By: Leslie Wright
Idaho National Laboratory researchers are racking up accolades for the new technology they develop. This summer, two more honors were added to the list.
First, INL received honors at the Idaho Genius Awards, ranking in the top five Idaho companies by number of patents issued. Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates INL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, ranked fourth in the state for over two dozen issued patents. Joining BEA in the top five were Micron, Hewlett-Packard Development, Semiconductor Components and the Intel Corporation.
Since BEA's contract to manage INL began, applications have been filed for over 472 patents, with more than 450 issued. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, 30 patents were issued to both INL and DOE based on the inventions of INL employees. Products, processes and innovations protected by INL patents and copyrights generate tens of millions of dollars annually in revenue for U.S. businesses.
One such new technology is the General Line Ampacity State Solver (GLASS), which was selected as a 2017 R&D 100 Award finalist. The R&D 100 Awards recognize the top 100 inventions each year, as judged by a panel of independent experts. The annual conference also celebrates innovation and revolutionary ideas in science and technology.
GLASS is a software package designed to help power line operators manage transmission for maximum efficiency and savings by calculating weather effects on lines. The java-based software incorporates wind and other weather data from remote sensors and then calculates the cooling effect of this phenomena on individual sections of line. This information, based on real-time data, enables dynamic control going beyond typical Static Line Ratings, which use a fixed set of environmental conditions. GLASS allows system planners and grid operators to better direct current over lines without the risk of overheating and enables utility companies to adjust power production and manage fluctuations in load more effectively.INL nominates technologies to the R&D 100 Award competition nearly every year, and the lab has collectively won 18 awards since 2005.
This year's R&D 100 winners will be announced at an awards dinner in November. Congratulations to the GLASS team and power systems engineer Jake Gentle, who led development of the software package funded by DOE's Wind Energy Technologies Office.These honors also follow on the heels of three INL wins of Far West Regional Awards granted by the Federal Laboratory Consortium.
Effective October 1, Dr. John Wagner is the new associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science & Technology (NS&T). Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, former NS&T Director, has accepted a new position at INL as executive director of the Versatile Fast Neutron Source Research & Development Initiative.
Before his new position, Wagner was the director of Domestic Programs for INL's NS&T directorate and director of the Technical Integration Office for the DOE-NE Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Program. In these roles, he has provided strategic coordination at INL for the major DOE-NE programs, led the Advanced Nuclear Energy area of INL's LDRD program, and transitioned the LWRS Program from an emphasis on Subsequent License Renewal to reduced operating costs and modernization of the LWR fleet.
Wagner previously served at INL as chief scientist for the Materials and Fuels Complex, where he was responsible for implementing strategies to modernize the MFC research and development capabilities. His contributions helped to transform MFC to a more effective nuclear energy R&D organization, fostered collaborations with nuclear universities and laboratories, and facilitated delivery of outcomes for industrial partnerships to meet fuels and materials research and development needs.
He has more than 20 years of experience performing research, and managing and leading research and development projects, programs, and organizations. Prior to joining INL nearly two years ago, he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for nearly 17 years, where he held a number of research and leadership roles in reactor and fuel cycle technologies.
John received a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and master's and doctorate degrees from the Pennsylvania State University. He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society and recipient of the 2013 E. O. Lawrence Award. He has also authored or co-authored more than 170 refereed journal and conference articles, technical reports, and conference summaries.
Congratulations to the National University Consortium (NUC) research teams who won Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research awards beginning in FY 2018.
NUC faculty members and Idaho National Laboratory scientists will also be collaborating on the following projects.
By: Tiffany Adams
Aimed at fulfilling the Nuclear Energy University Program's (NEUP) mission of engaging the U.S. academic community and building world-class nuclear energy and workforce capability, the Consolidated Innovative Nuclear Research (CINR) awards provide funding to research and develop creative solutions for problems facing nuclear energy. A part of the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE), NEUP has funded over $267.5 million in research and development projects at 80 universities since 2009.
Currently, the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) has not been released for 2019-2020 work. However, as university researchers wait for this to be released, here are several tips to keep in mind when writing NEUP proposals.
"Contact the TPOC (technical point of contact) and the program manager responsible for the work scope," Greg Bala, program manager for the NEUP Integration Office, said. Drew Thomas, deputy program manager for the NEUP Integration Office, emphasized the importance of this, commenting that by working with the TPOC, applicants can better understand DOE's programmatic needs.
