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Materials Science Highlights


Illustration showing metal-to-metal Hydrogren atom transfer

For hydrogen power, two metals may be better than one

A novel approach to electrocatalysis divides the chemical labor

(October 2018)

A clever catalyst design from PCSD chemists Geoffrey Chambers, Eric Wiedner, and Morris Bullock employs iron and chromium to carry out the reactions that convert hydrogen to electricity. The solution, recently published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, allows two abundant metals to share a role that typically falls to a single, costly metal: platinum.

Bacterial cable under optical microscopy and map of inside of outer membrane after nanodissection

Energy-conducting cable bacteria's interior structure revealed

Researchers dissect single bacteria cell in vitro using atomic force microscopy

(September 2018)

PCSD materials scientist Shuai Zhang partnered with a multi-disciplinary team to dissect single cable bacteria cells in vitro using atomic force microscopy, revealing the cells’ inner structure. Cable bacteria are intriguing natural conductors of electric current in marine sediments that hold promise for use in nanoscience.

sequence defined peptoids

Coral-shaped nanoparticles built by design using engineered peptoids

Scientists manipulate shapes while enhancing optical properties of tiny particles

(June 2018)

Researchers have long worked to address a grand challenge in materials science: to design and synthesize functional materials that rival those found in biology. Unfortunately, proteins—the molecules that enable organisms to make complex organic-inorganic materials—adopt structures and produce morphologies that are beyond our ability to predict.

Artistic representation of nucleation pathways

Small Differences, Large Impacts, and a Classic Connection

Scientists define subtle details for calcium carbonate synthesis, a fundamental and ubiquitous reaction

(March 2018)

The details matter when synthesizing materials, whether for a chocolate bar or a solar panel. These materials and others are formed through the phenomenon of nucleation. The mechanisms that underpin this ubiquitous phenomenon are, in general, unknown. A team captured a glimpse of the initial stages of the nucleation...

Alkaline solutions of aluminum and sodium ions form complex gels

Tracking Mechanisms of Crystallization in Real Time

Aluminum's coordination change occurs in extreme environments

(March 2018)

Researchers quantified transient penta-coordinated Al3+ species during the crystallization of gibbsite from hydrous aluminum gels in solutions of concentrated sodium hydroxide. The research shows that concentrated electrolytes in solution affect hydrogen bonding, ion interactions, and coordination geometries in currently unpredictable ways.

Atomic force microscopy image of zinc oxide

Water Molecules Play Unexpected Role in Mineral Formation

The arrangement of water molecules aligns particles to attach to each other during mineral formation

(February 2018)

Large minerals form from tiny particles continually attaching together. Particles snap to the surface, and a bit of torque is needed to align the particles. Scientists measured and calculated the forces that provide the torque for alignment. They found that water has a more significant role than previously thought.

Scientist working on instrument

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Washington Team Up to Make the Materials of Tomorrow

(January 2018)

With this eye toward the future, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington announced the creation of the Northwest Institute for Materials Physics, Chemistry and Technology, a joint research endeavor to power discoveries and advancements in materials that transform energy, telecommunications, medicine, information technology and other fields.

Free energy shart showing ion distance versus coordination number versus free energy as well as a cartoon of ion dissociation

Water: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Elegant theory shows how water helps dissociate ions involved in materials synthesis, catalysis

(January 2018)

Inside both fuel cells and human cells, reactions are controlled by the behavior of pairs of ions in water. Scientists struggled to understand how water influenced the reactions. Theorists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed a simple, elegant method that shows how water moves around pairs of ions and influences whether they draw together or stay apart.

Artistic view of tube formation

Let the Good Tubes Roll

Inspired by biology, a PNNL-led team of scientists has created new tiny tubes that could help with water purification and tissue engineering studies

(January 2018)

Materials scientists, led by a team at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, designed a tiny tube that rolls up and zips closed. These hollow nanotubes are thousands of times smaller than a strand of human hair and could help with water filtration, tissue engineering and many other applications.

Kelsey Stoerzinger in epitaxy lab

Kelsey Stoerzinger Earns Young Investigator Lectureship

(January 2018)

Dr. Kelsey Stoerzinger, Pauling Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is one of the 2018 Caltech Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Physics. The award offers talented people from underrepresented groups a way to connect with potential colleagues at Caltech.


