In August 2016, four Energy Frontier Research Centers were funded to tackle the thorniest problems in legacy nuclear waste. Learn how they are taking on defining, separating, containing and storing it.
Victoria K. Davis
It’s 3 a.m. You are awake waiting for the cab to take you and your luggage to the airport. You were just in the lab eight hours ago, and now you are headed to the lab again. This time, however, it’s in a different town, in a different state, in a different time zone. How long will you go?
Scientists are bound to run into challenges requiring exotic instruments or uncommon techniques they don’t have at their disposal. Luckily, the Department of Energy has an answer: user facilities, the playgrounds of the scientific world. Learn how user facilities are making a difference.
Lithium metal batteries hold a lot of promise, but tiny thorns growing on the electrodes can cause serious problems. Scientists figured out how to get rid of this prickly issue.
What if petroleum-based byproducts in soaps and shampoos could be replaced with chemicals derived from sugars, available from plant matter. Scientists found a way , and the results are promising.
For a materials scientist, it is an unfortunate fact of life that diamonds are not forever. That metastable nature, where over eons, diamonds slowly transform into graphite, is of interest to scientists. Using data mining techniques, they found other metastable materials with great promise.
While sunlight might be free and abundant, the catalysts involved in using sunlight to produce fuels are expensive and inefficient. Scientists are developing low-cost and more efficient options to create that fuel, using the same tiny dots found in LCD TV screens.
Sometimes you need a stand-in. Scientists discovered a model protein that stands in for a much more complex microbial protein. The simple model let scientists determine the key steps that could lead to new ways of producing energy.
A spiraling quantum vortex speeds through a dirty, unclean landscape, completely unfazed by what it encounters. This isn’t a description of an unreleased “Twister” sequel, but rather an example of something called a topological phase. Theoretical predictions of topological phases of matter were recognized in the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Behind every wedding, birthday party and anniversary bash is a group that worked to make the event into something wonderful. Along the way, those people made plans, checklists and detailed spreadsheets, and then they revised them as problems — both unexpected and much anticipated — arose. In many ways, the spirit with which they solved the problems matters as much as the solution. If everyone fears calling with problems, and each upset results in tears and screaming at the florist, it’s going to be a stressful, and possibly rather miserable, event. But if everyone approaches it with the idea of having fun and turning challenges into opportunities — trade the can’t-get-this-weekend roses for teal and pink floral centerpieces — the event tends to be far more enjoyable for everyone.
You’ll see scientists taking that same attitude to get results in this issue of Frontiers in Energy Research. The researchers at four new centers are tackling the nation’s most intractable nuclear waste. You’ll see how that attitude is reflected in trips, big and small, to meetings, labs and user facilities. Also, you’ll see how scientists are using ideas from items all around us, whether it’s plants, bacteria or LED screens, to change how we see energy production and chemical manufacturing. Also, check out the cutting-edge research into magnetic textures and metastable materials, which could change our computers and much more.
So, in the spirit of summer, kick back and enjoy the latest issue of our newsletter.
Image: Scott Butner
Editorial Board and Writers
- Luke Berry, Center for Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis
- Andrea Bruck, Center for Mesoscale Transport Properties
- Robert Choens, Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security
- Victoria Davis, Center for Solar Fuels
- Nicholas Gould, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation
- Max Grossnickle, Spins and Heat in Nanoscale Electronic Systems
- Zachary Lebens-Higgins, NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage
- Zhanyong Li, Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center
- Stephen Meckler, Center for Gas Separations Relevant to Clean Energy Technologies
- Rebecca Palmer, Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center
- Alex Pearse, Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage II
- Kristin Manke, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis
Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.