September 21, 1999

Brookhaven Lab and W.R. Grace Win R&D 100 Award
for Asbestos-Digesting Foam

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and W.R. Grace & Co. have jointly won a prestigious R&D 100 award for their invention of an asbestos-digesting foam. The new formulation chemically digests the asbestos fibers in fireproofing and other materials, while maintaining the material's functional properties.

R& D 100 Awards are given annually by R&D Magazine to the top 100 technological achievements of the year. Typically, these are innovations that transform basic science into useful products. The awards will be presented at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry on September 23.

Brookhaven and Grace developed the patented foam over a four-year period of joint research and testing. Grace is now marketing the product under the name DMA" for use in asbestos-containing products, such as fireproofing on building columns, beams and decking. LVI Environmental Services Group, Inc., of New York, and North Shore Environmental Industries, of Michigan, have been licensed by Grace as applicators of the DMA" process.

Ronald Webster, the researcher who now heads the asbestos program at Brookhaven, commented, "We are pleased that our cooperative research with Grace resulted in a product that has proven to be highly effective. I congratulate Leon Petrakis, recently retired from Brookhaven, who initiated and led the asbestos research effort with W.R. Grace. With Grace's Construction Products Division, Brookhaven is continuing research on other potential uses of the DMA "foam, including other types of asbestos-containing insulation." Webster and Petrakis will represent the Brookhaven team at the awards ceremony in Chicago.

The foam is an acid solution that is sprayed directly onto the asbestos-containing material. It chemically digests asbestos fibers, dissolving them into harmless minerals and leaving behind a material that still retains its functions, but is no longer considered a regulated material. The active ingredients in DMA" are phosphoric acid and a small amount of a proprietary fluoride catalyst.

The process is the first to chemically destroy asbestos without first removing the material. Current conventional techniques for removing asbestos require the construction of airtight barriers, labor-intensive scraping, and the installation of new material.

The new product eliminates the need to remove and replace older material and substantially reduces the time needed for the entire process. Moreover, the new process produces essentially no waste and saves building owners the expense of disposing of regulated asbestos waste materials.

The foam was first evaluated in Brookhaven's unique testing laboratory, specially equipped to handle asbestos. It was then tested at a four-story building with existing asbestos-containing fireproofing. The DMA "-treated fireproofing also was tested at Underwriters Laboratories using nationally recognized test procedures. Those tests demonstrated that treated fireproofing maintained the same fire rating on columns, beams and decking as the originally installed material.

Using powerful x-rays at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source, as well as conventional laboratory instruments, Brookhaven and Grace also developed a new analytical method that detects asbestos fibers in material containing as little as 0.1 percent of the fibers. The new method was developed in order to accurately determine asbestos levels below one percent, which is the regulatory limit above which a material is considered to be an asbestos-containing material.

The partnership between Brookhaven and Grace took place through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, which provided for joint funding of the multi-million dollar project. The project received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management and the Office of Science's Laboratory Technology Research Program. Initial funding also came from Brookhaven's Laboratory Directed Research and Development funds and Department of Applied Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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