Artistic view of catalyst working in exhaust system

New Catalyst Meets Challenge of Cleaning Exhaust from Modern Engines

Innovation also uses less platinum, expensive component of catalytic converters

(December 2017)

Researchers discovered a new type of catalytic active site that meets the dual challenge of achieving high activity and thermal stability in single-atom catalysts to improve vehicle emissions.

Journal cover showing water research with SALVI

Where Liquid Meets Air: Seeing the Details of Light, Dark, and Water

Technique gives detailed view into how certain polymers form, unlocking answers about nucleation

(November 2017)

Dr. Xiao-Ying Yu from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and her colleagues obtained a detailed view as to how certain polymers form, unlocking secrets about material nucleation.

Artistic representation of chemical map of switchable ionic liquid

The First Map of Switchable Liquids

For the first time, scientists confirmed distinct regions in popular carbon capture and synthesis solvent

(October 2017)

Dr. Xiao-Ying Yu at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and her colleagues drew the first chemical map of a popular solvent, known as a switchable ionic liquid, or SWIL. They discovered distinct regions in the SWILs, even when the chemistry said it should be homogeneous.

Magnesium alloy tube created with Shape at PNNL

ShAPEing the Future of Magnesium Car Parts

New approach makes lightest automotive metal more economic, useful

(August 2017)

A new process developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory should make it more feasible for the auto industry to incorporate magnesium alloys into structural components. This new process is a twist on extrusion, in which the metal is forced through a tool to create a certain shape.

Artistic rendering of atomic vs topological view.

Seeing the Forest and the Trees to Find Parasitic Reactions that Lead to Battery Failure

Atomic and mesoscale understanding of the formation of a troubling layer offers insights into ways to create a better battery

(June 2017)

Everyone's heard the phrase about seeing both the details and the big picture, and that struggle comes into sharp relief for those studying how to create batteries. It's difficult to see the details of atomic and topographical changes as a battery operates. For DOE's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, Vijay Murugesan and his colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Texas A&M University found a way.


Exploring the Relationship between the Two-Body and the Collective

New approach accurately determines how electrolytes in water behave, offering insights for energy, synthesis, and medicine

(May 2017)

From batteries to biology, salt-containing liquids are vital to performance. Accurately understanding the behavior of these liquids relies on correctly depicting the molecular structures they form. Dr. Marcel Baer, Dr. Timothy Duignan, and Dr. Christopher Mundy at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory determined that the precise structure of a pair of ions isolated in water accurately reports on how a whole solution will behave.

Crystallization paths

Tweaking a Molecules Structure Can Send It Down a Different Path to Crystallization

Insights could lead to better control of drug development, energy technologies. And food.

(April 2017)

Silky chocolate, a better medical drug, or solar panels all require the same thing: just the right crystals making up the material. Now, scientists trying to understand the paths crystals take as they form have been able to influence that path by modifying the starting ingredient. The insights gained from the results could eventually help scientists better control the design of a variety of products for energy or medical technologies.

Electrostatic charges of surfaces

Stopping "Crud" from Sticking to Surfaces by Isolating "One Cheering Voice in a Stadium"

Cleaner, more durable surface coatings for everything from consumer goods to nuclear-waste disposal technologies made possible through collaborative study of electrostatics

(March 2017)

Recently, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Hongfei Wang collaborated with a team of researchers from Northwestern University to dramatically advance the ability to study the electrostatic charges of surfaces.

Highly ordered sodium silicate particles

Taking Materials into the Third Dimension

One-pot technique creates structures with potential for more efficient manufacturing and energy storage

(January 2017)

To better drive industrial reactions and store energy, scientists often start with particles containing tiny pore channels. Defects between the particles can hamper performance. At Pacific Northwest National Lab, a team created a one-pot method that produces tiny, complex, well-structured pyramids. This approach offers control over 3D material growth similar to that seen in nature, a vital benchmark for synthesis.

peptoid films

New Thin Films Can Self-Repair Following Damage

Resistant membrane-like films precisely reconfigure to produce valuable materials by design

(January 2017)

Chemical separation accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the nation's energy use. The relatively thick nature and inefficiency of these separation techniques adds to the amount of energy used. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and East China Normal University devised and tested a thin—about as thin as the skin of a soap bubble—film composed of a special type of molecules called peptoids that can repair itself, similar to the self-repair seen in cells of living organisms.


