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Three New England Small Businesses Win EPA Grants for Environmental Technologies

Release Date: 06/19/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – June 19, 2013) – Three New England companies won a total of nearly $240,000 through an EPA grant to small businesses to develop new environmental technologies that will help protect people’s health and the environment.

The awards in New England were given to:

- Physical Sciences, Inc. of Andover, Mass. was awarded $79,895 to develop process that would create a domestic source of elements used in making electronics, batteries and other consumer items;
- Radiation Monitoring Devices of Watertown, Mass. was awarded $80,000 to develop a new technology to make it easier to inspect thousands of miles of water pipes nationwide; and
- Precision Combustion Inc. of North Haven, Conn. was awarded $79,895 to develop a burner that can make use of the gases that are byproducts of waste to energy systems.

“EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research program funds innovative research resulting in new commercial products, processes and services that protect the environment, benefit the public, and promote the growth of small businesses,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We applaud the New England companies that are helping to find solutions for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future.”

The three New England companies were among some 25 projects nationwide that won $2 million to develop innovative ideas that could protect the environment and public health. This year’s projects focus on drinking water, wastewater, manufacturing, green building, waste monitoring and management, air quality, sustainable use of biomass and homeland security.

Each of the 25 companies will receive a contract of up to $80,000 to develop their technology over the next six months. Once the project has been demonstrated to be commercially viable, then companies are eligible to compete for a Phase II award of up to $300,000 to commercialize their technology. To be eligible to participate in the program, a company must be an organized for-profit U.S. business, and have fewer than 500 employees.

Physical Sciences Inc. and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research are working to develop technology that would significantly reduce this country’s dependency on foreign suppliers of certain metals used for electronic and other devices. The project is developing a process that would use inexpensive domestic raw materials that are readily available to recover these “rare earth” elements.

The process could meet the projected demand by the U.S. over the next decade using a small fraction of the annual production of the domestic raw materials. The process also removes hazardous contaminants from the raw materials as part of recovering these elements, which makes them more valuable commercially. The funds announced today will help the team show the feasibility of the process on laboratory scale.

"If the technology is as successful as anticipated, it will help us reduce our reliance on foreign countries for elements crucial in manufacturing everything from wind turbines used in renewable energy, motors used in hybrid electric cars, and automotive catalytic converters, all of which support the U.S. industrial base and the modern U.S. economy,” said Prakash Joshi of Physical Sciences, Inc., project leader.

Radiation Monitoring Devices is developing technology for inspecting water pipes that will protect national water resources and drinking water. Most of the country’s infrastructure dates back to the mid-20th century, with some parts over 100 years old. Much of this infrastructure is approaching the end of its useful life. Every year, hundreds of catastrophic water main ruptures occur across the country, while smaller leaks result in the loss of millions of gallons of drinking water. There is general consensus pipes should be replaced, but because of limited resources, improved inspection technology is needed to prioritize repairs. RMD’s technology targets inspection of the thousands of miles of large-diameter water pipes known as pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. The combination of materials used in these pipes makes them challenging to inspect with existing technology. RMD’s approach to generating eddy currents in the steel components of the pipe, combined with its high sensitivity, low noise magnetic sensors, will greatly improve the reliability and speed of inspection. The EPA funding will let RMD develop a prototype probe and test it in collaboration with its partner, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, a national engineering firm.

“We greatly appreciate the funding opportunity from the EPA,” said Michael R. Squillante, vice president of research at RMD. “A successful project will lead to safer water supply systems throughout the country.”

Precision Combustion Inc. will develop a catalytic burner that will broaden the range of biogas that can be burned, which will mean burning gases with a greater variety of compositions and lower BTU contents. The low emissions and low pressure drop burner will improve the efficiency and economics of biomass as a renewable fuel source, reducing fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions. It will also let biomass waste-to-gas system operators use a wider range of bio-feedstocks to maximize the return on their investment. The second phase of the program will actually use the burner at a biomass plant.

“For plant owners who can use biomass as fuels but whose efficiency is limited by biogas properties, our fuel flexible catalytic burner will broaden the range of economic fuel compositions beyond those feasible with conventional burners and be readily integrated into process heating, boiler and engine operations,” said Kevin Burns, PCI president.

More information on the SBIR Phase I recipients: http://epa.gov/ncer/sbir/13awards

More information on EPA’s SBIR program: www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir

More information on the SBIR program across the federal government: http://www.sbir.gov/

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