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The Lead

Halving hydrogen

April 23, 2014 11:13 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Like a hungry diner ripping open a dinner roll, a fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen into electricity must tear open a hydrogen molecule. Now researchers have captured a view of such a catalyst holding onto the two halves of its hydrogen feast. The view confirms previous hypotheses and provides insight into how to make the catalyst work better for alternative energy uses.

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-...

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 15, 2014 3:29 pm | News | Comments

The chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how...

Sensitive detection method may help impede illicit nuclear trafficking

April 15, 2014 12:34 pm | News | Comments

According to a new study, coupling commercially...

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The rush to rain

March 17, 2014 8:31 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new analysis of satellite data reveals a link between dust in North Africa and West Asia and stronger monsoons in India. The study shows that dust in the air absorbs sunlight west of India, warming the air and strengthening the winds carrying moisture eastward. This results in more monsoon rainfall about a week later in India.

A battery small enough to be injected, energetic enough to track salmon

February 18, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Scientists have created a microbattery that packs twice the energy compared to current microbatteries used to monitor the movements of salmon through rivers in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. The battery, a cylinder just slightly larger than a long grain of rice, is certainly not the world's smallest battery, as engineers have created batteries far tinier than the width of a human hair. 

Superbright and fast x-rays image single layer of proteins

February 13, 2014 1:50 pm | News | Comments

Researchers who use x-rays to take snapshots of proteins need a billion copies of the same protein stacked and packed into a neat crystal. Now, scientists using exceptionally bright and fast x-rays supplied by free-electron lasers can take a picture that rivals conventional methods with a sheet of proteins just one protein molecule thick. This broadens the number and type of proteins that can be studied.

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Watching nanoparticles grow

February 5, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Individual silver nanoparticles in solutions typically grow through single atom attachment, but when they reach a certain size they can link with other particles, according to a team which includes scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This seemingly simple result has shifted a long-held scientific paradigm that did not consider kinetic models when explaining how nanoparticle ensembles formed.

Modeling buildings by the millions: Building codes in China tested for energy savings

January 31, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

According to a study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, China can build its way to a more energy efficient future by improving the rules regulating these structures like houses, apartments and retail stores. The scientists created a unique model that projects how much energy can be saved with changes to China's building energy codes, and those savings were significant.

New energy research lab coming to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

January 30, 2014 8:50 am | News | Comments

Construction on a new energy research facility at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will start this April. The project, valued at approximately $10 million, will build a facility that will house a broad variety of energy research and PNNL's campus sustainability program. Research there will focus on power grid reliability and resiliency, integration of renewable energy onto the grid and reducing energy use in buildings.

Commercialization license to advance batteries for renewable energy storage

January 29, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

A Massachusetts startup has signed a license agreement with Battelle to commercialize battery technology that can help store large amounts of renewable energy and improve the reliability of the nation's power grid. The license with Lowell, Mass.-based WattJoule Corp. is expected to advance the commercial use of redox flow battery technology.

New boron nanomaterial may be possible

January 27, 2014 1:53 pm | News | Comments

Graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, may soon have a new nanomaterial partner. In the laboratory and on supercomputers, chemical engineers have determined that a unique arrangement of 36 boron atoms in a flat disc with a hexagonal hole in the middle may be the preferred building blocks for “borophene.”

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Hugging hemes help electrons hop

January 15, 2014 3:49 pm | News | Comments

Researchers simulating how certain bacteria run electrical current through tiny molecular wires have discovered a secret nature uses for electron travel. The results are key to understanding how the bacteria do chemistry in the ground, and will help researchers use them in microbial fuel cells, batteries or for turning waste into electricity.

Battery development may extend range of electric cars

January 10, 2014 7:59 am | News | Comments

It's known that electric vehicles could travel longer distances before needing to charge and more renewable energy could be saved for a rainy day if lithium-sulfur batteries can just overcome a few technical hurdles. Now, a novel design for a critical part of the battery has been shown to significantly extend the technology's lifespan, bringing it closer to commercial use.

Batteries as they are meant to be seen

December 27, 2013 10:12 am | News | Comments

Life science researchers regularly use transmission electron microscopy to study wet environments. Now, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who are studying batteries have used the method to have applied it successfully to microscopically view electrodes while they are bathed in wet electrolytes, mimicking realistic conditions inside actual batteries.

