Research highlights from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

January 18, 2000

Device sounds off on cracks

A cracked bolt may not faze Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor as he does home improvements, but it can debilitate an industrial or nuclear plant if undetected. A new inspection device developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory detects cracks in bolts more easily and less expensively than alternatives.

Pacific Northwest's device relies on ultrasonic electronics to retrieve more accurate readings by limiting background noise. Also, the device allows fasteners to be inspected while in place, thereby reducing inspection time and allowing periodic monitoring. Inspectors have a greater opportunity to interpret the data and make repair decisions with a complementary computer tool that gives a visual representation of the fastener and any fractures or degradation.

'Doctored up' cotton for improved healing

Innovative methods of altering cotton gauze to enhance the healing of chronic wounds are being developed by researchers at Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. Approximately two million Americans, including diabetics and those confined to beds and wheelchairs, suffer from non-healing wounds.

Studies show a link between chronic wounds and elevated levels of the enzyme elastase, which is known to degrade proteins such as fibronectin required for tissue repair. This association has prompted research into methods to alter cotton to remove elastase without sacrificing the material's valuable properties, such as absorbency and air permeability.

In one approach, researchers synthesized a peptide "recognition site" for elastase on the cotton surface that absorbs the degradative enzyme away from the wound.

The modified dressings are scheduled to enter clinical trials at Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in spring 2000.

Marine ecological assessment in Hong Kong waters

A new type of census is being conducted beneath the waters near Hong Kong. Marine biologists at Pacific Northwest are evaluating the return of aquatic species near confined aquatic disposal sites - areas where contaminated dredge material is buried in the ocean bed.

In conjunction with ERM Group, an international environmental consultancy, Pacific Northwest scientists are helping Hong Kong resource agencies document the impact or lack of impact of confined aquatic disposal on species living on the sea bottom. Pacific Northwest scientists are helping ERM interpret data on the number of species living near the disposal area and the return of those species after disposal operations.

The present research at East Sha Chau's contaminated mud disposal site began in 1998 and will continue through 2001. The results of this program will help organizations determine the value and potential use of contaminated mud burial in confined aquatic disposal sites.

Chemical management made easier

A chemical tracking system that saves Pacific Northwest more than $7,000 each month now can help private companies save money. Until recently, it was common for chemical inventories to be tracked by several staff members in a variety of locations and forms - from spreadsheets to hard copies - making them difficult to track or share.

The software, called CMS, is available commercially through Enabling Technologies Inc. It helps companies comply with regulatory requirements, reduce data entry time and reduce waste through sharing and exchanging of materials. ETI offers CMS as part of an integrated laboratory management system.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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