Saturday, February 28, 2015

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. Transformations: The Value of Catalysis, Top Five List from CME's Last Five Years, Catalytic Choreography
    In the latest edition of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations, PNNL scientist Bob Weber provides an overview on the value of catalysis to the economy, society, and scientific research in general. This issue's feature is on the top five things learned in the first five years of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at PNNL. This Energy Frontier Research Center has answered fundamental questions about what makes catalysts work.
  2. Shippert Co-author of Paper Featured in Nature
    As part of work featured in the paper, “Observational Determination of Surface Radiative Forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010,” recently published in Nature, scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of California, Berkeley; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc.; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provided evidence of the first observed influence of atmospheric carbon dioxide at the Earth’s surface. The research involved using equipment and 11 years of data made available by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility, known as ARM. For his part, Tim Shippert, a scientist with the ARM Data Integration team in PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division, ran six model years of ARM’s Broadband Heating Rate Profile Project (BBHRP) data, which uses a faster version of the Line-By-Line Radiative Transfer Model (LBLRTM), called RRTM, or Rapid Radiative Transfer Model, to evaluate reviewers’ questions about the clear-sky bias of the LBLRTM calculations. The resulting work contributed to the observations that rising carbon dioxide levels can be traced to human-caused fossil fuel emissions and helps confirm that climate models are accurately representing carbon dioxide’s impacts to climate.
  3. Catalysis Team Wins Prestigious National Lectureship
    Congratulations to the Hydrogen Catalysis Team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on winning the 2015 ACS Catalysis Lectureship for the Advancement of Catalytic Science. The PNNL team earned the award for research that has revolutionized understanding of the role of proton movement in the electrocatalytic interconversion of electricity and hydrogen fuel. This work has had a profound impact on catalysis as a whole. It has also strengthened the connections between bio-related and molecular catalysis and between experimental and theoretical chemists.
  4. Burrows Quoted in Scientific American on Youth Science Competition
    Dr. Susannah Burrows, an atmospheric postdoc researcher at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, discussed her experience as Science Olympiad alumna and volunteer at the 2015 MIT Invitational in a blog post by Scientific American's Amanda Baker. The article highlights youth science competitions that aim to examine their performance when faced with real scientific research challenges. As an alumna, Burrows expressed the importance of partnership and teamwork in these competitions. Teamwork, such has this, has left a lasting impression throughout her career.
  5. Rasch Quoted in Tri-City Herald on Cooling Planet Ideas
    Dr. Philip Rasch, atmospheric scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was quoted in the February 10, 2015 issue of Tri-City Herald on the hot topic - cooling the planet. The article, "Fed Report with PNNL Input: Time to examine purposely cooling planet idea," discuses one idea in particular: to purposely intervene in the planet's climate as a last ditch effort to counter global warming effects.
  6. Ben Kravitz Quoted in New York Times Op Talk
    Dr. Ben Kravitz, atmospheric scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was quoted in a February 20 New York Times Op Talk blog. Kravitz is known for his research on atmospheric particles, also known as aerosols, and the way they change how the Earth reflects or absorbs sunlight. The blog explored the idea that a purposeful injection of tiny particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the Earth might also alter the night sky, blocking the view of stars. Kravitz stated that the whitening effect of aerosol injections "would be similar to the whiter sky that is often seen in large cities or areas with industrial pollution." Geoengineering is another term for "albedo modification," a theoretical method that could make the Earth more reflective to temporarily alleviate some of the climate warming effects of greenhouse gases. Read the New York Times blog.
  7. Cross-institutional Team Demonstrations Tackle Big Data Challenges in Materials Science
    The synthesis and functionality of energy storage and conversion materials is a key research area for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DOE-BES). As part of a series of demonstrations showcased at DOE’s booth during the SC14 conference in New Orleans, Kerstin Kleese van Dam, Chief Scientist and Data Services Team Lead at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, led talks showing how the combination of leading-edge microscopy facilities, computational modeling, and federated data science capabilities—as well as cross-domain collaborations—can significantly advance fundamental scientific understanding and control of the critical materials processes in these systems. The demonstrations at SC14 highlighted the ongoing work of DOE’s Data Science Centers, which are uniting national laboratories, academic institutions, and international partners in an effort to improve methods for collecting, analyzing, and sharing Big Data. PNNL scientists are contributing on several teams, including those representing BES, DOE’s Office of Biological & Environmental Research, and a team focused on overall data infrastructure challenges.
  8. A Burning Issue: Following Soot to the Arctic
    Results: No one wants to see dirty snow. But that's just what appears when soot—from forest fires, diesel engines, and other fuel combustion—hitchhikes to the Arctic on atmospheric currents. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed a new way to identify and track the sources of soot using an atmospheric model and a tagging technique that is both efficient and effective. The result establishes a clear source-receptor relationship and soot pathways that will help explain the seasonal variations found for soot deposition. This finding will contribute to insights on the impact of darkened snow and ice on the Earth's energy budget.
  9. Haewon McJeon Quoted in New York Times
    Dr. Haewon McJeon, research economist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was quoted in the New York Times regarding expanded use of natural gas as a cleaner alternative to high-emission fuels. McJeon and his colleagues recently published a paper in the journal Nature, "Limited Impact on Decadal-Scale Climate Change from Increased Use of Natural Gas."
  10. Simulating Across Scales
    Results: Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Central Florida developed a unified multiscale model that uses a single set of equations to simultaneously simulate fluid flow in an ecosystem containing both surface water and groundwater. Researchers applied the modeling approach to the Disney Wilderness Preserve in Kissimmee, Florida, where active field monitoring and measuring are ongoing to understand hydrological and biogeochemical processes.