Water environmental technologies earn award for PNNL

Three water-related research developments have earned the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory a Technology Merit Award in the 2005 Business Achievement Awards competition sponsored by the Environmental Business Journal.

The laboratory was recognized for an environmentally sensitive design for marine docks, a process for removing mercury from industrial wastes and a system that tracks the behavior and fate of migrating juvenile salmon.


Docks typically harm nearshore marine life. PNNL, Miller/Hull Partnership architects of Seattle and a dozen stakeholders teamed to create a new kind of dock at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Wash.

Opened in May 2004, the new dock supports a restored eelgrass bed that provides habitat for Dungeness crab, salmon and other species. Above water, the dock is designed to accommodate vessels ranging from tall ships to sea kayaks, plus a future educational center.

The dock also received the international Waterfront Center's 2004 Urban Waterfront Projects Award for environmental protection and enhancement. The jury chair called the dock "a $1.5-million experiment - a relatively small undertaking -- that has the potential to influence thinking and design elsewhere."


Researchers at PNNL and the National Marine Fisheries Service have developed a sophisticated yet simple underwater acoustic system that reveals the behavior and fate of migrating juvenile Chinook salmon as they pass through the Columbia River hydropower system and the lower Columbia River estuary.

The system consists of tiny microtransmitters implanted in salmon and receivers anchored to the river bottom that individually identify each tagged fish and record behavioral data. The information will be used to find new ways to increase salmon survival, avoid impacts on migrating juvenile salmon from activities associated with jetty repair and channel deepening, and aid restoration of critical estuarine habitat.

PNNL and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have successfully tested the system for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on fish released at Bonneville Dam and monitored at the mouth of the Columbia River. PNNL and NOAA will conduct extensive juvenile salmon survival studies with the new system this year.


PNNL researchers have developed a cost-effective nanomaterial to remove mercury from industrial wastes without producing harmful byproducts or secondary waste. The inexpensive, easy-to-use technology is called Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports for mercury, or Thiol-SAMMS.

Thiol-SAMMS adsorbs mercury 500 to 1,000 times faster than other materials, pulling more than 99.9 percent of the mercury out of solution in the first five minutes. Preliminary lifetime estimates indicate that removing one kilogram of mercury using Thiol-SAMMS will cost 60 to 90 percent less than traditional methods.

Thiol-SAMMS has been used to remove mercury from laboratory wastes and is currently part of an ongoing commercialization effort with Perry Equipment Corp. of Mineral Wells, Texas. The technology can also be tailored to remove other contaminants.

Business inquiries on environmental or other areas of research at PNNL should be directed to 888-375-PNNL or inquiry@pnl.gov.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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