Researchers study zeolite catalysts

Of Catalysts and Coke

Researchers peer inside catalyst used in biofuel processing to investigate why it clogs

(December 2016)

Catalysts known as zeolites are vital to fuel production and other processes. Coke deposits in zeolites are a costly problem in petroleum refinement and in petrochemical production. To explore ways to fix the issue, Karthikeyan Ramasamy and other researchers from PNNL, with help from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, zoomed in at the highest resolution yet on these problematic carbon-based deposits.

James De Yoreo portrait

Jim De Yoreo Selected for MRS Lectureship

(September 2016)

Dr. Jim De Yoreo at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory received the 2016 David Turnbull Lectureship. Presented by the Materials Research Society, this honor recognizes how De Yoreo's work has shaped the world's understanding of crystallization science.

network of peptoids on mineral surface

Materials Scientists Make Breakthrough in Biomimetic Coatings

Researchers employ novel approach to assemble peptoids on a solid surface

(July 2016)

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. That research team, led by PNNL's Chun-Long Chen, successfully achieved self-assembly of peptoids into networks of hexagonally patterned nanoribbons on a mineral surfaces. What does that mean to someone who isn't a materials scientist? It means the researchers coated protein-like molecules on solid surfaces in a highly ordered way to create materials similar to hard tissue surfaces, like bones or sea shells. This is similar to how naturally occurring proteins form organized arrays to endow tissues with unique properties. The researchers' novel approach could potentially lead to the development of biomimetic coating materials for a variety of applications.

Membrane model

Scientists Create New Thin Material that Mimics Cell Membranes

Nature-inspired synthetic membranes could aid water purification, energy, and healthcare needs

(July 2016)

Materials scientists have created a new material that performs like a cell membrane found in nature. Such a material has long been sought for applications as varied as water purification and drug delivery. Referred to as a lipid-like peptoid, the material can assemble itself into a sheet thinner, but more stable, than a soap bubble, the researchers report this week in Nature Communications. The assembled sheet can withstand being submerged in a variety of liquids and can even repair itself after damage.

Nanotubes and water

Weird, Water-Oozing Material Could Help Quench Thirst

Nanorods' behavior first theorized 20 years ago, but not seen until now

(June 2016)

After their nanorods were accidentally created when an experiment didn't go as planned, the researchers gave the microscopic, unplanned spawns of science a closer look. Chemist Dr. Satish Nune was inspecting the solid, carbon-rich nanorods with a vapor analysis instrument when he noticed the nanorods mysteriously lost weight as humidity increased. Thinking the instrument had malfunctioned, Nune and his colleagues moved on to another tool, a high-powered microscope.

Healing broken bonds in zeolites

How to Heal Broken Bonds, Catalyst Style

Scientists show how to fix interior defects, possibly leading to a more stable and efficient catalyst for biofuel production

(June 2016)

While popular catalysts called zeolites could help turn paper manufacturing waste and other biomass into fuel, the catalyst crumbles after just two days in hot water. And that's a problem because hot water is nearly ubiquitous in biofuel production. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a team discovered that fixing broken bonds deep inside the material stabilized the catalyst and let it thrive in hot water.

Chongmin Wang

Chongmin Wang Wins Paper of the Year from Scientific Journal

(May 2016)

Dr. Chongmin Wang from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won the 2015 Paper of the Year award from the Journal of Materials Research (JMR). Wang won the prestigious honor for his review article, "In situ transmission electron microscopy and spectroscopy studies of rechargeable batteries under dynamic operating conditions: A retrospective and perspective view."

