ORNL Invention Alert

ORNL Invention Alert
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New program to connect entrepreneurs with national laboratory-developed technologies

ORNL has launched a new entrepreneurial start-up program, Safari, as an addition to the DOE Office of Technology Transitions Practices to Accelerate the Commercialization of Technologies program. Safari seeks to connect post-exit entrepreneurs with commercially relevant technologies developed by world-leading scientific experts, which could provide the basis for a new business.

New ORNL inventions

A Method for Producing Homogeneous Metallic Alloys from Additively Manufactured Consumable Arc-Melt Electrodes
202104940 // Energy and Utilities // Materials
Many advanced metallic alloys such as superalloys and high entropy alloys can be composed of as many as five or more elements. The constituents often vary greatly in melting point, vapor pressure and thermophysical properties that make them especially difficult to combine into a homogeneous alloy using traditional melt processes. Practical issues of combining, melting and containing complex high melting point alloys limit their development and adoption for many applications. This technology combines additive material deposition processes with vacuum arc re-melting as a new method to produce these alloys in a manner that overcomes traditional obstacles. 

Smart Frost Sensor
202104968 // Detectors and Sensors // Energy and Utilities
Frost – the tiny ice crystals that form when water temperature drops below 32 degrees F – is a major problem for heat pumps in HVAC and refrigeration units, on roads and transportation vehicles, and anywhere machines are exposed to cold temperatures. Frost accumulation on evaporator surfaces substantially impedes the heat transfer process and degrades equipment performance. Current defrosting technologies lack precise defrosting initiation based on detecting frost accumulation accurately. This usually leads to insufficient or excessive defrosting. This technology detects frost accumulation accurately, and can also identify initiation and termination of defrosting. It is a smart frost detector using nano- and micron-scale sensors for frost diagnostics and control, initiates defrosting when it senses frost is forming, and terminate defrosting when it senses melt water from frost is removed. 

A Topology-Aware Incident Detection System and Interactive Dashboard for Highway Incidents
202104979 // IT and Communications // Transportation
Highway incidents including severe accidents can result in injuries and fatalities, and rapid emergency response is essential to preventing loss of life. Additionally, a great deal of time is lost due to traffic jams that result from highway incidents. Sensors on major highways can detect when an accident occurs, however it can often take several minutes for emergency services to be called. Estimates are that 10,000 lives could be saved each year if emergency response was just one minute faster. This technology detects highway incidents through machine learning and displays vital information on an interactive dashboard, and can decrease detection time by 4 minutes. 

HBN Growth from Solid Boron and Nitrogen
202205050 // Materials
Chemical coating for ubiquitous industrial alloys such as various steels are synthesized to provide protection from corrosion and high temperature oxidation. Current technologies for hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) growth rely on various boron-nitrogen containing precursors that are challenging to employ on industry-relevant scale due to safety, cost, and their technical shortcomings. This technology is a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) facile and scalable method for atmospheric pressure growth of hBN using gaseous molecular nitrogen and various forms of solid boron as the precursors. These precursors are abundant, benign, and convenient – all the necessary traits for large-scale industrial production. This novel process results in coatings that provide more efficient protection from corrosion and high temperature oxidation than current technologies and provides opportunity to control deposition process with great accuracy.

Magnetic Inductive Heating for Sorbent Regeneration Using Magnetic Nanoparticles
202205122 // Chemicals // Materials
Carbon capture from the air is a key component of reversing climate change and achieving the nation’s energy goals. Various technologies have been employed to aid in this, including basic solutions, solid sorbents, membranes, and others. But these have challenges, including high energy consumption during regeneration of the sorbents. Regeneration of sorbents is so energy intensive that it is a limiting factor. This invention is a magnetic induced sorbent regeneration technology for carbon capture that is efficient and low cost. Magnetic nanoparticles generate heating under magnetic field and promote the releases of the carbon dioxide and thus resulting in regeneration. 

Preceramic Polymer Printing Binders for Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Ceramics
202205139 // Manufacturing // Materials
ORNL researchers are changing the state-of-the-art of polymer printing binders for ceramics in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. Current technology requires a binder, usually a powder bed of ceramic material, that is built up into layers several times until achieving a 3D form. The 3D binder must be cured and de-binded, so that the binder material is then discarded. This invention is a method that allows 3D printing without sacrificing the binder, using preceramic polymers, producing high yield and saving several steps in the process. Their innovation is the use of preceramic polymers in the system and using crosslinkers and catalysts in the powder, which has never been accomplished.  

