Technology Transfer Opportunities – Ames National Laboratory



Final Report

Technology Transfer Opportunities in the National Laboratories

Ames Laboratory

Ames, Iowa

December 1997

Prepared for:

Utility Federal Technology Opportunities (UFTO)


Edward Beardsworth


This report is part of a series examining technology opportunities at National Laboratories of possible interest to electric utilities

1. Summary
1. Ames Overview
2. Ames Technologies & Programs

This report is proprietary and confidential. It is for internal use by personnel of companies that are subscribers in the UFTO multi-client program. It is not to be otherwise copied or distributed except as authorized in writing.


This report details technology and technology transfer opportunities at the Ames Laboratory (Ames) that may be of strategic interest to electric utilities. It is based on a site visit to the Ames Laboratory, and subsequent contacts conducted as part of the UFTO multiclient project.


The UFTO program was established to investigate the opportunities afforded to electric utilities by both the tremendous scope of the research conducted in the laboratories/ facilities of the U.S. government, and the federal government’s strong drive to foster partnerships with commercial industry that result in practical applications of its research/technologies.

Ames Overview

The Ames Laboratory started in the 1940’s, when researchers at Iowa State University developed the first practical methods for refining uranium ore into metal. The Laboratory processed over 100 tons of uranium metal during the early 40”s, which was further purified to produce the nation’s first generation of nuclear weapons. After this initial period, the Laboratory turned its capacity for research in chemistry, the materials sciences and physics to the investigation of the nation’s energy-related problems. Today, much of the funding for its work comes from the DOE’s Office of Energy Research/Basic Energy Sciences, although other funding comes from the DOE’s Offices of Environmental Management and Fossil Energy.

The Laboratory is located on the campus of Iowa State University, and its programs intertwined with the university and its special research Centers and Institutes. Staff often hold dual appointments, and university students often do their graduate research in Ames Lab facilities under the direction of Lab staff. This is an agile, open environment, where research teams form and re-form very readily, and flexibly tackle new undertakings. The people know each other, and they work together well.

An absolute headcount is hard to determine, because of the movement of students and visiting scientists entering and leaving programs. However, the core staff consists of about 400 FTEs, about 200 of whom are experienced scientists. There may be another 200 to 300 grad students, post doctoral researchers, visiting scientists, and university “associates” supporting their research at any time. Recent annual budgets have been about $30 million. As the smallest lab in the DOE system, Ames produces program research results and wins scientific awards in disproportionate numbers, and has the lowest overhead rates of any DOE lab.

They have unique capabilities and expertise in a number of interesting areas. These include: magnetic materials and their applications, rare earth materials and their applications to energy-related problems (Note: the Ames Laboratory’s “Materials Preparation Center” produces and distributes most of the world’s research grade supply), and thermoelectric materials (and TPV–thermo photovoltaic materials). Elsewhere in the materials world, they also have some unpublished ideas for a new class of high temperature corrosion resistant coatings (which need a demonstration partner and a little funding) and high strength conductors (10 times the tensile strength of Cu, at 80% of the conductivity). Ames Laboratory research areas also include, ash characterization and use(they’ve got a monitor to measure carbon in ash and also an alkalinity monitor for gasifier diagnoses), biomass utilization technologies, coal cleaning methods, fluidized bed combustion (FBC) operations and troubleshooting. and Non-Destructive Evaluation technologies and methods.

• Technology Transfer Office

Call Todd Zdorkowski, 515-294-5640,
Web site —

Ames Technologies & Programs

Covered in this report:

• Center for Rare Earth and Magnetic Materials 3
Rare Earth Information Center
• Magnetic Refrigeration 4
• Sulfur resistant coating 6
• High Strength Conductors 6
• Thermoelectrics 6
• Fossil Energy Programs 7
• Environmental Technology Development 10
– Expedited Site Characterization
– Other ETD Technologies

• Center for Rare Earths and Magnetics

Dr. William McCallum, Director,
515-294-4736, or

One of the Ames Laboratory’s mission-related strengths is in the area of metallurgy and ceramics. Within that broad area, Ames has developed a unique focus on the rare earths (perhaps because lantanide series materials science is similar to actinide series chemistry and materials science). This informs their work on magnetic materials, magnetic refrigerant materials, power conversion materials, corrosion resistant coatings and novel conductive alloys. The physics, chemistry and instrumentation developed in these areas also informs the Ames Laboratory’s work in Fossil Energy and Environmental Technology Development.

Rare earths are key though little-known ingredients in many fields of technology, including optics, magnetics, catalysts, and electrochemical devices (batteries, fuel cells, etc.). Ames Lab supplies 80-90% of the world’s research grade rare earth materials to US laboratories, to universities, and to firms with research organizations, distributed across the U.S., Asia and Europe. They also develop commercially viable material purification, processing and separation processes. Basic and applied research into rare-earth-dependent materials includes research into magnetic materials, magnetic refrigerants, power conversion materials, and coatings. (For a good layman’s overview on rare earths, see The Industrial Physicist, p. 28, September ’96.).

Dr. McCallum, who is the Director of the Laboratory/ISU Center for Rare Earths and Magnetics is in the process of building a research consortium of firms and organizations interested in the practical applications, processing and development of advanced magnetic materials. He is, himself, an expert in the composition, processing and performance of neodymium-iron-boron magnets, and recently won an R&D 100 award for his work on processing magnetic powder materials. The information-outreach side of the Center is represented by the Rare Earth Information Center.

