A generator that uses a virus to convert mechanical energy to electricity and a new material that will boost power storage in rechargeable batteries by 30 percent are among eight inventions by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientists that were honored with a 2013 R&D 100 Award, often dubbed the “Oscars of Innovation.”
Presented by R&D Magazine, the R&D 100 Awards recognize the year’s top 100 technology products from industry, academia, and government-sponsored research, ranging from chemistry to materials to biomedical breakthroughs. The eight awards this year mark a record high for Berkeley Lab and brings the total of Berkeley Lab’s R&D 100 wins to 70, plus two Editors’ Choice Awards. In all, Department of Energy’s national laboratories and facilities won 36 R&D 100 Awards this year.
The Berkeley Lab inventions honored this year span the scientific gamut, from computing science to life science to materials science to nanoscience. “These eight R&D 100 awards are a testament to both the breadth and depth of science that we do at Berkeley Lab,” said Horst Simon, the Lab’s deputy director. “Moreover they also demonstrate our commitment to transforming the science into technologies that will address real issues in society today.”
Optically-Detected Oil Well Logging by MRI: peering deep into the earth
Optically-Detected Oil Well Logging by MRI (OWL-MRI) is a magnet-free MRI tool that measures the spatial distribution and quality of oil and gas in large geological formations and the physical properties of surrounding rock that most influence the economic and environmental expense of its extraction. The tool was developed by Berkeley Lab scientists Alex Pines and Vikram Bajaj, a Project Scientist in Pines’ laboratory, in collaboration with Scott Seltzer and Paul Ganssle; this is Pines’ fifth R&D 100 award and the second for Pines and Bajaj in the last three years.
By using Earth’s magnetic field, rather than an array of permanent magnets, OWL-MRI probes many meters—rather than centimeters—deep into an oil formation, and provides information about the porosity of the rock and the chemistry of fluids it contains with a specificity previously accessible only in laboratory experiments. OWL-MRI can increase the accuracy and speed of oil well logging measurements (an $11.2 billion market) by a factor of 10 to 100, reducing the cost of oil exploration. When used to calibrate oil extraction, OWL-MRI will also reduce its environmental impact, particularly where hydraulic fracturing is necessary.