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Research Successes - Environmental Technology

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Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources

Research Successes

Feds Move Technology from Lab to Marketplace

A $70 million investment since the mid-1970s by the U.S. Government in cooperation with the private sector, has spawned an annual $2.5 billion market for four environmental technologies and services. As of 1993, this investment has delivered to consumers an estimated $6 billion in energy savings, and a net benefit of $10 billion is anticipated over their entire service lives. Energy savings should increase many times over as the sales of energy- efficient technologies and services continue to grow.

The technologies developed include an electronic ballast that improves the efficiency of lighting systems by up to 30% and enhances both their quality and flexibility. The current market share of electronic ballasts is 24% of all ballasts sold. The research also developed advanced energy-efficient window coatings that, although invisible to the human eye, offer a 35% increase in energy efficiency over ordinary double-glazed windows; the current market share is 36% of all windows sold. A national laboratory provides the technical and economic analysis for all residential equipment and applicable standards necessary to set mandatory efficiency levels for household appliances and heating equipment. Finally, computer software that allows building designers to evaluate the energy ramifications of complex design alternatives, was developed. Currently, this software is used in the design of about 5% of all commercial buildings (by square footage), and users report that it enables them to identify opportunities for saving another 20% of the energy used.

Automobile Industry Recycling Catalytic Converters

Platinum metals that might have been thrown away or sent overseas for recovery are now beginning to be recycled in the United States, using a patented, federally developed, recycling technology. This technology, transferred from the federal government in 1994, increases the amount of platinum, rhodium, and palladium we retrieve from discarded automobile catalytic converters. The firm expects to process some 220,000 catalytic converters per year when its facility reaches full-scale production.

Catalytic converters use platinum-based catalysts to clean engine exhaust. Although we currently salvage more than half of these devices, some are exported to Japan or Europe for processing. Foreign companies typically recover platinum by leaching the catalysts with acids or smelting them in large-scale processing operations. Such operations are not, for the most part, environmentally or financially feasible in the United States. In contrast, the new process is simple, easy to control, and environmentally sound. Estimated capital costs are considered reasonable, and none of the wastes produced require special handling. Pilot tests recovered 90% of the platinum metals from the treated catalysts. These features make the process ideal for small recycling operations.

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Environment and Natural Resources - Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Executive Summary

Research Successes - Ecosystem Research

Research Successes - Observation & Data Management

Research Successes - Biodiversity

Research Successes - Environmental Technology

Research Successes - Global Change


Research Successes - Natural Disaster Reduction

Research Successes - Environmental Change

Research Successes - Forest Research

Research Successes - Air Quality

Research Successes - Lead Levels

Research Successes - Science Policy Tools

Research Successes - Water Resources