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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 56, No. 25                Dec. 10, 2004
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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Sandia portals detects explosives traces

New ways to treat arsenic in water Making a better air cargo container
TSA installs Sandia licensee’s explosives-sniffing walk-through portal at airport
Sandia to begin testing innovative arsenic removal technologies Sandia’s assistance helps lead to successful launch of innovative airplane cargo containers  

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TSA installs Sandia licensee’s explosives-sniffing walk-through portal at airport terminal

By John German

Airline passengers at a security checkpoint at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport are being screened for faint traces of explosives using a walk-through sniffing portal that incorporates explosives-detection technology originally developed at Sandia.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Oct. 25 that it had purchased five Ionscan Sentinel Contraband Detection Portals from Smiths Detection and placed one of the portals at JFK’s Terminal One.

The portal will remain at JFK for at least 90 days during a TSA pilot program to evaluate emerging explosives detection technology. Other airports may follow

It is the first time the Sandia-pioneered technology has been used for actual airline passenger security screenings. (A prototype portal was tested temporarily at the Albuquerque International Sunport in 1997 to screen 2,400 volunteers.)

“Evaluations of these systems in real-world environments is critical to the successful deployment of new technologies in security applications,” says Rebecca Horton, Manager of Entry Control and Contraband Detection Dept. 4118.

Pause for screening

The portals, which look like walk-through metal detectors, screen people for minute traces of explosives at checkpoints. As part of the screening process, airline passengers are asked to step inside one of the portals and stand still for several seconds while their carry-on bags are being X-rayed separately.

As each passenger pauses inside the portal, a puff of air dislodges particles and vapors from their clothing and skin. An air sample is collected and analyzed. If traces of an explosive chemical are found, an alarm sounds and the passenger is questioned.

Smiths Detection says each portal is capable of screening 420 passengers per hour and can reliably detect traces of contamination on a person who has handled explosives. It also snaps a digital photograph of each passenger and keeps it temporarily

The TSA had been conducting an evaluation of several portal technologies, including the Sentinel, at the FAA Tech Center in New Jersey (now called the Transportation Security Laboratory). Meanwhile, several of the Smiths Detection portals have been in operation in non-airport settings, such as at the CN Tower in Toronto to screen visitors.

Similar trace-detection portals made by GE, one of Smiths Detection’s competitors, also were placed at five US airports and one rail station in June as part of the TSA’s test and evaluation pilot program.

Pause inside portal

Barringer Instruments, which later was acquired by Smiths Detection, licensed both the Sandia-patented air-flow design and air sampling techniques from Sandia in 1999 and incorporated the technologies into the Ionscan Sentinel.

Potential users for the walk-through portals include the armed forces and security screeners at airports, military bases, embassies, public buildings, prisons, courtrooms, sporting venues, and schools.

TSA officials say the tests could help determine whether explosives-detection portals will be installed at all US airports.

“As a Sandian, it is very rewarding to be part of a technology that evolved from a laboratory research idea to a commercial product for national security that could save lives,” says Kevin Linker (4118), one of the Sandia developers. -- John German

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Sandia to begin testing innovative arsenic removal technologies

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By Chris Burroughs

Over the next few weeks Sandia researchers will begin testing innovative ways to treat arsenic-contaminated water in an effort to reduce costs of meeting the new arsenic standard issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The testing is sponsored by the Arsenic Water Technology Partnership (AWTP), a multiyear program funded by a congressional appropriation through DOE.

“The goals of the program are to develop, demonstrate, and disseminate information about cost-effective water treatment technologies in order to help small communities in the Southwest and other parts of the country comply with the new EPA standard,” says Malcolm Siegel (6118), Arsenic Treatment Technology Demonstration Project Manager.

The tests will be conducted at a geothermal spring used to supply drinking water to Socorro, N.M. Installation of test equipment will be completed in early December by Sandians Brian Dwyer and Randy Everett, and regular operations will begin before Christmas following a preliminary “shakedown” period. Another team member, Alicia Aragon, will present results of laboratory studies supporting the pilot tests at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco next week.

AWTP members include Sandia, the Awwa Research Foundation, and WERC, a consortium for environmental education and technology development.
The Awwa Research Foundation is managing bench-scale research programs. Sandia will conduct the demonstration program, and WERC will evaluate the economic feasibility of the technologies investigated and conduct technology transfer activities.