Secure IoT Publish/Subscribe Channel Access (SIPCA)
202205253 // IT and Communications // Security and Defense
Vast amounts of data are sent through the Internet of Things (IoT) on a daily basis around the world. The publish/subscribe (pub/sub) method is effective at disseminating data that need to be efficiently and securely shared among numerous users and stakeholders. But IoT devices have limited computation, communication, and storage capabilities. Data security is a challenge, as existing pub/sub frameworks rekeying requirements require high overhead. This technology addresses the critical need for efficient key management in securing IoT pub/sub channels. It leverages secure Secret Sharing cryptographic algorithms to tackle the challenge of invalidating symmetric keys possessed by the to-be-revoked nodes. 

Hydrogen Plasma Arc Additive Manufacturing of Sustainable Iron and Steel
202305367 // Manufacturing // Materials
Due to climate change, there is an immediate need to reduce carbon emissions from the steel-making industry. About 7% of global greenhouse gasses come from the iron and steel manufacturing industry. The industry standard uses carbon-rich coke to reduce iron ore. A new innovative technology would decarbonize the steel-making industry through additive manufacturing using only electricity and hydrogen gas to reduce iron ore into near net shape iron/steel. The invention provides direct reduction of iron ore to fabricate near net shape components by mounting a plasma arc welding torch on a robotic head, eliminating emissions into the atmosphere. 

Foamed Electrodes Structures
202305378 // Energy and Utilities // Materials
As calendar life increases and/or higher energy density electrodes are needed in battery systems, thicker electrodes are needed, yet ion transport and electronic conductivity pathways may be limited. One way to approach these challenges is with porous architectures or scaffolds of the active materials. Intercellular architectures have been produced using fugitive phases, yet challenges remain. The pursuit of intracellular (open cell) architectures led to the development of additives that foam or produce a gaseous decomposition that results in a open cell architecture, which provides improved infiltration of secondary active phases or better control and accessibility in thick, porous anodes such as silicon.

Photochemically-Driven CO2 Release Using a Metastable-State Photoacid for Energy Efficient Direct Air Capture
202305379// Energy and Utilities // Materials
Direct air capture technologies that extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere are critical for mitigating effects of climate change. Sorbent regeneration and release of captured CO2 require an enormous amount of energy, making large-scale deployment economically prohibitive. State-of-the-art technologies use heating systems to provide very high temperature and energy to overcome the inherent stability of the CO2-bound complexes formed in liquid solvents. This new technology uses light instead of heat to achieve release of CO2 captured using an aqueous solution of amino acids. Photoacids offer an attractive means to photochemically drive efficient release of the CO2 through a deliberate proton transfer reaction using light from the sun. 

Renewable Blending Components to Enable 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel
202305408 // Transportation // Energy and Utilities
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is typically blended with fossil fuels. Multiple airlines seek 100% SAF rather than 50% SAF with 50% fossil fuel. Blending SAF with fossil fuels diminishes the sustainability of the resulting fuel. This issue has motivated research toward the development of the fully formulated, drop-in terpenes SAF. ORNL seeks to enable 100% SAF by blending renewable blending components with other SAFs. These blending components will be added for the purposes of achieving a fully formulated backwards compatible fuel comparable with those of petroleum-based aviation fuels.

Direct Drive Modular Permanent Magnet Arc Generator
202305420 // Energy and Utilities
Wind or hydro power are predominantly large-scale with giant generators to convert wind or water captured by turbines into electricity. But residential-sized wind turbines could generate power for a whole house. This technology is an electrical generator to directly extract the rotational motion from a low-speed wind or hydro power machine. The generator eliminates the need for gearboxes and additional stages of power conversion, reducing system weight, volume, loss and cost. 

On-the-Fly Alloying and Material Changes Using Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing
202305421 // Manufacturing // Materials
Current multi-material wire-arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) technologies rely on multiple single material torches or wire changes to create multi-material parts. This causes frequent interruptions in the process, hinders the deposition rate, and can also lead to deterioration in mechanical properties of the components. Furthermore, the current WAAM systems are not equipped with in-situ alloying capabilities for manufacturing functionally graded components and facilitating high-throughput alloying. A single wire also limits the types of materials that can be used as welding wire. This technology allows multiple wires on a single torch and eliminates the need to manually switch materials. By using multiple wire feeders to feed two or more different wires into the same torch simultaneously, the deposited composition can be changed on the fly without stopping the welding process to change wires or torches. 

To learn more about these technologies, email partnerships@ornl.gov or call