Fact Sheets of the Week

Featured Company:

Home > Other Tech. > Fiber-Optic Laser Technology for Decontaminating Metals

Fiber-Optic Laser Technology for Decontaminating Metals

Fiber-Optic Laser System (ENR)

The Need

Waterjet and abrasive blasting techniques has been used for decontaminating metals. Decontaminating metals is as varied as removing lead paint from a bridge to cleaning metals contaminated by radioactive material. The use of both techniques can pose environmental problems because the cleaning process created additional waste. Often that waste is hazardous. There had been needs in industry to safely clean radioactive and hazardous contaminants with less waste.

The Technology

The fiber-optic laser technology resulted from a collaboration between INEEL (Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory) scientists and researchers at another Department of Energy facility, Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Unlike other metal cleaning technologies, the fiber optic laser system does not produce a secondary waste stream such as water, blasting material or solvents. This reduces waste disposal costs, which can be a significant expense in industrial cleanup. It also reduces environmental risk when waste materials are hazardous.

The technology uses a powerful, pencil-thin laser beam that is focused onto the contaminated area. The laser beam generates shock waves that eject particles of contamination into the air. Contaminants are then immediately sucked into a vacuum filter for disposal.

The system decontaminates metal surfaces such as tools and machinery, and removes hazardous surface coatings.

Using fiber optics to deliver the laser makes the system flexible and compact. The optical head, which aims the laser beam, is small enough to be hand-held. In hazardous or radioactive environments, it can be positioned by robot or remote manipulator arms to keep workers safe.

The Benefits


INEEL, through the Technology Transfer Office at Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company, has licensed the technology to an Atlanta-based industrial cleaning products and service company, ZawTech International Inc.. The license agreement gave the company rights to manufacture and market the technology in Canada, Mexico and U.S. The technology has been marketed as Laser ZAWCAD. Boeing's airplane refurbishment plant in Wichita, Kansas has been used the technology since October 1998.


With the base price of $300,000, plus any application-specific wand or nozzle, the system is very expensive.

Points of Contact


  1. D.O.E. Labs Commercialize New Laser Technology, INEEL, http://www.inel.gov/whats_new/press_releases/1997/prlaser2.html
  2. Decontamination with Lasers, Ames Laboratory, http://www.etd.ameslab.gov/etd/technologies/projects/laserdecon/laserdecon.html
  3. Fiber optic lasers clean hard-to-reach spots, Inside INEEL, http://www.inel.gov/resources/newsletters/inside/marchinsert2.html
  4. Green Cutting and Cleaning Technologies Attract Commercial Partner, DOE News
  5. Laser Cleans Metals Effeciently, ENR, January 5, 1998.
  6. Largest Business To Date 'Spins Out' From INEEL, DOE News

Disclaimer Statement

Neither the Construction Industry Institute nor Purdue University in any way endorses this technology or represents that the information presented can be relied upon without further investigation.


Add Comment

This site is operated and maintained by the Division of Construction Engineering & Management, Purdue University as a not-for-profit service to the construction industry