News Release

Argonne scientists capture several R&D 100 Awards

Peer-Reviewed Publication

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

Oleo Sponge

image: Argonne won several R&D 100 Awards for its reusable Oleo Sponge, which can clean up oil spills from water and absorb up to 90 times its own weight in oil. Argonne researchers who helped develop the Oleo Sponge include Jeff Elam, Ed Barry, Seth Darling, Jason Avila, Anil Mane and Joe Libera (from left to right). view more 

Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

Innovative technologies developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently earned multiple R&D 100 Awards.

The prestigious annual competition — sponsored by R&D Magazine and recognizing the 100 most innovative technologies of the past year — is widely considered the “Oscars” of innovation. The magazine named 169 finalists in August, with the 100 winners announced November 17 at the 2017 R&D 100 Awards and Technology Conference in Orlando.

“We’re immensely proud of the accomplished scientists and engineers who make up the Argonne community — and particularly those individuals who earned this prestigious recognition.” - Paul K. Kearns, Laboratory Director.

A total of 130 R&D 100 Awards have gone to Argonne scientists since the competition’s inception in 1964.

Argonne scientists and their winning projects include:

• Seth Darling, Jeff Elam, Ed Barry, Anil Mane, Joseph Libera and Jason Avila, “Oleo Sponge” (Center for Nanoscale Materials, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, Energy Systems division)
• Nate Evans and Michael L. Thompson, “Multiple Operating System Rotation Environment Moving Target Defense” (MORE MTD) (Global Security Sciences division)

R&D Magazine honored the Oleo Sponge with three awards  — R&D 100 Award, Gold Special Recognition Award for Green Tech and R&D Editor’s Choice Award for Mechanical/Materials research. The publication also honored Argonne’s MORE MTD technology with the R&D 100 Award. 

“We’re immensely proud of the accomplished scientists and engineers who make up the Argonne community — and particularly those individuals who earned this recognition,” said Paul K. Kearns, Laboratory Director.

Oleo Sponge

A novel absorbent for cleaning up oil spills from water, the Oleo Sponge can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in oil, is reusable and can collect oil both above and below the water’s surface. Oleo Sponge is manufactured by chemically treating commercial foam such as polyurethane to render it highly oleophilic (oil-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-repelling) so that it rapidly and selectively absorbs oil from an oil/water mixture. The Oleo Sponge can be wrung out to recover the oil and immediately used again.

Although absorbent products exist for cleaning oil from the water’s surface, Oleo Sponge is the only known technology for cleaning up sub-surface oil droplets suspended in water.

Principal investigators are Seth Darling, Director of Argonne’s Institute for Molecular Engineering; and Jeff Elam, senior chemist and group leader in Argonne’s Energy Systems division.

Multiple Operating System Rotation Environment Moving Target Defense

MORE MTD is a proactive defense mechanism that enhances computer system security through the rotation of multiple operating systems. This increases the uncertainty and cost of attacking while reducing the likelihood of an attacker locating a vulnerability. The rotating operating systems help isolate and protect backend data from potential impacts that could result from exploits of zero-day vulnerabilities. These are unknown weaknesses in a computer application exploited by attackers on "day zero" of awareness. The new approach ensures that the forward-facing operating system changes before the attacker can execute any code to exploit the vulnerability. The rotating operating systems create a consistently changing attack surface for remote attackers.

MORE MTD is one of the few functional products to emerge so far from the field of “moving target defense” research and development. Research in this area has typically focused on theoretical designs without demonstrating the feasibility and effectiveness of implemented proposals.

Principal investigators are Nate Evans, group lead for Argonne's Cyber Operations Analysis and Research team; and Michael L. Thompson, cyber security analyst at Argonne.

Entries that reached the finalist stage but were not named to the R&D 100 include:

Smart Charge Adapter (SCA)

The Smart Charge Adapter can convert any plug-in electric vehicle AC charging station into a smart charging station capable of communicating with the electric grid. By allowing utilities greater control over the process, smart charging stations can help them better manage loads on the grid. 

The Smart Change Adapter enables charging station operators to remotely control the entire process. It includes built-in Wi-Fi communication and can seamlessly stop, start and increase or decrease the charging level of any charge session. The SCA works with plug-in electric vehicle/charge station combinations without requiring that an electrician upgrade either the vehicle or the charging station.

The Smart Charge Adapter’s principal investigator is Jason Harper, principal electrical engineer in Argonne’s Energy Systems Division.


Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

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