We’re Sensing a Change in Water Monitoring: Introducing the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition

Read the full post from U.S. EPA.

Interested in helping protect our nation’s drinking water? EPA and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) are joining forces to launch the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition for the development of new technology to detect arsenic in water…

The first phase of the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition is scheduled to be launched in fall 2016. Entries will be judged and cash prizes will be awarded to winners. If you are interested in receiving notifications about the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition, email PRIZE@usbr.gov with “Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition” in the subject line to join the email list. The official prize competition announcement will be posted on Challenge.gov.

DOE commits more than $1.7 million to help commercialize promising Argonne-associated energy technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday that it is committing more than $1.7 million in funding to help Argonne National Laboratory and research partners move multiple promising energy technologies to the marketplace.

The awards are part of the first Department-wide round of funding from DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), which is awarding nearly $16 million to support 54 projects at 12 national laboratories involving dozens of research partners.

The Technology Commercialization Fund is administered by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, which works to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. Projects that will benefit from this round of funding fall in two areas:

  • Projects for which additional technology maturation is needed to attract a private partner
  • Cooperative development projects between a lab and industry partner(s) designed to bolster the commercial application of a laboratory-developed technology

All projects selected for the Technology Commercialization Fund will receive an equal amount of non-federal funds from lab partners to match the federal investment.

“Deploying new clean energy technologies is an essential part of our nation’s effort to lead in the 21st century economy and in the fight against climate change,” said Lynn Orr, DOE’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “The funds announced today will help to accelerate the commercialization of cutting-edge energy technologies developed in our national labs, making them more widely available to American consumers and businesses.”

The five Argonne-associated projects are:

Application of Resin-Wafer Electrodeionization Technology in Biorefineries ($600,000; in partnership with ZeaChem, Inc., Lakewood, Colo.)

Argonne and ZeaChem will work to improve the processing of biomass-based feedstocks into biofuels and chemicals.  A team led by Argonne chemical engineer YuPo Lin and biochemical engineer Seth Snyder developed the resin wafer electrodeionization (rwedi) technology, a process for producing clean energy that is cost-effective and reduces waste and energy use.

Argonne’s patented technology allows for the efficient separation of salts and acids from aqueous streams. Typically, these separations require neutralizing agents; the Argonne process uses electricity instead.

ZeaChem is developing biorefineries to commercialize production of cellulosic biofuels and renewable chemicals by bacterial fermentation technology. In the collaboration with Argonne, ZeaChem will use rwedi in its pilot-scale facility to clean up the cellulosic sugars that are fed to the fermenter and to recover the renewable chemical products from the fermenter.

“The implications of rwedi are exciting,” Snyder said. “Commercial production of cellulosic biofuels and renewable chemicals could decrease our carbon emissions while creating U.S. manufacturing jobs.”

The goal of the project is to obtain pilot-scale process performance so that ZeaChem can evaluate whether rwedi helps the company achieve its commercial targets.

“Rwedi could have a significant impact on the efficiency of multiple steps in the biorefining process” said Tim Eggeman, CEO and President of ZeaChem. “We look forward to seeing the scale-up performance.”

Ultrathin Nanoparticle Membranes to Remove Emerging Hydrophobic Trace Organic Compounds in Water with Low Applied Pressure and Energy Consumption ($150,000; in partnership with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

A recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raises grave concerns over organic contaminants in U.S. coastal waters. In particular, emerging trace organic contaminants (TrOCs) in the water supply present a tremendous challenge for water treatment because the existing technologies to remove them are not cost-effective.

The goal of the collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is to create a prototype membrane device with an engineered molecular coating capable of removing TrOCs in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Argonne, in collaboration with the University of Chicago, has recently developed ultrathin nanoparticle-based membranes with robust mechanical properties. Compared with commercial filters, these new types of filters have the potential to operate at low applied pressure with minimum energy consumption.

“We are excited that the grant will allow us to develop a new type of nanomaterial-based filtration membrane, completely different from the traditional polymer-based systems, to solve a challenging problem in water filtration,” said Xiao-Min Lin, an Argonne nanoscientist and a lead researcher on the project.

Argonne and MWRD will also collaborate with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Prairie Research Institute — both at theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — to evaluate the performance of the membrane filter.

Advanced Manufacturing of Ultra-High-Density Interposers ($250,000; in partnership with the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, Osceola County, Fla.)

The collaboration between Argonne and the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) will be aimed at improving device connections in systems needed to produce the next generation of sensors.

