Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL helping EPA put instruments to the test

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Aug. 17, 2000 — Manufacturers of portable instruments or test kits to detect explosives or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil and transformer oil will have a better idea of how well their gear works after participating in a program at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

For 10 days starting Monday (Aug. 21), scientists from four companies will analyze about 200 samples and compare their results with those obtained through laboratory reference analyses. The program is part of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Technology Verification program, designed to accelerate the use of innovative technologies in the field. ORNL is a verification program coordinator for EPA.

"Manufacturers come away knowing how well their instrument performed," said Roger Jenkins, a group leader in ORNL's Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division. "Getting that information quickly obviously saves time and money."

Ultimately, that kind of information gained inexpensively and quickly could be a catalyst to reclaiming some of the so-called "brownfields."

Brownfields are formerly utilized industrial sites and they're common around the nation, especially in big cities. The problem, Jenkins said, is that no one knows the extent of contamination at these sites, and because soil analysis is slow and expensive, industry is reluctant to redevelop these sites.

By getting instruments to the marketplace that are accurate, inexpensive and allow people to get information quickly, those sites could again be utilized.

"Our focus is on the evaluation of field analytical technologies that are useful for site characterization and for monitoring," said Amy Dindal, also of the Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division. "This isn't a bake-off, though. Our goal is to establish the performance characteristics of these innovative technologies, not to determine which one is best."

Manufacturers participating in the program are Hybrizyme of Raleigh, N.C.; Dexsil Corp. of Hamden, Conn.; SRI Instruments of Torrance, Calif.; and Texas Instruments of Dallas.

The instrument performance verification program began at ORNL in 1997. It has been highly successful in that it provides unbiased measures of performance, which manufacturers find extremely valuable. In some cases, they've been able to improve the design of their instruments.

Performance reports will be provided to the participants and will be posted on the Web.

ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility operated by UT-Battelle.