Pacific Northwest National Laboratory learned Wednesday that it has won two more prestigious R&D 100 Awards.
The latest honors are for technology that allows batteries to charge faster and for technology to purify air inconfined spaces such as Navy submarines.
The Department of Energy national lab in Richland now has 89 of the awards presented by R&D Magazine since the program began in 1963.
The awards, sometimes called the "Oscars of Innovation," go to the projects that an independent panel judges as the 100 most significant scientific and technological products or advances of the last year.
PNNL staff involved in developing the battery and air purification technologies will be honored Nov. 1 at a ceremony in Orlando, Florida.
New battery materials developed by PNNL and Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup, Md., will enable electric vehicles and consumer electronic products to recharge in a fraction of the time currently required, according to PNNL.
In collaboration with Vorbeck and Ilhan Aksay at Princeton University, PNNL demonstrated that small quantities of graphene -- ultra-thin sheets of carbon atoms -- can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries.
The research could lead to the development of batteries that last longer and recharge quickly, reducing the time it takes to charge a smartphone to as little as 10 minutes and an electric vehicle to just a few hours. The improved batteries also could be used for laptops and power tools.
Electronics and auto manufacturers would like to develop the next generation of batteries using low-cost materials such as titanium dioxide to replace the expensive materials used today. But titanium dioxide on its own doesn't perform well enough to serve as a replacement.
To test whether graphene, a good electronic conductor, could help, PNNL researchers developed a new method to synthesize self-organizing mixtures of graphene and titanium dioxide. Structural analysis studies of the material were conducted with scientists at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE national user facility at PNNL.
When EMSL compared how well the new combination of electrode materials charged and discharged electric current, the electrodes containing graphene outperformed the standard titanium dioxide by up to three times, according to PNNL.
Vorbeck has a licensing option to bring lithium batteries incorporating graphene technology to market for use in consumer electronic devices, tools and electric vehicles. It also is working with Hardwire LLC of Pocomoke City, Md., to integrate the new batteries into hybrid military vehicles.
PNNL shares the R&D 100 Award with Vorbeck and Princeton.
The air purification system could be in use by the U.S. Navy as early as 2014, according to PNNL.
Aboard the U.S. Navy's fleet of more than 70 submarines are thousands of sailors who spend weeks or even months isolated deep underwater. Shipboard air purification systems are critical to sailor health and quality of life.
PNNL developed the Advanced Carbon-dioxide Removal Unit to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere within a submarine, while providing a more environmentally friendly removal process. The system replaces a bulky, heavy and corrosive liquid process that has been used for more than half a century.
It is a nanotech-based technology that employs a novel granular sorbent material, developed by PNNL, to efficiently and effectively target and remove carbon dioxide from air. The sorbent material, called SAMMS for Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, regenerates itself, allowing for repeated air purification cycles over long stretches of time.
The air purification technology is a new application of SAMMS, which was developed by PNNL to remove heavy metal contamination from ground and surface water.
The manufacturing rights for the new sorbent material are licensed to Steward Advanced Materials of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the first air purification system that will employ the sorbent is being manufactured by the Hamilton Sunstrand Corp., a United Technologies company with headquarters in Hartford, Conn.
In addition to submarines, PNNL researchers said the system could potentially be used in any confined spaces where air cleansing is critical, such as in underwater re-breather scuba gear, in space-based vehicles or in air rejuvenation systems.
It shares the air purification award with Steward Advanced Materials.