Investors and scientists converge at 2022 DisrupTECH tech-transfer event

Award-winning innovations improve crime-scene investigation and methane-leak detection

By Tricia Ware | September 19, 2022

Disruptech Opt
Lead scientist Manvendra Dubey (left) demonstrates a component of the Autonomous Low-cost Fast Leak Detection System, a neural-network solution that detects methane gas leaks for petroleum-production facilities. If widely implemented, the cost-effective technology could reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas by up to 90%.

Cutting-edge technologies with tech-transfer potential—including better forensic sampling methods, lower-cost methane-leak detection, 3-D printing of steel tools and improved carbon-capture—were among eight presentations made by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists as part of the 2022 DisrupTECH event.

A joint project between the Laboratory, the Feynman Center for Innovation and the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, the 2022 DisrupTECH was attended either virtually or in person by about 140 entrepreneurs, investors, industry partners, community members and laboratory and regional leaders.

The 2022 DisrupTECH award for Most Fundable Technology went to Manvendra Dubey for Autonomous Low-cost Fast Leak Detection System, a neural-network solution that detects methane gas leaks for petroleum-production facilities. The 2022 DisrupTECH award for Best Pitch went to Vlad Henzl and Ann Junghans for BioGoo, which could revolutionize crime-scene investigations with high-efficiency forensic sampling.

“DisrupTECH is a celebration of the diversity and passion of the research at Los Alamos,” said Henzl. “I have worked at the Lab for 13 years, and I was not aware of 90 percent of the innovations presented today. There are so many cool ideas that may have enormous benefits to society at large.”

During their award-winning presentation, Henzl and Junghans reported that one-third of murder cases go unsolved because there is not sufficient DNA evidence linking the suspect to the crime. This is because DNA collection at crime scenes is done with cotton swabs, which are ineffective on fabric and irregular surfaces. Henzl and Junghans’s technology, BioGoo, is a peel-off coating that can be applied to any surface, then hardens and can be removed—along with any traces of biological evidence. The scientists are seeking not only additional funding and support for controlled benchmarking experiments but also law-enforcement partners to test the effectiveness of their product and hope to have it on the market by 2024.

Manvendra Dubey has already received accolades from the 2019 R&D 100 awards and Forbes for ALFa-LDS. The technology addresses the issue of leaks of the potent, invisible greenhouse gas methane by natural gas producers, but particularly small to mid-tier producers who can’t afford the high cost of conventional leak-detection methods. The product is an artificial neural-network tool that integrates data from methane and ethane sensors with wind fields to accurately locate (within 1km) natural gas leaks for efficient, cost-effective repair. They estimate that widespread use of the technology could reduce methane emissions by up to 90 %. Dubey and the development team at Los Alamos, including Aaron Meyer, are seeking an industry partner for further demonstration and commercial advocacy.

Sponsors for the 2022 DisrupTECH are the New Mexico Economic Development Department, New Mexico BioScience Authority and OrcTech.

Additional 2022 DisrupTECH presenters were:

  • Kalpak Dighe: K-Modules: Capacitive energy modules for pulsed power
  • Jeff Inman: Streaming Network Computing
  • Ryan Mier: Manufacturing the Future: Printing hardened steel tools
  • Vitaly Pavlenko: Automated Growth of Photocathodes
  • Garrett Ransom: The Grand Unified File Index (GUFI)
  • Harshul Thakkar: Carbon Membranes for Hydrogen Production and Carbon