Rare Earth Information Center (RIC)

This center was established in 1966 to serve the scientific and technological communities by collecting, storing, evaluating, and disseminating rare earth materials information. The Center publishes two newsletters and maintains a database of over 80,000 references on the metallurgy, physics, chemistry, and toxicity of rare earth elements and compounds. Personnel can access 17,000 journals and 400,000 U.S. government reports. Everyday questions concerning rare earths and their applications are researched and answered over the telephone by RIC staff, while more sophisticated database searches are done on a for-fee basis. The Center’s periodical publications include:

– RIC News is a quarterly newsletter, available free, containing items of current interest to the science and technology of rare earths.

– RIC Insight is a monthly newsletter, provided as a membership benefit of supporters of the Center, with editorial comment and late breaking news slanted to the technological and commercial aspects of rare earth materials. (Supporters pay an annual contribution starting from $300 for individuals.)

For an overview of the Center, see its homepage at ……

or call RIC staff at: (515) 294 5405 or (515) 294 2272

• Magnetic Refrigeration (UFTO Note Oct 24, 1997)

Ames Lab and Astronautics Corporation of America, are making considerable progress towards a commercially viable refrigeration technology based on the magnetocaloric effect present in certain rare earth materials .

Magnetic refrigeration has been around for a long time, and was used in the past, principally, to reach ultra low temperatures in cryogenics research. Recent developments on two fronts are now moving the technology towards room temperature and commercial application. One is the refrigeration cycle itself–new approaches have been developed, which are reaching performance at room temperature that is very competitive with vapor compression. A laboratory scale magnetic refrigerator built by Astronautics produces 600 watts of cooling power, achieves a temperature span of 28 degrees K near room temperature, with the highest temperature being just above the freezing point of water. The system efficiencies approach 60% of Carnot, with a COPs of five to eight. It has been in continuous operation since December ’96. This work used traditional gadolinium spheres as the magnetic refrigerant (and a more advanced system has recently been demonstrated that improves upon these numbers).

The other key ingredient is the magnetic material. Ames Lab, a leader in the field of rare earth metals research, announced a breakthrough this summer, producing a giant magnetocaloric effect in new alloys of gadolinium, silicon and germanium. The magnetocaloric effect in these materials is 2 to 7 times larger than in other magnetic refrigerant materials. Their operating temperatures (the Curie point) can be tuned from -400 degrees F to 65 degrees F, by adjusting the ratio of silicon to germanium.

Magnetic refrigeration operates by magnetizing and demagnetizing the material, analogous to compression and expansion in a vapor cycle. However, the losses due to magnetizing and demagnetizing are much less than the friction losses that occur during compression and expansion. Two “beds” filled with magnetic material are pushed in and out of a magnetic field. As a bed enters a high magnetic field space, its components are aligned in the magnetic field and it heats up (magnetocaloric effect). The heat is picked up by a flow of heat transfer fluid (which is water in this laboratory scale magnetic refrigerator) and is dissipated into the surroundings. When the bed is pulled out of the magnetic field, its components return to an amorphous state, and it cools down due to the reverse magnetocaloric effect, cooling the water.

The use of a solid refrigerant material (gadolinium) and water as a heat transfer fluid offers another advantage compared to conventional vapor cycle refrigerators: this is the absence of harmful chemicals as liquid refrigerants that present serious environmental hazard.

Strong magnetic fields are needed for this system, and these are currently produced by superconducting magnets. However, the team is finding ways to lower the field required, while new developments in permanent magnets (materials, fabrication, and expiration of key patents) offer the possibility of simpler and less expensive systems. Also, high temperature superconductors are coming into their own, which could also change things dramatically.

The need for a strong field puts the economics of magnetic refrigeration in favor of larger systems, however smaller scale devices are also anticipated. The key differentiating features are:

1. Higher efficiencies (which can be highly significant when power is limited–e.g. in an electric vehicle).

2. Reduction (to zero) of the environmental issues associated with conventional liquid refrigerants.

3. Ability to cool continuously over a range of temperatures(e.g. in chilling a fluid stream)

4. Ability to scale down without significant losses of cooling efficiency, which is to the contrary of conventional vapor cycle refrigeration.

Initial applications will probably be in industrial and commercial (e.g. supermarkets) refrigeration, cooling and air conditioning. Other possibilities of interest to utilities may include cooling of inlet air for combustion turbines, and district cooling.

The technology is at least five years from a practical commercial reality, however Ames and Astronautics are already fielding numerous inquiries from interested parties and potential partners. The developers are open to the possibility of teaming with other companies who may do the manufacturing and marketing of actual products.

A number of technical and popular articles and other information are available from Ames.


Karl Gschneidner, Ames Lab, principal investigator, 515-294-7931,
Vitalij Pecharsky, Ames Lab, principal investigator, 515-294-8220
Carl Zimm, principal investigator, Astronautics, Madison WI,

Sulfur-Resistant Coatings

This is an unpublished idea that is currently unfunded, due to budget cuts in DOE. Rare earth oxysulfides should be fairly easy to apply as a ceramic coating on refractory materials, and will be highly immune to damage by sulfur, making them ideal for use in coal-fired power plants.

Along with some modest funding, the researchers at Ames need some boiler tubes to work with, and a burner in which to test them once the coatings have been applied.

Contact: Dr. Larry Jones 515.294.5236 or

High Strength Conductors (UFTO Note Sept 20, 1996)

This new class of alloys has 10 times the tensile strength of copper, at about 80% the electrical conductivity. These are deformation processed copper metal matrix composites that have a long filamentary microscopic structure.

