Sandia LabNews

Sandia wins five R&D 100 Awards, plays role in sixth


Sandia researchers — competing in an international pool that includes universities, start-ups, large corporations, and government labs — received five R&D 100 Awards this year and played a role in a sixth.

R&D Magazine presents the awards each year to researchers who, in the opinion of teams of judges selected by the magazine, have developed the year’s 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies.

The six Sandia award winners are:

  • A high-temperature silicon carbide power module that more efficiently converts electrical energy from one form to another.
  • An ultra-low-power silicon microphotonic communications platform that enables optical data transmission and routing on a silicon platform at nanosecond switching speeds with up to 100 times less power consumption and 100 times the bandwidth density compared to traditional electronic approaches.
  • The Catamount N-Way (CNW) lightweight kernel, which delivers significant improvements in data access performance for today’s parallel computing applications.
  • NanoCoral™: Dendritic platinum nanostructures, an innovative nanotechnology for producing platinum catalysts for the renewable energy sector.
  • The hyperspectral confocal fluorescence microscope system, which rapidly finds all emitting fluorescence species of an image.
  • Sandia played a role in the Artificial Retina Project, part of a large multilab/industry project funded by DOE.

Sometimes referred to as “the Nobel Prizes of technology,” the R&D 100 Awards were first presented in 1963 as the I-R 100s, in keeping with the original name of the magazine, Industrial Research.

The sole criterion for winning, according to a description released by the magazine, is “demonstrable technological significance compared with competing products and technologies.” Properties noted by judges include smaller size, faster speed, greater efficiency, and higher environmental consciousness.

Many entries in the years since 1963 became household names, including Polacolor film (1963), the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the printer (1986), the Kodak Photo CD (1991), the Nicoderm antismoking patch (1992), Taxol anticancer drug (1993), lab on a chip (1996), and HDTV (1998).

“The Department of Energy’s national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I’m proud they are being recognized once again for their remarkable work,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America’s competitive edge, increasing our nation’s energy security, and protecting our environment. I want to thank this year’s winners for their work and congratulate them on this award.”

Team members will receive their awards at R&D Magazine’s formal awards banquet Nov. 12 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld in Florida.

Here’s more detail on each winning entry:

NanoCoral™: Dendritic platinum nano-structures. This innovative nanotechnology for producing metal nanostructures offers unique control over their shape, size, porosity, composition, stability, and other functional properties compared with those achieved by existing methods. Novel catalysts and electrocatalysts produced by the Sandia approach are expected to significantly reduce platinum metal usage and thus the cost of platinum catalysts in fuel cells, solar cells, and other applications in the renewable energy sector. Ten patents have been licensed to Compass Metals, two patents have been issued, and eight more applied for. Principal developer and submitter John Shelnutt (1815) worked with Bob Comstock and Roland Degenkolbe of Compass Metals, Inc., Yujiang Song, James E. Miller, (both 1815), Frank van Swol (1814), and Sivakumar Challa and Craig Medforth of the University of New Mexico.

The high-temperature silicon carbide power module more efficiently converts electrical energy from one form to another. This invention reduces the size and volume of power electronic systems by an order of magnitude over present state-of-the-art silicon-based solutions while simultaneously reducing energy loss by more than 50 percent, offering the potential for users to save hundreds of millions of dollars. Applications are in hybrid and electric vehicles, renewable energy interfaces, and aircraft. The work was submitted by project lead Stan Atcitty (6336) jointly with Alex Lostetter at Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc., Alan Mantooth at the University of Arkansas; Takukazu Otsuka at Japan-based Rohm Co. Ltd.; and Imre Gyuk at DOE’s Energy Storage Program.

The ultra-low-power silicon microphotonic communications platform enables wavelength division multiplexed communications within high-performance computers. The ultrasmall components establish a platform of elements capable of addressing the bandwidth and power consumption problems of high-performance computer and data communications networks. Silicon-resonant modulators demonstrate for the first time 100 microwatts/gigabit/second optical data transmission on a silicon CMOS-compatible platform. Together with the first high-speed silicon bandpass switches, the platform enables optical data transmission and routing on a silicon platform at nanosecond switching speeds with up to 100 times less power consumption and 100 times the bandwidth density compared to traditional electronic approaches. The work was led and submitted by Michael Watts (1727), with Douglas Trotter (1748), Ralph Young (1748), Anthony Lentine (1727), and David Luck (1749).

The Catamount N-Way (CNW) lightweight kernel leverages hardware capabilities of multicore processors to deliver significant improvements in data access performance for today’s parallel computing applications. CNW provides enhanced data access capabilities beyond other equivalent operating systems by employing a new technique that targets memory bandwidth, arguably the most important area of performance in scientific parallel computing. The CNW software is licensed to Cray, Inc., and is the operating system for the Sandia/Cray Red Storm supercomputer at Sandia. The work was submitted by lead researcher Ron Brightwell (1423) as a joint entry with Trammel Hudson of Washington, D.C.-based Operating Systems Research, with Sandians Kurt Ferreira, James Laros, Suzanne Kelly, Kevin Pedretti, John Van Dyke (all 1423), and James Tomkins (retired).

The hyperspectral confocal fluorescence microscope system rapidly acquires images with diffraction limited spatial resolution of 250 nano-meters (nm) in lateral directions and 600 nm in the axial direction. When combined with Sandia’s proprietary multivariate analysis algorithms the system enables the identification of all emitting fluorescence species contained in an image, and the production of relative concentration maps for each species — all without the need for any a priori information about the emitters. Leading this Sandia effort are David Haaland (retired), Michael Sinclair (1816), Howland Jones (8622), David Melgaard (5535), Christopher Stork (1825), Jerilyn Timlin (8622),, Ryan Davis (8625), and Mark Van Benthem (1822).

The Artificial Retina Project, for which Sandia shares the award, was cited for moving research forward to enable the blind to see. The technology employs a small video camera on a patient’s glasses to send images to a compact image processor on the patient’s belt. The processor commands an implant to deliver the desired pulses of current to an electrode array attached to the patient’s retinal tissue. This inner-eye array stimulates the retinal tissue nerves, which ultimately connect to nerves leading to the visual cortex of the brain where the patient sees an image. The award was given to a multilab/industry collaboration funded by DOE, initiated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and submitted for an award by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Sandia is developing microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and high-voltage subsystems for advanced artificial retina implant designs. These include microtools, electronics packaging, and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Key Sandia project researchers led by Kurt Wessendorf (1732) are Sean Pearson (1735), Murat Okandan (1749), Adrian Casias (2452), and Dawhey Chu (1715).

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