Sunday, April 20, 2014

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. Several Faces of Physics Become One
    Results: Water moves through multifaceted physical boundaries. This poses a significant challenge for scientists who must simulate water flow across many domains. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) conquered this barrier by merging different physical laws. Their new approach can describe any type of water flow in soils and the terrestrial ecosystem, in soil pores, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans, and in mixed media of pores and solids for soil and aquifer. The versatile properties of the new approach allow cross-domain simulation of water flow at different scales. The research was published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal.
  2. Don Baer Receives ASTM International Award of Merit
    The ASTM International Board of Directors has selected Dr. Don Baer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to receive the 2014 Award of Merit. The award and its accompanying title of fellow is ASTM's highest organizational recognition for individual contributions to standards activities.
  3. Simplifying Exascale Application Development
    Results: Hiding the complexities that underpin exascale system operations from application developers is a critical challenge facing teams designing next-generation supercomputers. One way that computer scientists in the Data Intensive Scientific Computing group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are attacking the problem is by developing formal design processes based on Concurrent Collections (CnC), a programming model that combines task and data parallelism. Using the processes, scientists have transformed the Livermore Unstructured Lagrangian Explicit Shock Hydrodynamics (LULESH) proxy application code that models hydrodynamics (the motion of materials relative to each other when subjected to forces) into a complete CnC specification. The derived CnC specification can be implemented and executed using a paradigm that takes advantage of the massive parallelism and power-conserving features of future exascale systems.
  4. John Holladay Quoted about Biofuels
    John Holladay of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was quoted in Greenwire on Algenol's goals to produce algae-based ethanol fuel that costs $1.27/gallon to manufacture, allowing the fuel to compete in a marketplace currently focused on petroleum. Holladay helped develop a related catalytic technology that Algenol uses to produce gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from their spent algae, He was quoted as saying, "They've had a long, long road of developing the science that was required to make this work. Sometimes people don't understand the road and how much was done to get to the point where they are today." The article is titled "Biofuels: Enthusiastic entrepreneur places big bet on algae."
  5. Agriculture's Growing Effects on Rain
    Results: Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Texas. They fed observed land-use change data in a climate model and found the expansion of agriculture in the African Sahel region decreases summer rainfall through its impact on monsoon rains. The simulated decrease in summer rainfall reaches 10 percent over the Sahel, a region that is already stressed by water needs for human and ecological use. Their study offers new insight on how land-use change may affect regional rainfall.
  6. Riihimaki Recipient of Lab Director Honor, Fitzner-Eberhardt Award
    Congratulations to Dr. Laura Riihimaki, atmospheric scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who was selected one of three winners of the 2014 PNNL Lab Director's Fitzner/Eberhardt Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Science and Engineering Education. Her exceptional dedication to improving climate understanding is helping to shape the next generation of scientists.
  7. Bond-Lamberty Appointed to Global Change Biology Editorial Board
    Congratulations to Dr. Ben Bond-Lamberty, terrestrial scientist working out of the Joint Global Climate Research Institute (JGCRI), who was appointed to a three-year term on the Editorial Advisory Board of Global Change Biology. As a board member, he will use his research expertise in climate change, carbon cycle, and ecosystem modeling to evaluate manuscripts submitted for publishing. JGCRI is a partnership between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland.
  8. Dooley Quoted in National Geographic on Coal Impacts
    James Dooley, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory senior scientist working at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland, was quoted in the April issue of National Geographic. The article "Can Coal Ever Be Clean?" describes the leading role coal plays in driving global climate change as well as the local ecological impacts associated coal mining. Dooley is an expert on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation technologies and in particular on carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS). In the National Geographic article, he states that while CCS is a promising component of how humanity can address climate change, CCS will not begin to deploy commercially unless there are regulations in place that establish a penalty for releasing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere or otherwise encourage the use of this technology.  Dooley's research has shown that CCS technologies that exist today can play a critical role in reducing the global climate impacts associated with fossil fuel use, and can do so at a reasonable cost. 
  9. Clarifying the Uncertain
    Results: In a direct evaluation of the uncertainty characterization process being applied as part of the Platform for Regional Integrated Modeling and Analysis (PRIMA) framework, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists examined building energy policy under multiple energy-efficiency settings and several distinct uncertainty scenarios using a sub-regional version of the Global Change Assessment Model known as GCAM-USA. Their goal was to develop a decision-focused (i.e., relevant to a particular stakeholder) sensitivity analysis that identified factors that most influence stakeholder decisions. In an effort to generate an option that falls between ad hoc one-variable-at-a-time sensitivity assessments (for large models) or Monte Carlo analysis of all potential uncertainties (for small models), PNNL scientists used a middle-course, fractional-factorial analysis method to test the building energy policies. Their work showed that the number of factors required for modeling a given GCAM outcome actually was small, greatly reducing the modeling and computational burden in the presence of uncertainty.
  10. PNNL Research Plays Key Role in IPCC Conclusions
    Ground-breaking research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provided science insight for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report's new lower bound estimate of the climate's sensitivity to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. With contributions from thousands of science experts around the world, the report—the first of three working group contributions to the Fifth Assessment—prominently cited PNNL's work in several of its key conclusions on the causes and physical consequences of climate change.