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Lab Wins Awards for Technology Advances



The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has garnered four R&D 100 Awards for 2008, selected annually by R&D Magazine. This year's awards, referred to as the "Oscars of Invention," are for:

  • Berkeley Lab Phylochip, a device that packs a lot of analytical power yet isn't much larger than a U.S. 25-cent coin. It allows scientists to detect what was undetectable before now, at a speed inconceivable before now. It was developed by Gary Andersen, Todd DeSantis, Eoin Brodie, and Yvette Piceno of Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division. The PhyloChip's contributions to public health, medical diagnostics, and environmental cleanup projects have already paid dividends. The information that it has already provided about the airborne bacterial content above U.S. cities is a first step in distinguishing between a climate-related bacterial change and a real bioterrorist threat. It promises even more advances in the development of biofuels and carbon sequestration. In short, scientists are continually finding new ways to use the PhyloChip, and make significant new discoveries along the way.

  • Biomimetic Search Engine, the only search engine that couples the way people learn with the speed and data storage capabilities of computers. Users can search huge databases and determine how objects are related, in what contexts they are related, and the strengths of those relationships. It was developed by Kasian Franks and Connie Myers, formerly of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, and Raf Podowski. Both Franks and Podowski are now with SeeqPod, a music search engine that uses the Biomimetic Search Engine. The Biomimetic Search Engine goes far beyond simply sifting through data for keywords. Instead, the system allows users to make previously unknown connections between seemingly unrelated terms. In this way, it helps to synthesize new information and further a person's understanding of a given topic, which is the hallmark of discovery, innovation, and invention.

  • FastBit Bitmap Index which expands the types of data on which bitmap indexes can be used most efficiently, while at the same time it speeds up search operations on all types of data. It was developed by Kesheng Wu, Arie Shoshani, Ekow Otoo, and Kurt Stockinger of Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division. FastBit has improved the speed of drug-discovery software at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and improved the matching between web page content and advertisements at Yahoo! Research. A FastBit-enabled grid-based analysis of high-energy physics data received an award from the 2005 International Supercomputer Conference in Heidelberg, Germany, and the work on network traffic analysis received an honorable mention in the High Performance Analytics Challenge at the Supercomputing 2005 conference. In short, FastBit contains significant innovations that are well-recognized and have a broad impact in science, technology, and education.

  • Nanostructured Polymer Electrolyte for Rechargeable Lithium Batteries which introduces a new architecture with a potential to enable electric battery-driven transportation technology. It was developed by Nitash Balsara, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division who also conducts research with the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. The technology has been licensed to Seeo. The nanostructured polymer electrolyte exhibits high ionic conductivity, but can be engineered to be mechanically rigid, therefore resisting the growth of dendrites when contacted with a lithium metal electrode. Dendrite growth has prevented the commercialization of rechargeable batteries with a lithium metal anode. Batteries made with the nanostructured polymer electrolyte are also inherently safe because they lack liquids and flammable components, which prevent thermal runaway. In addition, products of side reactions cannot circulate and amplify within the cell. Solid-state lithium-ion batteries made possible by Berkeley Lab's nanostructued polymer electrolyte are expected to meet the energy density goal established by the Department of Energy for electric vehicles -- the highest hurdle for battery technology.

Cheryl Fragiadakis, who heads Berkeley Lab's Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Management Department, says, "Winning four awards is a tremendous achievement that speaks very highly of the strength of our science and its relevance to solving complex global problems. I am particularly pleased to note that this year's winners are already being used or further developed by partners in the private sector."


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