Saturday, July 30, 2016

PNNL Research Highlights

Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
  1. Climate Modelers Improve Novel Methods to Corral Uncertainty
    Results: Riffing on the theory that two heads are better than one when tackling a tough problem, it was all hands on deck for nearly 70 scientists and students from some 30 countries around the world attending a five-day workshop in Trieste, Italy. Gathered at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), they got right down to sharing insights and strategies to quantify uncertainty in climate model projections. The outcome was ambitious but attainable: assess the reliability and quantify the uncertainty of climate change information for decision-making and map out the path toward next-generation climate modeling. The workshop was designed and organized by researcher Dr. Yun Qian at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  2. They've Still Got 'Game'
    Thanks to a team from PNNL’s National Security and Physical and Computational Sciences directorates, the current issue of SIAM News is giving readers a closer look at how game theory and uncertainty quantification are increasingly being applied to cyber defense applications.
  3. Materials Scientists Make Breakthrough in Biomimetic Coatings
    Results: Nature exquisitely assembles proteins and peptides into highly ordered functional materials, such as those critical for bone formation. These natural materials inspire researchers to innovate approaches to mimic nature for a range of potential biomedical applications. Recently Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) -led materials scientists assembled networks of highly ordered synthetic protein-like polymers (peptoids) on a flat surface, marking a major breakthrough in biomimetic coatings.
  4. When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Growing
    For many forms of cyanobacteria, relentless bright light slows growth or even causes damage. But under the same conditions Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 thrives and grows at a rate that far outpaces most of its peers. That makes the organism attractive for scientists trying to create better, less expensive biofuels or trying to make custom chemicals.
  5. Bridging the ‘Respiration Gap’ between Measurements and Models
    The Earth's soil, along with its oceans and lakes, are vast lungs, taking in and breathing out gases that interact with the atmosphere.
  6. The Case of the Cobalt Catalyst
    It's the worst short story ever written: on a dark and stormy night; the end. The real story -- the context, the tension, and the motivations -- are missing. That's what it feels like for scientists reading the reaction that uses a cobalt catalyst to produce hydrogen. Dr. Eric Wiedner and Dr. Morris Bullock at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) wanted to know the rest of the story. They found out what happened between the first page and the last.
  7. "Dream Team" Chosen to Study Basic Science of Nuclear Waste
    A more thorough understanding of the chemistry of radioactive waste is key to treating this unwanted byproduct of winning World War II and the Cold War.
  8. Stay! Teaching Technetium Not to Escape
    A long-lived part of nuclear waste, it takes more than 210,000 years for half of any amount of technetium to decay away. It is also able to migrate, either moving through groundwater or becoming a gas when heated. Heat is an issue because technetium-containing waste and special chemicals are heated-to 1150 degrees Celsius-to yield solid logs for long-term storage. Scientists would prefer the technetium stay in the glass logs. A team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the Department of Energy's Office of River Protection devised a way to retain more technetium. They added cobalt. Mixed with an iron oxide, the cobalt forms "thorns," or spinels, in the glass. The result? The modified glass marks a 50 to 60 percent increase in the amount of technetium held over baseline glass formulas.
  9. PNNL Scientist Johannes Lercher Receives International Award for Catalysis Research
    Catalysis expert Dr. Johannes Lercher, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is one of six researchers selected to receive a 2016 Eni Award, an international benchmark for research in the field of energy and the environment. Lercher, director of PNNL's Institute for Integrated Catalysis and Professor at the Technische Universität München, received the New Frontiers in Hydrocarbons-Downstream prize for his research on "Novel catalytic strategies to alkenes and alkanols."
  10. Soot Seeds Ice in Clouds
    Results: High in the atmosphere, ice crystals are born in thin, wispy cirrus. Most of this ice birthing, what researchers call ice nucleation, is initiated on particles of soot, dust, compounds, or other droplets. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Michigan Technological University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory studied a variety of soot particles they produced from a diesel generator. They emulated soot-ice nucleation in super-cold temperatures found in cirrus, up to -50° C (-122° F). The research showed that all the particles were similarly efficient at nucleating ice, but that altering the properties of soot changes the ice crystal concentration observed in clouds.