Technology From Wash. Lab Could Target Bed Bugs

SeattleTimes.com
Monday, November 28, 2011

RICHLAND, WA (Associated Press) - Scanning technology developed at a Richland lab to screen airplane passengers could soon be used to target bedbugs.

The technology developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been licensed to a startup company in Corvallis, Ore., as part of a White House initiative to help young companies grow, the Tri-City Herald reports.

The lab, part of the Department of Energy, has signed option agreements with startup companies for three technologies. Innovations include millimeter wave technology to be used to see inside walls to detect insects hiding there, and advances to improve rechargeable batteries and fuel cells.

VisiRay in Corvallis, Ore., signed an option agreement with PNNL for millimeter wave technology and plans to manufacture devices to detect pests in buildings. The initial target will be bedbugs, sometimes called wall louse, because they may live inside walls as well as in beds and couches, the Tri-City Herald reports.

VisiRay was started by University of Oregon Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship students participating in PNNL's University Technology Entrepreneurship Program. The company's products would allow inspectors to see through drywall particle board and view clear images of pests inside walls. The initial target will be bedbugs, sometimes called wall louse, because they may live inside walls as well as in beds and couches.

PNNL initially developed the millimeter wave technology with Federal Aviation Administration grants to scan passengers using harmless radio waves. It can detect objects hidden beneath their clothing, whether they are metal, liquid, plastic or ceramic. The technology now is in use at about 78 airports nationwide.

In June, that same technology was licensed to be used to help shoppers by creating a three-dimensional holographic image of their bodies to help them find clothing most likely to fit them.

"We have a long history of working closely with entrepreneurs and early stage companies to develop and adapt our innovations into new or improved products and services," said Cheryl Cejka, PNNL's director of technology commercialization, in a statement.

The White House's Startup America initiative reduces the cost of options to license patents to U.S. startup companies to $1,000, a fraction of the usual cost.

PNNL also signed agreements could lead to products designed to increase the storage capacity of rechargeable batteries used to power portable devices, such as laptop computers, and electric vehicles. Recharging could take minutes instead of hours, according to the Richland lab. Another PNNL technology is being used to reduce the use of platinum in certain fuel cells that are used primarily for backup power.