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R&D 100 Awards


Still the Leader

ORNL has won 140 R&D 100 awards.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers received six R&D 100 Awards in 2008, boosting ORNL's awards total to 140 since the competition began 45 years ago. ORNL has won more R&D 100 awards than any other Department of Energy laboratory. Often called the Oscars of invention, the awards were announced June 30 by R&D Magazine, which issues the awards in recognition of the year's most significant technological innovations. ORNL was honored for innovative technologies in areas ranging from advanced materials to national security.

"This is an impressive example of the diversity and depth of the Laboratory's research talent," said ORNL Director Thom Mason. "These awards demonstrate our ability to translate break-throughs in fundamental science into applications that address important technological challenges."

Vinod Sikka, who recently retired from ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division, is listed on two of this year's awards. R&D Magazine's office believes that Sikka, with 12 awards, is the all-time leader in R&D 100 Awards.

The following ORNL inventions and inventors were recognized at the R&D 100 awards ceremony held in October in Chicago.

NanoSH™ superhydrophobic technology



NanoSH™ superhydrophobic technology, developed jointly by John Simpson, Brian D’Urso and Steve McNeany, all of ORNL’s Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, Vinod Sikka (now retired) of ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, and Donald Speicher and Andrew Jones of Ross Technology Corp.

The NanoSH™ technology makes coatings completely water repellant by forming a microscopic air gap between the treated surface and water. (see ORNL Review, Vol. 41, No.2, 2008, Extremely Waterproof) The nanotechnology has a range of applications because water beads up and rolls off surfaces covered by thin glass or polymer sheets or powder-based coatings. By lowering friction between structural materials and water, NanoSH coatings will reduce the energy needed to propel waterborne vessels or to pump water through pipes. A NanoSH film can prevent corrosion on surfaces of metals and alloys. Unlike most hydrophobic films, the NanoSH coating is easy and inexpensive to make. NanoSH™ technology was funded by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program.

2-MGEM, optical anisotropy factor measurement system



2-MGEM, optical anisotropy factor measurement system, developed jointly by Doug Mark, Baoliang “Bob” Wang, Andy Breninger, Tarik Hadid, Chad Mansfield, Bob Lakanen and Abebe Gezahegn, all of Hinds Instruments, and Gerald Jellison, John Hunn and Christopher Rouleau, all of ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division.

The 2-MGEM microscope is used to characterize light polarization properties of a sample more accurately and reliably than can previous techniques. The technology measures pyrolytic carbon anisotropy to ensure quality control in the manufacture of coated fuel particles that will be used in the next generation of cleaner, more efficient nuclear power reactors. Nuclear power is considered by many to be one of the best near-term solutions to the world’s increasing energy needs. Additional applications of 2-MGEM could include characterization of certain crystals, carbon compounds and thin-film coatings.

Funding sources for the project included the Department of Energy’s Advanced Gas Reactor Fuel Development and Qualification Program.

Laser-induced fluorescence composite heat damage detector



Laser-induced fluorescence composite heat damage detector, developed jointly by Chris Janke and Cliff Eberle of ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, Curt Maxey and John Storey of the Energy & Transportation Science Division, Art Clemons of the National Security Directorate, and Walt Fisher, Eric Wachter and Josh Fisher of Galt Technologies.

Researchers have helped develop a portable, lightweight heat damage detector that provides rapid and accurate assessments of early heat damage in fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites in both military and commercial aircraft. Composites have a high strength-to-weight ratio, increasing aircraft fuel efficiency without compromising safety.

These advanced materials, however, are vulnerable to heat damage, which can significantly degrade their desirable mechanical properties. The detector, which induces and analyzes composite fluorescence, is the first of its kind that can detect hidden heat damage without causing destruction of the aircraft part under inspection. The cost of locating and repairing early heat damage in an aircraft composite part is estimated to be 10 times lower than replacing the part. The Office of Naval Research sponsored the development of the detector.

