RICHLAND, Wash. – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been recognized for creating technologies or processes that can store large amounts of renewable energy until it's needed, fight cancer and detect explosives, and then moving the innovations to the marketplace.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium announced today that the Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland is receiving three 2013 Excellence in Technology Transfer awards. The consortium is a nationwide network that encourages federal laboratories to transfer laboratory-developed technologies to commercial markets. With these awards, PNNL has been honored by the FLC more than any other federal laboratory, collecting 78 awards since the program began in 1984.
The 2013 awards will be presented April 25 at the consortium's annual meeting in Westminster, Colo.
Renewable energy storage batteries
Developing a technology that can smoothly integrate energy from variable and intermittent sources — such as wind and solar power — onto the electricity grid while maintaining grid stability has proven challenging. But PNNL researchers, with funding from DOE's Office of Electricity, recently made significant progress in improving the performance of "redox flow" batteries, which hold promise for storing large amounts of renewable energy and providing greater stability to the energy grid.
First developed in the 1970s, redox flow batteries have shown promise for renewable energy storage but have been limited in their ability to work well in a wide range of temperatures, their relatively high cost and their limited ability to store energy, otherwise known as energy density. The PNNL-developed system incorporates two novel approaches to overcome the limitations of previous generations of redox flow batteries. The result is a dramatically improved operating range, higher energy density and lower cost for vanadium redox flow batteries.
"Successful commercialization of DOE-sponsored technology development, such as this, is vital for creating the grid of the future, and sustaining U.S. leadership in advanced technology," said Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at DOE's Office of Electricity.
License agreements with companies like UniEnergy Technologies LLC in Mukilteo, Wash., are expected to lead to commercial products for utilities, power generators and industry.
Therapeutic delivery agent for treating cancers
PNNL researchers created innovative "radiogel" products that allow medical personnel to deliver higher doses of radiation exactly where needed when fighting cancerous tumors that cannot be surgically removed. The treatment is effective, affordable and minimizes exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
The PNNL-developed, injectable radiogels allow for the delivery of insoluble yttrium-90 — a well-established medical radioisotope with many applications in cancer treatment — to a precise location for targeted radiation therapy. The radiogels dissolve and disappear once the yttrium-90 decays.
"This new technology will provide doctors with greater flexibility to safely direct radiation therapy to the interior of tumors, as well as to tumor margins following surgical removal," said Darrell Fisher, who leads PNNL's Isotope Sciences Program. "Commercialization of the new treatment will help make it readily available to patients."
DOE's Office of Science provided funding to support early studies on radiogel material composition. A license agreement with Advanced Medical Isotope Corp. of Kennewick, Wash., has led to further development of radiogel products that will eventually be used to treat cancers of the liver, pancreas, brain, neck, and kidneys.
Next-generation microchip — Ion Mobility Spectrometer
Researchers at PNNL and Owlstone Ltd., in Cambridge, England, collaborated over a period of several years to successfully develop new technology with the potential to dramatically improve the ability to detect and identify very small amounts of chemicals, such as those that are telltale signs of hidden explosives or disease-revealing proteins in blood.
The Ion Mobility Spectrometer on a Microchip, or IMS Microchip, overcomes limitations of previous sample analytical instruments by shrinking a key component — a channel through which molecules must travel. This advance improves performance by allowing higher electric currents to be effectively utilized in the separations process. The dime-sized chip provides dozens of channels through which ions travel to be separated and identified.
Owlstone scientists provided the microfabrication design and methods lying at the foundation of IMS Microchips, while PNNL provided its capabilities in ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry to improve the detection limits and sensitivity of the next generation of analytical microchips.
The unique expertise and capabilities contributed by PNNL researchers were critical to Owlstone in its efforts to successfully develop a commercial IMS Microchip tailored to meet the needs of the mass spectrometry research community.