Saturday, November 1, 2014

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. New Assay Platform Detects Largest Number of Known Biotoxins Simultaneously
    Results: The largest panel of biotoxins to be simultaneously detected to date has been achieved using an assay platform developed by scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) microarray simultaneously detected 10 plant and microbial toxins in buffer and clinical and environmental samples. These included ricin, botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT), shiga (STX), and staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). Previously, the largest number of toxins to be simultaneously detected has been six.
  2. Particle Profusion Conclusion
    Results: Variety might be the spice of life, but it also presents a large challenge when modeling the climate. More than 70 researchers from 46 international institutions compared the ability of 31 models to simulate comprehensive physical and chemical characteristics and lifecycle of carbon-containing atmospheric vapor and particles. The researchers, including several from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, found differences of more than an order of magnitude in the simulated global atmospheric payload of these tiny particles. The research found little evidence that more complex simulations designed to study human impacts on organic aerosol are more accurate than simpler representations.
  3. When Nudge Comes to Shove
    Results: Thin and wispy cirrus clouds skirt the scrutiny of current climate models. To uncover that missing information, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is leading an international effort to run coordinated numerical experiments on major climate models from all over the world. PNNL scientists and their collaborators at the University of Wyoming, the University of California, San Diego, and ETH Zurich in Switzerland refined a widely used numerical strategy called "nudging"  so that the original model characteristics are correctly revealed. The technique offers a better way to study how atmospheric particles influence ice formation in clouds that affect the Earth's energy budget and influence precipitation.
  4. A High-Tech Team
    Dr. John Feo and Dr. Antonino Tumeo, from PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division, will serve as guest editors for a special issue of Computer focused on “Irregular Applications” to be published in August 2015. A noted peer-reviewed publication in the field, Computer is the IEEE Computer Society’s flagship magazine that covers all aspects of computer science and engineering. The “Irregular Applications” issue will center on exploring solutions for supporting the efficient design, development, and execution of irregular applications.
  5. Arun Devaraj, Daniel Perea Featured in Chemical & Engineering News Article on Seeing Atoms
    Arun Devaraj and Daniel Perea, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, were interviewed about their research for Mitch Jacoby's cover story, "Microscopy Method Goes Deep." In the Chemical & Engineering News article, Jacoby shares the history of atom probe tomography (APT) and recent innovations; the technology lets scientists see the atomic building blocks of matter. Devaraj discussed his team's work analyzing model catalyst materials and lithium-ion battery cathode materials. Perea discussed his team's work to develop a way to harness the power of APT to examine "soft" biomaterials, potentially using cryogenic approaches. Devaraj's and Perea's research benefits from resources in EMSL, a national scientific user facility, and the support of PNNL's Chemical Imaging Initiative.
  6. 2014 Key Scientific Accomplishments Report Now Available
    The 2014 Key Scientific Accomplishments report in fundamental and computational sciences is now available as a downloadable PDF. This 32-page full-color brochure highlights some of the year's most noteworthy science achievements by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists, including findings that have informed numerous areas of basic science and influenced important global challenges in energy, security, and environmental sustainability.
  7. Phil Rasch Quoted in Forbes on Great Climate Modeling
    Dr. Philip Rasch, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Chief Scientist for Climate Science, was quoted in the October online issue of Forbes. The article, "The Great Climate Model," describes the newly developed Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy (ACME) project, a collaboration between eight U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, four academic institutions and one private company. The ACME team is developing a forward-looking state-of-the-art climate model using high performance computing. In the Forbes article Rasch explains, "Development of the new model requires a significant reframing of process representations and advanced computational methods directed toward the next generation of computers." The new model will aid in figuring out the changes the Earth is going through with climate change. See related: New Project is the ACME of Addressing Climate Change.
  8. Cheap Catalyst Gets Expensive Accessory
    Results: While iron catalysts are an inexpensive way to remove oxygen from plant-based materials, the catalyst is not very active and can be readily deactivated due to rusting or oxidation by the water that comes part and parcel with biofuels production. Precious metal catalysts such as palladium aren't readily oxidized, but they are not efficient in removing oxygen from plant-based materials (low catalyst activity and high hydrogen consumption), on top of the fact that the metal is prohibitively expensive. But adding just a touch of palladium to the iron produces a catalyst that quickly removes oxygen atoms, easily releases the desired products, and doesn't rust, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU).
  9. Global Natural Gas Boom Alone Won't Slow Climate Change
    Results: A new analysis of global energy use, economics and the climate led by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows that without new climate policies, expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the long term. The researchers, working at PNNL's Joint Global Change Research Institute along with their international collaborators, conducted modeling studies that show a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.
  10. Dust Takes Detour on Ice-Cloud Journey
    Results: Wrapped in pollution, dust diverts from its usual course and steers clear of water. The result, found researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, closes one more gap in understanding how—and when—cloud ice crystals form. They found that dust, usually a primary catalyst encouraging ice formation, when modified by pollution from combustion becomes less attractive for water vapor to initiate ice crystals under certain conditions. The "aged" dust particles, poor at catalyzing ice crystals, significantly alter the cloud environment by decreasing the number and concentration of ice crystals and ice water content.