Thursday, September 18, 2014

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. Aaron Wright Quoted on Innovative Protein Profiling
    Dr. Aaron Wright, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, discussed his recent research in a Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News article, "Protein Profiling Plumbs Hidden Depths." The article features the Wright-led study on profiling functional enzymes in the lysosomes of living cells. Because of the lysosome's role in fighting diseases, this work provides insights relevant to the progression of neurodegenerative conditions and other diseases. The study by Susan Wiedner, Lindsey Anderson, Natalie Sadler, William Chrisler, Vamsi Kodali, Richard Smith, and Aaron Wright appears in Angewandte Chemie.
  2. Jim De Yoreo Quoted in Chemical & Engineering News
    Dr. Jim De Yoreo at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was quoted in Chemical & Engineering News about his recent study that showed that calcium carbonate formation can take previously unseen pathways. The C&E News article, "Spying on Crystal Formation" written by Mitch Jacoby, is based on a study De Yoreo co-authored in Science: "In situ TEM imaging of CaCO3 nucleation reveals coexistence of direct and indirect pathways." The research was done with colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Yong Wang Co-Edits Special Issue of Catalysis Today
    Congratulations to Dr. Yong Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Institute for Integrated Catalysis and Dr. Ajay K. Dalai at the University of Saskatchewan on co-editing a special issue of Catalysis Today. The special issue of this Elsevier-published journal focuses on innovation in sustainable fuels and chemicals production, based on some of the papers presented at the 23rd North American Catalysis Society Conference, held in Kentucky last year.
  4. Taking Back the Angels' Share of Atoms
    Results: On the surface of a battery's electrode, a material that stores wind energy, or on nearly any other surface, scientists can use atom probe tomography to identify and locate almost every atom. But some atoms evaporate non-uniformly before they are identified -- reminiscent of the angels' share, the amount of wine or whiskey volume lost to evaporation during barrel aging. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Rouen revealed which atoms evaporate in mixed materials, where there are many different types of atoms. They managed this feat by correlating data from three techniques, accounting for all of the atoms and determining how atoms were evaporating from APT.
  5. Angling Chromium To Let Oxygen Through
    Results: Researchers have been trying to increase the efficiency of solid oxide fuel cells by lowering the temperatures at which they run. More efficient fuel cells might gain wider use in vehicles or as quiet, pollution-free, neighborhood electricity generating stations. A serendipitous finding has resulted in a semiconducting material that could enable fuel cells to operate at temperatures two-thirds lower than current technology, scientists reported August 18 in Nature Communications.
  6. PNNL Wins $2.2M to Develop Renewable System to Generate Hydrogen
    Congratulations to Dr. Wei Liu and his team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on receiving $2.2 million to create a compact reactor that turns oil derived from plants into hydrogen. The U.S. Department awarded the grant as part of a $20 million effort to create, deliver, and dispense hydrogen. In addition to PNNL, the University of Hawaii at Honolulu, the University of Colorado at Boulder, FuelCell Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories received funds. The goal is to produce hydrogen that costs less than the equivalent of $4-per-gallon gasoline and have it available for use in fuel cells.
  7. Pinning Down Energy Levels that Govern Proteins' Shine
    Results: Credited with revolutionizing scientific studies, green fluorescent proteins or GFPs let scientists track molecules in complex reactions inside cells. Found in jellyfish and other marine animals, GFP glows green when hit with light. For all the interest in GFP, the exact changes in its energy and structure as it winks on and off were not clearly understood, so scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and their collaborators conducted an exacting series of measurements. For the first time, they determined -- unequivocally -- that the energy level of the excited state of the molecule or chromophore anion solely responsible for the fluorescence after light is absorbed lies below the energy level of the neutral form. Their results unravel key molecular-level energetic conditions that explain the extremely high fluorescence efficiency of GFPs.
  8. Yoon Quoted Nationwide on Melting Sea Ice
    Jin-Ho Yoon, climate physics scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was quoted in more than 250 outlets nationwide regarding a recent publication on how shrinking sea ice contributes to a weakening polar vortex, which can be potentially linked to cold weather in the United States or other parts of the world. The article, "Study Links Polar Vortex Chills to Melting Sea Ice," ran in outlets ranging from the local Herald to The Associated Press. Yoon also is co-author of the publication, "Weakening of the Stratospheric Polar Vortex by Arctic Sea-ice Loss," appearing in September's issue of Nature Communications. In the article, Yoon and his co-authors describe the polar vortex, which usually stays in the Arctic, wandering south from time to time, but recently has moved more southward, as being disturbed by the sea ice loss over the Kara-Barents Sea region. When there is less ice, more energy can move from the relatively warm ocean surface to the atmosphere and disturb the polar vortex. Although this mechanism is newly identified, there are other processes that potentially compete or work simultaneously to cause the polar vortex to weaken, creating cold air outbreaks.
  9. Stealthy and Sticky: The Chemical Battle inside Instantaneous Energy Storage Devices
    Results: When you're merging onto the Beltway around the nation's capital, you want to go from 20 to 70 mph now. Supercapacitors, often built from a two-dimensional material called graphene, have the potential to provide electric or hybrid cars with the energy needed to safely merge into traffic, but different studies of the devices' performance give almost random performance data. The suspected culprits were tiny flaws on the graphene electrode. But, what, exactly, was happening? A trio of scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found that two groups of atoms were slipping onto the surface and causing ions to stick, keeping charged particles from doing their job of storing and releasing electricity.
  10. Jansson Named President of International Society for Microbial Ecology
    Dr. Janet Jansson, Director of Biological Sciences at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was installed as president of the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) August 29 at the Society's biennial symposium, held this year in Seoul, South Korea. She will serve as president through 2016, and will preside during the period leading up to the 2018 symposium in Montreal, Canada. She has served as president-elect since the 2012 symposium.