The work will focus on silicon interposers, a critical component for electrically connecting the multiple integrated circuits needed to make sensors with many functions.

ICAMR will contribute tools and facilities to conduct the research, including work at its state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility set to open next spring in Osceola County, Fla.

Graphene Coating for Dry Gas Seal Applications ($579,852; in partnership with John Crane Inc., Morton Grove, Ill.)

Argonne and John Crane Inc. will jointly develop an industrial-scale process for forming superlubric coatings based on a graphene-nanodiamond solution.

The technology will be applied to the dry gas seals of gas compressors and similar equipment, thereby reducing friction in the seals and reducing the leakage of toxic and greenhouse gases through worn seals.

“Industries are always interested in path-breaking ideas coming from national labs, but they don’t necessarily have enough funds to invest to take it to the next level,” said Argonne nanoscientist Anirudha Sumant, a lead researcher on the project. “This DOE program is an excellent vehicle to bridge this gap.”

By improving the reliability of sealing systems, there is considerable opportunity to decrease emissions associated with seal failures, reduce maintenance costs and improve productivity.

“This collaboration will propel gas-sealing technology to a new platform,” said Ali Erdemir, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and a lead researcher on the project.

“This is an important initiative by DOE to raise the Technology Readiness Level of the science that has been developed at the national laboratories,” added Mostafa Beik, a business development executive at Argonne who helps manage the collaboration with John Crane, Inc.

UNCD-Based Electron Field Emission Source for Accelerator Applications ($150,000; in partnership with Euclid TechLabs, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Many of the synchrotron facilities around the world — which operate 24/7 — have very complicated and time-consuming procedures for replacing electron sources when they fail, making a long time between failures highly desirable. It is also highly desirable that these electron sources can consume less power, work for a longer duration and withstand variation in vacuum environment without reducing performance.

In this project, Argonne and Euclid TechLabs will develop an electron source based on field emission from nitrogen-incorporated ultrananocrystalline diamond, or (N)UNCD.

“This will greatly accelerate our efforts in developing robust, energy-efficient and economically viable electron sources for electron accelerators,” Sumant said.

“A great collateral aspect of this funding and development will be the commercial availability of UNCD-based electron sources for other high-value commercial applications, including electron microscopy and space propulsion systems,” said Beik, who manages the commercialization of this technology with outside partners. “We are currently exploring with other commercial partners the use of this technology for those applications.”

The Road to Zero: DOE’s Next-Generation Heating and Cooling R&D Strategy

Read the full story from DOE.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) is supporting the Administration’s efforts to phase down the use and emissions of highly potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). BTO has created a multi-pronged strategy, outlined below, to develop, demonstrate, and deploy low- to zero- global warming potential (GWP) HVAC, water heating, and refrigeration technologies. This strategy supports the United States’ amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally. BTO’s vision is that non-vapor compression systems—a revolutionary new class of technologies that don’t use refrigerants and can approach zero-GWP—become dominant in some end uses.

Technology test drive: PNNL offers exploratory licenses

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Signing a two-page agreement and paying just $1,000 can get U.S. companies an opportunity to test drive promising technologies through a new, user-friendly commercialization option being offered at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

PNNL is the only DOE lab to offer this option, called an exploratory license, which gives companies six months to try out a technology before deciding whether or not to pursue a full license so they can create a product with the technology.


Conservation in the Age of Climate Change: Why Scientists Are Banking on Drones for Tracking Coastal Climate Research

Read the full story from Pacific Standard.

Scientists have been using drones for decades, but as they become more affordable and portable, they’re proving critical to studying—and saving—our most vulnerable environments.

Lentils to battle arsenic poisoning from Bangladesh well water in new study

Read the full story from the CBC.

A professor at the University of Calgary is studying whether Saskatchewan-grown lentils can counteract chronic arsenic poisonings from well water that affect up to 77 million people in Bangladesh.

Emojis may help reduce waste by measuring kids’ emotional response to foods

Read the full story from Kansas State University.

Those expressive faces in text messages may do more than tell someone you’re ROTFL. Sensory analysis researchers at Kansas State University Olathe believe the icons also may reduce the amount of food thrown away during school lunches by knowing whether kids feel love emoji or yuck emoji about the meal.

Marianne Swaney-Stueve, research assistant professor of human nutrition and manager of the Sensory and Consumer Research Center at K-State Olathe, and Katy Gallo, Kansas State University doctoral student in human nutrition, Fairfield, Connecticut, are using emoji faces — icons used with smartphones and electronic communication — as a way to measure the emotions kids feel about certain foods.