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SwRI wins two 2017 R&D 100 Awards

For immediate release

SAN ANTONIO — Nov. 21, 2017 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) took home two prestigious R&D 100 Awards from ceremonies held in Orlando, Florida, on Nov. 17. R&D Magazine recognized SwRI’s Smart Leak Detection and High Power Impulse Plasma Source systems as being among the 100 most significant innovations for 2017.

Smart LEak Detection

Leaks in the U.S. liquid hydrocarbon pipelines network exceeded 100,000 barrels each year between 2007 and 2012. Using algorithms to process images from sensors scanning the infrastructure, SLED can autonomously pinpoint small hazardous leaks before they become major problems, with minimal false alarms. These sensors can be positioned at sensitive pipeline junctures or deployed on drones to cost-effectively fly over pipeline networks.

“It makes both environmental and economic sense to identify the smallest oil and gas leaks as early as possible to help ensure environmental safety and pipeline system reliability,” said Maria Araujo, a manager in SwRI’s Intelligent Systems Division and the lead developer for SLED. “The SwRI solution fuses inputs from low-cost optical sensors and applies machine learning techniques to reliably detect the chemical ‘fingerprints’ of small hazardous liquid leaks, before they become major spills. It can differentiate between a hydrocarbon and an innocuous puddle of water.”

High Power Impulse Plasma Source surface coatings

SwRI’s HiPIPS system generates coatings using high-density, high-flux plasmas at low temperatures and atmospheric pressures. These coatings extend the life, enhance the properties and prevent damage and corrosion of materials and components. HiPIPS is a convenient, cost-effective alternative to surface engineering techniques that typically require thermal processes or vacuum chambers. Potential applications include coatings on plastics, textiles and biologically sensitive materials as well as depositing protective metallic and ceramic coatings as an environmentally friendly alternative to electroplating.

“HiPIPS has already had groundbreaking successes in developing coatings for defense applications,” said Dr. Vicky Poenitzsch, a principal scientist in SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division, who led HiPIPS’ development. “HiPIPS outperforms other ambient pressure plasmas and rivals vacuum plasma systems and could revolutionize the surface engineering industry.”

“Since 1971, SwRI has won 43 R&D 100 Awards, which, in our business, are considered the ‘Oscars of Invention,’” said SwRI President and CEO Adam L. Hamilton, P.E. “We’re pleased our work has been recognized in such a well-respected forum.” R&D 100 Awards are selected by an independent panel of judges and editors of R&D Magazine to honor the top technology products of the year. 

See movies about SLED and HiPIPs.

For more information, contact Deb Schmid, (210) 522-2254, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.