DOE Pulse
  • Number 309  |
  • April 12, 2010

ICE-LOC gets lab help on cold weather pipe protector

ICE-LOC®, a small business based in Bosque Farms, N.M., invented an environmentally safe pipe protector using a dense sponge-like tube that can be inserted into pipes to prevent them from rupturing in cold weather. But without the ability to demonstrate the product, the company had trouble attracting customers.

So ICE-LOC® turned to DOE's Sandia National Laboratories and its testing expertise. Sandia engineer Kevin Fleming, along with Chris Colburn and Rosa Montoya, tested ICE-LOC®’s product in a controlled environment at minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Using high-speed cameras, they videotaped a side-by-side comparison of two pipes. The pipe without ICE-LOC® exploded, while a pipe fitted with the product remained intact.

“The visual presentation produced by Sandia has enabled us to show our product’s performance to the market and find a distributor,” ICE-LOC® president Louis Herrera said.

ICE-LOC® is one of 320 small New Mexico businesses that scientists and engineers from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory helped in 2009 with technical challenges, including creating high-speed video of an exploding frozen pipe and explaining how silver-coated bandages speed healing. The assistance was provided through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program (NMSBA), a partnership of Sandia, LANL and the state of New Mexico that connects scientists and engineers with small businesses in the state in exchange for a state gross receipts tax credit. In 2009, the tax credit was nearly $4.3 million.

“We are proud of our partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the State of New Mexico in support of small businesses throughout New Mexico,” said Steve Rottler, Sandia vice president and chief technology officer. “Most small companies do not have access to the world-class technology and expertise available at the Labs, and the NMSBA Program provides them that access.”

Since the program began at Sandia in 2000, it has helped 1,597 small businesses and created or retained 1,020 jobs paying an average annual salary of $39,063 through 2008. The businesses’ revenue increased by nearly $39.7 million and their operating costs fell by more than $28 million during the same nine-year period. LANL joined the program in 2007. Companies participating in the program must be for-profit small businesses located in New Mexico. The assistance provided cannot be available in the private sector at a reasonable cost.

[Julie Hall, 505.284.7761,]