'Game Changer' contest spotlights innovative science for industrial use
Dustin McIntyre spends his career researching engines, but a few nights of watching the evening news gave him a winner of an idea for the drilling industry.
McIntyre, an engineer at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, beat out eight colleagues on Tuesday in a competition for the first Game Changer Award. The scientists pitched developmental technology to judges at the Energy & Innovation Conference at Southpointe in Cecil, like a brainy version of the reality TV show “Shark Tank” for Ph.Ds.
McIntyre, 37, of Washington uses lasers to precisely measure pollutants and chemicals in water and air, even underground, with a device about the size of a phone. He long had worked with lasers that can turn on engines and, upon seeing people on TV news raise concerns about water contamination from gas wells, he realized his lasers could work in underground testing wells, too.
Winning “definitely helps me make more contacts and get more visibility in NETL in the Pittsburgh area. I think the visibility is very, very important, just to let people know that you're out there,” McIntyre said. “It makes us actually work toward developing products, bringing products closer to market.”
That's by design, officials said.
The lab is making an aggressive push to get its research into the public realm. The Department of Energy runs the energy labs around the country, including in South Park and Morgantown — where McIntyre splits his time. They do early-stage research on big-picture problems such as trapping carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.
The department has started to include project advancement as part of employee performance reviews and encourages scientists to promote their work so that it isn't left on the shelf, officials said.
Such communication is critical to the energy industry, especially when the lab's ideas become realistic, said Samuel H. Johnson, director of the water division at Consol Energy Inc. The energy industry has been profitable for so long that it often is reluctant to invest in research and development, making the labs critical forces for advancements in efficiency and safety, said Connie Palucka, managing director at Catalyst Connection, conference co-sponsor.
“We have to make a profit ... so we can't afford to do research at the early-stage level,” said Johnson, who judged the pitches and praised the lab for its work. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that many creative, innovative technologies that have a future.”
He voted for McIntyre because his technology could help almost any industry that uses water — and that's a lot of industries, Johnson said. At Consol, it takes days to retrieve most water samples from remote locations, and the samples can morph on their way to analysis, so on-site lasers would be a big help with speed and accuracy, he said.
Christopher Matranga, director of the molecular science division at the South Park lab, won an audience award for his technology to break down carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — into a chemical that can be sold for profit.
Other scientists showcased work on using liquid chemicals as catalysts to capture carbon pollution and on self-cleaning windows to help industrial plants look inside and fine-tune boilers.
The competition was the idea of Tom Reed, managing director for marketing and community outreach at Catalyst Connection, a manufacturers consortium. The energy world is changing rapidly, and it's important to discuss ideas, even with competitors, he said.
“The companies that can act quickly and establish relationships in the energy industry, they're the ones who are going to benefit into the future,” Reed said.
Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Investors shy from Israeli drugmaker Teva amid uncertain Mylan takeover
- Farm use of drones to take off as feds loosen restrictions
- Crazy Mocha owner likes comfort, says shrewd decisions foster growth
- No more ‘roar’ as famed trading pits come to an end
- Atlantic City on hot streak with non-gambling ventures
- Crude oil tumble signals low gasoline prices this fall
- New J.C. Penney CEO comes from middle-income America
- After years of downsizing, big houses make comeback
- Floating homes offer ‘affordable’ option in San Francisco area
- Corporate America speaking out on social issues, getting results