Possible applications, in addition to non-sagging transmission and distribution wires that could allow hotter operation and increased tower spacing, include use in equipment where tensile strength is extremely important, such as generators or pulsed-power magnetizers that are used to make permanent-magnets.

While the metallurgy aspects have been published in trade journals, there’s been no funding currently available to pursue these various power systems applications. The Lab would appreciate input from interested industrial parties.

In related work, the Lab also has developed improved aluminum metal-matrix composites with increased strength and very little loss of conductivity, which may be another candidate for power conductor applications.

Contact: Larry Jones, Principal Investigator, 515-294-5236,

• Thermoelectrics and Thermophotovoltaics

Thermoelectric devices (TE) convert heat directly into electricity or work as a heat pump when supplied with electric power. They’ve been used in space craft for a long time, but their low efficiencies have limited their commercial use to a few specialty applications (such as cooling electronics). A great deal of research takes place around the world to try to break the performance barrier, where the efficiency rarely exceeds 5-7 percent. Ames is one of the important centers for this research, and has extensive measurement and testing capabilities.

More recent work has focused on thermophotovoltaics (TPV), a different approach to the conversion of heat into electricity. (In TPV, the idea is to apply heat from a combustion or radioactive source to a special emitter material, which then radiates light at a specific wavelength. This light is then converted into electricity by a specially matched high efficiency photovoltaic cell. Efficiencies could, theoretically, reach 40-60%. Energy Daily had a good overview of recent work in this area on Sept 2, 1997.) Ames lab is developing “rare earth super emitters” for TPV which become incandescent at 800-1500 deg. C, and perhaps as low as 600 deg. They are also developing materials which can survive the thermal shock cycle, and which may eventually lead to commercially viable applications like gas furnaces that supply their own fan power (able to provide heat during power outages).

Contact: Bruce Cook, 515-294-9673,

• Fossil Energy Programs

The Ames Laboratory Fossil Energy program and the ISU Center for Coal and the Environment form one of the linked laboratories that characterize Iowa State’s research community. The Fossil Energy program and the Center do extensive research into coal separations and cleaning, coal combustion systems and system monitoring, and combustion effluent/exhaust controls and monitoring technologies. Recently the Center has developed a new focus on biomass utilization. The research benefits from the long history of materials science, analytical chemistry, instrument building and systems engineering that characterize both the Laboratory and ISU. Both the Center and the Ames Laboratory can be appropriate contracting vehicles, depending upon a firm’s preferences or situation. Funding for the Laboratory comes from DOE, but Center funding comes from EPRI and a range of other utility industry sources.


Contact: Robert Brown 515-294-8733,

Fossil Program Office: 515-294-3758

CfCE Office 515-294-7936

Carbon in Ash Monitor In this off-line device, a low-power laser heats the ash sample. In the air space above the sample, a sensitive microphone detects minute sound wave produced by the heated carbon in the sample. Power plant operators can thus have quick and accurate information to help make assessments about plant performance. The instrument has been used to measure carbon concentrations from less than 0.1% to nearly 7% by mass, with an accuracy of 4%. It has been successfully tested at several sites. This device is patented and recently won an R&D 100 award for innovation and commercial potential.

Contact: Robert Brown, 515-294-8733,

Ametek Inc, a small company in Pittsburgh, is pursuing commercialization.

Contact Joe Capone, 412-828-9050, ext 222

Coal Ash – Alternatives to disposal: The use of coal ash as a soil stabilizer in feedlots has been successfully demonstrated. This may be useful in states where livestock confinements are large or growing components of the agricultural economy.

Biomass: Several studies into systems that use crops and agricultural wastes (in Iowa) for energy production have been successfully completed.

Latent Heat Ballasted Gasifier. The idea is to store heat in a metal alloy with a melting point close to the desired gasification temperature. This allows a single reactor to sustain pyrolysis without oxygen addition, by storing energy during periods of combustion and releasing the stored energy during periods of pyrolysis, resulting in a producer gas with higher methane content and heating value.

Contact: Robert Brown, 515-294-8733,

Coal cleaning

A wide ranging experimental program in new techniques to clean coal. (With emissions allowances so cheap, coal cleaning isn’t a hot topic currently, but industry needs to get ready for tighter standards coming in 2000.)

– Remove 60% of pyrite and organic sulfur via “low-severity oxidation” for $2-3/ton. EPRI funded this work, and is seeking a patent.

– Remove chlorine with a lime (calcium hydroxide) solution (leftover pickling agent from steelmaking). Trick is to find a good wetting agent. On combustion, the reagent left on the coal forms calcium sulfate, reducing SO2 emissions. Iowa State owns this technology. Patent was granted April ’96. Colin Chriswell, 515-294-6776.

– Column Flotation – new development in applying this technique to fine coal. The coal is initially ground very fine in a ball mill, and injected into a high narrow tube of water. The column separates coal and minerals based on different surface properties which affect how they interact with air and water in the column. Coal particles attach more readily to air bubbles generated at the bottom of the column, and a coal rich froth collects at the top. Mineral particles are drawn to the bottom. Control algorithms are the key to making this work.

– Oil Agglomeration – also works on the difference between coal fines and minerals in their interaction with water. In agglomeration, oil is slowly added to a stirred mixture of coal and water. The minerals remain suspended in the water as the coal particles become coated with oil and stick together. The Ames research is finding additives to help impurities stay with the minerals and not with the coal. There’s a large potential resource that could be recovered from waste ponds if this work is successful. Thomas Wheelock, 515-294-5226.

