SwRI offers new configurable lab facility
A new, configurable
lab facility available in the Signal Exploitation and Geolocation Division at
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will allow for fabrication and testing of a
wide variety of engineering models, prototypes and hardware.
facility, termed “Probay,” is a 3,000-square-foot workspace designed to be
easily reconfigured to accommodate a variety of production and testing
requirements. All work benches, assembly and test equipment, storage cabinets
and shelving, partitions, network and communication lines, and electrical power
can easily be moved and reconfigured in less than 30 minutes to meet specific
competencies traditionally have been in the area of specialized, low-volume
electronics, and production of direction-finding antennas,” said Robert Grover,
assistant director of the Production and Operations Department at SwRI. “This
new facility allows us to take that expertise and adapt it to other types of
work for a broader client base.”
SwRI clients are
increasingly asking for delivery of field-ready hardware as opposed to simply
delivering prototypes or engineering models. “Having manufacturing facilities,
equipment, staff and processes in place to transition SwRI designs into
deployable equipment offers our clients a ‘one-stop shop’ to meet their needs,”
Grover said. “Providing end-item units also allows us to maintain contact with
our clients by providing field support, spares, repairs and upgrades.”
services include the transition from design to production as well as to multiple
quantity production including mechanical fabrication, printed circuit board
population, electronics assembly, protective packaging, final surface coatings,
specialized testing and performance validation.
Exploitation and Geolocation Division at SwRI is certified to ISO 9001:2000,
“Quality Systems-Model for Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production,
Installation and Servicing,” for all phases of project work. In addition, the
division is in the process of attaining a Level 3 Capability Maturity Model
Integration (CMMI) rating.
SwRI's Redfield named IEEE Region V Member of the Year
Joe B. Redfield,
manager of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Section in the Engine, Emissions and
Vehicle Research Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), has been named
Member of the Year of Region V of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Redfield, an IEEE
member for 29 years, was chosen from more than 55,000 members in Region V, which
includes the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri,
Oklahoma, Texas and parts of Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and
Wyoming. He currently serves on the Central Texas Section Executive Committee.
in advanced vehicle propulsion design and energy systems engineering. At SwRI he
leads a team of researchers involved in the development , testing and hardware
integration of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains; powertrain
modeling and simulation; energy storage and fuel cell systems.
professional engineer in Texas, Redfield also is a member of the Society of
Automotive Engineers, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
American Solar Energy Society, American Wind Energy Association and the National
Burch awarded COSPAR's inaugural Jeoujang Jaw award
Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) awarded Dr. James L. Burch, vice president
of the Space Science and Engineering Division of Southwest Research Institute
(SwRI), its 2008 Jeoujang Jaw Award, bestowed jointly by COSPAR and the Chinese
Academy of Sciences.
The award recognizes
scientists who have “made distinguished pioneering contributions to promoting
space research, establishing new space science research branches and founding
new exploration programs.” It was named in honor of Professor Jeoujang Jaw
(1907Ð1968), a pioneer in advocating physics and new technologies in earth
science, who made significant contributions to the development of atmospheric
science, geophysics and space science.
Burch is the first
recipient of the award, given in recognition of his leadership on the NASA
Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) mission, which
provided the first global images of the Earth's magnetosphere and demonstrated
how the transport of charged particles in the Earth's space environment responds
to variations in the solar wind.
In addition to
directing a variety of space science activities at SwRI, Burch has served as
principal investigator on the IMAGE, Rosetta, Dynamics Explorer 1, and ATLAS-1
space science missions. He currently serves as principal investigator of the
Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, scheduled to launch in 2014, and a
proposed Mars Scout mission called The Great Escape.
Burch is a Fellow of
the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He is a former chair of the Committee on
Public Affairs, president of the Space Physics and Aeronomy section, and
editor-in-chief of the AGU publication Geophysical Research Letters.
Burch has also served
on advisory committees for NASA, the European Space Agency, the National Science
Foundation and other organizations. He is a former chair of the Committee on
Solar and Space Physics, which advises the National Research Council Space
Studies Board. Burch is also a lifetime national associate of the National
SwRI receives $1.3 million grant for chemical weapon
Institute has been awarded a one-year, $1.3-million grant by the U.S. Army Space
and Missile Defense Command to develop and test nerve agent antidote
formulations that can be administered as an intramuscular injection.
agents attack the central nervous system inhibiting acetocholinesterase (AChE)
ultimately with fatal consequence. Thus better antidotes, AChE reacativators,
need to be used to reactivate swiftly to reverse effects of exposure to agents.
The Institute is currently in the fourth year of a six-year contract to develop
and test the stability of an AChE reactivator, which reverses symptoms caused by
exposure to a chemical warfare agent. Under this recently awarded grant, SwRI
will investigate novel formulations of a promising new antidote called MMB4,
which can swiftly counteract exposure to a nerve agent.
