Technology for storing large amounts of renewable energy, fighting cancer and detecting explosives have won Pacific Northwest National Laboratory three national awards.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium announced Thursday that the Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland is receiving three 2013 Excellence in Technology Transfer awards.
PNNL researchers created innovative "radiogel" products that allow medical personnel to deliver higher doses of radiation exactly where needed when fighting cancerous tumors that cannot be surgically removed. The treatment is effective, affordable and minimizes exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
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The PNNL-developed, injectable radiogels allow for the delivery of insoluble yttrium-90 -- a well-established medical radioisotope with many applications in cancer treatment -- to a precise location for targeted radiation therapy. The radiogels dissolve and disappear once the yttrium-90 decays.
"This new technology will provide cancer doctors with greater flexibility to safely direct radiation therapy to the interior of tumors, as well as to tumor margins following surgical removal," said Darrell Fisher, who leads the Laboratory's Isotope Sciences Program, in a statement. "Commercialization of the new treatment will help make it ready availability to patients."
DOE's Office of Science provided funding to support early studies on radiogel material composition. A license agreement with Advanced Medical Isotope Corp. of Kennewick has led to further development of radiogel products that will eventually be used to treat cancers of the liver, pancreas, brain, neck and kidneys.
PNNL researchers recently made progress in improving the performance of "redox flow" batteries, which hold promise for storing large amounts of renewable energy and providing greater stability to the energy grid.
The PNNL-developed system incorporates two approaches to overcome the limitations of previous generations of redox flow batteries. The result is a dramatically improved operating range, higher energy density and lower cost for vanadium redox flow batteries.
"Successful commercialization of DOE-sponsored technology development, such as this, is vital for creating the grid of the future, and sustaining U.S. leadership in advanced technology," said Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at DOE's Office of Electricity, in a statement.
License agreements with companies like UniEnergy Technologies LLC in Mukilteo are expected to lead to commercial products for utilities, power generators and industry.
Researchers at PNNL and Owlstone Ltd., in Cambridge, England, collaborated for several years to develop new technology with the potential to dramatically improve the ability to detect and identify very small amounts of chemicals, such as those that are telltale signs of hidden explosives or disease-revealing proteins in blood.
The Ion Mobility Spectrometer on a Microchip, or IMS Microchip, overcomes limitations of previous sample analytical instruments by shrinking a key component -- a channel through which molecules must travel. This advance improves performance by allowing higher electric currents to be effectively utilized in the separations process. The dime-sized chip provides dozens of channels through which ions travel to be separated and identified.
Owlstone scientists provided the microfabrication design and methods lying at the foundation of IMS Microchips, while PNNL provided its capabilities in ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry to improve the detection limits and sensitivity of the next generation of analytical microchips.
The unique expertise and capabilities contributed by PNNL researchers were critical to Owlstone in its efforts to develop a commercial IMS Microchip tailored to meet the needs of the mass spectrometry research community.
The federal consortium is a nationwide network that encourages federal laboratories to transfer laboratory-developed technologies to commercial markets. PNNL has been honored by the consortium more than any other federal laboratory, collecting 78 awards since the program began in 1984.
The 2013 awards will be presented April 25 at the consortium's annual meeting in Westminster, Colo.