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History of Gradient Technology

In The Beginning --- Duane Goetsch and Dr. Nancy Dickerson established Gradient Technology in 1994, later incorporating in 1996, with a small cadre of experienced chemical engineers formerly with the Exxon Research Laboratories to develop innovative chemical solutions to a wide range of problems. Initially our engineers worked on petrochemical research for Fischer-Tropsch production of synthetic fuel from waste gas. Gradient Technology’s creative approach to problem solving quickly provided novel technical solutions for a number of other commercial and governmental applications.

Gradient Technology has continued to expand its expertise into diverse fields while focusing on innovation and thinking “outside the box.” As part of a cooperative agreement, Gradient Technology has been closely tied with the University of Minnesota from its inception and some of their best chemical engineering students have become Gradient Technology employees after working on these joint projects.

Gradient Technology has worked with commercial munitions manufacturers to design and develop a system to recover Tritonal from M117 GP (General Purpose) bombs and recycle it into reusable TNT and aluminum. These efforts into demilitarization led to Gradient Technology’s advancing the state-of-the-art in waterjet demilitarization on Internal Research and Development (IR&D) projects for recovery of explosives from obsolete US Navy projectiles. Gradient Technology conducted the laboratory experiments and tests to provide the engineering design basis for each of these systems, designed them, and fabricated them.

Gradient Technology has provided engineering support services to a demilitarization consortium working with the Ukrainian government. This work included high pressure waterjet removal of TNT from high explosive rounds and establishing the feasibility of Soviet A-IX-1 (RDX) and A-IX-2 (aluminized-RDX) removal and recovery. Gradient Technology continues to develop additional processes for recovery or conversion of valuable materials from an array of reclaimed explosive compounds.

Gradient Technology opened their own, fully-licensed, explosive research laboratories in 1997 for research into the environmentally safe recovery of energetic materials. During the late 1990s Gradient teamed with, and later acquired, Tauern Metalworks for the fabrication of specialty chemical processing equipment. The addition of the specialty fabrication shop allowed Gradient Technology to have complete control over the integration of technology from laboratory research to operational equipment. The specialty fabrication lab includes full metal fabrication equipment capable of fabricating exotic metals such as Hastelloy™, Inconel®, and titanium alloys, as well as all variants of stainless steel. Welding capabilities include full AWS-certified GTAW (gas-tungsten arc welding) and GMAW (gas-metal arc welding) capable of meeting ASME Section VIII pressure vessel and ASME B31 process piping standards.

Starting in 1999 Gradient Technology has expanded our chemical processing operations into the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division with multiple contracts for the design and fabrication of both a high speed projectile demilitarization system for the US Army Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA) and a chemical conversion system for the US Navy. Additional pilot plant equipment for the recycling of plastic-bonded explosives (PBX) was also installed at NSWC-Crane in support of the Air Force Research Laboratories – Eglin AFB.

In 2001 Gradient Technology was honored with the Tibbett’s Award by the United States Small Business Administration. This prestigious national award is made annually to those small firms, projects, organizations, and individuals judged to exemplify the very best in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) achievement.

Gradient Technology expanded into the field demilitarization of discarded military munitions (DMM) at formerly used defense sites (FUDS) in FY2003. Gradient Technology provided the equipment, personnel, and expertise for the waterjet demilitarization of over 500 ordnance and explosive (OE) shapes at the former NSWC-White Oak facilities in suburban Washington, DC. On-site waterjet cutting allowed the US Navy to demilitarize the ordnance shapes at a fraction of the cost of alternative technologies. This technology is expected to be more widely used as additional military bases are closed under the base realignment and closure (BRAC)process.