Release Date: August 19, 2011
|NETL Recognized for Technology Transfer Success|
NETL's commitment to transferring advanced energy technologies from the laboratory into the marketplace has again won recognition from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC). This year, four research groups will receive regional FLC awards for their efforts in commercializing technologies developed at NETL.
Technology transfer - moving a new technology from the inventor's workbench or laboratory to a company that will market the product - is the crucial and essential step that gives an invention the means to be of service to the greatest number of people. The FLC awards, established in 1984, recognize laboratory employees who have done an outstanding work in technology transfer over the past year.
Platinum-Chromium Alloy for the Manufacture of Improved Coronary Stents
On August 31, 2011, at the annual joint meeting of the FLC Mid-Continent and Far West Regions, NETL's Paul Turner, Paul Jablonski, and Ed Argetsinger will receive an award for Outstanding Commercialization Success. The three metallurgists were part of a government-industry team that developed a novel platinum-chromium alloy for the manufacture of improved coronary stents.
A coronary stent is a small, expandable mesh tube that is placed in a narrowed or weakened coronary artery, allowing the passageway to stay open. For decades, 316L stainless steel has been used in a variety of commercially available and medically approved coronary stents. But the need existed for thinner, more flexible stents that could be passed through more tortuous arterial paths, facilitating treatment to obstructions that were previously untreatable by minimally invasive procedures.
The alloy solves many of the past problems surrounding traditional stents. The addition of platinum gives a stent physical properties that allow it to be both thin and visible on x-ray. Its flexibility allows easier movement through arterial bends without causing damage. The addition of high-melting platinum also gives the stent a higher corrosion resistance, which optimizes the stent's long term stability within the body. The alloy's increased strength also decreases recoil, which reduces the likelihood of constriction after deployment.
Following a series of trials - melting, casting, fabricating, and characterizing the properties of different alloys - and after many clinical trials, stents made from the new alloy were ready to market. Boston Scientific Corporation (Natick, Mass.) first introduced the PROMUS® ELEMENT™ in 2010. By the end of the year, 206,000 units had been sold in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa - a 22 percent market share of coronary stents in those regions. On April 25, 2011, the stents, under the TAXUS ION™ label, were approved for sale in the United States. Total sales since introduction have exceeded $1 billion.
Manganese-Cobalt Coating for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Interconnects
On October 6, 2011, a research team that includes NETL's Christopher Johnson and Randy Gemmen will receive an Excellence in Technology Transfer award, at the FLC Mid Atlantic Regional Meeting in Cambridge, Md. Their invention, a manganese-cobalt pulse-plated alloy, helps extend the lifetime of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which produce electricity with low emissions and high efficiency.
A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy. It is similar in principle to a battery, but it is continually fed with fuel, so it doesn't run down or require recharging. Consisting of an electrolyte sandwiched by two electrodes, fuel cells are characterized by their electrolyte material; the SOFC has a solid oxide or ceramic electrolyte. Advantages of this class of fuel cells include high efficiency, long-term stability, fuel flexibility, low emissions, and relatively low cost.
To provide more power, individual cells can be joined by metallic or ceramic "interconnects," and the electricity generated by each cell combined. NETL's award-winning manganese-cobalt alloy acts as a protective coating for SOFC interconnects. The alloy prevents the evaporation of chromium from the interconnect while maintaining the electrical conductivity of the system. In this context, chromium acts as a poison, increasing the resistance of interconnects and reducing the electrical conductivity and operating lifetime of the fuel cell. Chromium poisoning is one of the major challenges to be overcome before SOFCs can become commercially viable power sources; this coating successfully addresses the problem.
The coating was co-developed by NETL and West Virginia University, and was then transferred to Faraday Technology Inc., which continues to develop and optimize the coating.
APECS v2.0 with ANSYS® DesignXplorerTM and ROM Builder
NETL's Steve Zitney will be part of a second research team receiving an Excellence in Technology Transfer award at the FLC Mid Atlantic Regional Meeting in October. The team's invention, a suite of sophisticated computer-aided process design and optimization tools, addresses the grand challenge facing the power and energy industries: development of efficient, environmentally friendly, and affordable technologies for next-generation power production and chemical processing plants.
Developed by the NETL and transferred to ANSYS Inc. for commercialization, APECS v2.0 is a versatile, innovative, and powerful software toolkit that provides advanced process/equipment co-simulation and comprehensive design optimization. The co-simulation technology reduces the time and cost needed to foster plant innovations by seamlessly integrating process simulation with equipment-scale simulations. The advanced design optimization capabilities make it easier, faster, and less expensive for the energy and process industries to design their capital- and knowledge-intensive plants with a high degree of confidence.
Under the auspices of the recently launched multi-year DOE Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI), an NETL-led team - including five national labs, more than 20 industry participants, and six universities - is exploiting APECS v2.0 to accelerate the commercialization of carbon capture systems from discovery to development, to demonstration, and ultimately to deployment to hundreds of power plants. It is envisioned that using APECS co-simulation technology to optimize the performance of just one major carbon capture device in a $600 million power plan could help the plant reach its design capacity at least 6 months earlier, resulting in cost savings on the order of $30 million. CCSI provides another important vehicle for increasing APECS v2.0's technology transfer and promoting its use to benefit the nation.
New Catalyst Technology for Fuel Reforming to Produce Hydrogen
A third research team, which includes NETL's Jessica Sosenko, David Berry, and Dushyant Shekhawat, will pick up an Excellence in Technology Transfer award at the FLC Mid Atlantic Regional Meeting. The team will be recognized for executing an exclusive licensing agreement with the newly formed Pyrochem Catalyst Corporation for two NETL-developed technologies related to a novel fuel-reforming catalyst.
NETL research has focused on converting heavy hydrocarbons, such as diesel and coal-based fuels, into hydrogen-rich synthesis gas - a necessary step for fuel cells and other applications. The high sulfur and aromatic content of these fuels poses a major technical challenge, since these components can deactivate reforming catalysts. The first of NETL's patent-pending technologies relates to using catalysts with a pyrochlore-type structure to reform hydrocarbon fuels, while the second involves a method for designing a reforming catalyst. Together these inventions help overcome limitations of current catalysts by efficiently reforming diesel fuel while maintaining thermal stability and resistance to sulfur, aromatics, and carbon formation.
After the reforming catalyst was identified as having commercial potential, NETL began pursuing a strategy that would ultimately lead to the development of a new small business to which the patent-pending technology would be licensed for commercialization. As part of this strategy, NETL posted on its website a partnership opportunity notice describing the technology and the search for licensees and research partners. The resulting agreement marked the first time that an NETL-licensed technology has been used as a basis for the creation of a start-up company.
The FLC is a nationwide network of federal laboratories that promotes the rapid transfer of laboratory research results and technologies into the marketplace. Its national and regional awards programs recognize laboratory employees who have done an outstanding work in technology transfer over the past year. NETL is one of more than 250 federal laboratories and centers, along with their parent departments and agencies, which are members of the FLC.