Fluidized bed combustion (FBC) operations and troubleshooting

For DOE and private companies, Ames and Center staff help operators with specific operational problems, such as diagnosing causes for deposit formation and bed agglomeration.

They have developed a “similitude model” of fluid bed or fluid bed combustion. This is a physical device which operates under “similar” conditions to an actual reactor, and can predict reactor behavior. Results can be scaled via dimensionless parameters. It’s been operated first with glass beads, to analyze cold flow.

RF Surface Contour mapping system makes it possible to monitor and map surfaces of process streams in a variety of coal processing vessels (e.g. FBC’s, gasifiers, etc.).

On-line alkalinity monitor measures sodium and potassium in hot gas streams from coal combustion (pulverized coal, pressurized fluidized bed) and gasification. Because sodium and potassium are everywhere, this measurement is difficult to do. Other techniques involve concentrating an alkali sample from a got gas stream, which takes several hours followed by lab analysis. Handling made is almost impossible to avoid contamination. The Ames device uses flame atomic emission spectrometry for instant on line measurements at parts-per-billion levels, making it possible, for example, to blend coal and clays to prevent turbine corrosion. Ames brings their instruments to a site for analyses and troubleshooting on a contract basis.

Contact David Eckels 515-294-7943

On-line monitor for mercury in hot gas streams of coal gasifiers. Detects all species of Hg, not just elemental. Contact Glenn Norton 515-294-1035

On-line monitor for hydrogen chloride in hot gas streams of coal gasifiers. 100 times more sensitive than commercially available devices (needed for fuel cell applications).

Contact Colin Chriswell 515-294-6776

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer implemented at the Iowa State University physical plant in a research program to evaluate various coals and limestone sorbents. Challenge was to harden the device for the harsh environment. A possible real time emissions monitor.

Contact: Robert Brown 515-294-8733

Biomass-derived char as source for carbon for use in lithium battery electrodes — potentially much better than coal-derived carbon, which contains transition-metals — a problem in these applications. In a related project, they helped a seed corn maker to dispose of old seed coated with herbicide, by gasifying it.

• Environmental Technology Development (ETD)

ETD works on solutions not only to DOE’s cleanup problems, but also to similar problems faced by public and private sector organizations. Under development are such things as compact, portable instruments to identify hazardous wastes, rapid techniques for in-the-field analysis of radioactive materials, and laser systems to decontaminate equipment.

Director: Martin Edelson, 515-294-4987,

Expedited Site Characterization (ESC)

(Also see:

ESC is a field-proven methodology for environmental site assessment that utilizes in-field decision making, a dynamic work plan, real-time data acquisition and interpretation to efficiently minimize uncertainty in remedial selection and design. It has been successfully applied at a variety of sites containing multiple aquifers and multiple organic and metal contaminated sites, all under full regulatory scrutiny.

Regulators are accepting ESC because of its proactive, open strategy to involve them and its demonstrated ability to move the cleanup ahead of schedule while providing for improved data quality that supports better remedial decisions.

Site owners are accepting ESC because it breaks the lengthy cycle of analysis, planning, sampling followed by more of the same, all of which can take years. ESC is different from traditional methods in the areas of project organization and staffing (a core team), a regulatory interface (proactive involvement) and data management (real-time acquisition and integration). ESC saves site owner money in two ways; by reducing site assessment time and by providing a reliable basis for any subsequent remediation.

ESC incorporates several key principles.

– A core team of an experienced multidisciplinary group of hands-on professionals is formed to plan the project and also to manage field investigations.

– A dynamic work plan can be modified in the field by the core team to ensure project objectives are being met. On-site data processing and interpretations ensure effective on-site decision making.

– In Phase I, multiple non-intrusive and minimally intrusive methods such as geophysical techniques, borehole logging and direct push technologies (DPT), are used to develop the hydrogeologic portion of the conceptual site model (CSM)

– In Phase II, field work focuses on the chemical contaminant portion of the CSM, only after the hydrogeologic portion is complete. Appropriate analytical methods for the contaminants of concern are selected in accordance with USEPA data quality objectives process. Use of on-site mobile labs assures cost effective and rapid turnarounds.

A comprehensive, innovative quality assurance plan is developed that includes assigning quality attributes to all historical information available prior to the ESC. Throughout the investigation all prior information is maintained in a unified database that assists in quality control and timely decision making.

In partnership with regulators, a communications plan is developed that maximizes their involvement with every aspect of ESC consistent with their needs and resource limitations.

ESC will be most effectively applied to those sites that are amenable to cost-effective use of geophysical and DPT methods. Typically this means sites larger than a few acres.

ESC is unique in that:

1. The site characterization work is done by experts who creatively interact during field work (yes, the experts are in the field … not behind a desk in a home office) to iteratively design the sampling plan in “real-time.” These same experts pick the site specific technologies that support that on-site decision making in real time.

2. ESC emphasizes strong interaction with regulators and stakeholders throughout the site characterization. The ESC core team leader meets with regulators at the beginning of the site characterization process and negotiates such things as the definition of the contaminants of concern, the sampling strategy and analysis program.

The result of these unique practices is a very technically powerful and publicly-acceptable site characterization. The initial cost of putting experts in the field is recovered by not having to revisit the site for later measurements and by generating a result that has strong regulatory and public acceptance.

The methodology is now being extended to accommodate both characterization of buildings and other facilities, and explicit risk assessment

Contact: Al Bevolo, 515-294-5414,

ESC Demonstration at Manufactured Gas Site

Ames Laboratory teamed up with IES Utilities, Iowa environmental regulators and manufacturers of environmental cleanup technologies to demonstrate the ESC approach at a former manufactured gas plant site in Marshalltown, Iowa, April – May 1994. The site is owned by IES Utilities, a major Iowa electric and gas company, and the first public utility in the country to cosponsor an event to demonstrate ESC.