Kevin Rosso

Kevin Rosso Invited to Give Prestigious International Lecture

(April 2016)

Congratulations to Dr. Kevin Rosso at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on being invited by the Mineralogical Society to be the 47th Hallimond Lecturer. The nominee, selected by the Council, is invited to speak at a prominent annual meeting supported by the Mineralogical Society. Rosso will deliver the lecture at the European Mineralogical Conference in Italy this September.

atom probe tomography image

Low-cost and Lightweight

Strongest titanium alloy aims at improving vehicle fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions

(April 2016)

PNNL researchers and colleagues heat-treated a titanium alloy making it 10-15 percent stronger than any commercial titanium alloy currently available and roughly double the strength of steel. Using powerful electron microscopes and a unique atom probe imaging approach, they then were able to peer deep inside the alloy's nanostructure to see what was happening.

Side chains of TZP-based backbone

Plastic Proteins: New Synthetic Material Mimics Essential Characteristics of Natural Proteins

With inexpensive chemical base, variety of materials could be as limitless as proteins are

(April 2016)

Reporting in Angewandte Chemie International Edition March 14, researchers at PNNL revealed a method to produce polymers that mimic proteins in the versatility of their raw ingredients and how those ingredients link together to form a larger structure.


bio-oil beakers

Transformations: Waste as Energy and Opportunity, Inventions in Catalysis, ACS Catalysis Lectureship Winners Interview

(December 2015)

The December 2015 issue of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations recognizes innovation in catalysis: tailored mini-refineries for converting abandoned carbon biomass, a patent-prolific inventor, and a video interview with award-winning catalysis scientists.

Sign up today to receive the next edition of Transformations in your inbox.


Characterization of Soft Magnetic Nanocomposites Featured on Cover of IEEE Publication

(December 2015)

Because of their potential to improve the efficiency of electricity generation, understanding the nanostructure and composition of each phase of soft magnetic materials is important. The article, “Mass Balance and Atom Probe Tomography Characterization of Soft Magnetic (Fe65Co35)79.5 B13Si2Nb4Cu1.5 Nanocomposites,” was featured on the cover of the June 2015 issue of IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, and described work to further that understanding.

Laser device

Scientists Refrigerate Water...with Lasers!

For the first time, researchers cool liquids with a laser

(December 2015)

For the first time, researchers demonstrated that lasers can cool liquids in real-world conditions. In the study, the team developed an instrument using infrared laser light to to cool water by about 36 degrees Fahrenheit - a major breakthrough in the field. The team lead, Dr. Peter Pauzauskie, is an assistant professor at the University of Washington who holds a dual appointment at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

(November 2015)

Dr. Scott Chambers was elected to the rank of Fellow the American Physical Society. He is a Laboratory Fellow and leads a research team focused on the properties of "designer" oxides -- materials that combine different metal atoms with oxygen atoms into solid materials. Oxides have wide-ranging properties, making them useful for electronic and magnetic technologies, as well as for photocatalysts, which use light to speed up chemical reactions.

Jim De Yoreo, Janet Jansson, Yong Wang

Three PNNL Staff Elected to Membership in State Academy

New members to be inducted into Washington State Academy of Sciences in September

(July 2015)

Jim De Yoreo, Janet Jansson and Yong Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been selected to join the Washington State Academy of Sciences. These three scientists will join others being recognized for outstanding scientific achievement and leadership. As academy members, they will provide expert analysis to inform public policy-making, and work to increase the role and visibility of science in Washington state.

Ram Devanathan

MS3 Scientist Ram Devanathan Honored for Work in Ceramics and Materials Science

(June 2015)

A materials scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was elected to the rank of Fellow in the American Ceramic Society in 2015. Ram Devanathan is one of 15 society members selected for the honor this year. His selection brings the total of current PNNL staff members who are ACerS Fellows to seven.

Model of a zeolite

Transformations: Focus on Zeolites, Catalysis at ACS Meeting, Exploring Molecular Channels

(May 2015)

The May 2015 issue of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations focuses on zeolites, crystalline structures that play a key part in catalysis. Read how capabilities at EMSL, a DOE scientific user facility, have furthered zeolite research. The video "Zeolites: Exploring Molecular Channels" features IIC scientists Ilke Arslan and Mirek Derewinski's work.

David Heldebrant and Dongsheng Li

MS3's Heldebrant and Li Receive DOE Early Career Research Program Awards

(May 2015)

David Heldebrant and Dongsheng Li were selected to receive 2015 Early Career Research Program grants from DOE's Office of Science.


