiconductor, metallic oxide nanoparticles) with controllable size and shape; nanoparticle design; design of multifunctional materials through self-assembly of nanoparticles; and study of the collective properties of such materials.
"I have to give all credit for my award to my former advisers and colleagues Horst Weller, Chris Murray, Stephen O’Brien, Andrey Rogach, Dmitri Talapin, Paul Alivisatos and Tijana Rajh," she said. "From them I got a great introduction into the synthesis of nanocrystals and the discovery of their exciting properties. It is hard to overestimate their enthusiasm and support of my research."
The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale which are supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit http://nano.energy.gov.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America 's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.
For more information, please contact Brock Cooper (630/252-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org) at Argonne.-This article was provided by Argonne National Laboratory.-
Now when you search the DOepatents database, you can easily find patents owned exclusively by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This new option is available through the Advanced Search page. Just check the box “Limit to DOE-owned” to find patents demonstrating the Department’s contribution to scientific progress in the physical sciences and a wide range of other disciplines. This collection includes patents owned exclusively by DOE as well as patents sponsored by DOE through a grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or similar type of funding mechanism.
Information about technology transfer may be found at the DOE Technology Transfer website. Questions about technology transfer at the U.S. Department of Energy may be addressed to DOEtechtransfer@science.doe.gov.
Available for licensing in all fields
The power grid is a finicky thing. There’s supply, there’s demand, and the two don’t always meet in the middle. Battelle scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found an efficient way to balance the ebbs and flows of energy supply by increasing or reducing the demand that household appliances place on the grid at a given time. A synergistic pairing of Department of Energy (DOE) and privately developed intellectual property gave Battelle, DOE, and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) a path for bringing a solution to American households for real-world testing.
The Grid Friendly Appliance (GFA) Controller is an electronic circuit board, built into appliances, that continually monitors fluctuations in available power through alternating current (AC) frequency signals at residential wall outlets. When it detects stress on the grid, it automatically tells appliances to alter operations for a short period, usually around a minute, but ranging from a few seconds up to ten minutes.
Normally when supply falls short, the risk of a blackout increases. Blackouts are extremely costly, both financially and in terms of their impact on consumers’ lives. On the other hand, when supply exceeds demand, power plants start shutting down, thus requiring other plants to quickly increase output to fill the gap, and potentially compromising grid stability. The GFA Controller acts as a shock absorber for such disturbances by signaling appliances to either reduce or increase energy consumption based on grid activity, helping reduce or prevent the impact of potential power outages.
The changes are so small that consumers don’t even notice, much less feel inconvenienced. However the cumulative effect of millions of hot water heaters, refrigerators, and air conditioners changes demand enough to maintain grid stability while operators address the problem.
In 2007, the GFA Controller was demonstrated in 150 clothes dryers in the Pacific Northwest, an effort facilitated by utility providers BPA, Portland General Electric, and PacifiCorp. The demonstration showed that the device, which can be retrofitted into commercially-available appliances, responds to electricity fluctuations almost instantaneously, without interrupting the daily lives of homeowners.
The success of this effort led to additional funding from BPA to make improvements to the technology, including cutting its size in half and increasing its ability to respond to fluctuations in both frequency and voltage.
For more information: http://availabletechnologies.pnl.gov/technology.asp?id=61.-This article was provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.-
Caption: Toshifumi Sugama.
(Click image to download hi-res version).
Thinner, less toxic than existing coatings; efficient and economical to produce
UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a method for coating metal surfaces with an ultrathin film containing nanoparticles — particles measuring billionths of a meter — which renders the metal resistant to corrosion and eliminates the use of toxic chromium for this purpose. The scientists have been awarded U.S. Patent number 7,507,480 for their method and the corrosion-resistant metals made from it. The technology is available for licensing.
“Our coating is produced right on the metal using a simple two- or three-step process to produce a thin film structure by crosslinking among the component compounds,” said chemist Toshifumi Sugama, a guest researcher at Brookhaven Lab. “The result is a layer less than 10 nanometers thick that protects the metal from corrosion, even in briny conditions.”
Corrosion resistance is essential for metals used in a wide range of applications, from electronics to aviation to power plants. Traditionally, compounds containing a toxic form of chromium have provided the best corrosion resistance. Scientists looking to develop chromium-free alternatives have been unable to achieve the thin layers desirable for many applications. “Ultrathin coatings reduce the amount of material needed to provide corrosion resistance, thereby reducing the cost,” Sugama explained.