The site, acquired by IES in the early 1900s for its distribution lines, manufactured gas from coal. This fuel was used between the late 1800s and 1940s for lighting street lamps, heating and cooking. At the time of operation, gasification by-products, which included coal tar, coke and other materials, were not regulated. Now, under the guidelines and oversight of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, IES Utilities is responsible for investigating and remediating the contaminants at this former manufactured gas plant site.

This project involved both soil and groundwater media and COCs, such as PAHs, volatile organics, petroleum products, DNAPLs, pesticides, radioactive isotopes and RCRA metals.

Other technologies developed in the ETD program include:

(see :

Analyzing Environmental Contaminants

Mobile Demonstration Laboratory for Environmental Screening Technologies – MDLEST — Uncommonly versatile, this new analytical laboratory on wheels effectively brings comprehensive capabilities to the field for faster, safer, better and cheaper environmental assessment.

Metals and Isotope Analysis Using Electrothermal/Plasma and Diode Laser Spectrometry — Offering highly precise simultaneous detection of radioactive isotopes and hazardous metals in the field, DLS-FANES should speed DOE restoration activities, reduce costs and improve confidence of characterization and monitoring analyses.

Improvements in Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry — Augmenting an already effective analytical technique, sampling improvements for ICP-MS promise reduced hazards, costs and complexity for assessing DOE’s radioactive sites.

Electrospray Mass Spectrometry — Adapting for environmental use an analytical technology already common in medical applications, researchers are developing a single instrument comprehensive enough for a wide range of environmental analyses. Reducing the need for multiple analytical tools, this system should cut the costs and complexity of DOE’s environmental assessments.

LA-ICP-AES using a high resolution fiber optic interferometer — With a remarkable combination of small size, affordability and high sensitivity, Ames Lab’s new interferometric ICP-AES spectrometer should make detailed field-testing possible in areas where traditional methods lack the required selectivity and portability.

FTIR-Photoacoustic spectroscopy of solids — This technique reduces worker exposure to radiation because of the small sample size and the dramatic reduction in sample preparation needed, also making the technique faster and more cost-effective.

Monitoring Environmental Contaminants

Zero Tension Lysimeters — Offering expanded monitoring capabilities at a reduced cost, this new zero-tension lysimeter produces a more complete and accurate picture of soil and water flow to help guard against the spread of contaminants in upper regions of the soil.

Piezoelectric thin-film resonator sensors — Automatable, easy to maintain and cost-effective for wide-spread deployment, a new thin film resonator sensor system will help ensure the safety of underground storage tanks with continuous, simplified monitoring of the tanks’ potentially explosive gases.

Ultrasonic characterization of wastes — Safe, quick and cost-effective physical description of stored waste will help speed the decommissioning of storage tanks for newer, more effective waste treatment, storage and disposal.

Measurements by Transient Infrared Spectroscopies (TIRS) — Helping DOE improve waste solidification with continuous monitoring, Ames Lab’s new infrared spectrometry technique will allow process operators to maximize and document the quality of polymer-encapsulated waste for safer, more efficient storage and disposal.

Decontaminating Environmental Wastes

Laser decontamination of metals — This new technique that uses lasers for safe and effective metal decontamination produces little secondary waste and can reduce selected waste volumes (or at least lower waste classifications) and therefore reduce the hazards and costs of waste storage and disposal.

X-ray detector system helps evaluate facility contamination — Rapidly providing critical contaminant information on site, Ames Lab’s portable K-edge heavy metal detector should make the dismantling of DOE’s contaminated facilities easier, safer and more efficient.

Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing

Lead-free Solder Paste — The strength, heat resistance, workability and cost-effectiveness of Ames Lab’s new lead-free solder make it an attractive alternative for getting environmentally hazardous lead out of commonly used solders.

Brookhaven National Laboratories

From: UA4G924 –EPRI Date and time 04/11/96 15:25:11
SUBJECT: Brookhaven Offers Nucl. Matls Metallurgy

UFTO has just received an invitation to a kickoff workshop at Brookhaven National Lab (Long Island NY) for MAGNUM — the Brookhaven Metallurgical Analysis Group for Nuclear Utilities Materials…to establish a new working relationship with the nuclear utility industry.

The workshop will be held at Brookhaven on April 25, 8:30 am-3:00pm. Plan to fly in to Long Island MacArthur Airport at Islip the night before….or LaGuardia or JFK.

They have a detailed proposal to form a “Utility Contract Group”, focused on failure analysis/Root cause analysis, life extension and aging, and independent surveillance/Monitoring.

If you would like a copy of the proposal and workshop agenda, contacts are:

C.L. Snead, 516-344-3502;

Carl Czajkowski, 516-344-4420,

Sincerely yours,

Edward Beardsworth, Consultant

951 Lincoln Ave___________Tel 415-328-5670___Fax 415-328-5675

Palo Alto CA 94301________EMAIL:

Technology Transfer Opportunities – National Institute of Standards and Technology

Final Report
Technology Transfer Opportunities in Federal Laboratories
National Institute of Standards and Technology
April 1994
Revised August 1994
Prepared for:
Utility Federal Technology Opportunities (UFTO)
Edward Beardsworth

This report is part of a series examining technology opportunities at National Laboratories of possible interest to electric utilities

1. Summary
3. NIST Organization
4. NIST Technologies and Programs
9. NIST Contacts

This report is proprietary and confidential. It is for internal use by personnel of companies that are subscribers in the UFTO multi-client program. It is not to be otherwise copied or distributed except as authorized in writing.


