The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program competition has been helping
fund and develop environmental innovations.
The two-phase competition helps take ideas from
conception to market, according to an EPA news release. This year, EPA awarded
seven Phase II contracts of about $300,000 each, totaling more $2 million.
These companies first submitted ideas in 2011 and won Phase I contracts of up
to $80,000 each to develop their concepts into technologies. Then, they were
able to apply for Phase II of the competition, the news release says.
This year four of the seven Phase II winners produced
technologies for the water and wastewater sectors.
Using ultrasonic waves to detect cracks in pipes
FBS Inc. (State College, Pa.) won for its technology
that detects defects in water and wastewater pipes using ultrasonic waves. The
technology can penetrate structures with multiple layers and detect defects
under concrete lining, according to EPA’s SBIR – Phase II
During Phase I, FBS demonstrated the “feasibility of
axial crack detection using circumferential-guided waves and defect detection
in a concrete-lined pipe using axial guided waves,” the website says.
In Phase II, FBS will develop two prototype systems.
The first will be a circumferential-guided-wave tool to detect axial cracks by
traveling inside a steel pipe. The second combines guided wave focusing techniques
with magnetostrictive sensors for screening defects in concrete-lined pipes.
The company expects to be able to bundle the two systems into a hand-held
device and couple that with an ultrasonic package or other commerically
available platform, the website says.
Improving gas production from anaerobic digestion
TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colo.) developed
technology that uses waste gas from anaerobic digesters to generate energy
while preventing groundwater contamination and reducing greenhouse gas
emissions, the news release says. The technology is a vacuum swing absorption
system that uses a low-cost, high-capacity carbon dioxide absorbent to convert
biogas to pipeline-quality methane.
During Phase I, TDA demonstrated the feasibility for
the technology to produce pipeline-quality methane from biogas in bench-scale
experiments and show economic viability through simulations and analysis, the
For Phase II, TDA will build and test a subscale
prototype unit, scale up production of the sorbent, and conduct a field
demonstration in actual biogas derived from wastes, the website says. This
technology could be used in wastewater treatment and other industries that use
anaerobic digestion and want to sell pipeline-quality natural gas instead of
burning biogas on-site, the website says.
Treating emerging contaminants
Advanced Diamond Technologies Inc. (Romeoville, Ill.)
developed technology to treat emerging contaminants in drinking water. The
technology uses boron-doped ultrananocrystalline diamond (BD-UNCD®)
electrodes to energy-efficiently destroy organic contaminants at low costs.
During Phase I, the company showed the technology’s
ability to overcome other electrodes’ shortfalls including inadequate rates of
destruction of refractory molecules, unreliable operation below 10
of large quantities of oxygen and hydrogen, fouling and limited lifetime of
electrodes, and an inability for electrodes to be reverse polarized, the
For Phase II, the company will use these electrodes to
build and test electrochemical anodic oxidation process (EAOP) cells and
systems that can eliminate contaminants of emerging concern. The research will
investigate electrochemistry of diamond under EAOP conditions and reactions,
and tradeoffs between cell design and electrode geometry, the website says.
Working to detect landscape and groundwater contamination in the field
Lynntech Inc. (College Station, Texas) won for
developing automated, field-deployable environmental monitors to help clean up
and restore contaminated sites, the news release says. The company developed a
portable analytical device able to analyze a variety of organic and metallic
contaminants in environmental samples. The technology conducts sample
preconcentration, separation, fluid transfer, and detection with an emphasis on
microfluidic components and processes, the website says. The system has
detected parts-per-billion levels of toxic metal contaminants in water samples
as well as trace levels of organic contaminants.
During Phase II, the company will develop an automated
system capable of detecting both metal and organic contaminants in groundwater.
Find more details about all the Phase II winners at www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir12ph2.