Federal Laboratory Consortium Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards
Laser-Induced Fluorescence Fiber-Optic Measurement of Fuel in Oil (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Laser-Induced Fluorescence Fiber-Optic Measurement of Fuel in Oil technology received the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. The technology can determine the amount of fuel dilution in engine oil. The new tool supports industry in designing durable engines that meet stringent fuel efficiency and emissions requirements.
Compact High-Efficiency Natural Gas Liquefier (Idaho National Laboratory). Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has developed a natural gas liquefaction technology that is very compact, yet able to use natural gas directly from transmission lines without costly pretreatment to remove water and carbon dioxide contaminants. The INL technology produces liquefied natural gas (LNG) that is competitive with LNG produced in some of the largest facilities worldwide. In 2000, INL entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Gas Company, which led to the construction of a 10,000-gallon per day plant in Sacramento, California. The plant's compact size and automated operation allowed the liquefaction facility to be located in Sacramento's historic district. In 2004, INL licensed the technology in a particular field of use to Hanover Compression LP. The technology received an R&D 100 Award in 2006, and has generated licensing interest from throughout the world.
Powertrain System Analysis Toolkit (PSAT) (Argonne National Laboratory). Argonne's Powertrain System Analysis Toolkit (PSAT) is a "forward-looking" software model that simulates fuel economy and performance in a realistic manner — taking into account transient behavior and control system characteristics. It can simulate an unrivaled number of predefined configurations (conventional, electric, fuel cell, series hybrid, parallel hybrid, and power split hybrid). Because of its forward architecture, PSAT component interactions are "real world." PSAT has been used for numerous studies to assist DOE in identifying future research directions regarding HEVs as well as Plug-in HEVs. PSAT received an R&D 100 Award in 2004 and is currently used by more than 300 researchers worldwide in more than 60 companies and universities.
Carbon Composite Bipolar Plate: Lightweight Electrodes for Fuel Cells (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed the carbon composite bipolar plate to meet the need for a lightweight, economical replacement part for the machined graphite electrodes used in proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Porvair Fuel Cell Technology, a Hendersonville, North Carolina-based company, has licensed the patented technology from ORNL. Porvair is interested in very large-scale production of the plates — in excess of 1 million per year. The company has acquired clients and plans to upgrade production. Anyone who relies on motor vehicles stands to benefit from this technology. In addition, businesses seeking their own stationary power generators will benefit when low-cost PEM fuel cells become available.
High Thermal Conductivity Graphite Foam (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). High-thermal-conductivity (HTC) graphite foam is a highly efficient, low-density heat sink material. It outperforms traditional materials such as extruded aluminum heat sinks in electronic components, metal radiators in cars and trucks, and carbon-composite thermal radiators in spacecraft. A cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) resulted in the successful transfer of this technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Poco Graphite, Inc., of Decatur, Texas.
Polymer Boot Heater to Improve Vehicle Assembly-Line Ergonomics and Production (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). On the production lines at Delphi Automotive Systems, workers fitted protective boots over automotive rack-and-pinion steering assemblies by forcing the boots into place by hand. Because extended use of this technique can cause repetitive-motion injuries, Delphi workers had to be relieved every 30 to 60 minutes. To solve this problem, the Saginaw, Michigan-based company needed to find a replacement method that would be safe and comfortable for its workers, as well as efficient and cost-effective. Delphi found the answer it needed at ORNL. To transfer this technology, Delphi collaborated with the ORNL team and Infrared Technologies, LLC, an Oak Ridge, Tennessee-based company. Delphi and ORNL worked together on a CRADA, and the resulting patent for the polymer boot heater is licensed to Infrared Technologies, which is currently marketing the device.
Laser Weld Monitor (Argonne National Laboratory). Argonne National Laboratory, through a collaborative research and development agreement with the Low Emissions Partnership of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), developed a prototype monitor for laser welding operations that can sense the weld surface and weld penetration. The weld monitor is designed to be simple, inexpensive, and able to withstand a harsh manufacturing environment. It can be retrofitted on existing laser systems. Two versions of the weld monitor have been developed. In the stand-alone version, the monitor uses a diode laser for aiming; this version is suitable for research and development purposes. In the other version, the monitor has been incorporated into the beam delivery optics, so it can easily be used on the plant floor. The weld monitor has been successfully tested in the laboratory and at an industrial workstation for processing automotive parts. A commercial version is also available.
Gelcasting Process for Making Complex Shapes (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). First developed in the mid-1980s by ORNL researchers, gelcasting didn't attract much industry attention until the early 1990s, when AlliedSignal Ceramic Components of Torrance, Calif. (now Honeywell Ceramic Components [HCC]) formed a cooperative research agreement with ORNL. With funding support from the Department of Commerce's Advanced Technology Program, HCC licensed the technology from ORNL in 1994 for manufacturing turbine engine components. With government support, the company has made significant progress in scaling up the process. Silicon nitride nozzles, wheels, seals, and thin-walled combustors have been produced with comparable mechanical properties to slipcast parts. An example is near-net-shape turbine wheels for air turbine starters used in commercial/military propulsion turbine engines. The wheels have been successfully gelcast and proof-tested to over 100,000 rpm. They are currently undergoing engine testing.
Solid-Particle Erosion of Anodized Aluminum — Award of Merit (Argonne National Laboratory). In a CRADA with AlliedSignal, Argonne was asked to determine a way to reduce the amount of erosion caused by particulate matter in the jet fuel used in military aircraft fuel systems. Researchers created a new coating process for fuel system parts to replace the original one used by AlliedSignal. The original process — a two-step oxidation-of-aluminum coating procedure — formed coatings that were thick but required intermediate machining. The new process created a thinner, more homogenous coating in only one step. As part of testing, the coatings were subjected to erosion by solid particles to simulate conditions in a gas turbine fuel engine system. The erosion resistance of the two coatings was found to be almost identical. However, the one-step coating contained fewer subsurface cracks, and, therefore, had equal or better mechanical properties. The elimination of one step saved AlliedSignal at least $100,000 a year on production costs, with additional savings on new products.