This report details findings about technology and technology transfer opportunities at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that might be of strategic interest to electric utilities. It is based on two visits to NIST headquarters in Gaithersberg MD (in April and August 1994), as part of a project for PSI Energy, which had the additional goal to establish relationships that will enable PSI to monitor developments and gain access on an ongoing basis.

Noting the tremendous scope of research underway in the research facilities of the U.S. government, and a very strong impetus on the government’s part to foster commercial partnering with industry and applications of the technology it has developed, PSI Energy supported this project to become familiar with the content and process of those programs, and to seek out opportunities for collaboration, demonstration or other forms of participation that will further the business objectives of PSI. PSI has agreed to make these results available to the participants in UFTO.

NIST Organization

NIST, formerly the National Bureau of Standards, is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission and organization are quite different from other federal research entities, and it has gained significantly increased stature, budget, and role with the Clinton administration.

There are approximately 3000 employees, mostly at Gaithersberg MD and in a smaller facility in Boulder CO.

NIST is organized into 8 “Laboratories”, each of which has a remarkable degree of independence in style and approach. In fact, the NIST culture is said to have decision making pushed down to the lowest appropriate layer of the organization. Decisions about industry collaborations are made at the project level 90% of the time, and only 1% need management attention above the Laboratory level.

Each Laboratory covers a particular set of disciplines:

The Laboratories:
Electronics and Electrical Engineering (EEEL)
Manufacturing Engineering
Chemical Science and Technology
Materials Science and Engineering
Building and Fire Research
Computing and Applied Mathematics

Each laboratory is made up of a number of “divisions”. EEEL, for example, includes the Electricity Division, and the Semiconductor, Electromagnetic Fields, and Electromagnetic Technology Divisions. Each Division is made up of a number of “groups”, which are in turn subdivided in smaller subgroups.

The Electricity Division of EEEL has the greatest overlap with the electric utility industry, and has agreed to act as a main point of contact for UFTO.

NIST and the Electric Power Industry
NIST is very different from the DOE labs or other federal research organizations, in that it’s primary mission is and has always been to provide direct support to industry. Its origins were in the early 1900’s, as the electric equipment industry was taking off. Needed measurement capabilities were available only in Europe, and the equipment makers lobbied for the creation of the National Bureau of Standards (as NIST was known until fairly recently). Accuracy in metering was a big consumer issue in the 1920’s, and NBS’s findings that watthour meters underreport power consumption made them welcome friends to the utilities. NIST continues to be very active in metering reference standards, loss measurements, and a number of other areas of direct connection with the industry.

NIST Programs
NIST will work with a single company as a means to an end, with the goal clearly in mind to help all industry on a broad basis. Its entire budget is programmed for this purpose, unlike other agencies like DOE which must try to reprogram funds earmarked for specific R&D in order to be able to work on industry problems. NIST’s budget is growing at a dramatic rate with the new administration. However this growth is on a base that is still quite small in comparison to DOE and other agencies, reflecting the traditional discomfort in the U.S. with the idea of government working directly with industry.

NIST treats nondisclosure/confidentiality/proprietary concerns on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that some times it is necessary to work with just one player in order to make something happen. This has been clearly the case in working with the highly competitive semiconductor industry. (The suggestion was made that a case study of Sematech would be instructive — very successful industry collaboration.) Until recently, NIST had a larger total number of CRADAs than DOE, with a factor of 100 fewer people (about 3000 altogether).

Until the very recent broadening of NIST’s mandate (see below), the emphasis has always been on metrology, or the science of measurement. That is the point of view from which NIST has generally viewed the world, and which continues to describe their primary mission. For example, they have a major initiative to develop standards based on fundamental properties, rather than physical copies (e.g. the “electronic kilogram”). Nanometrology, or micromeasurement, is another key area of effort.

Major new programs reflect a broader perspective and mission related to U.S. competitiveness and jobs.

• The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) , Tom Leedy, Program Manager, 975-2410
Funding tripled this year to $200 million, and will increase to $450 and $750 million over the next two years. This money is for grants for high risk high payoff technology development proposals. ATP has recently begun discussing possible “themes” . One suggestion is the productive use of byproducts in materials processing–could be an opening for flyash utilization!

• The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Modeled on the agricultural extension service concept, this program will soon expand to over 100 centers around the country, to teach new production methods to small manufacturers.

• NIST also administers the Malcolm Baldridge award.

General Observations
Visiting NIST, one can’t help but notice the total openness of the environment. There is no security! One simply drives in to the grounds, which resemble a college campus surrounded by huge open space, enters a building and looks for the corridor and office of the person being visited. (This is in dramatic contrast to DOE facilities. At weapons labs in particular, you need to declare your U.S. citizenship and provide your social security number in advance, and come prepared with a photo ID.) And NIST’s phone directory and a guide to their technical programs is available on-line.

NIST has not experienced any lack of opportunities to work with industry, and rarely have to beat the bushes. Very few of the 300 CRADAs were advertised.

All of NIST’s funds are programmed for working with industry. There is no separate budget for this, and each lab director has full authority for decisions on partnering, and how much of the budget is to be allocated for this kind of activity. Business arrangements can be highly varied, from a handshake to a 50 page contract.