Mehdi Receives Post-Doctoral Researcher Award

(May 2015)

Dr. B. Layla Mehdi, a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory materials postdoctoral researcher, has received a 2015 M&M Post-Doctoral Researcher Award from the Microscopy Society of America. She earned the award for her paper entitled, “Quantification of Electrochemical Nanoscale Processes in Lithium Batteries by Operando ec-(S)TEM.” The award includes complimentary registration to the Microscopy & Microanalysis 2015 Annual Meeting and $1,000 to cover travel expenses. Mehdi will accept her award at the opening plenary session of the 2015 meeting, being held Aug. 2-6 in Portland, Ore.

Artistic rendering of ammonia synthesis bottleneck

Shattering Bottlenecks in Ammonia Production

New material supplies electrons to quickly disrupt nitrogen bond, speeding up the reaction

(April 2015)

Ammonia is synthesized in massive quantities for crop fertilizers using a process invented in 1909. Now, scientists have created a specialized calcium- and aluminum-based support that removes a troubling bottleneck. The material feeds the catalyst extra electrons, allowing the reaction to work without the need for high pressures. Lowering the pressures required would reduce the cost of ammonia production and make processes safer. Also, it could simplify ammonia synthesis enough to allow it to be a fuel, packing energy from wind turbines and solar cells inside its bonds.

add alt text

Putting Batteries on Stage Spotlights Performance at the Nanoscale

New device lets scientists take images of lithium battery as it works and recharges

(March 2015)

To gain an atomic-level understanding of what happens inside the ubiquitous lithium battery, scientists designed and implemented an operando electrochemical stage. Using this stage inside a state-of-the-art aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope, they took nanoscale-resolution pictures of lithium ions as they are deposited on or dissolve off of an electrode while the battery runs. With the new stage, scientists can directly image changes as they occur. This information is vital to control performance- and safety-limiting processes.

Article named hot article by journal

Sailing Through Uncharted Waters to Discover Catalysts' Secrets

In the last 5 years, scientists have come a long way in characterizing reactions in aqueous environments

(March 2015)

Scientists' review of sailing into the uncharted waters of real time, in situ monitoring of catalytic conversions in water and other liquids was chosen as a hot article by Catalysis Science and Technology. The article is available for free during March 2015.

Cross-institutional Team Demonstrations Tackle Big Data Challenges in Materials Science

Collaborative environment for experimental facilities, computational modeling, and federated data science capabilities drives innovation

(February 2015)

The combination of leading-edge microscopy facilities, computational modeling, and federated data science capabilities—as well as cross-domain collaborations—can significantly advance fundamental scientific understanding and control of the synthesis and functionality of energy storage and conversion materials. A series of demonstrations, initially presented by scientists, including PNNL’s Kerstin Kleese van Dam, at SC14 in New Orleans, showcased the ongoing work of DOE’s Data Science Centers and how these collaborative, multi-institutional environments are improving methods for collecting, analyzing, and sharing Big Data and, most notably, driving innovation in materials science.

Dr. Xiao-Ying Yu and SALVI

Xiao-Ying Yu Led Team Winning Federal Excellence in Technology Transfer Award

(January 2015)

Research led by Dr. Xiao-Ying Yu, a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and her team developed PNNL's System for Analysis at the Liquid Vacuum Interface, or SALVI, allowing—for the first time—imaging of liquid samples reacting in real-time and a realistic environment. They won a prestigious Excellence in Technology Transfer Award in 2015 from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).


Chris Mundy

Chris Mundy Named American Physical Society Fellow

(December 2014)

Congratulations to Dr. Chris Mundy at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on being named a Fellow of the American Physical Society, which was founded in 1899. Mundy received this honor for his "pioneering applications of Kohn-Sham density functional theory to further our understanding of complex processes that occur at the air-water interface."

Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers Honored by American Physical Society for Outstanding Reviews

(December 2014)

Congratulations to Dr. Scott Chambers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on being named an outstanding referee of Physical Review and Physical Review Letters. He was selected by the American Physical Society for his high-quality reviews and advice. His award states that he has helped the journal "advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics, while creating a resource that is invaluable to authors, researchers, students and readers."

