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LIBS 2020
NETL Showcases Laser-Based Fluid Measurement Sensor and System at National Lab Accelerator Pitch Event

NETL researchers presented the Lab’s work on new laser-based optical sensors that have the potential for use in subsurface fluid management, among other applications, during the 2022 National Lab Accelerator (NLA) Pitch Event, held Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Palo Alto, California.

This annual pitch event showcased national lab technology and business models to the investor and business community. All national labs were invited to participate. Teams from the labs presented their technologies in a business pitch, using skills learned and developed through participation in the U.S. Department of Energy I-Corps and other entrepreneurial programs.

“This was a splendid opportunity to engage with potential funders and partners while gaining valuable feedback from the judges of the event,” said NETL’s Mike Knaggs, associate director, Research Partnerships & Tech Transfer. “It’s important for us to participate in these events to demonstrate the incredible work of NETL’s scientists and engineers while also taking in what our fellow national labs are accomplishing, which is vital for future collaborations.”

The NETL team attending the NLA, Dustin McIntyre and Dan Hartzler, showcased “Harsh Environment Laser-Based Optical Sensor for Remote Applications.”

The sensor system induces laser sparks within subsurface fluids or on submerged solids in the subsurface. The sensor has been tested in the subsurface and has provided concurrent measurements of multiple elements for more than two weeks of deployment. Though initially conceived and developed to monitor groundwater quality in areas in or near carbon dioxide injection formations, the sensor also has the potential to be used in harsh environments such as chemical reactor monitoring, elemental separations processes, acid mine drainage monitoring and geothermal fluid monitoring. 

“Today, in order to know what exactly is in your groundwater, you must travel to your sampling well, collect your water sample and transport it to the laboratory,” explained NETL researcher Dustin McIntyre, who presented the technology at the NLA. “Once in the laboratory, the sample must be digested and fed into an expensive machine for analysis, which can take a significant amount of time. We are attempting to develop a system that will let us take the lab to the field and into the subsurface. This transition will help to reduce the time it takes to determine exactly what is in the water in the subsurface over time and if significant changes have occurred due to natural or manmade subsurface disturbances.”

The NETL-developed technique will determine the exact elements that are contributing to bulk characteristic data. This will allow geochemists to complete rapid and targeted analyses of subsurface fluids — critical information to understand natural and manmade subsurface disturbances.

“We also have hopes that this sensor system can be used in measurements of geothermal fluids to aid in water treatment to avoid scaling and to identify minable materials in the fluids,” McIntyre said.

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.