WASHINGTON, DC - Three technologies developed with support from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have earned prestigious R&D 100 Awards from R&D Magazine.
The new technologies, which received funding from the Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, include tools to improve drilling and mining operations and a robotic system to inspect live natural gas pipelines.
The R&D 100 Awards are presented annually to the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. In the past 6 years, NETL researchers, and researchers supported by NETL, have earned 19 of the coveted awards.
An R&D 100 Award "provides a mark of excellence known to industry, government, and academia as proof that the product is one of the most innovative ideas of the year," according to the editors of R&D Magazine, which has handed out the awards since 1963.
Past winners have become mainstays of American life and include Polacolor film, the flashcube, the digital wristwatch, antilock brakes, the automated teller machine, the fax machine, and HDTV.
The Chicago Tribune has called the awards "The Oscars of Invention."
This year's R&D 100 Awards will be presented October 19 during a black-tie banquet Black Tie Awards Gala in the Grand Ballroom of Chicago's Navy Pier.
The winning technologies include the following:
- Data Transmission System - Stolar Research Corporation (Raton, N.M.) has devised a system that should significantly improve the productivity and profitability of drilling and mining operations. The Data Transmission System is a real-time communication instrument that can be used to upgrade conventional and coiled drilling equipment. By relaying to surface operators a more complete picture of drill hole conditions in less time than competing technologies, drilling efficiency and accuracy are increased and operational costs are reduced. NETL supported development of the Data Transmission System with funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Industrial Technologies Program, which seeks to improve the energy intensity of U.S. industry through cooperative research and technology development. Stolar's research partners also included CONSOL Energy Inc. and West Virginia University.
- Explorer(™) - With more than a million miles of pipelines to maintain, the U.S. natural gas industry has a need for technologies that can inspect pipelines with little or no interruption in customer service. Explorer(™), a self-powered robotic system for live, visual pipeline inspection, helps to address this need. The Explorer system is modular and tetherless, so it can negotiate bends, tees, and other obstacles in natural gas and other pipelines. Another advantage is that the system can be launched without air coming into contact with the pipeline contents, ensuring reliable and safe operation. Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Polytechnic University (Brooklyn, N.Y.), the Northeast Gas Association (New York, N.Y.), and the NETL, Explorer is the first tetherless robotic system to provide visual inspection and non-destructive evaluation of pipeline systems with a minimum number of access points into the pipe.
- HTSS10V Fluoride Battery - Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N.M), High Power Battery Systems Co. (Nizhny Novogorod, Russia), and General Atomics (San Diego, Calif.) have addressed one of the demands of deep, high-temperature drilling by developing the HTSS10V Fluoride Battery. In drilling for gas and oil, tools may encounter depths of 20,000 feet or greater and temperatures in excess of 200 degrees Celsius. Unlike lithium batteries, which are considered a hazardous waste and have a high risk of explosion when used in high-temperature operations, the solid-state, fluoride-based battery is operationally and environmentally safe, even at temperatures exceeding conventional design limits. Developed as part of a Laboratory Partnership Program funded through the Office of Fossil Energy and NETL, the device should greatly improve the reliability of power supplied to high-temperature electronic components used in measurement-while-drilling tools.