Three researchers recognized for advancing the Navy's environmental efforts

April 12, 2005

Arlington, Va.--Chief of Naval Research RAdm. Jay M. Cohen presented the Vice Admiral Harold G. Bowen Award for Patented Inventions to three Navy researchers in a ceremony at the Office of Naval Research on Thursday, April 7, 2005. The patent awarded to Peter S. McGraw, John L. Drake, and Thomas H. Hanes has helped the Navy find better ways to store plastic waste on board many of its ships.

The three researchers worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in 1995 when they were issued U.S. patent 5,411,697 for their Method for Processing Contaminated Plastic Waste. Their work was part of the Navy's Pollution Prevention Afloat program to provide cost effective and environmentally friendly solutions to comply with U.S. laws, including individual state laws, and international treaties.

This patent was key to the development of the Plastics Waste Processor, which was developed according to a Congressional mandate. The processor shreds the plastic into small chips, and then a separate unit melts, sanitizes and compresses the plastic waste into a sanitary disk, weighing approximately 15 pounds, which can be retained on board until a ship returns to port. More than 650 of these devices have been installed on 189 U.S. Navy ships spanning 27 ship classes. Without this capability, ships would have to find storage space (on the order of 1,000 cubic yards every 30 days for an aircraft carrier) to retain food-contaminated waste such as packaging material from the galley.

Ships receive one or more of the units, depending on the amount of waste expected during a mission. The modular approach allowed for standardization across ship classes and simplified fleet-wide installation. The Canadian and Australian navies have also adopted the device and it is now being considered by the cruise ship industry and Dutch navy.

This award is named in honor of Vice Admiral Harold G. Bowen who was the first Chief of Naval Research. He was responsible for the establishment of a "grass roots" patent system within the Navy and instrumental in the statutory creation of the Office of Naval Research, which succeeded the administratively established Office of Research and Inventions.

The purpose of this award is to recognize the patented inventions of present or past Navy employees, civilian and military, that are of greatest benefit to the Navy. The extent of adoption for Navy use, the cost savings, increased military capability, or increased quality of life of Navy personnel resulting from the patented invention are all taken into account in determining which patents qualify for the award.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) manages science and technology research for the Navy and Marine Corps. ONR sponsors basic and applied research in oceanography, advanced materials, sensors, robotics, biomedical science and technology, electronics, surveillance, mathematics, manufacturing technology, information science, advanced combat systems, and technologies for ships, submarines, aircraft, and ground vehicles--and more.

For information about ONR's programs, go to

Office of Naval Research

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