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NETL Connects with Industry at National Innovation Symposium
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NETL researchers made important industry connections during the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo held in Washington, D.C, June 13-15, sharing the Lab’s innovative research into computer modeling, rare earth elements, sensors and other energy research, while other NETL innovators pitched their technologies to investors during the concurrently held TechConnect Innovation Challenge.

On the first day of the program, NETL’s Jessica Mullen, technology manager for Rare Earths and Critical Elements, provided an overview of the Lab’s Critical Materials Sustainability Program, which is working to rebuild the U.S. leadership role in extraction and processing technologies to support an economically and environmentally benign, geopolitically sustainable U.S. domestic supply chain for production of rare earth elements (REEs) and critical minerals for clean energy and national defense.

Tuesday’s lineup included cutting-edge computer science efforts from NETL’s Yuhua Duan and his research colleagues, who presented the results of three separate computational efforts. In the first presentation, researchers explained how the Lab is modeling functional materials for energy applications using simulations that can play an important role in rapid screening and rational designing of functional material candidates for specific applications at low cost. Later in the day, Duan presented computational efforts to screen and design solid materials for carbon capture technologies. Duan and other NETL researchers also shared work on energy sector applications of quantum information science, which investigates phenomena at the scale of nature’s smallest particles.

On the final day, NETL’s John Baltrus rounded out the NETL presentations with a look at the research he and his colleagues have undertaken developing a portable fiber-optic luminescence sensor for rare earth elements. The field-deployable sensor integrates metal-organic framework materials capable of rapidly detecting and distinguishing parts-per-billion concentration levels of emissive REEs. The team’s proof of concept demonstrated an ability to detect REEs in spiked acid mine drainage systems.

In addition to the Lab sharing its research to attendees through presentations and posters, two other NETL researchers pitched their technologies directly to industry, investment and government prospectors as part of the symposium’s Innovation Challenge. Dustin McIntyre and Andrew Bean, who was presenting on behalf of Lucy Romeo, participated in the program, which TechConnect states is the world’s largest multi-sector commercialization program for emerging deep technologies.

Both pitched technologies were recognized as top-ranked innovations and selected as TechConnect National Innovation Awardees. Bean pitched NETL’s Advanced Infrastructure Integrity Modeling (AIIM), which integrates big data, big data computing, and multiple machine-learning and advanced spatial models to evaluate energy infrastructure integrity. McIntyre showcased the Lab’s miniaturized laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) harsh environment sensor, which identifies elemental compositions of solids and liquids in the field, in real-time — essential for producing the nation’s energy while protecting the environment.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans