Oct. 27, 1999 Contact: Media Relations, (509) 375-3776
A lean, low-emission machine - Delphi Automotive Systems of Troy, Mich., and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have teamed to develop a new technology that greatly reduces emissions from lean-burn engines, such as diesels. The non-thermal plasma technology is durable, compact and energy efficient, and can be incorporated into a vehicle’s existing exhaust system to break apart and destroy oxides of nitrogen, or NOx, and particulates in auto emissions. Initial tests on a diesel engine show a 55 percent reduction in NOx without the need to add additional hydrocarbons to the exhaust. The technology recently won the Financial Times Global Automotive award, which recognizes “technical development with the greatest potential to improve efficiency, safety, comfort, environmental performance or cost structure of motor vehicles and their associated services.” Delphi and Pacific Northwest continue research aimed at optimizing the performance of the non-thermal reactor and catalyst materials.
Weaving through the Web - While most Internet search engines return just a list of links, a new interactive computer tool developed at Pacific Northwest can search thousands of Web pages and provide a visual display of how those pages relate to each other. Called WebTheme, this analysis program can be used to explore and understand large amounts of data from a collection of Web documents. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is testing WebTheme on Web-based climate change documents and information. The program also could be used by companies seeking competitive intelligence, by researchers for literature review, or by businesses for managing web sites. WebTheme is being further enhanced. A prototype is available for limited commercial licensing. WebTheme is based on another information visualization tool developed at Pacific Northwest called SPIRE, which analyzes data using statistical representations and displays a representation of themes within results.
“Checking out” bacteria - A new library is cropping up at Pacific Northwest, but it’s not about books or reference numbers. Instead, researchers have developed a library of unique characteristics found in bacteria that need to be identified during biological warfare response, food processing or blood screening. Pacific Northwest researchers created a method for statistically characterizing bio- markers, or molecular characteristics, found in bacteria. The combination of statistical biomarkers for a given bacterium serves as a fingerprint and provides the basis for identifying hazardous microorganisms. Researchers can collect a sample containing unknown bacteria, compare the sample to the statistical fingerprints in a reference library, and determine if any of the cataloged bacteria are present in the sample. When complete, this library of fingerprints will be combined with a field-portable instrument for rapid on-site analysis and identification that was developed at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
Insulating between the lines - Efforts to manufacture cheaper, faster and smaller cell phones, digital cameras and other electronics have been hampered by the performance of materials in today’s semiconductor devices. Industry is in search of improved insulating materials for use between the metal lines on silicon chips that minimize capacitance - charge buildup - as the metal lines are brought closer together. Lower capacitance can result in higher signal speed and lower power consumption. Now, researchers at Pacific Northwest have developed a porous, silica thin film with a nearly 50 percent reduction in capacitance over high-density silica, the industry standard. Researchers are teamed with Sematech, a major semiconductor consortium, to develop, test and evaluate the technology.
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