PNNL deserves respect in the Northwest and beyond

We often take for granted the amazing work being done in our own backyard.

Heck, for that matter, most of us may not even understand the kind of research under way at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Dark matter? Bio-mass? Analytical chemistry? Ecotoxicology? Those are foreign terms and concepts to many of us, but the end results -- the products -- that come from research at PNNL are game-changers.

PNNL is one of 10 U.S. Department of Energy labs in the nation, with a mission of innovation. Labs like PNNL help keep this nation strong and safe, something we should never take for granted.

The lab is operated by Battelle -- the world's largest independent research and technology development organization -- and is unique in that the company's contract with the DOE allows research to be conducted for private industry, another boon to innovation.

PNNL recently won two new R&D 100 Awards, which are known as the Oscars of Innovation and presented by R&D Magazine. PNNL has won 89 of the awards since the '60s.

Staff at PNNL helped develop battery materials that will allow electric vehicles and consumer electronics to recharge in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

What does that mean for you? Your iPhone could be fully charged in 10 minutes. Enough said.

The other award is for an air purification system that will have big implications for our military. The Navy has more than 70 submarines, housing thousands of sailors deep underwater for weeks or months at a time. Air quality is key to the sailors' health and well-being.

The new technology will pull carbon dioxide directly from the submarine's atmosphere in a more environmentally friendly way. It will replace an unwieldy, heavy and corrosive process that has been used for more than 50 years. The new systems could be in place as early as 2014.

The air purification system is a nanotech-based technology using a new application of materiel previously developed at PNNL for remove heavy metal contamination from ground and surface water.

And those two products are just the recent awards winners.

Also at PNNL, researchers are:

w Combating texting while driving by developing a computer algorithim that enables a cell phone to detect if a driver is texting versus a passenger.

w Using meteorological instruments in new ways to predict wind behavior. The data will help operators more effectively bring wind power on to the electrical grid.

w Working with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to find diagnostic tools and treatment for triple negative breast cancer, a type of cancer found most commonly in young, black women.

w Developing a small-scale solid oxide fuel cell that achieves 57 percent efficiency and could power homes or entire neighborhoods.

And these are just a few of the examples of the extraordinary work being conducted in Richland. The lab has a great website where you can learn more: www.pnnl.gov.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory deserves more respect and recognition from the community at large and throughout the Northwest.

People think of this region as Boeing and Microsoft country, but PNNL can hold its own in that crowd.

It is doing great things that make great things happen for our country and our everyday lives.