Sandia LabNews

Sandia researchers capture three R&D 100 awards

Cliff Ho, right, and Cianan Sims were recognized with an R&D 100 award for the Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool. Other sandia winners, pictured below, include Bruce Burckel headed a team that was recognized for the Membrane Projection Lithography team and Mike Heroux, who led a large team of people at Sandia and elsewhere that was recognized for Mantevo Suite 1.0. (Photos by Randy Montoya)

Sandia researchers captured three R&D 100 Awards in 2013, competing in an international competition with participants from universities, corporations, and government labs. Since 1976, Sandia has won 104 of these awards. Five Sandia applications were submitted this year to the annual contest.

Trade journal R&D Magazine presents the awards to researchers who its editors and independent judging panels determine have developed the year’s 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies.

The awards, with their focus on practical impact rather than pure research, reward entrants for the design, development, testing, and production of their innovations. The sole criterion for winning, according to 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.

Previous winners over the contest’s 60-year history include inventions important in their time but fading — the flash cube (1965) and the fax machine (1975), for example. Others present with more vigor include halogen lamps (1974) and HDTV (1998).

The winners of the awards, sometimes referred to "the Oscars of invention," will receive plaques at a formal banquet at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld, Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 7.

DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said, "My sincere congratulations to the winners of this year’s R&D 100 Awards. The scientists and engineers who developed these award-winning technologies at the cutting edge facilities across our national labs are keeping Americans at the forefront of the innovation community and assuring our nation’s economic competitiveness and national security."

This year’s Sandia winners are:

Bruce Burckel (1712, photo at right), representing the Membrane Projection Lithography team [John Anderson (1716), Igal Brener (1712), Rob Ellis (5331), Rick McCormick (1110), Bonnie McKenzie (1819), Paul Resnick (1719), Sally Samora (1728), Mike Sinclair (1816), Greg Ten Eyck (1718), Joel Wendt (1728) and Mike Wiwi (1746)].

This microfabrication technique started as a cartoon drawn by Bruce in 2009 while working on the Metamaterials Grand Challenge LDRD. "The team converted the cartoon into reality," says Bruce.

The cartoon showed that by using suspended patterned membranes as stencils, three-dimensional microscopic structures of almost any geometry can be created. While traditional microfabrication methods require horizontal surfaces on which to pattern, the stencil method permits patterning materials in three-dimensional cavities — whether these be cubes, cylinders, hemispheres, or more. These patterns can be vertical or, in corners of the host object, in several dimensions at the same time.

Because the method uses standard microfabrication materials and equipment, the membrane projection technique could be used to create 3-dimensional integrated circuits. If successful, this next step in the evolution of 2-dimensional microprocessors could resurrect the fading Moore’s Law. (Further exploration of the technique will be the subject of an LDRD, also led by Bruce, just coming on line.) The lithographic technique also is capable of creating structured electromagnetic materials with components so small that they allow interaction with and control over thermal infrared wavelength radiation. This offers the possibility of creating thermal antennas that can control the direction of heat emitted from an object, potentially easing cooling and heating needs for satellites or perhaps even buildings and cars. Discussions with industry are in progress.

Says Bruce of the team’s methods, "You create a cavity, backfill it with sacrificial material, polish it flat, then deposit material as a thin film that you want for a membrane, and pattern it with standard lithography methods. After you’ve etched the pattern you want, you dissolve out the backfill sacrificial material.

"It’s compelling technologically because it’s simple."

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Mike Heroux (1426, photo at left) (who led a large team of people at Sandia and elsewhere) for Mantevo Suite 1.0, an integrated collection of small software programs (miniapps) that model the performance of full-scale applications, yet require code only a fraction of the size of the full application. The Mantevo project pioneered the miniapp concept, and Mantevo Suite 1.0 is the first integrated collection of full-featured miniapps. Miniapps have emerged as central components of computer system co-design in an era of rapid architectural changes. Major companies like Intel, IBM, NVIDIA, AMD, and Cray, along with universities and national laboratories, use miniapps for rapid design-space exploration in the development of the next generation of high-performance computers. The miniapp work was done in collaboration with, among others, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and Santa Clara-based NVIDIA Corp.

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Cliff Ho and Cianan Sims (both 6123), for Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool (SGHAT). Solar energy installations are popping up across the country at record rates. In the first quarter of 2013, 723 megawatts were installed, a 33 percent increase over the same quarter last year. But while installers naturally want the best configuration and panel angles to produce maximum power year-round, government agencies are raising concerns about the impact of glare on pilots, air traffic controllers, motorists, and even neighbors.

"SGHAT quickly and easily addresses both concerns," says Cliff.

By using an interactive Google Maps interface and a few user-specified parameters — among them, elevation, orientation, and tilt of the panels — the web-based tool, available to the public at, can be used quickly to locate a site, outline the proposed array, and calculate the potential glare’s intensity and size, predicting ocular hazards on a minute-by-minute basis throughout the year. The tool also can predict annual energy production of proposed arrays so that alternative designs, layouts, and locations can be optimized to maximize energy production while mitigating glare impact. More than 200 users from 16 countries have already registered to use SGHAT. Contributors to SGHAT include Julius Yellowhair, Evan Bush, and Brian Ehrhart (all 6123), James Yuan (1514), Siri Khalsa (former student intern, 6123), and Andrew Sharp (1353).

"It’s especially rewarding to produce a technology that has an immediate impact," says Cliff.

The US now has more than 8,500 MW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.3 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.