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Scientists Set Record Resolution for Drawing at the One-Nanometer Length Scale

Using a specialized electron microscope outfitted with a pattern generator, scientists turned an imaging instrument into a lithography tool that could be used to create and study materials with new properties.

For First Time, Researchers Measure Forces That Align Crystals and Help Them Snap Together

For the first time, researchers have measured the force that draws tiny crystals together and visualized how they swivel and align. Called van der Waals forces, the attraction provides insights into how crystals self-assemble, an activity that occurs in a wide range of cases in nature, from rocks to shells to bones.

Video Captures Bubble-Blowing Battery in Action

PNNL researchers have created a unique video that shows oxygen bubbles inflating and later deflating inside a tiny lithium-air battery. The knowledge gained from the video could help make lithium-air batteries that are more compact, stable and can hold onto a charge longer.

Study Offers New Theoretical Approach to Describing Non-Equilibrium Phase Transitions

Two physicists at Argonne offered a way to mathematically describe a particular physics phenomenon called a phase transition in a system out of equilibrium. Such phenomena are central in physics, and understanding how they occur has been a long-held and vexing goal; their behavior and related effects are key to unlocking possibilities for new electronics and other next-generation technologies.

Berkeley Lab Scientists Discover New Atomically Layered, Thin Magnet

Berkeley Lab scientists have found an unexpected magnetic property in a 2-D material. The new atomically thin, flat magnet could have major implications for a wide range of applications, such as nanoscale memory, spintronic devices, and magnetic sensors.

Stabilizing Molecule Could Pave Way for Lithium-Air Fuel Cell

Lithium-oxygen fuel cells boast energy density levels comparable to fossil fuels and are thus seen as a promising candidate for future transportation-related energy needs.

Scientists Identify Chemical Causes of Battery "Capacity Fade"

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory identified one of the major culprits in capacity fade of high-energy lithium-ion batteries.

Modeling Reveals How Policy Affects the Adoption of Solar Energy Photovoltaics in California

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, inspired by efforts to promote green energy, are exploring the factors driving commercial customers in Southern California, both large and small, to purchase and install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. As the group reports this week in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, they built a model for commercial solar PV adoption to quantify the impact of government incentives and solar PV costs.

Machine Learning Dramatically Streamlines Search for More Efficient Chemical Reactions

A catalytic reaction may follow thousands of possible paths, and it can take years to identify which one it actually takes so scientists can tweak it and make it more efficient. Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have taken a big step toward cutting through this thicket of possibilities.

Freezing Lithium Batteries May Make Them Safer and Bendable

Columbia Engineering Professor Yuan Yang has developed a new method that could lead to lithium batteries that are safer, have longer battery life, and are bendable, providing new possibilities such as flexible smartphones. His new technique uses ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium batteries that are used in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-level energy storage. The study is published online April 24 in Nano Letters.


OU Engineering Professor Receives National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award

A University of Oklahoma Gallogly College of Engineering professor, Steven P. Crossley, is the recipient of a five-year, National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award in the amount of $548,829 for research that can be used to understand catalysts that are important for a broad range of chemical reactions ranging from the production of renewable fuels and chemicals for natural gas processing. The research will be integrated with educational and outreach programs intended for American Indian students, emphasizing the importance of sustainable energy.

3 Small Energy Firms to Collaborate with PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is collaborating with three small businesses to address technical challenges concerning hydrogen for fuel cell cars, bio-coal and nanomaterial manufacturing.

ORNL to Collaborate with Five Small Businesses to Advance Energy Tech

Five small companies have been selected to partner with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to move technologies in commercial refrigeration systems, water power generation, bioenergy and battery manufacturing closer to the marketplace.

U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE Program Seeks Advanced Computational Research Proposals for 2018

The Department of Energy's INCITE program will be accepting proposals for high-impact, computationally intensive research campaigns in a broad array of science, engineering, and computer science domains.

New Berkeley Lab Project Turns Waste Heat to Electricity

A new Berkeley Lab project seeks to efficiently capture waste heat and convert it to electricity, potentially saving California up to $385 million per year. With a $2-million grant from the California Energy Commission, Berkeley Lab scientists will work with Alphabet Energy to create a cost-effective thermoelectric waste heat recovery system.

New SLAC Theory Institute Aims to Speed Research on Exotic Materials at Light Sources

A new institute at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is using the power of theory to search for new types of materials that could revolutionize society - by making it possible, for instance, to transmit electricity over power lines with no loss.

