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PNNL wins 2 R&D 100 awards for human health, renewable energy advances

July 20, 2009 Share This!

  • This small device makes electricity whenever there's a temperature difference across its two ends. Perpetua Power Source Technologies is marketing this Power Puck, which uses the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester technology developed at PNNL.
    Photo courtesy of Perpetua Power Source Technologies.

  • The Ultrasensitive ESI-MS Source and Interface developed at PNNL provides at least a 40-fold increase in mass spectrometry sensitivity relative to commercially available instrumentation.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have won two of R&D Magazine's prestigious "R&D 100 Awards" for advanced instrumentation for human health and for innovative engineering for renewable energy sources.

"We are extremely proud of our winners," said Steve Ashby, PNNL's deputy director for science and technology. "They're among our very best scientists and engineers. As these awards attest, they went the extra mile to turn their innovative research into practical solutions that will help address challenges in energy, environment and national security."

R&D magazine presents awards annually to the 100 most innovative scientific and technical breakthroughs of the year.

"The Department of Energy's national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I'm proud they are being recognized once again for their remarkable work," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge, increasing our nation's energy security, and protecting our environment. I want to thank this year's winners for their work and congratulate them on this award."

PNNL's award-winning technologies include:

Creating electrical energy from the environment
Power Puck

Electricity can be created by processing heat associated with naturally occurring temperature differences in the environment. This essentially inexhaustible source of heat can be converted into electrical power sufficient to run compact, low-power devices like wireless sensors for decades. The Perpetua Power Puck™ harvests energy from its surrounding environment with the capability for replacing outright conventional chemical batteries.

The Power Puck is a renewable energy source that has no moving parts, which makes it more efficient and cost-effective than other technologies. The technology can save time and money in situations where information needs to be collected and power sources need to be maintained at remote sites, such as dams, bridges and pipelines. These energy harvesters are expected to last as long as the sensors and transmitters they power.

Perpetua Power Puck is being marketed for industrial automation, military, energy efficient buildings and other applications. It is based on technology developed at PNNL called the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester and licensed to Perpetua Power Source Technologies, based in Corvallis, Ore. PNNL received the R&D 100 award in partnership with Perpetua.

Achieving unprecedented analysis levels for human health studies
Ultrasensitive ESI-MS Source & Interface

Scientists at PNNL have achieved a 40-fold increase in the sensitivity of mass spectrometry instrumentation that will benefit applications in human health, the environment, and pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries. The Ultrasensitive ESI-MS Source & Interface integrates four technologies to provide greater sensitivity and precise measurements while requiring smaller samples.

Mass spectrometry instrumentation enables the analysis and identification of broad types of samples and ranges of chemical compounds. It's commonly used for environmental and health analyses, as well as by industry for pharmaceutical and petrochemical product development. The most broadly useful methods for chemical and biochemical samples use electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS).

PNNL's improved ESI-MS instrumentation can measure amounts of compounds in a sample very precisely, even when very little material is available - which is especially important when sample sizes are limited, such as from microbiopsies of human tissue.

PNNL scientists are using the improved sensitivity in studies to develop biomarkers for early disease diagnosis, drug target discovery and basic biological research. The laboratory is also engaged in a collaboration with a major vendor of mass spectrometry instruments to further explore the benefits of the new ESI-MS system.

Facilities at EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus, were also used in the PNNL effort.

The awards bring PNNL's total to 80 since the contest began in 1969, including 73 since 1988. PNNL staff members involved in developing these technologies will be honored at the R&D 100 Awards ceremony in Orlando in November.

Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, National Security, EMSL, Operations, Renewable Energy, Batteries, Mass Spectrometry and Separations, Facilities

EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. Its integrated computational and experimental resources enable researchers to realize important scientific insights and create new technologies. Follow EMSL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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