Million-year natural process takes minutes in the laboratory

December 18, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae—a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup. The research by engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported in Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

Highly insulating windows are very energy efficient, though expensive

December 6, 2013 8:09 am | News | Comments

Highly insulating triple-pane windows keep a house snug and cozy, but it takes two decades or more for the windows to pay off financially based on utility-bill savings, according to a report by energy-efficiency experts at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The report is based on a study at PNNL's Lab Homes, a pair of identical manufactured homes used to study energy efficiency.

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The lingering clouds

November 26, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

A new study reveals how pollution causes thunderstorms to leave behind larger, deeper, longer lasting clouds. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the results solve a long-standing debate and reveal how pollution plays into climate warming. The work can also provide a gauge for the accuracy of weather and climate models.

Scientists capture “redox moments” in living cells

November 25, 2013 8:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists have charted a significant signaling network in a tiny organism that's big in the world of biofuels research. The findings about how a remarkably fast-growing organism conducts its metabolic business bolster scientists' ability to create biofuels using the hardy microbe Synechococcus, which turns sunlight into useful energy.

Structure of bacterial nanowire protein hints at secrets of conduction

November 12, 2013 6:39 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Tiny electrical wires protrude from some bacteria and contribute to rock and dirt formation. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers studying the protein that makes up one such wire have determined the protein's structure and have shown that the protein's shape and form suggest possible ways for the bacteria to shuttle electrons along the nanowire.

Preparing for hell and high water

November 11, 2013 10:21 am | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Changes are already happening to Earth's climate due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and large-scale agriculture. As changes get more pronounced, people everywhere will have to adjust. In this week's issue of the journal Science, an international group of researchers urge the development of science needed to manage climate risks and capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

Crafting a better enzyme cocktail to turn plants into fuel faster

November 4, 2013 7:41 am | News | Comments

Scientists looking to create a potent blend of enzymes to transform materials like corn stalks and wood chips into fuels have developed a test that should turbocharge their efforts. The new research is part of a worldwide effort to create fuels from plants that are plentiful and aren't part of the food supply. It's possible to do this today, but the process is costly, laborious and lengthy.

PNNL receives $1.1 million to boost transportation technologies

October 18, 2013 9:59 am | News | Comments

Inflate your tires. Accelerate slowly. Change the oil. Invest $1.1 million in advanced vehicle research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Four ways to boost your mileage. While the first three methods boost fuel efficiency one vehicle at a time, the laboratory research by PNNL scientists could benefit millions vehicles and their owners, as well as move the nation toward greater energy efficiency and independence.

What the death of a spruce tree means

October 3, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Examining a long-lived forest, researchers have found that Black Spruce trees, which dominate the northern forests of North America, succumb about five years after being weakened by environmental stresses. Without rejuvenating fire, the dead trees aren't being replaced by new ones. The result will help researchers better understand how climate change affects the health of forests, and how forests affect the severity of climate change.

Fuel-efficient cars, planes could be cheaper with magnesium drawn from ocean

September 20, 2013 1:03 pm | News | Comments

Magnesium is a lightweight metal used in cars and planes to improve their fuel efficiency. But it currently requires a lot of energy and money to produce the metal. Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a new production method that would be 50% more energy efficient than the United States' current production process.

Fuel-efficient cars, planes cheaper with magnesium drawn from ocean

September 20, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

A lightweight metal that reduces fuel use in cars and planes could be extracted from the ocean through a unique process being developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The process could ultimately make fuel-efficient transportation more affordable and expand the American magnesium market.

Scientists create new hydrogen fuel safety app

September 16, 2013 8:17 am | News | Comments

Engineers and scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed an app that focuses on hydrogen safety. The Hydrogen Tools app comes at a time when the use of fuel cells is growing. Fuel cells generate electricity by driving electrochemical reactions using hydrogen and air, producing power with dramatically reduced emissions compared to traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. The only byproducts are heat and water.

How new diesel engines emit little nitrous oxide

September 11, 2013 7:27 am | News | Comments

The newest catalytic converters in diesel engines blast away a pollutant from combustion with the help of ammonia. Common in European cars, the engines exhaust harmless nitrogen and water. How they do this hasn't been entirely clear. Now, new research shows that the catalyst attacks its target pollutant in an unusual way, providing insight into how to make the best catalytic converters.

A Triple-S Approach to Analyzing Samples

August 28, 2013 8:01 am | Award Winners

The Combined Orthogonal Mobility & Mass Evaluation Technology (CoMet) platform, developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, addresses the triple challenge of specificity, sensitivity and speed in analyses of complex biological and environmental samples by providing more comprehensive coverage of smaller samples with higher measurement throughput.

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