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Washington beat

Washington beat

Goal of research projects: long-term uses for nuclear energy

With the launching of 45projects, the Department of Energy is revitalizing its R&D program for nuclear energy. The projects include research in areas of new reactor designs, proliferation resistant reactors and fuel cycles, advanced nuclear fuel, new technologies for management of nuclear waste, and fundamental nuclear science. Researchers come from 21 universities, 16 private-sector organizations, eight national laboratories, and one federal agency. Awards range from about $100,000 to $1.2 million for work authorized in the first year of funding. Officials of the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) selected the 45 projects out of more than 300 proposals it received and put through a peer review process. NERI is a new program that Congress created with a $19 million budget for the current fiscal year. The goal of NERI is to support innovative research into key issues affecting the future use of nuclear energy in the U.S. For further information on NERI, and to see abstracts on the projects selected for research, visit the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology web site at www.ne.doe.gov.

New official gasoline substitute formed from renewable sources

Uncle Sam has added a new category to its definition of "alternative fuels," namely "P-series fuels." These are blends of ethanol, methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF), natural gas liquids, and butane. The ethanol and MTHF are expected to come from renewable domestic feedstocks, such as corn, waste paper, cellulosic biomass, agricultural waste, and construction wood waste. The P-series fuels' emissions are generally below those for reformulated gasoline and are well below federal emissions standards. P-series fuels join the list of alternative fuels that includes ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane, electricity, 100% biodiesel, and hydrogen. You can read the final rule on P-series fuels on the government's Internet site for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at www.eren.doe.gov.

Synthetic vision to help pilots steer clear of trouble

NASA and industry are developing innovative cockpit displays to give airplane crews clear views of their surroundings in bad weather and darkness. The space agency has selected six industry teams to create Synthetic Vision, a virtual-reality display system for cockpits. It offers pilots an electronic picture of what's outside their windows, no matter the weather or time of day. The system would use signals from Global Positioning Satellites, "super-accurate" terrain databases, and graphical displays to produce 3D moving scenes. NASA has committed $5.2 million that will be matched by $5.5 million in industry funds to advance Synthetic Vision projects during the next 18 months. More funds will come later to accelerate commercialization and make some systems available within four to six years. Phone Michael Braukus at (202) 358-1979.

Auto flush and fluid exchange system voted best product

The PF5 Power Flush and Fluid Exchange System is the year's best product from a medium-sized company. That, at least, is the opinion of judges at the National Society of Professional Engineers (Alexandria, VA). Developed by BG Products Inc. (Wichita, KS), the system chemically flushes automatic transmissions of autos and exchanges the old fluid for new. It then treats and conditions the seals. The unit consists of a tank containing two compartments separated by a flexible bladder. Once connected and set, the transmission's internal pump begins transferring used fluid along with suspended deposits into the empty compartment. This pressure on the bladder immediately begins pushing new fluid from the other compartment into the transmission. Best products in other categories included a radiology ultrasound device by GE Medical Systems (Milwaukee, WI), the M-Class All-Activity Vehicle of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (Tuscaloosa, AL), which also won the "World Car Award" at this year's Geneva Motor Show, and Phototech(R), a technology that disinfects and cleans indoor air by photocatalytic oxidation. Phototech's developer is Universal Air Technology (Alachua, FL). Contact Elaine Costello at (703) 684-2884.

Energy efficiency gains sought for future HVAC&R equipment

What big improvements can be made in the energy efficiency of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems? Seeking answers is a multi-year program named HVAC&R Research for the 21st Century (21-CR). The Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Technology Institute (Arlington, VA) and the U.S. Department of Energy have agreed to provide funds for 21-CR, which includes research into indoor air quality. In this first year of financial support, the federal government is kicking in $1 million. Phone Glenn Hourahan at (703) 524-8800.

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