“The goal of this
study is to develop an operationally stable formulation of MMB4 that is able to
be absorbed quickly by the body, that will not hinder atropine, which is used in
combination to effectively treat the effects of a chemical nerve agent,” said
Dr. Joe McDonough, principal investigator and director of the
Microencapsulation, Nanomaterials and Process Engineering Department in SwRI's
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. “From our previous work, we
developed a new formulation of MMB4 that has increased stability. We now have to
overcome issues that would normally restrict absorption of both of the atropine
The research grant
will look at improving the effectiveness of several operationally stable
formulations of MMB4.
For 60 years, SwRI
has been a leader in the development of products for the pharmaceutical,
agricultural, consumer goods, and food industries and has pioneered the
development of new microencapsulation and particle formation techniques.
SwRI-developed compressor valve exceeding expectations in
A production beta
version of a compressor plate valve developed at Southwest Research Institute
(SwRI) is demonstrating long operating life in real-time field conditions. The
SwRI Semi-Active Compressor Valve, developed in 2006, is currently installed in
a high-speed compressor at a natural gas production site for a long-term field
The single largest
maintenance cost for a reciprocating compressor is compressor valves. These
machines typically use passive compressor valves, which experience high plate
impact velocities that often result in fatigue failures and a short operating
life, leading to frequent replacement.
The SwRI Semi-Active
Compressor Valve increases plate life by drastically reducing plate impact
velocities. Rather than springs, the design uses electromagnets to actively
control impact velocities. The valve plate starting motion is sensed using an
electric inductive motion sensor controlled by the electromagnets, thus
eliminating the need for pressure transducers or shaft encoders to control plate
version valves were installed in a high-speed compressor in early April 2008 and
have been performing with no valve failure to date, far exceeding the
performance of conventional valves in place at the same location,” said Dr.
Klaus Brun, manager of the Rotating Machinery Section in SwRI’s Mechanical and
Materials Engineering Division and principal developer of the valve.
The valve, which
earned a 2007 R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine, was one of several technologies
developed during the Advanced Reciprocating Compression Technology program,
conducted at SwRI and jointly funded by the Gas Machinery Research Council, BP,
and the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory. The
latest version of the valve is being manufactured by SwRI and Cook Compression.
Miller receives DOE award for hydrogen storage
Michael A. Miller, a
staff scientist in SwRI's Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, has
received the 2008 Hydrogen Program R&D Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Miller, along with
Ralph Yang of the University of Michigan and Boris Yakobson of Rice University,
received the award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to hydrogen
The award, one of
four given this year by DOE, was presented to the researchers in ceremonies
during June in Washington D.C.
Miller and his
colleagues have been collaborating for three years on a phenomenon called
“hydrogen spillover.” The research is part of the Institute's National Testing
Laboratory for Solid-state Hydrogen Storage Technologies, a DOE-sponsored
program aimed at evaluating novel solid-state materials and full-scale systems
for hydrogen storage.
“If we start with
nanostructure materials, such as metal organic frameworks (MOFs) or carbon
nanotubes, and Ôdope' them with small clusters of a metal catalyst such as
platinum, we see a tremendously enhanced uptake of hydrogen into the
structures,” Miller explained. “We call this process hydrogen spillover because
we believe that hydrogen molecules (H2) are split by the metal clusters, then
spilled over onto the nanostructure, where the hydrogen is bound as atomic
hydrogen (H). Think of it as a sponge that stores hydrogen atoms. If you lower
the pressure surrounding this sponge or heat it slightly, hydrogen molecules are
formed again and are released from the material.”
potentially could eliminate the high pressures normally required to store
hydrogen in compressed-gas cylinders for automotive fuel cell applications.
Miller said the
proposed technology for solid-state storage involves storage tanks filled with a
solid, lightweight material. For this technology to work in vehicles powered by
hydrogen fuel cells, a large quantity of hydrogen, at least five kilograms, must
be stored in the material at reasonable pressures (less than 3,000 pounds per
square inch) and released at near-ambient conditions to deliver hydrogen to the
fuel cell. This technology will rely on the waste heat generated by the fuel
cell to release hydrogen from the material.
“Most metal hydrides,
for example, won’t release hydrogen unless the temperature is really high,”
Miller said. “That’s not the case here. We’re observing the highest reversible
uptake of hydrogen ever observed at room temperature in the nanostructured
materials we are using.”
Miller and his team
are pursuing a clear understanding of the spillover phenomenon by employing
advanced experimental methods and theoretical models in hope of finding some
other practical uses for the technology.
“We're also looking
at other materials that may perform better and are of a lower cost than
platinum,” Miller said.
Published in the Summer 2008 issue of
Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more