NASA ICB 2005 Awards

Invention of the Year Award for 2005

The Government and Commercial Invention of the Year Awards for 2005 went to EZVI Zero-Valent Metal Emulsion for Reductive Dehalogenation of DNAPL-Phase Environmental Contaminants. Halogenated solvents, such as trichloroethene (TCE), are used by industry as degreasers in the production of dry cleaning fluids, spot removers, insecticides and pesticides, as well as in many other manufacturing processes. These solvents enter the groundwater and soil environments through improper disposal practices, and are of great concern due to their toxicity and their persistence in the environment. When released into the ground, halogenated solvents, such as TCE, will sink through the subsurface soil and groundwater until it is contained by a nonpermeable surface such as bedrock. At this point it will pool and slowly dissolve into the aquifer in which it was released. Halogenated solvents that have higher densities than water are referred to as Dense Nonaqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs). Due to the low solubility of many halogenated solvents, the pool will continue to contaminate groundwater for extended periods of time. As the groundwater is in constant motion, this pool can contaminate very large areas of the potential drinking water.

Breakdown of halogenated solvents in natural environments is very slow and produces other potential harmful by-products. EZVI is a surfactant-stabilized, biodegradable water-in-oil emulsion with zero-valent metal particles contained within emulsion micelles. EZVI may contain either nanoscale zero-valent iron particles or microscale iron particles that are used to dehalogenate DNAPLs. EZVI was developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to degrade very high concentration halogenated compounds like the cleaning solvents that NASA used ubiquitously during the Gemini and Apollo programs. These solvents, which are now known to be carcinogenic, were often disposed of into the subsurface at a number of NASA Centers. Subsequently, it has become NASA's responsibility to return impacted natural media to as near pristine conditions as possible. The spinoffs into cleaning the environment are manifold and of immense value.

EZVI Micrograph of nano-ion emulsion.

Software of the Year Awards for 2005

The Land Information System software, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is a high performance land surface modeling and data assimilation system. It integrates parallel and distributed computing technologies with modern land surface modeling capabilities, and establishes a framework for easy interchange of other land surface models. The software includes an ensemble of land surface models and can be run regionally or globally on grids with horizontal resolutions ranging from 2.5 degrees to 1 km. The software may execute serially or in parallel on various high performance computing platforms. In addition, the software developed has well defined, standard conforming interfaces and data structures to interface and interoperate with other Earth System models.

Developed with support from the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) Computational Technologies, LIS has helped advance the Earth-Sun division's software engineering principles and practices, while promoting portability, interoperability and scalability. LIS is being used on the science teams for the currently orbiting Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) and the EOS-Aqua Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E).

The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) software, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, enables a science-driven autonomous spacecraft to increase its science return by two orders of magnitude. ASE is a new approach to space exploration. Instead of relying on ground operations, a spacecraft can respond autonomously to detected science events. It provides onboard decision making by the spacecraft.

It accomplishes this efficiency by autonomously detecting and tracking dramatic environmental events on Earth, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, and wild fires. The ASE software has been successfully used on the Earth Observing One (EO-1) Mission.