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PNNL wins 2 R&D 100 Awards

June 22, 2011 Share This!

Technologies improve manufacturing, mass spectrometry

  • The Array Detection Technology for Mass Spectrometry, mounted here onto a chip carrier and circuit body, significantly updates the detection capabilities of mass spectrometers.

  • The Dynaforge process is an improved method to make the dies that are used to form metallic parts.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – Two technologies developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory were recognized by R&D Magazine today as among the year's most innovative scientific and technological breakthroughs.

PNNL's winning technologies make metal manufacturing more cost-effective and improve research sample analysis. The awards were among 100 given nationwide through the magazine's annual R&D 100 Awards. PNNL has now won 87 awards since the program began in 1969, including 80 since 1988.

"I want to congratulate this year's R&D 100 award winners.  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," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  "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."  

PNNL's 2011 award-winning technologies are:

Stronger, longer-lasting dies for metal manufacturing

Automobile manufacturing costs can be cut with a new, improved method to form metallic parts. PNNL helped Bridgeville, Penn.-based Carpenter Powder Products refine the method, called Dynaforge.

Metallic parts are typically formed through forging, where metal is shaped by applying pressure, often by pressing a specially shaped die against metal to form the metal into a desired part. The dies have traditionally been made by creating a blank metal piece made of H-13, a chromium-based steel, which then needs to be formed into the die's final shape.

The Dynaforge process eliminates that second step by directly forming the die into its desired shape. It also makes the die stronger by placing more durable metals such as nickel and cobalt alloys where the dies will experience more stress through use. The more durable metals extend dies life by about five times on average, which delays costly downtimes needed to replace broken dies and reduces the overall price of manufacturing parts. The Dynaforge method can be used to make parts for the automotive, medical, defense and aerospace industries.

Adding automated toll booths to the mass spectrometry speedway

An adaptation to a widely used scientific instrument enables quick and efficient analysis of research samples. The Array Detection Technology for Mass Spectrometry significantly updates the detection capabilities of mass spectrometers, which in turn could advance monitoring for nuclear activity and environmental damage, forensic testing and more. PNNL collaborated with Indiana University, the University of Arizona and Imagerlabs to develop the technology.

Mass spectrometers analyze samples by separating molecules in a sample by their mass and electrical charge. Most conventional instruments can only detect a single mass or a small range of masses at one time. But samples contain parts of atoms and molecules that have many different sizes, which means conventional mass spectrometers must do multiple scans to analyze an entire sample. This is comparable to traffic going around a toll booth instead of going through it because there is only one lane open.

The Array Detection Technology is like adding several, automated, drive-through toll booths to speed up sample analysis. It uses thousands of tiny microchannel detectors, arranged densely in a single electronic device, to detect a wide range of masses at once. The technology allows a mass spectrometer to analyze a complete sample in just one scan, saving time and simplifying sample analysis. The technology has been incorporated into a plasma source mass spectrometer being sold by SPECTRO Analytical Instruments of Germany.

The technology was partly developed at EMSL, the Department of Energy's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL.

PNNL staff members involved in developing these technologies will be honored at the annual R&D 100 Awards ceremony on Oct. 13 in Orlando, Fla. For more information about the R&D 100 Awards, go to

Tags: Fundamental Science, Awards and Honors, Mass Spectrometry and Separations

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 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. 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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