Computational study shows reactions and energy
needed at each step to form the basic unit of a metal-organic framework

Mapping the March to Methodical Materials

Scientists determine the progression of fundamental steps needed to nucleate metal-organic frameworks, captivating materials with promise in gas storage, chemical separations, and air conditioning

(October 2014)

Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory determined the individual steps and energy needed to form the basic unit of a popular metal-organic framework or MOF. Selective and reactive, MOFs could replace inefficient materials in devices where gas separation and storage are vital. The team took a computation- and simulation-based approach that allowed them to delve into the intricacies of the reaction sequence. Understanding the steps is vital to eventually synthesizing MOFs by the boxcar, not the test tube.

Laser excites material, produces APT information

Taking Back the Angels' Share of Atoms

Non-uniform evaporation prevents scientists from seeing every atom on a surface

(September 2014)

On the surface of a battery's electrode, a material that stores wind energy, or on nearly any other surface, scientists can use atom probe tomography to identify and locate almost every atom. But some atoms evaporate non-uniformly before they are identified-reminiscent of the angels' share, the amount of wine or whiskey volume lost to evaporation during barrel aging. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Rouen revealed which atoms evaporate in mixed materials, where there are many different types of atoms. They managed this feat by correlating data from three techniques, accounting for all of the atoms and determining how atoms were evaporating from APT.

Layla Mehdi

Layla Mehdi Receives Scholarship for Microscopy Conference

(September 2014)

Congratulations to materials postdoctoral researcher Layla Mehdi, who received a Robert P. Apkarian Memorial Scholarship to attend the Microscopy & Microanalysis (M&M) 2014 Annual Meeting August 3-7 in Hartford, Connecticut. She presented a poster titled "Direct Observation of Li2O2 Nucleation and Growth with In-Situ Liquid ec-(S)TEM," research developed under the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research project. 

Picking pi electrons

Cherry Picking Molecules Based on Their Pi Electrons

New material has second-to-none selectivity for ethylene, a high-demand industrial chemical

(July 2014)

Specialized windshield glass, everyday plastic water bottles, and countless other products are based on ethylene. Manufacturing it requires an energy-intense separation process that plucks the desired chemical from nearly identical ethane. To ease the energy required, an international team including researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed a material with a porous framework that greatly prefers ethylene. The material contains silver that binds with the electrons around ethylene's double-bonded carbon atoms. These electrons are known as π electrons or the π cloud.

Cited Researchers

Five PNNL Researchers Named Most Cited

(July 2014)

Five researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been named to a comprehensive list of the world's most referenced scientists. The list includes more than 3,200 researchers whose scientific reports were in the top 1 percent of papers receiving the most references. The five scientists are Jun Liu, Alex Guenther, Phil Rasch, Yuyan Shao and Yuehe Lin.

Molecular Road Rage

Transformations: Changing the Game in Biomass Conversion, Molecular Road Rage, and Long-Lived Biofuel Catalysts

(July 2014)

In the July issue of Transformations:

To achieve powerful aviation fuels from biomass, we must grasp the scientific underpinnings at play during conversion. Learn about the challenges involved and progress towards reaching this goal as well as how scientists are designing catalytic zeolites with wider “lanes” to prevent molecular crashes and extending the life of catalysts designed to turn bio-oil to fuel on a massive scale. Also, read about several of your colleagues who were recognized for their outstanding achievements.

James De Yoreo portrait

Jim De Yoreo Elected Materials Research Society Fellow

(March 2014)

Congratulations to Dr. Jim De Yoreo, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on being selected as a Materials Research Society (MRS) Fellow for his pioneering research in the field of bio-inspired materials science and engineering along with his distinguished leadership and service to the materials community. A prestigious society, MRS has 16,000-plus members in more than 60 countries; the society's goal is to advance interdisciplinary materials research to improve the quality of life.

battery diagram

Battery Development May Extend Range of Electric Cars

New anode quadruples life of lithium-sulfur battery, could also help store renewable energy more cheaply

(January 2014)

It's known that electric vehicles could travel longer distances before needing to charge and more renewable solar 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. A "hybrid" anode developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could quadruple the life of lithium-sulfur batteries. Nature Communications published a paper describing the anode's design and performance.


x-ray energy-dispersive spectroscopy maps of LMNO cathode

The Character of a Cathode

Nickel segregation, cation spatial distribution, and tightly integrated phases occur in pristine battery material