Lenvio Inc. Exclusively Licenses ORNL Malware Behavior Detection Technology

Virginia-based Lenvio Inc. has exclusively licensed a cyber security technology from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly detect malicious behavior in software not previously identified as a threat.

Argonne Scientist and Nobel Laureate Alexei Abrikosov Dies at 88

Alexei Abrikosov, an acclaimed physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on superconducting materials, died Wednesday, March 29. He was 88.

Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.


Uncrowded Coils

A new fast and robust algorithm for computing stellarator coil shapes yields designs that are easier to build and maintain.

Fast Electrons and the Seeds of Disruption

Physicists measured fast electron populations. They achieved this first-of-its-kind result by seeing the effect of the fast electrons on the ablation rate of small frozen argon pellets.

Plasma Turbulence Generates Flow in Fusion Reactors

Heating the core of fusion reactors causes them to develop sheared rotation that can improve plasma performance.

The Roadmap to Quark Soup

Scientists discover new signposts in the quest to determine how matter from the early universe turned into the world we know today.

Neutrons Play the Lead to Protons in Dance Around "Double-Magic" Nucleus

Electric and magnetic properties of a radioactive atom provide unique insight into the nature of proton and neutron motion.

Ultrafast Imaging Reveals the Electron's New Clothes

Scientists use high-speed electrons to visualize "dress-like" distortions in the atomic lattice. This work reveals the vital role of electron-lattice interactions in manganites. This material could be used in data-storage devices with increased data density and reduced power requirements.

One Small Change Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

For years, scientists have explored using tiny drops of designer materials, called quantum dots, to make better solar cells. Adding small amounts of manganese decreases the ability of quantum dots to absorb light but increases the current produced by an average of 300%.

Electronic "Cyclones" at the Nanoscale

Through highly controlled synthesis, scientists controlled competing atomic forces to let spiral electronic structures form. These polar vortices can serve as a precursor to new phenomena in materials. The materials could be vital for ultra-low energy electronic devices.

In a Flash! A New Way for Making Ceramics

A new process controllably but instantly consolidates ceramic parts, potentially important for manufacturing.

Deciphering Material Properties at the Single-Atom Level

Scientists determine the precise location and identity of all 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle.


Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

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Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

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NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

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Texas Tech University

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UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

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Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

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Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

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The Play-by-Play of Energy Conversion: Catching Catalysts in Action

Article ID: 612159

Released: 2014-01-07 17:00:00

Source Newsroom: Brookhaven National Laboratory

  • Credit: Courtesy Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Click on the image to download a high-resolution version. Brookhaven Lab scientists (from left) Kumudu Mudiyanselage, Ashleigh Baber, Fang Xu, and Dario Stacchiola.

Karen McNulty Walsh, kmcnulty@bnl.gov, (631) 344-8350

The Play-by-Play of Energy Conversion: Catching Catalysts in Action

By Justin Eure

The whistle blows and the big game begins on TV. You watch the punted football sail over the field and into the arms of the opposing team—then the feed abruptly cuts out. The information blackout is apparently universal, with no coverage online or on the radio. Hours later, the signal returns and you learn that your beloved home team pulled off a stunning, come-from-behind victory. But here’s the kicker: there’s no way to find out the play-by-play. Did the quarterback’s last-second Hail-Mary pass decide the game, or was it a devastating interception returned for a touchdown?

Believe it or not, catalytic chemical reactions can fall into a similar blackout, but watching the “game” is trickier than buying a ticket or tuning in on the television. Before catalysis unfolds in a laboratory, scientists painstakingly assemble the materials and spark a reaction. But like that lost signal, many experimental techniques only capture the static details before and after the reaction. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have demonstrated an unprecedented ability to peer into the dynamic, real-time reactions blazing along at scales spanning just billionths of a meter.

“For the first time, a comprehensive set of tools is available for exploring correlations among the morphological, structural, electronic, and chemical properties of catalytic materials under working conditions,” said Darío Stacchiola, a Brookhaven Lab chemist and coauthor on two recent studies. “These in situ studies allow us to propose reaction mechanisms and help guide the design of more efficient catalysts.”

The two studies—published in Angewandte Chemie and the Journal of the American Chemical Society—used microscopy and spectroscopy to catch custom-built catalysts during processes that could play a crucial role in securing sustainable sources of energy. The results not only demonstrate an experimental breakthrough, but they may also lead to better-than-ever methods of distilling hydrogen or purifying exhaust gases from cars.

