June 5, 2000

Brookhaven Lab's Quiet Jackhammer Wins DISCOVER Magazine Award

UPTON, NY - Smashing concrete, but quietly. That's the main advantage of RAPTOR, short for rapid cutter of concrete, a unique device that has won a 2000 DISCOVER Award for Technological Innovation. Developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, the winning invention is a quieter, safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to the conventional jackhammer.

RAPTOR's lead innovator, Gaby Ciccarelli, a mechanical engineer at Brookhaven Lab, has been invited to attend an awards gala at Epcot, at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, on June 24, where 19 technological visionaries will be honored for their innovations in eight categories: aerospace, communications, computing, energy, entertainment, health, humanitarian and transportation Ð the category in which RAPTOR won. The awards ceremony will follow a two-day "Media Expo" featuring some of the most ingenious and creative innovations.

"This DISCOVER Award is a measure of the science and technology leadership of our National Laboratories," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "Brookhaven Laboratory and its industrial partners are improving people's lives by developing technology that not only is quieter, safer and more environmentally friendly, but can revolutionize the construction industry."

Ciccarelli commented, "Because RAPTOR will be relatively quiet compared to a jackhammer, it can be used at night, resulting in decreased traffic congestion. It will also be fast and efficient ­ its operator can roll the device down the concrete pavement while firing its projectiles at the rate of six shots per minute, breaking up a standard three foot by three foot opening in just under ten minutes."

Entries for the 2000 DISCOVER Awards exemplified the vast proliferation of technology in virtually every area of life. The
winner and finalist named in each category were chosen from thousands of noteworthy innovations by DISCOVER's own editorial panel and an outside panel of evaluators. All of the winners and finalists are profiled in the July issue of DISCOVER magazine.

The revolutionary RAPTOR technology uses a helium-driven gas gun to accelerate projectiles such as steel nails to 5,000 feet per second. The gas gun uses a free-moving piston within a tube to compress helium from between 30 and 50 pounds per square inch (psi) to 15,000 psi and over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a fraction of a second. This rapidly compressed helium drives the projectiles. The 6.5-foot long, 265-pound device can break up six-inch-thick concrete. Researchers are confident that the device can be scaled up for even thicker concrete demolition.

Besides decreasing noise and traffic congestion, RAPTOR's advantages over the conventional jackhammer include reducing energy use, air pollution, worker injury and operating costs. Conventional jackhammers run on air supplied by a compressor, which uses gasoline or diesel fuel, while the new device runs on environmentally benign compressed gas. Expected to be at least 25 percent faster than the jackhammer, it is also safer and more worker-friendly.

In addition to using RAPTOR for resurfacing roads and bridge decks, the technology eventually may be used in underground mining and in search and rescue missions.

James Powell, a nuclear engineer from Brookhaven Lab, conceived the original idea for breaking concrete with high-speed projectiles, but has since retired. Ciccarelli came up with the concept of using a free-piston gas gun for accelerating the projectiles, resulting in a more practical and less costly device. Since 1996, Ciccarelli and fellow Brookhaven researcher Mano Subudhi have been developing the device with the Gas Research Institute (GRI) of Chicago under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. GRI holds the license to the technology, which the company projects will be marketed this year. Other sponsors for the development of RAPTOR are Keyspan Energy Company/Brooklyn Union, Consolidated Edison Company of New York and Southern California Gas Company.

After earning a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Ciccarelli joined Brookhaven Lab in 1991. He initially worked on developing a high-temperature combustion facility, which was used for hydrogen research by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Japanese Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation. Currently, in addition to testing and making final adjustments to RAPTOR, he is involved with chemical process explosion safety for DuPont.

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 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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NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Gaby Ciccarelli is a resident of East Setauket, NY.


Last updated 6/5/00 by Public Affairs