Congressional support and design of the Arsenic Water Technology Partnership was developed under the leadership of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to help small communities comply with the new EPA drinking water standard for arsenic. The new regulation, which will go into effect in January 2006, reduces the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from 50 micrograms per liter to 10 µg/L and is designed to reduce the incidence of bladder and lung cancers caused by exposure to arsenic.

Levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the Southwest US often exceed the new MCL. The new compliance requirements will impact small communities that lack the appropriate treatment infrastructure and funding to reduce arsenic to such levels.

The pilot test in Socorro will compare five innovative technologies developed by universities, small businesses, and large well-established water treatment companies and should last about nine months. These treatment processes were chosen from more than 20 candidate technologies that were reviewed by teams of technical experts at Arsenic Treatment Technology Vendor Forums organized by Sandia and held at the 2003 and 2004 New Mexico Environmental Health Conferences.

Sandia is developing plans for future tests in rural and Native American communities in New Mexico and other parts of the country. These additional sites will be chosen through consultation with a number of agencies, including the New Mexico Environment Department, the EPA, the Indian Health Service, the Navajo Nation EPA, and the Interstate Technology Regulatory Council. In addition, the AWTP will post a Web site application where interested communities can request to be considered for a pilot.

These demonstrations will involve additional technologies reviewed at the vendor forums and others developed from the laboratory studies managed by Awwa Research Foundation. Educational forums will be organized by WERC at the start of a pilot demonstration to introduce community members to the program, and after the test is completed to describe the test results. The first forum will be held Dec. 15 as part of the meeting of the New Mexico Rural Water Association at the Holiday Inn Express in Socorro. -- Chris Burroughs

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Sandia’s assistance helps lead to successful launch of innovative airplane cargo containers

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By Michael Padilla

Sandia’s work with the local company Aerospace Composite Structures (ACS) has led to several breakthroughs in airplane cargo container technology.
ACS, the Rio Rancho-based manufacturer of airline Unit Load Devices (ULDs), develops specialized products using composite materials for the transportation industry.

Sandia’s role with ACS began in 1998 when ACS sought assistance with developing a robotic manufacturing concept for a graphite composite aircraft-shipping container.

Eventually ACS moved away from graphite composite construction to a sandwich panel construction featuring a polypropylene honeycomb core with polypropylene glass skins. Sandia provided assistance with the design of the container, the manufacturing methods, and testing of various material combinations.

Since then, the first ULD, the AeroBox, a cargo and baggage container for use in most widebody aircraft, has been field tested by several US and international air carriers. The container is tougher and easier to repair than traditional metal air cargo containers.

ACS began to hire additional business and technical employees, says Matt Donnelly, a former Sandian and now the vice president of production for ACS.
ACS approached Matt this past summer, and with the support of his management he was approved for Entrepreneurial Separation to Transfer Technology (ESTT) and started full time with the company this fall.

ACS has benefited from Sandia’s expertise in robotics, composites, material testing, and process engineering, Matt says. ACS has received product design assistance, material testing support, and processing guidance. ACS and Sandia worked together on a modular container design and the panel edge geometry that allows the panels to be joined efficiently. Together they developed the thermal processing and tooling that allows the forming of the panel edges. ACS has applied for both design and processing patents with Sandia as a co-inventor.

Several arrangements between Sandia and ACS included work-for-others, small business assistance, and entrepreneurial separation.
“I am able to draw from my Sandia training and the structure at the Labs in managing my new organization,” he says, adding that he oversees 18 employees, a number expected to grow to nearly 50.

Matt says he has seen several challenges at ACS, including the current worldwide shortage of 7075 aluminum used as the base sheet in the ACS product, and the price of oil, which causes airlines to be conservative with their purchases of new containers.

One issue he is working on is dealing with material and equipment vendors that do not deliver on time.

Matt says there are several ways small business can benefit from Sandia, including work-for-others, small business assistance, user facilities, entrepreneurial consulting, and entrepreneurial separation to transfer technology.

“An expansion of the entrepreneurial consulting program with the requirement for a concurrent funds-in agreement would be particularly effective in assisting small businesses in New Mexico to succeed while minimizing conflict of interest issues,” he says.

“The support of my management and the New Ventures program has been outstanding. My ESTT is the last step in Sandia’s efforts to help a small New Mexico business.”

Matt says ACS would like to continue its partnership with Sandia in the future.

Matt always wanted to try something entrepreneurial. ESTT allowed him to do that while Sandia contributed to the community. -- Michael Padilla

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Last modified: Decdember 9, 2004

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