NRI’s work in environmental technologies and sciences includes efforts in the following five areas (also described elsewhere as cited):
1. Environmental Geographic Information, Analysis, and Decision-Support System Technologies
NRI’s Environmental Geographic Information, Analysis, and Decision-Support System technologies will provide advance data presentation of environmental data merged together in a common extensible web-oriented environment with extensible environmental modeling, analysis and decision support software. Additionally, NRI’s technology could also be structured as a basic “GIS and Spatial Data” spreadsheet, as a plug-in for GIS systems and spreadsheets, and as a plug-in for business information systems (such as those using BIRT) and other data visualization systems. The technology approach provides an opportunity to create de-facto or formal standardized formats for models and data sets, as well as to create “the Excel Spreadsheet” for model-enabled GIS systems.
NRI’s Environmental Geographic Information, Analysis, and Decision-Support System technologies can also be adapted to epidemiology applications for tracking, analyzing, and predicting outbreaks or geographic demographics of disease, food poisoning, tainted product distribution, etc.
NRI’s Environmental Geographic Information, Analysis, and Decision-Support System technologies can allow the co-integration of epidemiological data and models with ecological, travel, transportation, water system, food distribution, energy, and other data sets, permitting new synergies of considerable potential value to a spectrum of local and global needs, concerns, and emergencies.
Representative aspects of this technology can be found in NRI’s U.S.Patent Application Pre-Grant Publication 2010/0318512 listed in NRI’s Data Visualization and Sonification technology area.
NRI is pleased to have hosted five masters-level students as part of the 2012 Carnegie Melon Practicum Summer program as part of the work on this technology.
2. Building Energy Management
Descriptions of this technology can be found in the patent assets listed in NRI’s Building Energy Management technology area.
3. AC Electrical-Energy Usage Sensors for New and Legacy Building Wiring
Descriptions of this technology can be found in pending U.S.Patent Application Pre-Grant Publication 13/674,944 listed in NRI’s Building Energy Management technology area.
4. Field-Deployable Environmental Sensors
Representative examples of some of these technologies are discussed in NRI’s U.S. Patent Application Pre-Grant Publication 2010/0318512 listed in NRI’s Data Visualization and Sonification technology area and in NRI’s U.S. Patent Application Pre-Grant Publication 2010/0315501 listed in NRI’s Proximate Microscopic Imaging and Tomography technology area.
5. Green Chemistry
Reactive distillation integrates reaction and distillation into a single process. From an environmental standpoint, in many circumstances reactive distillation has demonstrated significantly consolidates plant size, reduces energy usage and reuse of heat of reaction, eliminated needs for solvents and associated solvent recovery, and recovery of valuable materials from waste streams (these in addition to many improved production times, purity, vastly smaller investment and operating costs, and surpassing of usual distillation). However, reactive distillation is poorly understood and is difficult to scale processes from lab to trial small-scale pilot-plant to operating-plant. NRI has developed a number of tools and approaches that should aid in work on these problems. Representative examples of some of these technologies are discussed in NRI’s allowed U.S. Patent Application Pre-Grant Publication 2011/0061224 listed in NRI’s Chemical Processing technology area.
Many aspects of micro-scale chemical technologies (such as increased surface-to-volume ratio facilitating increased heat transfer rates, more uniform temperature distribution across cross-sections and volumes, special configurations to support high pressures and superheating, etc.) are advantageous in chemical production and have attracted considerable attention for use in production chemical plants. Additionally, small-scale fluidics-based photochemistry (see for example)and gas-phase photochemical has many potential advantages. Photochemical reactions are several orders of magnitude faster than thermal reactions and over valuable alternatives in organic and inorganic synthesis in that they proceed differently than thermal reactions. Photon absorption may enable a reaction not just by providing the necessary activation energy, but additionally by changing a molecule’s electronic configuration enabling an otherwise inaccessible reaction path (Woodward–Hoffmann rules). Temperature has very little effect on the rate of a photochemical reaction, and photochemical processes often provide shorter and more efficient synthetic routes to complex organic molecules. The span of the gambit of synthesis by photochemical processes is only recently becoming appreciated for industrial chemical manufacturing. (See for an informative overview regarding energy-framework comparisons of reaction mechanisms). Although originally directed towards microfluidic chemical synthesis, NRI has developed a number of related relevant technologies, for example multi-stage photochemical processing, use of high-efficiency narrow-band longer-life smaller non-mercury non-fragile UV LEDs, and augmentation by electrochemical processes. Representative examples of some of these technologies are discussed in NRI’s U.S. Patent 8,734,732 listed in Chemical Processing technology area.