Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Cloud Catching Requires Persuasive Parameters
    Results: Like building a high-performance engine, the components you add to a climate model determine the quality of the finished product. A new study led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory looked for which "tunable" variables were most influential in depicting various cloud types in a global atmospheric model. They found that different parameters influenced different types of clouds. For stratocumulus, low and clumpy clouds, the parameters that matter most appear in water and heat flux equations. For shallow cumulus, cotton-ball-like low clouds, the most influential parameters are those related to how the atmospheric vertical velocity is skewed. The study was published in the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems.
  8. Liquid Water Fails To Keep Ions Apart
    Results: When hydrochloric acid is added to water, the positively and negatively charged ions don't flee from each other, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. Conventional wisdom said the ions quickly separate; however, the separation is based on how acids behave in low concentrations. Here, scientists used laboratory experiments and computational simulations to determine that the negatively charged counter ions or Cl- and the positively charged hydrogen ions or H+ stick closer to each other than expected in liquid water.
  9. A Shiny, New Graph Query System
    Results: As computing tools and expertise used in conducting scientific research continue to expand, so have the enormity and diversity of the data being collected. Developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Graph Engine for Multithreaded Systems, or GEMS, is a multilayer software system for semantic graph databases. In their work, scientists from PNNL and NVIDIA Research examined how GEMS answered queries on science metadata and compared its scaling performance against generated benchmark data sets. They showed that GEMS could answer queries over science metadata in seconds and scaled well to larger quantities of data. They also demonstrated that GEMS generally outperformed a custom-hardware solution, showing the feasibility of using cheaper, commodity hardware to obtain comparable performance.
  10. Charlette Geffen Appointed Member of EPA Board Subcommittee
    Congratulations to Dr. Charlette Geffen, director of the Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Geffen was appointed to the Air, Climate and Energy Subcommittee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Board of Scientific Counselors. She was chosen to serve as a special government employee advisor, bringing her 35 plus years of experience in environmental science and engineering, and her expertise in strategic technology planning, environmental assessment and regulatory policy to the EPA Board.