Materials scientists often probe catalysts under frigid, ultra-high vacuum conditions to avoid the ever-present threat of interactions with ambient particles that can obscure the data—but these catalysts must ultimately operate in industrial processes and next-gen devices. To bridge that gap, Brookhaven Lab’s Catalysis Group combined a new suite of tools for atomic-scale synthesis and characterization in the Chemistry Department and Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) with powerful synchrotron x-rays.

Transforming Water into Fuel (Angewandte Chemie)

Apply a little heat to the right catalyst and water and carbon monoxide can transform into pure hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide (H20 + CO = H2 + CO2). The process, called the water-gas shift reaction (WGS), can provide the high-purity hydrogen crucial to applications as varied as fertilizer synthesis and automobile fuel cell technology.

The Brookhaven Lab collaboration had already discovered that combining copper or gold with ceria—rather than the zinc oxide commonly used in commercial catalysts—yielded excellent WGS performance, but they were unable to explain why. To pinpoint the reaction mechanism, the researchers enlisted photons to interrogate the catalysts:

• Near-ambient pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP-XPS) used the high-density photons from synchrotron light sources to interact with catalysts and determine their electronic states throughout the reaction. Importantly, this breakthrough technique caught the action without the constraints of an ultra-high vacuum.

• Near-ambient pressure infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy (NAP-IRRAS) used lower frequency photons to identify the molecular make-up and structural configuration of molecules acting at the catalyst interface.

• Density functional theory computational analysis combined that data to show that the site of the metal/oxide interface enabled the activation of an extremely efficient reaction pathway, regardless of the inert quality of a metal such as gold.

“Theory suggested that this interface could be a critical catalysis site, but the complexity of the reaction system prevented direct observation and confirmation,” said Jesus Graciani, a study coauthor and collaborator from the University of Seville, Spain. “But our method unequivocally proved the presence of bent CO2 molecules. These were not predicted to be relevant to the reaction, but they prove the existence of an associative mechanism at the metal/oxide interface. Maximizing the number of interfacial sites could be the key to more efficient hydrogen generation.”

Reduction Propagation (Journal of the American Chemical Society)

Oxidation—responsible for the creeping rust that ruins some metals—and reduction reactions are ubiquitous for various catalytic processes, propagating across a material and transforming its chemical properties. Understanding the reaction’s journey and impact on the catalysts can help optimize processes ranging from air pollution control to synthesis of oxygenated fuels.

The Brookhaven Lab collaboration specifically examined the way copper oxide catalysts transform under the ambient pressure of carbon monoxide gas. To track the reaction dynamics in unprecedented detail, they used four complementary techniques:

• Low-energy electron microscopy (LEEM) used a focused electron beam to map micrometer (millionth of a meter) morphological changes. The LEEM available at the CFN revealed the reduction reaction advancing from the catalyst edges across the entire material.

• NAP Scanning tunneling microscopy (NAP-STM) captured the electronic signatures of atoms to identify materials with sub-nanometer precision. STM pinpointed copper atoms being released by the reduction reaction leading to a large mass transfer across the surface.

• NAP-IRRAS tracked the adhesion of carbon monoxide molecules on the surface, in this case showing that CO attaches first to the copper oxide and only later to metallic copper.

• NAP-XPS pinpointed the oxidation state of the ongoing surface reaction, and even quantified the total amount of oxygen present.

“We can finally see the dynamic nature of oxide catalysts with clarity,” said study coauthor and Brookhaven Lab scientist Ashleigh Baber. “We now know that nanoscale defects impact the way copper oxidizes or reduces. We also found that metallic copper quickly makes copper nanoparticles that fly across the surface in the presence of reactants, providing a new framework for molecular-level improvements to catalyst construction.”

The Future of Catalysis – Live and Direct

Two synchrotrons, the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the MAX-Lab in Sweden, provided the x-rays for the crucial spectroscopy work and helped move in situ studies closer than ever to mirroring industrial and commercial conditions—but some details remain hidden. Beginning in 2015, the next-generation National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) will provide even brighter x-rays, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) will operate the first truly Ambient Pressure XPS end station. This cutting-edge instrument will allow researchers to obtain unparalleled information about the electronic state of active catalysts.

“The sets of state of the art tools at both NSLS and CFN allow us to attack the same system from multiple directions, providing a picture that goes beyond the individual components,” Stacchiola said. “Future reaction studies will require higher pressures than the current AP-XPS setup can handle, but that will all change when we begin working with NSLS-II.”

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Spain’s Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, and the Swedish Research Council.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology organization.