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NNSA’s Labs and Sites Earn 10 R&D 100 Awards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today applauded its laboratories and production sites for receiving 10 of R&D Magazine’s 2011 R&D 100 Awards. NNSA-funded research also led to two additional R&D 100 Awards.

“I want to congratulate this year’s R&D 100 award winners,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The Department of Energy’s national laboratories and sites are at the forefront of innovation, and it is gratifying to see their work recognized once again. The cutting-edge research and development done in our national labs and facilities is helping to meet our energy challenges, strengthen our national security and enhance our economic competitiveness.”

Established in 1963, the R&D 100 Awards are widely recognized as the “Oscars of Innovation.” They identify and celebrate the top high technology products introduced to the market each year. The R&D 100 Awards span industry, academia, and government-sponsored research focusing on sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, and high-energy physics. Previous winners have included the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the Kodak Photo CD (1991), and HDTV (1998).
“I applaud this year’s R&D 100 award recipients for their dedication and commitment to discovering new ways to improve the world through technology,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “The extraordinary work done by this year’s R&D 100 award winners is an important reminder that investing in our future helps provide the tools to tackle great national challenges. Those investments are critical to implementing President Obama’s nuclear security agenda and promoting the kind of innovation required to create jobs and fuel the economy of tomorrow.”

This year, NNSA’s labs and sites were recognized for a wide range of advances, including an environmentally safe solvent that can easily strip acrylic sealer from concrete floors, a spacer fluid that shrinks when heated, and a membrane that removes impurities from water with applied pressure powered by electrical energy.

The following is a list and summaries of the R&D 100 award recipients at NNSA sites this year:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Serrated Light Illumination for Deflection-Encoded Recording (SLIDER): This device is the world’s fastest light deflector, deflecting a beam of light at the rate of one resolvable spot per trillionth of a second. In conjunction with an ordinary camera, the device can be used to record ultrafast events at timescales that have been largely unattainable in the past. The developers of this technology are John Heebner and Susan Haynes of LLNL, as well as a former Lab employee, Chris Sarantos.

Stack Trace Analysis Tool: This technology is a highly scalable debugging tool for identifying errors in computer code running on supercomputers of 100,000 processor cores. It allows users to quickly locate in their code the most challenging bugs that emerge only at extreme scales and to get critical applications back up and running. The award was won by Gregory Lee, Bronis de Supinski, Matthew LeGendre, and Martin Schulz of LLNL in conjunction with collaborators from the University of Wisconsin and the University of New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Trapped Annular Pressure Shrinking Spacer (TAPSS): TAPSS is a spacer fluid developed by Robert Hermes of LANL, in collaboration with Chevron Energy Technology Company and Baker Hughes’s Drilling Fluids Unit, to help prevent catastrophes in offshore oil-well drilling. Conventional spacer fluids are placed between oil well casings to secure the well and balance the pressure exerted from the surrounding geological formations. While most of these fluids expand when heated during drilling, causing potential pressure build ups and disastrous oil spills, TAPSS shrinks when heated and can be used to offset any thermal expansion from the other fluids. This new spacer is not difficult to use, is self-functioning and requires minimal time to install.

Thorium Is Now Green (Th-ING): Th-ING was developed by Jaqueline Kiplinger and Thibault Cantat as a straightforward, cost-effective, and safe method to produce thorium. Thorium is an element discovered in 1828 that is capable of producing more energy than both uranium and coal using significantly lower quantities. This element is only slightly radioactive, making it an excellent candidate for a future sustainable energy source. Before Th-ING, thorium could only be produced in hazardous settings at unreasonably high prices. This new method involves reacting thorium nitrate with aqueous hydrochloric acid under mild conditions, which can be performed using conventional glassware in a traditional laboratory setting.

NanoCluster Beacons: NanoCluster Beacons are collections of silver atoms maneuvered to illuminate when bound to specific nucleic acids, such as the DNA of specific pathogens. Created by Hsin-Chih (Tim) Yeh, James Werner, Jaswinder Sharma, and Jennifer Martinez, these beacons can be used to probe for diseases that threaten humans by identifying the nucleic acid targets that represent a person’s full genome, and allow for personalized medication. They can also be used in quantitative biology applications, such as counting individual molecules inside a cell. When bound with a specific target and under ultraviolet light, a NanoCluster Beacon fluoresces and emits 200 times greater light than in its unbound state; this easily viewed by the naked eye. The beacons come in an array of colors for multiplexed analyses, are more photostable than beacons used today, and can be turned on and off reversibly.