Sugama’s approach achieves several goals — low toxicity and excellent corrosion resistance in a film measuring less than 10 nanometers that can be applied to a wide array of metals, including aluminum, steel, nickel, zinc, copper, bronze, and brass. According to Sugama, the coating should be of specific interest to industries that produce coated valves, pumps, and other components, as well as the manufacturers of aluminum fins used in air-cooled condensers at geothermal power plants, where preventing brine-induced corrosion is a high priority.
Aluminum fins from a geothermal power plant subjected to 24,000 wet/dry cycles of exposure to briny conditions. The far left fin, with no protective coating, completely dissolved. The middle fin had a nano coating with a low level of cerium oxide, while the far right fin had a coating with a higher concentration of cerium oxide nanoparticles.
The coating can be made in a variety of ways suited to a particular application. In one embodiment, it starts as a liquid solution that can be sprayed onto the metal, or the metal can be dipped into it. The metal is then subjected to one or more treatment steps, sometimes including heating for a period of time, to trigger cross-linking reactions between the compounds, and simultaneously, to form corrosion-inhibiting metal oxide nanoparticles, such as environmentally benign cerium-based oxides.
“Among the key factors that ensure the maximum corrosion-mitigating performance of these ultrathin coating films are the great water-repellency, the deposition of metal oxide nanoparticles over the metal’s surface, and their excellent adhesion to metal. The combination of these factors considerably decreased the corrosion of metals,” said Sugama.
The corrosion resistance of these coatings can be comparable, and even superior, to chromium-based coatings, he said. In fact, these new coatings provide even better coverage of metal surfaces than chromium coatings. Sugama added, “This is particularly advantageous when the metal to be coated possesses fine structural detail.”
Because the method deposits such a thin coating of material, it is highly economical and efficient.
For information about licensing this technology, contact Brookhaven Lab Licensing Associate Poornima Upadhya, (631)-344-4711, email@example.com.-This article was provided by Brookhaven National Laboratory.-
The Isotope Separating Apparatus, an Atomic Energy Commission patent issued in 1958, was the focus of a recent "History Detectives" visit to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. "History Detectives," a PBS television show that explores legends, myths, and historical mysteries, visited the Secret City to find the answer to a question posed by the son of the inventor: "Did this invention help win World War II?"
Caption: Newly named APS Fellows at ORNL are Chong Long Fu, Amit Goyal, Materials Science and Technology Division; Randy Vane and Soren Sorensen, Physics Division; and Andrey Zheludev and Pengcheng Dai, Neutron Scattering Science Division. (Click image to download hi-res version).
This year's newly elected fellows of the American Physical Society (APS) include six research scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Chong Long Fu and Amit Goyal of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Randy Vane and Soren Sorensen of the Physics Division, and Andrey Zheludev and Pengcheng Dai of the Neutron Scattering Science Division all were named APS fellows in recognition of their outstanding contributions to physics. Fewer than one half of one percent of APS members are elected to become fellows.
Chong Long Fu was recognized for his contributions to the fundamental understanding of the electronic, magnetic and structural properties of metallic and intermetallic systems based on accurate first-principles calculations. He also has contributed to the development of novel high-temperature intermetallics and nanocluster strengthened alloys—stronger, tougher materials—for structural applications.
Amit Goyal, who was elected to the level of ORNL Corporate Fellow earlier this year, was recognized for his leadership and pioneering contributions to the invention, research and development of high-performance, high-temperature superconducting wires. His research has resulted in more than 50 issued patents and has had a significant impact on the commercial industry.
The society cited Randy Vane for his "elegant experimental elucidation of charge transfer and other fundamental inelastic processes in atomic, molecular and bulk matter systems." Vane uses very short bursts of extremely powerful laser light—pulses of energy spanning milli-electron volts to tera-electron volts—in his explorations of fundamental physical processes at the atomic scale.
Andrey Zheludev was nominated for his elegant neutron scattering investigations of quantum magnetism and quantum critical phenomena, especially in spin-chain compounds.
Pengcheng Dai and Soren Sorensen, who both hold joint appointments with the University of Tennessee and ORNL's Neutron Sciences Division, also were cited. Dai was recognized for his contributions to understanding fundamental properties of magnetic excitations in high-temperature superconductors, f-electron heavy Fermions, and colossal magneto-resistance manganites.
Sorensen was cited for his important contributions to the field of relativistic heavy ion collisions, in particular for systematic studies of stopping and transverse energy production. The APS also noted Sorensen's early leadership in the Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment (PHENIX) offline computing framework and in establishing the program of J/psi measurements at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.-This article was provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.-