NIST is required to have “Review Panels” that review programs and make recommendations regarding NIST’s strategy and tactical approach. Organized by the National Research Council, these groups meet annually for 2-3 days, one for each NIST “Laboratory”. Each Division makes presentations, and there are smaller breakout meetings also. These have included representatives from utilities from time to time.

Technology Commercialization/Transfer
NIST is in the process of reevaluating its whole approach to technology commercialization, i.e. whether to pursue technology development further up or downstream, to get more industry input, to go for more patents, etc. Currently there is no “generalized marketing” function, and technical staff are generally wary of uninformed cold calls from the outside (but will always respond to phone calls or letters!). The Office of Technology Commercialization serves the Laboratories and Divisions with help on patents, licensing and other business arrangements, e.g. for use of facilities by outsiders, or guest researchers.

NIST Technologies and Programs

(Telephone Area Code is 301)
Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory (EEEL)

The Electricity Division has a number of programs directed at issues connected with the utility industry, including improved techniques for measurements of steady-state and transient high voltages and currents, characterization of power quality, and calibration and measurement techniques to characterize electric and magnetic fields and ion densities.

• Partial Discharge, Dick Van Brunt, 975-2418
— Partial Discharge Analysis. Phase correlated noise near the peaks of the plus and minus parts of the 60 cycle waveform are recorded and digitized, and saved for subsequent analysis. The best commercially available instrument is expensive and complex, and lacks the important capability to store data for later reanalysis (and to maintain a history). NIST is developing new techniques to analyze signal properties using pattern recognition.

Patterns are compared against simulations to provide diagnosis of type of discharge, probable cause, and consequences (Is it changing? How soon to failure?). They are just starting a project for the NRC to test instrument cables from decommissioned plants. Also, PDA can help to interpret implications of manufacturers specs. (picocoulomb partial discharge).

Partial Discharge in liquids has very different phenomenology from what occurs in gases, and is only partially understood. Work in this area was motivated by the need for high voltage switches for SDI, and contributes to the development of PCB replacements for transformers and capacitors.

— Detecting trace quantities of S2F10 in small samples. S2F10, which is highly toxic, is produced in tiny quantities during partial discharge in SF6. Possible but unlikely health risk. Developing cheaper more portable instrument as add-on to a residual gas analyzer to use in place of laboratory gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer. (with ORNL and Ontario Hydro)

• Optical CT (HV Current Meter), Gerry Fitzpatrick, 975-2737 & Eric Simmon, 975-3956
A few manufacturers (ABB, 3-M, Square-D, also Toshiba) have prototype “production” units, and want NIST calibrations. There are two types. One uses bulk glass, and the other has a glass fiber looped around the conductor a number of times. The magneto optic (Faraday) effect causes a rotation in the polarization of light along the length of the fiber, and thus a measure of the magnetic field and current. Advantages: electrically isolated, explosion-proof. Disadvantages: more complicated, sensitive to vibration and temperature. There are still problems to be overcome. Fibers need to be annealed to get rid of stresses of coiling–made for light/data transmission, not this application. ABB’s unit, a bulk glass type, is now commercialized, and there are 35-40 units in service at various utilities. There’s an Optical Sensor Mfg. User Group (OPSMUG), and EPRI (Jan Stein) is involved.

[Note by EB — I have contact names at each of the manufacturers.]

• High Voltage Impulse Testing, Gerry Fitzpatrick, 975-2737
Multi-megavolt testing of apparatus requires a voltage divider to measure the applied voltage. The divider can see a pulse shape that’s different from the actual applied pulse, leaving doubt whether test standards have been accurately met. NIST develops faster reference dividers and better (digitized) HV measurements, and also sets up round-robin tests with manufacturers. The standards themselves are established by industry to reflect ultimate equipment performance, NIST’s role is to assure that the (metrology of the) test itself meets the standard, and not whether the standard correctly represents performance of the equipment under test.

• Watt-hour Meter Testing, Tom Nelson, 975-2986, and Barry Bell, 975-3972
This original mission of NIST continues to be important, particularly as new metering technology (e.g. solid state) and power quality issues(e.g. harmonics) raise new concerns about the accuracy and impact of meters. NIST both performs tests of meters and maintaining an active R&D program, enabling them to conduct special tests beyond the standard ones. Also, the Measurement Assurance Program evaluates the performance of a customer’s (manufacturer’s own energy measuring systems.

Calibration of secondary standards is done for manufacturers, utilities and PUCs on a fee-for-service basis.

• EMF Measurement Techniques, Martin Misakian, 975-2426
NIST’s activities include providing EMF related consultation and measurement support to other agencies and researches, and the development of metrology related standards. For example, EMF measurements in exposure systems during site visits provide for quality control of the exposure parameters; standards aid in ensuring uniformity of measurement procedures and accuray of measurements. This latter activity is important because a number of states have set maximum field limits in and at the edge of the right-of-way.

Material Sciences and Engineering Laboratory has about 300 people altogether. In addition to metallurgy, there are four other divisions which have not yet been reviewed: Ceramics, Polymers, Materials Reliability, and Reactor Radiation.

• Metallurgy Division, Neville Pugh, Chief, 975-5960

Prime collaboration with industry –have 20 CRADAs. In process of developing closer ties with Federal Labs (Sandia, ORNL, Wright Labs and with universities (MIT).

Emphasis on Process Control–sensing in-situ for “intelligent processing”, using models of the process to provide feedback in real time.
Powder metallurgy–able to control particle size
Materials Characterization — structure, properties, corrosion, fracture, fatigue, hydrogen embrittlement, stress corrosion cracking.