Youho Lee, an assistant professor from the University of New Mexico, echoed this. "More demand is placed on achieving a high level of technical and programmatic relevance," Lee said, making it fundamentally different from other funding opportunities.
Bala also mentioned it's important to be relevant to the work scope, meaning it is essential not to be a "hammer looking for a nail." It's important not to attempt to redefine a work scope to fit a researcher's interests or expertise, Bala continued.
Greg Bala said that while there isn't a rigid definition that determines if a research team will successfully earn an award, it is important to build a group that has a diverse range of expertise and is well-versed with DOE programmatic goals.
"You not only have to have the right people on the application, but they have to be performing meaningful work," Bala said. "Name dropping doesn't work."
Bala also mentioned the importance of demonstrating access to facilities where the research can be performed. "It doesn't just mean you say, 'I know where the equipment is, and I'll go try and use it if I win.'" Instead, applicants need to indicate that they can access those facilities through a member of the research team.
Prior to submitting his proposal, Lee utilized his university's proposal editing services to ensure clarity, coherence, and flow. Lee won two out of the three proposals he submitted for the 2018-2019 awards as the primary investigator.
Greg Bala, program manager of the NEUP Integration Office echoed the importance of using these types of services. "It's always important to have someone proof your application," Bala said. Errors like grammar and spelling mistakes may seem like small errors, but they often make the applications difficult to understand, he said.
"It never hurts to submit an application early," Bala said. He continued saying that because the FOA changes yearly, by giving themselves extra time, applicants ensure that if they missed a newly required document, there still is time to amend their application.
In addition, depending on university policies applicants may need to submit their applications through their institution's Office of Sponsored Research. Thomas said that researchers need to make sure they allow enough time for all approvals to take place.
Finally, Thomas emphasized the importance of being involved in the NEUP community, explaining that this doesn't just mean attending networking events. "A lot of individuals who have starting reviewing [NEUP applications] beginning to understand what the expectations are, what the rules are, and the layout that DOE has from a program perspective," Thomas said. He continued saying that all of these things can help better an applicant's understanding of how to best put together a proposal. He also noted that being a reviewer does not disqualify a researcher from submitting applications; the NEUP Integration Office manages potential conflicts of interest, meaning reviewers can review applications from one work scope, but submit proposals for another.
By: Jens Odegaard
Tommy Holschuh earned his doctorate in nuclear engineering from the Oregon State School of Nuclear Science and Engineering in June 2017. In August, he, along with Abdalla Abou Jaoude from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was named one of two inaugural recipients of the Idaho National Laboratory's (INL) Deslonde de Boisblanc distinguished postdoctoral appointment. While at INL, Holschuh will be using a novel method he developed at Oregon State to support the modeling of its Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility.
The namesake of the postdoctoral appointment, Deslonde de Boisblanc, was an early influential scientist at INL and designed the unique serpentine core of INL's Advanced Test Reactor. To honor his legacy, this appointment is "competitively awarded to early career researchers who embody the spirit of ingenuity of de Boisblanc and who have leadership potential."
A Nuclear Energy University Partnership Fellow during his doctoral studies at Oregon State, Holschuh developed a methodology and a detection system to quantify the Cherenkov radiation, or light, emitted by a reactor to determine reactor kinetics parameters. He calls it the Cherenkov Radiation Assay for Nuclear Kinetics (CRANK) system, which he describes in his dissertation. Holschuh used the Oregon State TRIGA Reactor for his research.
"The overall goal is that this might be used as an inspection tool by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors," Holschuh said. "During an official inspection of a reactor facility under IAEA safeguards, the inspectors could utilize the CRANK system to measure a reactor pulse and be able to obtain information about that reactor to verify the facility's activities."
Holschuh's detection system fits in a briefcase-size hard case and consists of a photodiode connected to the end of a fiber optics cable, which connects to signal processing software. The photodiode is lowered into a reactor and measures the Cherenkov light. The software and components are off the shelf and altogether cost about $15,000. Other systems used by the IAEA for similar purposes cost $250,000 just for the cameras they utilize, according to Holschuh.