Adaptive band excitation controller and software for scanning probe microscopy



Adaptive band excitation controller and software for scanning probe microscopy, invented jointly by Stephen Jesse and Sergei Kalinin of DOE’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL and Roger Proksch of Asylum Research Corp.

The adaptive band excitation controller and software represent a new family of scanning probe microscopy techniques that allows faster measurements of energy dissipation than have been obtained previously. SPM images a surface by mechanically moving a needle-like probe in a line-by-line raster scan of a specimen and recording the probe-surface interaction as a function of position.

These techniques enable researchers to carry out functional imaging and manipulation down to the nanometer and atomic scale. Jesse and Kalinin replaced the single sinusoidal excitation signal common to existing SPM systems with a complex digitally synthesized signal spanning a band of frequencies. Using polytonal excitation enables characterization of tip-surface interactions and energy dissipation mechanisms in unheard of detail. The novel SPM technique also can be used to characterize a sample’s electrical, magnetic and mechanical energy conversion properties at the nanoscale.

The research was sponsored by ORNL seed money and DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences and Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering.

Cratos V nano-wool™



Cratos V nano-wool™, developed jointly by Roland Seals of Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 and Paul Menchhofer, Vinod Sikka and Fred Montgomery of ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division.

Compared with aluminum, multi-wall carbon nanotubes possess half the density, 480 times the tensile strength, 10 times higher thermal conductivity and 27 times higher electrical conductivity. Despite their great properties, the exorbitant cost of producing multi-wall nanotubes has discouraged their use. As a result of a four-year research project related to cutting tool materials, the participants developed a novel catalyst and a simple process for low-cost production of high-purity, carbon nanotubes that exhibit improved thermal stability.

A product of the process, dubbed Cratos after the Greek god of strength and power, is Cratos V nano-wool, which is composed of multi-wall carbon nanotubes. Tests show that Cratos V carbon nanotubes can be used to reinforce grinding wheels, cutting tools and metal composites as well as produce electrically conducting polymers and flexible heating elements. For example, diamond grinding wheels reinforced with nano-wool can be made using less diamond, reducing wheel cost. Carbon-nanotube-reinforced polymer composites will also be widely utilized within the automotive, aeronautic and defense arenas for such diverse applications as automobile body panels and light-weight, bullet-resistant body armor.

Funding for the project came from the Y-12 National Security Complex’s Plant Directed Research and Development program.

SpaciMS: spatially resolved capillary inlet mass spectrometer



SpaciMS: spatially resolved capillary inlet mass spectrometer, developed jointly by William Partridge Jr., Jae-Soon Choi, John Storey and Sam Lewis of ORNL’s Energy & Transportation Science Division; Neal Currier and Aleksey Yezerets of Cummins, Inc.; Alexandre Goguet and Christopher Hardacre of CenTACat, Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; David Lundie, Terry Whitmore and Adrian Jessop, all of Hiden Analytical in Warrington, United Kingdom, which has commercialized the SpaciMS; and Gerald DeVault and Robert Smithwick III, both of the Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex.

The SpaciMS, invented jointly by ORNL and Cummins, measures fast changes in gaseous chemical composition inside confined-space chemical reactors, such as automotive catalysts. The instrument uses gas sampling capillaries positioned inside the chemical reactor to pinpoint, measure and map concentrations of diverse gaseous pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Measurements of chemistry evolution inside the chemical reactor under realistic operating conditions provides much greater understanding of catalyst chemistry than has been possible previously by measuring inlet and effluent composition alone. The SpaciMS has provided unprecedented insight into transient chemistry inside the small channels of automotive catalysts, fuel reformers and fuel cells. The invention also has been used to study aspects of diesel engine performance. The technology was used in the development of the groundbreaking 2007 Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickup truck engine-catalyst system, which met 2010 emissions control standards three years ahead of schedule.

Funding for the development of SpaciMS was provided by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and DOE’s Office of Heavy Vehicle Technology and Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies.

Research Horizons

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