A Hawaii-based company has started producing chemical diagnostic kits, based on a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory technology, that permits the U.S. military to check the safety of munitions.
The kits, known as field-portable thin-layer chromatography (TLC) units, are produced by Ho'olana Technologies of Hilo, Hawaii.
Technology for the TLC kits was developed by researchers in LLNL's Forensic Science Center and licensed in July 2001 by Alu Like Enterprises LLC to be manufactured by its subsidiary, Ho'olana Technologies LLC.
The new kits analyze for the presence and quantity of stabilizers in propellant mixtures found in munitions, thus insuring munitions are safe for handling and storage.
Stabilizers normally comprise 2 to 5 percent of the propellant mixture found in munitions. As the propellant ages, the stabilizer - that protects against the propellant undergoing accidental rapid decomposition or burn - is slowly consumed until its ability to stabilize is severely reduced. At this point, the propellant is said to be past its useful life and must be destroyed.
Propellant stabilizers are used in artillery shells, mortars, missile warheads and bombs.
Livermore researchers at the Forensic Science Center who developed the TLC technology were led by former Laboratory employee Jeff Haas. They included analytical chemists Jeanne Bazan, Greg Klunder, Pete Nunes and Rich Whipple.
The test kits manufactured by the Hawaiian firm, Ho’olana Technologies, contain all components necessary to perform thin layer chromatography in the field.
The kits include miniaturized lab equipment for use in the field such as battery operated stir boxes, and heating plates. Ho'olana also prepares components to be "field ready" such as drying and packaging TLC plates to resist effects caused by humidity.
The kits perform quantitative analysis by using digital imaging tools to determine quantities and ratios of stabilizers in the propellant. Compared to traditional laboratory TLC processes, the field kits require a much smaller sample size to determine if targeted chemicals are present.
One unique aspect of Ho'olana Technologies and its holding company is its mission to support its non-profit parent corporation, Alu Like Inc.
The 28-year-old non-profit company, Alu Like Inc., will solely benefit from the profits of its subsidiaries to help supplement a variety of education and social programs for the betterment of Hawaiians. Alu Like Inc. has grown into the largest native Hawaiian-controlled non-profit service organization in Hawaii.
All board members of Ho'olana Technologies LLC, Alu Like Enterprises LLC and Alu Like, Inc. are composed of business, academic, and community leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to guide the respective organizations.
Ho'olana Technologies will also add to the growing technology industry in Hawaii. According to Kevin Baptist, chair of Alu Like Enterprises LLC, "Ho’olana Technologies and our manufacturing plant were located in Hilo to bring economic activity to a community that is economically depressed. Hilo is located on the Big Island of Hawaii, which has a large native Hawaiian population."
Baptist also noted, "My experience working with the Laboratory's Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization Office opens up an entire new realm of possibilities for small businesses forming partnerships with government."
"The administrators were helpful and empowering, while the scientists were brilliant and took the time to make sure we thoroughly understood the transferred technology. I definitely want to continue this partnership."
According to Ted Kesaji, chair of the Ho'olana operation and office committee, "Ho'olana literally means 'to set afloat or to launch' but, as in many Hawaiian words, there’s a deeper meaning. Ho'olana is the start of a new voyage filled with challenge and anticipation to find one's true potential and fulfillment.”
The company marked its first year in Hilo in March of this year and has just completed its first contract, delivering 50 complete TLC kits to LLNL for research and development for the U.S. Army.
Two Hilo residents have been part of the firm's start-up team and are major contributors to the new business. Amber Aiona is presently a scientific technician and Uilani Peralta is the company’s forensic technician and project supervisor.
The licensed technology has met fairness of opportunity guidelines and has been licensed on a non-exclusive basis.
Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Laboratory news releases and photos are also available electronically on the World Wide Web of the Internet at URL http://www.llnl.gov/PAO and on UC Newswire.