(November 2013)

To prevent fading in a layered lithium cathode that has promise for heavy duty transportation use, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, FEI Company, and Argonne National Laboratory obtained a definitive view of a pristine cathode. Controversy has encircled this material, a.k.a., LMNO cathode. Some state it's a solid solution; others, a composite. To address this debate, the team used a suite of instruments and determined the material is a composite with tightly integrated phases where the surface contains higher concentrations of nickel, low concentration of oxygen, and electron-rich manganese. Obtaining this type of clarity around the fundamentals of the cathode is necessary if scientists are to improve the cycle life and capacity of the resulting battery.

Patricia Abellan Earns International Award for Doctoral Thesis

(October 2013)

Congratulations to Dr. Patricia Abellan at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on receiving the Microscopy Society of Spain's Best Ph.D. Thesis in Materials Science award. Her research shows how strain state and interface structure in oxide nanostructured materials grown by a solution route changed the material's superconductivity, magnetism and other properties. She also discovered a novel mechanism for lattice parameter relaxation. She is currently conducting work for the Chemical Imaging Initiative and DOE's EMSL.

Oxygen atoms escape

Controlling Oxygen May Stop Batteries from Slowly Fading

Atoms' departure leaves electrons that irreversibly change the cathode

(August 2013)

Next-generation lithium-ion batteries fade, releasing less energy each time the battery is charged. Over time, the battery's voltage declines to the point that it is no longer viable and has to be replaced, at both an environmental and financial cost. Theoreticians at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and University College London answered decades-old questions about the underlying microscopic processes. They found that the release of oxygen from a next-generation cathode leaves scattered vacancies with stray elec­trons. The vacancies promote structural disor­der that reduces a key energy barrier and reduces the battery's voltage.

James De Yoreo

De Yoreo Receives Outstanding Materials Science Award

(June 2013)

Congratulations to Dr. James De Yoreo, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on earning the 2013 American Association for Crystal Growth Award for his foundational insights into the processes underlying biomineralization and biomolecular assembly.

Arslan's Research Graces the North American Catalysis Society Meeting's Program

(June 2013)

Congratulations to Dr. Ilke Arslan, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on having her scientific image chosen as the cover art for the North American Catalysis Society meeting.  The image depicts the morphological changes of a layered zeolite before and after delamination.  Delamination of stacked zeolite sheets provides more accessible surface area where bulky molecules can react -- important for the petrochemical industry.

Yong Wang

Yong Wang Elected Fellow in American Institute of Chemical Engineers

(May 2013)

Congratulations to Dr. Yong Wang on being chosen as an American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow. Wang is internationally known for his catalysis research, which has significantly improved energy efficiency in the chemical and fuels industries.  His work includes basic studies of structure-function relationships of metal catalysts, novel material development and reaction engineering to improve biomass and hydrocarbon conversion to fuels and chemicals.

He holds a joint appointment with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University. At PNNL, Wang is an Associate Director of PNNL's Institute for Integrated Catalysis. At WSU, he is a Voiland Distinguished Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

Yong Wang

Yong Wang Elected Fellow at Royal Society of Chemistry

(March 2013)

Congratulations to Dr. Yong Wang on becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK. He is internationally known for his catalysis and renewable energy research, which has improved energy efficiency in the chemical and fuels industries.  His work spans fundamental and applied research, including basic studies of structure-function relationships of metal catalysts, novel material development, and reaction engineering to improve biomass and hydrocarbon conversion to fuels and chemicals.

He holds a joint appointment with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University. At PNNL, Wang is an Associate Director of PNNL's Institute for Integrated Catalysis. At WSU, he is a Voiland Distinguished Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

TEM images

Batteries Lose in Game of Thorns

Scientists see how and where disruptive structures form and cause voltage fading

(January 2013)

Starting as a few atoms long, thorns forming on the electrode's surface in a specialized lithium battery cause the battery to gradually fade, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest and Argonne National Laboratory. The cause is a change in the composite, but how and where the transformations or phase transitions occur was under debate. By taking and analyzing atomic-resolution images of the battery's electrode before and after use, the team answered the questions.

MS3 Initiative