Material Performance Group, Richard Ricker, 975-6023
Formed by the recent joining of the Mechanical Properties and Corrosion Groups. This group studies all factors that influence the behavior of materials in service, e.g. corrosion, fracture, fatigue, and laboratory measurements for predicting performance.

Work with materials producers for the most part, and to some extent “users” like GE or Pratt and Whitney. Would have liked to respond to EPRI RFP on Corrosion Cracking Embrittlement Data Program, but couldn’t due to restrictions on competing with industry.

Develops Expert Systems and databases on Corrosion for EPRI with N.A.C.E. — “POWER•COR” software modules guide electric utilities on corrosion control in condensers and service water systems, environmentally induced fracture, intergranular corrosion in fgd systems, and microbiological influenced corrosion.

Prefer to work on generic problems rather than special/single situations. Feels there would be too much in the program that doesn’t apply to utilities for a general “dog & pony” tour at NIST.
Perhaps discussions would be useful about condensors (Indicated that it is well known that copper is the main problem, and only need to keep ammonia out of the system — really an educational issue to take the proper care and monitoring of water chemistry.)

Building and Fire Research Laboratory has four divisions:

Structures Div.: has interacted with EPRI on wind engineering (design standards for wind loads) and earthquake codes and retrofit.
Building Materials Div: G. Frohnsdorff, Chief 975-6706 — leading research group in U.S. on cement science. Work on concrete, paint, roofing–durability standards, predicted life. Interests in uses for flyash — open to suggestions about how NIST can become involved. Held a workshop 6/93 on autoclaved autocellular concrete
Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering Div. — a possibly significant area for utilities that has not yet been tapped!

• Building Environment Division, Jim Hill, Chief, 975-5851
The Building Environment Division (about 50 people) deals with energy use in buildings, CFC replacement, indoor air quality, and interior environment (lighting, thermal comfort, etc.)

Green Buildings — with funding specifically mandated by Congress, this may turn into something like the intelligent buildings program, with manufacturers promoting their wares. Basic objective is to use environmentally safe materials in buildings, and to develop technologies that are conducive to energy efficiency. NIST’s part includes indoor air quality, CFC replacements, thermal insulation, building automation, envelope design concepts, and standards (thru ASTM). A series of demonstration buildings will be constructed. (See NIST Special Publication 863, U.S. Green Building Conference–1994)

Insulation R-Value Measurement: Hunter Fanney, 975-5864
Develop measurement standards and technniques, and certify NAHB measurements. New higher insulation value materials can be harder to measure accurately, for example, gas filled panels have an R-value of about 15/inch, powder evacuated panels 25/inch, and vacuum stainless steel is estimated theoretically to reach as high as 100/inch. A large calibrated hot box can accommodate actual size wall systems for detailed performance measurements vs. temperature and humidity, including weather cycles.

Thermal Conductivity: A unique “guarded hot plate” device enables the calibration of samples.

CFC replacements David Didion, 975-5881 and Piotr Domanski, 975-5877 — Fundamental research, system modeling, flammability and performance testing of new refrigerants (with EPRI and individual companies). NIST had a long head start with this work, having begun in 1983 to investigate refrigerant mixtures for other reasons. Adequate replacements for R-22 not coming easily. To keep same efficiency, equipment modifications may be needed. Don’t expect U.S. to accept a flammable refrigerant, making search more difficult

NIST supports the DOE Appliance Standards Program (they specify the tests in 15 categories of appliances) they were able to expedite establishment of the testing and rating procedures for the EPRI/Carrier heat pump. They also did modeling and ran tests. For a local utility, they monitored a unit in a field test in a home.

• Network Architecture, Tassos Nakassis, Acting Chief, Systems and Network Architecture Division, Computer Systems Lab, 975-3632

NIST has been involved with establishing specs for open systems for over 15 years, when effort began to make DARPA network (original internet) widely used. First tried open standards, where government agencies “should” conform unless specifically exempted.
Most recently, the Industry Government Open Standards Spec (IGOSS) allow for custom additions (e.g. for security) to basic OSI specs. (EPRI’s UCA is an OSI derivative.)

Proposed NII/Internet protocols (EPRI has provided comments) conflict with OSI. New government procurement policies expected that leave it wide open, with only a “suggested” spec.

This group also involved in the issue of Internet is running out of addresses and routing tables, and there is a direct concern for the utility industry. Recently EPRI asked for 5 million addresses for an experimental program (500,000 customers and 10 devices each??). Outcome is unclear at this time.

Other: Need to assure protocols function with security. Remote database access. Use of OSI addresses on the Internet. EDI procurement, conventions. Collaborating with industry on health care systems. Automatic translation tools (to modern programming languages).

Research interest: How to test software and assure reliability. Need mtbf > 500 years!! Concept of “holographic proof” to get around basic impossibility of testing every possible situation.

NIST Contacts:

General Phone # is 301-975-2000 , in Gaithersburg, MD
A smaller facility is located in Boulder CO , 303-497-3000

Primary UFTO Contact:
Dr. Alan Cookson, Associate Director, EEEL, Chief, Electricity Division, 301-975-2220
Also, Joe Greenberg 301-975-2439

Public Affairs Division: 301-975-2762
Jennifer Wright 301-975-2785


Over 300 publications/year. Contact Publications and Program Inquiries, 301-975-3058

Technology at a Glance (free quarterly newsletter) call Gail Porter 301-975-3392

Guide to NIST (Oct ’93) Special Publication 858
116 page book — excellent overview of NIST, programs, facilities, organization, services.

Electronic Systems: NIST is accessible via Internet and several specialized bulletin boards. (See Guide to NIST.)