A nanotechnology system that will allow sailors on Navy submarines to breathe easy has won Pacific Northwest National Laboratory a national award.
The 2012 Federal Laboratory Consortium Interagency Partnership Award was given to the Department of Energy national lab in Richland.
Researchers created a system that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air within a submarine to improve air quality, while providing a more environmentally friendly removal process.
The technology -- self assembled monolayers on mesoporous supports or SAMMS -- can be used to replace a system relied on for more than half a century by the U.S. Navy and many other countries.
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The current system is a bulky, heavy, corrosive and malodorous liquid process that produces a significant amount of organic solvent waste, according to PNNL.
"This is a new application of a technology that was previously developed by PNNL to remove heavy metal contamination from ground and surface waters found at many DOE waste sites," PNNL material scientist Glen Fryxell, one of the key inventors of the SAMMS technology, said in a statement.
The SAMMS materials can absorb large quantities of liquid and airborne contaminants without creating secondary waste and can be disposed of as nonhazardous waste.
The SAMMS technology is based on a new class of hybrid nanoporous materials that can rapidly capture contaminants such as carbon dioxide, mercury or arsenic directly from the atmosphere or liquid environments.
For air rejuvenation systems, SAMMS can provide a controlled release of the carbon dioxide using a gentle application of heat or vacuum, according to PNNL.
"The technology could open doors to other large-scale or small-scale air quality treatments," Fryxell said.
Researchers believe the air-cleansing system might be used in underwater rebreather SCUBA gear, in space-based vehicles or in space suit air rejuvenation systems. SAMMS carbon dioxide removal also has potential in minimizing heating and cooling costs in buildings by reducing outdoor air exchange.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium awarded an Interagency Partnership Award for the technology to recognize the collaboration among PNNL, the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Ship Systems Engineering Station and the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command.