June 30, 1999 The following is from Technotes -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Summer 1999 News Tipsheet:
Glass fibers lead to scintillating discovery
While a road embedded with sensors to detect smuggled nuclear weapons sounds more like the latest James Bond anti-smuggling scheme, it's real-life technology found right around the bend at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Pacific Northwest researchers have developed an innovative radiation sensor comprised of lightweight, flexible glass fibers that provides portable, real-time measurements of neutrons and gamma rays. Called PUMA for plutonium measurement and analysis, the sensor can be embedded in a variety of materials or literally wrapped, like fingers, around objects of various shapes to analyze contents.
The technology is adaptable to a wide range of applications, from environmental restoration and nonproliferation to cancer treatment. For example, fibers can be installed in asphalt roads to detect the transport of unauthorized or diverted nuclear weapons material, or wrapped around drums and other containers to inventory contents. PUMA has been licensed to Canberra Industries of Meriden, Conn.
Building a green thumb for research
A garden of a different sort is blooming at Pacific Northwest's Marine Sciences Laboratory. A marine greenhouse recently built at the Sequim, Wash., laboratory will provide scientists with a temperature- and light-controlled facility that mimics fresh water and seawater environments. The first project to bloom in the greenhouse involves growing eelgrass in conditions favorable for flowering and seed production. Marine scientists have stockpiled eelgrass at the Sequim laboratory for two years as part of a plan to supplement eelgrass populations in the Puget Sound near Seattle, Wash. Eelgrass beds are a resting, foraging and hiding place for juvenile salmon and have been disappearing in the Puget Sound. The greenhouse will allow researchers to test how well eelgrass grown in a greenhouse survives once transplanted to the Puget Sound.
The greenhouse will accommodate other research being conducted in Sequim, such as bioremediation, myco- remediation and toxicity analysis.
Crush and color car parts
A Catch-22 is emerging in the automotive industry as manufacturers try to lighten the weight of cars by using more aluminum, yet they also must find better ways to recycle that aluminum. Pacific Northwest researchers have teamed with two companies to improve the separation process of aluminum from steel, plastics and other lightweight materials used in car design in an effort to maximize recycling of aluminum.
Pacific Northwest has teamed with the Albany Research Center in Albany, Ore., to develop a technique to separate aluminum casting alloys from sheet alloys or other lightweight materials based on their difference in melting temperature. A second project, which is being led by Alcoa Technical Center, of Alcoa, Penn., focuses on creating an automated process to sort up to five aluminum alloy families at once. This concept is based on a unique color that develops on the surface of the metals after a simple treatment.
Researchers provide "shock" treatment
Before losing access to Iraq last year, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors called upon Pacific Northwest researchers to devise a method for removing uranium sludge from an underground tank. Pacific Northwest researchers had less than two weeks in which to compile, test and ship the technology.
If not removed, the uranium sludge could have been used in Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Pacific Northwest researchers relied on their expertise in retrieving nuclear waste from the DOE's network of underground radioactive waste tanks to devise a simple and inexpensive system for removing the sludge.
The Iraqi site had no electricity or water and the only access to the tank was through one narrow pipe. DOE tanks have similar access problems. Pacific Northwest researchers have solved these problems, in part, by using a system from Pulsair™ Systems Inc. that creates shock waves to displace liquid. Inspectors were able to quickly remove the uranium and the potential threat it posed.
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