Sandia National Laboratories
Ultra-high-voltage Silicon Carbide Thyristor: These thyristors are the world’s first commercially available, high-voltage, high-frequency, high-current, high-temperature, single-chip devices with ratings exceeding 6.5 kv, 200 kHz (pulsed), 80 a, and 200 C. They can reduce next generation Smart Grid power electronics system size and weight by up to an order of magnitude over the existing state-of-the-art silicon technologies. The entry was submitted by Stanley Atcitty.

Microresonator Filters and Frequency References: Microresonators are small acoustic resonators that have highly precise sound and are manufactured using the same technologies used to mass produce integrated circuits (IC). Microresonator technology allows hundreds of filters and oscillators operating over a wide (32kHz – 10 GHz) frequency range to be realized on a single IC chip and monolithically integrated with radio frequency (RF) transistor circuits. They will perform RF filtering and frequency synthesis functions in next-generation wireless handsets, cell phones, and other wireless devices, offering higher performance and frequency diversity in a smaller package and at a lower price than current technologies. The entry was submitted by Roy H. Olsson III.

Biomimetic Membranes for Water Purification: Biomimetic membranes are designed for water purification using reverse osmosis (RO) technology, which removes impurities from water with applied pressure powered by electrical energy. These membranes reject salts and larger solution components, thus creating drinkable water. The nanoporous biomimetic design enables high salt rejection and faster water flow at lower driving pressures than competing membranes, thus reducing the energy cost of desalination. The entry was submitted by Susan Rempe and by Jeff Brinker and Jing-Bing Jiang from the University of New Mexico. Brinker is also a Sandia fellow.

Sandia, as a joint submitter with Princeton Power Systems, Inc.
Demand_Response_Inverter (DRI): The inverter is designed to reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of photovoltaic (PV) power by being more efficient, more reliable, and more cost-effective than currently available inverters in the market.  Furthermore, the DRI will provide valuable grid-support functionality that encourages high penetration of PV power systems into the electrical grid and also provide “added value” for the system owner and local utility. The process reached its commercialization stage with aid from DOE’s and Sandia’s Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems (SEGIS) solicitation. Sandia researcher Ward Bower jointly submitted this invention with lead researcher Mahesh Gandhi of Princeton Power Systems, Inc.

Y 12 National Security Complex
RonJohn: RonJohn is a versatile, environmentally safe solvent that easily strips acrylic sealer from concrete floors, turns urethane foam to slush and softens powder coating to gel. RonJohn does not evaporate as quickly as competing products, allowing more time for it to do its job and minimizing the need for multiple applications. RonJohn was created by Y-12 development research chemist Ron Simandl and laboratory assistant John Brown. General contractors and the U.S. Navy have expressed interest in RonJohn, which is used plant-wide at Y-12. RonJohn has been licensed to a startup company in South Carolina.

Additional NNSA Supported Awards
The Array Detection Technology for Mass Spectrometry: This significantly updates the detection capabilities of mass spectrometers, which in turn could advance monitoring for nuclear activity and environmental damage, forensic testing and more. With funding from NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation program, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory collaborated with Indiana University, the University of Arizona and Imagerlabs to develop the technology.

Porous Walled, Hollow Glass Microspheres: These unique porous walled, hollow glass microspheres are tiny glass “microballoons” that feature a network of interconnected pores in the microsphere walls, which allow them to be filled with, hold and release gases and other materials, giving them exciting potential for use in targeted drug delivery, hydrogen storage and other applications. Because the glass microspheres – each is about half the width of a human hair – provide a protective environment, or cocoon, for their contents, they have the potential to provide a safe method of handling, storing or transporting a variety of difficult materials. Savannah River National Laboratory is the primary recipient of this award. Savannah River Site laid the ground work for the technology.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.