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The Lead

Permafrost’s turn on the microbes

March 4, 2015 5:16 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

As the Arctic warms, tons of carbon locked away in Arctic tundra will be transformed into the powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, but scientists know little about how that transition takes place. Now, scientists looking at microbes in different types of Arctic soil have a new picture of life in permafrost that reveals entirely new species and hints that subzero microbes might be active.

New flow battery to keep big cities lit, green and safe

February 25, 2015 10:27 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Ensuring the power grid keeps the lights on in large cities could be easier with a new battery...

Electrolyte rids batteries of short-circuiting fibers

February 24, 2015 2:31 pm | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Dendrites create fire hazards and can limit the ability of batteries to power our smart phones...

PNNL recognized for moving biofuel, chemical analysis innovations to market

February 2, 2015 7:24 am | by Eric Francavilla, PNNL | News | Comments

Developing renewable fuel from wet algae and enabling analysis of complex liquids are two of the...

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Man trumps dog: Earlier assumption about BPA exposure confirmed

January 28, 2015 8:18 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Coating the mouth with BPA-containing food does not lead to higher than expected levels of BPA in blood, according to a new study. The study concludes that oral exposure does not create a risk for high exposures. BPA, also known as bisphenol A, is used to make some plastics and to seal canned food containers against bacterial contamination. Food, which picks up trace amounts of BPA from packaging, is the major source of human exposure.

Scaffolding is in charge of calcium carbonate crystals

January 26, 2015 11:45 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Nature packs away carbon in chalk, shells and rocks made by marine organisms that crystallize calcium carbonate. Now, research suggests that the soft, organic scaffolds in which such crystals form guide crystallization by soaking up the calcium like an "ion sponge". Understanding the process better may help researchers develop advanced materials for energy and environmental uses, such as for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

First responders get mobile app for biodetection

January 9, 2015 9:07 am | by Susan Bauer, PNNL | News | Comments

First responders have downloaded more than 10,000 copies of a guide to commercially available, hand-portable biodetection technologies created to help them determine what they might be up against in the field. Since many first responders do not always have immediate access to a computer, a mobile version of the guide is now available for cell phones and tablets.

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Speeding cyanobacteria growth “brightens” biofuel’s future

January 2, 2015 9:27 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Rapidly growing bacteria that live in the ocean and can manufacture their own food hold promise as host organisms for producing chemicals, biofuels and medicine. Researchers are closely studying one of these photosynthetic species of fast-growing cyanobacteria using advanced tools developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to determine the optimum environment that contributes to record growth and productivity.

Lengthening the life of high-capacity silicon electrodes in rechargeable lithium batteries

December 2, 2014 4:14 pm | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study will help researchers create longer-lasting, higher-capacity lithium rechargeable batteries, which are commonly used in consumer electronics. In a study published in ACS Nano, researchers showed how a coating that makes high-capacity silicon electrodes more durable could lead to a replacement for lower-capacity graphite electrodes.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

Are my muscular dystrophy drugs working?

October 30, 2014 8:25 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

People with muscular dystrophy could one day assess the effectiveness of their medication with the help of a smartphone-linked device, a new study in mice suggests. The study used a new method to process ultrasound imaging information that could lead to hand-held instruments that provide fast, convenient medical information.

Global natural gas boom alone won’t slow climate change

October 16, 2014 9:14 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new analysis of global energy use, economics and the climate 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, according to a study. Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change.

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Cheap catalyst gets expensive accessory

October 15, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Iron catalysts remove oxygen inexpensively, but are susceptible to rust or oxidation in biofuel production. Precious metals that resist corrosion are even less efficient at removing oxygen. 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 and Washington State Univ.

Want to print your own cell phone microscope for pennies?

September 16, 2014 8:01 am | by Susan Bauer, PNNL | Videos | Comments

At one o'clock in the morning, layers of warm plastic are deposited on the platform of the 3-D printer that sits on scientist Rebecca Erikson's desk. A small plastic housing, designed to fit over the end of a cell phone, begins to take shape. Pulling it from the printer, Erikson quickly pops in a tiny glass bead and checks the magnification.

Advanced buoys bring vital data to untapped energy resource

September 15, 2014 8:30 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Two massive, 20,000-lb buoys decked out with the latest in meteorological and oceanographic equipment will enable more accurate predictions of the power-producing potential of winds that blow off U.S. shores. The bright yellow buoys are being commissioned by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state's Sequim Bay.

