Bits & Pieces
March 2001
Cell System to Be Installed in Virginia’s Cape Henry Lighthouse
FuelCell Energy announced the award of contracts for two new power plants using the company’s Direct FuelCell (DFC), one of which will go in the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story. The DFC process has been de- signed for coal mine and remote applications. The first contract awarded is for a $5.4 million project with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for the design, construction and operation of a 250 kW DFC, utilizing coal mine methane gas, at the Harrison Mining Corporation coal mine in Cadiz, OH. The second contract, for $100,000, is from the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, in Groton, CT, for a remote location, 3 kW fuel cell power system, using methanol for fuel. It is scheduled to be installed during the second quarter of 2001 at the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Fort Story.

Whitescarver, Hurd & Obenchain, Inc. Opens New Richmond Office
Whitescarver, Hurd & Obenchain, Inc., based in Roanoke, has opened a new office at 11508 Allecingie Parkway in Richmond, Virginia. The firm, headed by CEO, Charles K. Whitescarver, Jr., announced that Michael B. Hurd, President, will head-up the Richmond office offering full Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Construction Administration services.

Construction Management Contract Awarded To Langley & McDonald, LLC
Tom B. Langley, PE, LS, recently announced that Michael Espejo has selected Langley & McDonald, LLC, a Virginia Beach based firm experienced in residential, commercial and industrial land development for both private and governmental clients, to provide construction management services to complete the design and construction of the new East Beach Marina in East Ocean View on Little Creek in Norfolk. East Beach Marina will offer over 120 new floating boat slips and a new multi-use building housing the Blue Crab Restaurant, a ship’s store and two condominium unites surrounded on three sides by water.

Earth to Mars In Two Weeks Seen With Unusual New Nuclear Fuel
Scientists at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev have shown that an unusual nuclear fuel could speed space vehicles from Earth to Mars in as little as two weeks. Standard chemical propulsion used in existing spacecraft currently takes from between eight to ten months to make the same trip. Calculations supporting this conclusion have been announced by Prof. Yigal Ronen, of BGU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and graduate student Eugene Shwagerous. The two researchers say that the fairly rare nuclear material americium-242m (Am-242m) can maintain sustained nuclear fission as an extremely thin metallic film, less than a thousandth of a millimeter thick. In this form, the extremely high-energy, high-temperature fission products can escape the fuel elements and be used for propulsion in space. Obtaining fission-fragments is not possible with the better-known uranium-235 and plutonium-239 nuclear fuels: they require large fuel rods, which absorb fission products. Prof. Ronen became interested in nuclear reactors for space vehicles some 15 years ago at a conference dedicated to this subject. To meet the challenge of a light nuclear reactor, he examined one element of reactor design, the nuclear fuel itself. He found at the time that of the known fission fuels, Am-242m is the frontrunner, requiring only 1 percent of the mass (or weight) of uranium or plutonium to reach its critical state. He also recently examined various theoretical structures for positioning Am-242m metal and control materials for space reactors, and determined that this fuel could indeed sustain fission in the form of thin films that release high-energy fission products. Moreover, he learned how these fission products could be used themselves as a propellant, or to heat a gas for propulsion, or to fuel a special generator that produces electricity. “There are still many hurdles to overcome before americium-242m can be used in space,” Prof. Ronen admits. “There is the problem of pro- ducing the fuel in large enough quantities from plutonium-241 and americium-241, which requires several steps and is expensive. But the material is already available in fairly small amounts. In addition, actual reactor design, refueling, heat removal, and safety provisions for manned vehicles have not yet been examined. “However, I am sure that americium-242m will eventually be implemented for space travel, as it is the only proven material whose fission products can be made available for high speed propulsion. I think that we are now far enough advanced to interest international space programs in taking a closer look at americium-based space vehicles.”

Fold-Up Television Screens Could Result from OLED Developments
Technology development may lead to flexible television screens you can fold up and carry in your pocket. Ghassan Jabbour, assistant research professor in the Optical Sciences department at the University of Arizona, says continued research and development of organic lightemitting devices (OLEDs) may provide such practical applications. The OLEDs, says Jabbour, are more cost effective and easier to produce than the conventional liquid crystal light-emitting diode (LEDs). Also, they have more appealing attributes over liquid crystals presently used in laptop display monitors and other electronic appliances. “The organic light-emitting device emits its own light and allows for sunlight-readable displays with a wide viewing angle as opposed to liquid crystals which do not emit their own light but rather use an external light source. They cannot be clearly viewed under sunlight and have a narrow viewing angle. An additional feature that is unique to OLEDs is the ability to make them on a flexible substrate such as Saran wrap, for example.” There is also a potential for making OLEDs using very cost effective technologies such as screen printing. The actual screen printing which is used to make the film required for the fabrication of the OLEDs is not new. It’s the basic technique used by screen printers for centuries using a frame, a fabric, a design stencil ink and a squeegee. For example, a polymer-molecular blend acting as the ink is deposited onto several substrata situated under the screen in direct contact with the fabric. This process will yield a very thin film that is used as one of the active layers in OLEDs. Using screen printing, however, Prof. Jabbour and his team were able to make for the first time ultra thin films that are nearly a thousand times thinner than the human hair. The organic materials themselves acted as the ink in this case. The beauty of screen printing, says Jabbour, is its versatility, its ability to print on almost any surface, its low cost and its production speed. Prof. Jabbour cautions, however, that the work is still in its early develop ment and requires further research and investigation to allow for a more fundamental understanding and optimization of the fabrication process to assess its potential in making reliable devices.

Biotechnology Solves Seepage of Chlorinated Solvents Into Groundwater
A Pacific Northwest National Laboratory cleanup technology that’s attacking chromate seeping into groundwater at the Department of Energy’s Hanford site in Washington state now stands ready to serve the military and commercial companies with another troubling environmental concern: halting the seepage of chlorinated solvents. In-Situ Redox Manipulation, or ISRM, uses standard groundwater monitoring wells to inject chemical reagents and buffers into the subsurface, creating a barrier that organic contaminants, such as trichloroethylene, move through and are then destroyed in the process. Laboratory and field tests conducted at a Washington state Army base have shown positive results in destroying chlorinated solvents.

A & E Municipal Contracts Seminar
The Old Dominion University Civil and Environmental Engineering Visiting Council in association with the Norfolk Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers is presenting a one day seminar entitled “A/E GOV-ERNMENT CONTRACTS: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?” on May 3, 2001, 8:00 A.M., at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, 7001 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk, Virginia. The seminar will provide the A/E and contracting community with information on potential projects, contracts and budgets that are being developed by local and regional municipal governments for the upcoming year. Registration is due by April 30, 2001. The seminar fee is $125.00 and includes lunch, coffee breaks and handouts. The proceeds will go toward support of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Old Dominion University. For additional informa-tion, please contact Roland E. Dubbe, P.E. at Engineering Consulting Services, Ltd., (757) 366-5100 or For registration contact Old Dominion University, Department of Civil & Environmen-tal Engineering at (757) 683-3753.

Textbook Wins Prestigious Choice Award
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently announced that Mechanics of Sediment Transport has earned a place on Choice magazine’s 2000 Outstanding Academic Titles list. The first book in its field to unify research on the movement of sediment and boundary conditions, Mechanics of Sediment Transport was recog-nized because it has the most comprehensive coverage of the phenomena of sediment movement — from the origin and formation of sediment to its properties in pipelines. Incorporating nearly 40 years of theoretical devel-opment and practical experience, the new textbook presents thorough coverage of many schools of thought and provides a practical survey of sediment transport. Copies of the new book can be ordered through ASCE at 800.548.2723.