Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators have developed three of the 100 most significant innovations of 2000, according to R&D Magazine. Resulting technologies are reducing losses on food production lines, helping to ensure the safety of food and may replace glass with engineered plastics in electronic display panels.
Each year R&D conducts the R&D 100 Award competition to honor the most promising new products, processes, materials or software developed throughout the world. Awards are based on each achievement's technical significance, uniqueness and usefulness. Pacific Northwest researchers have received 54 R&D 100 Awards since 1969.
Pacific Northwest's winning technologies for 2000 are:
A system that immediately identifies cutting blade failures on food processing lines - Broken knives can cause irregular cuts and generate truckloads of product that doesn't meet quality specifications. Processing plants incur costs to re-sort the product and have the waste shipped away for use as animal feed.
Human inspectors can take upward of an hour to catch blade failures. However, the Knife Failure Detector, developed by Pacific Northwest and the Lamb-Weston Technical Research Center, in Richland, Wash., takes less than one second to spot part failure and trigger redirection of product flow.
The detector system combines wireless power and data transmission with acoustic-based detection methods. Designed to operate in severe conditions, including constant immersion of equipment in water, the system is installed and serviced during a plant's regular maintenance cycle. This real-time process monitoring technology can be used to ensure product quality and equipment integrity in other industrial situations where measurements are difficult to obtain, such as detecting pipe leaks or monitoring rotating machinery.