Five ORNL technologies identified for investment


image: Five technologies invented by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been selected for targeted investment through ORNL’s Technology Innovation Program.
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Credit: Laddy Fields/ORNL, US Department of Energy.

Five technologies invented by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been selected for targeted investment through ORNL’s Technology Innovation Program.

“The introduction of new laboratory technologies to the US market is critical to protecting the nation’s economy and security,” said Mike Paulus, director of technology transfer for ORNL. “Our TIP program accelerates that transfer by improving business readiness and increasing visibility.”

Since 2012, ORNL has invested more than $11 million in 49 projects, resulting in 35 commercial licenses and options with partners ranging from Fortune 100 companies to early-stage startups.

The five technologies and their inventors are:

Ultra-clean condensing furnace, Zhiming Gao, Division of Construction and Transportation Sciences. Condensate from furnace equipment is corrosive and contains reactive chemicals. In collaboration with Trane Technologies and the California State Gas Emerging Technologies Program, this project aims to advance, demonstrate and commercialize an ultra-clean and efficient natural gas furnace with a compact and cost-effective sour gas reduction component that removes more 99.9% of chemical emissions. , leading to neutral condensate and clean flue gases. Neutral condensate allows for a simpler and less expensive furnace design, resulting in higher efficiency and reduced installation costs. This technology recently received an R&D 100 award.

Fast droplet sampling interface, Vilmos Kertesz, Division of Biosciences. This technology is a versatile and cost-effective sample introduction method for rapid chemical analysis of droplets with mass spectrometry. Speed, scale, and data quality are essential for high-throughput pharmaceutical and clinical screening laboratories working with complex biology. These labs routinely test tens of thousands of samples a day; improved sampling performance means millions of dollars in reduced costs. This proposal seeks to evaluate the ability of the rapid droplet sampling interface in high-throughput sampling of specific molecules with application in large-scale laboratories.

Closed Cell Insulating Foams Enabled by Coated and Evacuated Nanoporous Materials, Meghan Lamm, Division of Manufacturing Sciences. This technology incorporates evacuated nanoporous microspheres coated in a thermosetting foam matrix to produce robust closed cell insulation foam panels that will outperform both traditional non-vacuum conventional insulation materials and vacuum insulation panels. This ORNL technology is easily scalable because it uses formulations and processes that already exist in the manufacturing industry, providing significant economic value. The process produces materials that are mechanically robust, more environmentally sustainable, more fire and smoke retardant, and easier to install than today’s conventional materials.

Recycling of mixed plastics using a tailor-made organocatalyst, Tomonori Saito, Division of Chemical Sciences. Over 300 metric tons of plastic waste goes unrecycled each year – $100 billion in plastics lost. Mixed plastics (bottles, containers, foams, lenses, textiles and carpets) are difficult to recycle using conventional technologies. Saito’s technology is an organocatalyst, small organic molecules that can catalyze reactions in the absence of metals, that can easily break down a variety of mixed plastic debris into valuable chemicals. This project will allow further development of the technology using real plastic waste.

Accelerating Development of Orally Bioavailable Therapies for Beta-Coronaviruses with Structure-Based Molecular Design, Brian Sanders, Division of Biosciences. New drugs are crucial for COVID-19 therapeutic intervention and for biopreparing for future beta-coronavirus outbreaks. A team led by Sanders and co-principal investigator Jerry Parks has developed a powerful enzyme inhibitor that stops the proliferation of coronaviruses. The inhibitor has performed well in laboratory experiments with mammalian cells, but needs further development to improve the properties that will result in an effective oral drug. This project aims to advance the promising first-generation inhibitor so that next-generation drug candidates are ready for commercialization and clinical trials.

Each year, a panel of ORNL business leaders and experts review and select compelling technologies for a year-long investment in research, development and outreach. At the end of the year, these technologies are presented to industry partners for possible licensing.

Learn more about the TIP program and past projects available for licensing.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the largest single sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Science Office is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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