PATUXENT – Naval Air Warfare Center scientists Luis Gierbolini and Dennis Goss were searching for a simple solution to a challenging problem: find a way to clean aircraft oxygen lines without using Freon, which has been banned because it depletes ozone.
They also needed to come up with replacement for the bulky cleaning devices in use.
It took two years, but Gierbolini and Goss created a device with specially designed hoses, pumps and filters, that uses a safer solution and is cost effective.
Not long ago, that would have been the end of the story, and no one would have heard of their invention. But the contraption worked so well it was chosen for a new program to bring Navy inventions into the consumer marketplace. It was patented and exclusively contracted out to Calvert Hydraulics in St. Mary’s County.
“If those lines are not cleaned properly there will be fires and possible loss of life,” said Goss, 35.
Creating new ideas or devices to overcome the occasional bump in the road has become routine for engineers at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent. But while the scientists think their designs are unspectacular, the Navy is working to show them that’s not the case.
The Department of Defense’s technology transfer program, still in its infancy, identifies ideas and devices created by base engineers and approves a few to be patented and marketed for commercial use. The program recently got a boost from a $1.6 million technology commercialization agreement with the Maryland Technology Development Corp. and the Patuxent Partnership, a 200-member economic growth association.
The new money will help create more exchanges of technology like that with Calvert Hydraulics, said Nancy Neal who runs the Technology Transfer Office, one of four such offices in the nation. The others are in California, New Jersey and Florida.
Neal’s office consists of four people, including her. It’s often difficult for them, she said, to visualize commercial uses for the Navy technology, but they’re getting better at it.
And it’s frustrating, she said, because many of the scientists, who typically do not consider their creations marketable inventions, fail to report them.
“We are the Department of Defense and it’s a lot harder to find civilian use for most of our equipment,” said Neal, a former weapons engineer. “There is not a lot of use for a radar targeting system in civilian life.”
While locating uses for, say, an underwater laser imaging application is challenging, Neal said it becomes even tougher because her program is expected to meet the standards set by more established programs at the Department of Agriculture, National Air and Space Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
Yet, the base is an ideal place for creation, Neal said. The engineers are constantly researching, developing, testing and evaluating Navy and Marine aircraft and all their support systems. On a regular day, from five to 15 different aircraft can be found zooming around the base, which is on the banks of the Patuxent River as it opens into the Chesapeake Bay.
With the base under heightened alert, as America embarks on its war against terrorism, James Darcy, base spokesman, said many of the engineers take even more pride in what they do. “It’s one thing to develop technology and have it sit around waiting to be used,” he said. “It’s another to actually test a system or aircraft and have it actually go out in the field.” – 30 – CNS-9-28-01