Angling chromium to let oxygen through

September 10, 2014 6:03 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Researchers have been trying to increase the efficiency of solid oxide fuel cells by lowering the temperatures at which they run. In a serendipitous finding at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers have created a new form of strontium-chromium oxide that performs as a semiconductor and also allows oxygen to diffuse easily, a requirement for a solid oxide fuel cell.

Seeing clearly through a liquid

September 8, 2014 8:33 am | News | Comments

Accurately examining materials in liquids using electron microscopy is a difficult task for scientists, as electron beams perturb the sample and induce artifacts. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Davis have demonstrated that in in situ liquid experiments, the choice of electron beam energy has a strong effect that goes far beyond merely increasing the concentration of reducing radicals.

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The birth of a mineral

September 5, 2014 8:12 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

One of the most important molecules on Earth, calcium carbonate crystallizes into chalk, shells and minerals the world over. In a study led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers used a powerful microscope that allows them to see the birth of crystals in real time, giving them a peek at how different calcium carbonate crystals form, they report in Science.

Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

August 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

A Leap in Power Generation

August 19, 2014 12:37 pm | Award Winners

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Solar Thermochemical Advanced Reactor System (STARS) addresses a major criticism of solar energy, which, like wind power, can’t provide continuous output. Because of its design, STARS doesn’t require power plants to cease operations when the sun sets or clouds cover the sky.

The Eye as a Screen

August 19, 2014 11:30 am | Award Winners

Current wearable media devices can cause eye strain, induce nausea or create other discomforts, particularly over extended periods. Such devices also struggle to provide the natural depth of perception necessary for a true 3-D experience. Designed to correct these shortcomings, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Avegant’s Glyph uses a micromirror array and a combination of proprietary optics in a head-mounted display to reflect an image from a media source directly onto the retina using the viewer’s own eye lens, effectively making the back of the eyeball into a screen.

Probing the Liquid Vacuum Interface

August 19, 2014 10:43 am | Award Winners

Important scientific studies require precise knowledge of the unique properties at the interface between liquids and solids or at the liquid surface itself. Analyzing these properties has proven difficult because many key analytical instruments are vacuum-based. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed SALVI: System for Analysis at the Liquid Vacuum Interface as a solution.

Creating a GPS for aluminum ions

August 12, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Zeolites used extensively in industry are promising catalysts that turn biomass into transportation fuels, but the activity and stability of this class of materials is challenging to understand and predict. Employing a combination of methods devised at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Swiss Light Source, scientists were able to determine the distribution of aluminum ions in structural variants of zeolites.

“Wetting” a battery’s appetite for renewable energy storage

August 4, 2014 9:22 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material could allow more utilities to store large amounts of renewable energy and make the nation's power system more reliable and resilient.

The stability of gold clusters: Every ligand counts

July 22, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

By colliding ultra-small gold particles with a surface and analyzing the resulting fragments, a trio of scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered how and why the particles break. This information is important for controlling the synthesis of these tiny building blocks that are of interest to catalysis, energy conversion and storage, and chemical sensing.

PNNL Director Mike Kluse announces retirement

July 17, 2014 8:41 am | News | Comments

Mike Kluse, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and senior vice president at Battelle, has announced his plans to retire. Kluse has been that director of the laboratory since 2007 and during tenure has grown its business from $750 million to more than one billion, as well as securing funding for the  construction of seven new buildings on the campus.

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

July 8, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in a battery's electrodes. Made from silicon, which has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite, the sponge-like material can help lithium-ion batteries store more energy and run longer on a single charge.

Electricity use slashed with efficiency controls for heating, cooling

May 23, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57% with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. The study demonstrated higher energy savings than what was predicted in earlier computer simulations by the same researchers.

A robust source of information on marine energy, offshore wind projects

May 22, 2014 8:04 am | by Tom Rickey, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Wondering what the impact on killer whales might be from a turbine installed under the sea? Curious whether crabs and other crustaceans might be attracted to underwater cables carrying electricity to homes and businesses on the mainland? Interested in which country is harvesting the most energy from the world's oceans? The answers to these and many more lie with Tethys.

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