To interpret the data from the Cherenkov light and determine the reactor's parameters, Holschuh developed a mathematical formula to put into the software. "The most difficult part was determining how to interpret the pulses. Reactor pulses, or large power changes over a short period of time, are inherently different for every reactor. Every aspect of the reactor alters the shape of the pulse—the changing reactivity with temperature, the heat capacity of the reactor, the facility design," he said. "I was able to obtain a method that combined many of those aspects into a single variable that scaled between two unique reactor pulses."
This means that his method and system can be used for virtually any reactor that has the capability to perform a large power transient.
At INL, Holschuh will utilize this method for reactor safety rather than standard reactor safeguards. "As part of the deBoisblanc postdoctoral appointment, I will attempt to use that methodology and measure reactor pulses at the TREAT Facility," he said. Shut down since 1994, TREAT is in the process of being restarted—an effort involving Oregon State. It will be used to test nuclear fuel assemblies for power-generating reactors.
"The last time its reactor parameters were measured, experimentally, was in 1960," said Holschuh. "By obtaining more accurate experimental results for reactor kinetics parameters, it provides more representative values for the INL staff members who perform modeling and simulation for the TREAT facility. The pulse shape, and subsequent energy deposition into the fuel types being tested, are greatly influenced by the reactor kinetics parameters, so by knowing them more accurately you can more accurately determine the effects on the fuel being tested."
Holschuh completed two internships at INL during his graduate studies and will be working under the supervision of Dan Wachs, who earned his master's in both nuclear and mechanical engineering at Oregon State before earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho.
"We've been working with Tommy for several years and are looking forward to his return to INL," said Dr. David Chichester. Chichester is an INL directorate fellow and was Holschuh's graduate intern mentor at INL. "With key skills in reactor physics and radiation science, he's going to be making important contributions to our nuclear energy and nuclear nonproliferation research programs."
By: Julie Ulrich
INL has collaborated with several universities to develop the new INL Graduate Fellowship Program. The first call for the program closed earlier this year and 11 fellows were selected in August. During this pilot call, INL targeted candidates from Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) and National University Consortium (NUC) schools.
The recipients of these competitive fellowships have their tuition and fees covered by their university during their first years of graduate school (years one to three) and their tuition and fees plus a $60,000 annual salary paid by INL during the last two years of their doctoral research performed at the lab.
In the first years of their Ph.D. program, graduate fellows will spend most of their time taking classes at their university. That balance will shift in the last years of their Ph.D. program, where graduate fellows will spend the majority of their time at INL conducting research. The typical graduate fellow program runs between three and five years.
There are mutual benefits for the graduate fellows, universities and the lab. Throughout the program, the graduate fellows will interact and collaborate with both their INL mentor and their university thesis adviser.
The program allows INL to integrate students into the laboratory and provides graduate fellows with work on significant projects that will help them fulfill their thesis research requirements. INL gains access to skilled staff, along with the opportunity to build long-term collaborations with universities, increase recruiting opportunities, and interact with a continuous pipeline of students interning and conducting research at the lab. Both the university and INL have the opportunity for joint publications and intellectual property.
"This program presents an excellent opportunity for everyone involved," said Dr. Kelly Beierschmitt, INL's deputy laboratory director for science and technology and chief research officer. "Students receive quality education and an invaluable research experience. Additionally, INL strengthens its partnerships with universities while continuing to develop the next generation of engineers, researchers, scientists, and leaders."
Graduate fellows were selected in degree fields that closely tie to INL's three mission areas of innovative nuclear energy solutions, other clean energy options and critical infrastructure.
Congratulations to the following students from NUC schools who were selected as the first INL Graduate Fellows:
The National University Consortium (NUC) Annual Review Meeting was held on August 15 and 16 in Idaho Falls with tours of several Idaho National Laboratory desert facilties held on August 14.
Day one of the meeting included overviews from all mission directorates—Energy and Environment Science & Technology (EES&T), National and Homeland Security (N&HS), and Nuclear Science and Technology (NS&T)—as well as updates from the Materials and Fuels Complex and Advanced Test Reactor directorates.
Updates from all NUC universities were also given. The day ended with progress updates on all NUC Laboratory-directed Research and Development (LDRD).
Day two of the meeting included several breakout sessions revolving around topics such as modeling and simulation, nuclear reactor technologies, and advanced transportation.
All presentations are available on the NUC website at https://inlnuc.inl.gov/SitePages/2017%20Quarterly%20Meetings.aspx