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    • 2018-05-01 09:20:28
    • Article ID: 693768

    Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, May 2018

    • Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      ORNL’s Jeffrey Warren (left) and Anirban Guha used a climate-controlled test chamber to simulate heat waves that peaked above 120 F and analyzed the impact on certain tree species.

    • Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      ORNL researchers test a sensor array inside a traffic cone as they developed a method to more accurately identify vehicles.

    • Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      ORNL scientists Ryan Kerekes (left) and Ryan Tokola codeveloped a prototype of the sensor platform for vehicle fingerprinting.

    • Credit: Dmytro Bykov/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      Computational modeling helped researchers visualize possible reactions when olefins are exposed to various catalysts.

    • Credit: Steve Gribben/NASA, Johns Hopkins APL

      NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, shown in this artist’s concept, is scheduled to launch on July 31 to contribute data that may improve the agency’s ability to forecast space weather, which can disrupt communications satellites and power grids, and may demystify why the Sun’s corona is hotter than its surface.

    • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      The ORNL-led team identified a low-barrier hydrogen bond, involving a single hydrogen atom formed in this catalytic triad, which is crucial for the enzyme’s ability to disrupt the drugs’ molecular structure and render them ineffective to combat pathogenic bacteria.

    Plants—Surviving the heat 

    A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory detailed the response and recovery of certain tree species after short-term, extreme weather events such as heat waves. Scientists exposed sets of four different saplings to dramatic temperature swings that peaked above 120 F, or around 50 C, in a climate-controlled test chamber. Sensors attached to each tree and located throughout the chamber tracked telltale signs of heat and drought stress such as fluxes in carbon uptake and shifts in water demand. “By monitoring specific trait behavior, we characterized each tree’s reaction to being kicked into survival mode for brief periods of time,” said ORNL’s Anirban Guha. “We found that during simulated heat waves, the entire plant mechanism was impacted, which affects its year-long survival.” The ORNL-led team’s findings, which were published in Environmental Research Letters, will improve predictive Earth system models. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov

    Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/ORNL_heat_wave_chamber2.jpg 

    Caption: ORNL’s Jeffrey Warren (left) and Anirban Guha used a climate-controlled test chamber to simulate heat waves that peaked above 120 F and analyzed the impact on certain tree species. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy. 

    Video: https://youtu.be/5j-jEEJwLCU 

    Caption: ORNL scientists exposed sets of four different saplings to dramatic temperature swings that peaked above 120 F, or around 50 C, in a climate-controlled test chamber. Credit: Jenny Woodbery/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy. 

    Sensors—Vehicle fingerprinting 

    Algorithms designed to parse data gathered by roadside sensors could make it easier to identify vehicles sought in AMBER Alerts and to assist researchers studying traffic patterns. Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists built a sensor platform to collect detailed images of cars, as well as electrical pulses and audio signals from engines, to uniquely identify vehicles. “Two cars with an identical make, model and color would be difficult to differentiate on the road,” said ORNL’s Ryan Kerekes. “With data pulled from sensors, we can use machine learning to extract important features to create a vehicle ‘fingerprint.’” The algorithms could be deployed with specialized sensor arrays or modified to apply to existing traffic cameras. The ORNL team presented their work at an IEEE Vehicle Technology Conference. Research is ongoing to upgrade sensors to capture larger vehicles and to improve matching algorithms. [Contact: Stephanie Seay, (865) 576-9894; seaysg@ornl.gov

    Image #1: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/VehicleIDSensorinCone2.jpg 

    Caption: ORNL researchers test a sensor array inside a traffic cone as they developed a method to more accurately identify vehicles. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy. 

    Image #2: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/VehicleIDSensorKerekesTokola.jpg 

    Caption: ORNL scientists Ryan Kerekes (left) and Ryan Tokola codeveloped a prototype of the sensor platform for vehicle fingerprinting. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy. 

    Computing—Filling the gaps 

    Researchers from the Max Planck Institute, renowned for advances in nonmetallic catalysis, leveraged computational modeling support from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to overcome a major limiting factor in the breakdown of simple organic compounds called olefins. Olefins are among nature’s most abundant chemical compounds and are commonly obtained from crude oil. But current industrial processes to catalyze olefins into useful products are energy-intensive and costly. ORNL’s Dmytro Bykov ran a series of calculations on experimental data provided by Max Planck to fill in the gaps. “The team had theorized the most promising catalysis candidates, but they needed details on the reaction mechanisms that are difficult to determine in a lab setting,” Bykov said. The resulting three-dimensional models helped the team better predict the most plausible ways to catalyze olefins. Their discovery was published in the journal Science. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov

    Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/ORNL_catalysis_of_olefins_0.png 

    Caption: Computational modeling helped researchers visualize possible reactions when olefins are exposed to various catalysts. Credit: Dmytro Bykov/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.  

    Materials—Taking the heat 

    A shield assembly that protects an instrument measuring ion and electron fluxes for a NASA mission to touch the Sun was tested in extreme experimental environments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—and passed with flying colors. Components aboard Parker Solar Probe, which will endure the heat near the Sun, will get closer to the Sun than prior missions. The ORNL team exposed the shield assembly to a searing 3,227  F for up to 72 hours and simulated solar intensity of 65 watts per square centimeter using ORNL’s Radioisotope Power Systems Program and Plasma-Arc Lamp facilities, respectively. This exceeded the worst conditions that the mission is predicted to experience in the corona. Andrew Driesman, project manager of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed, built and will operate the spacecraft for NASA, said, “ORNL’s support was crucial in completing our testing on time by helping to solve difficult materials and technical challenges.” [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448; levyd@ornl.gov

    Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/NASA_Parker_Solar_Probe_rendering.jpg 

    Caption: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, shown in this artist’s concept, is scheduled to launch on July 31 to contribute data that may improve the agency’s ability to forecast space weather, which can disrupt communications satellites and power grids, and may demystify why the Sun’s corona is hotter than its surface. Credit: Steve Gribben/NASA, Johns Hopkins APL. 

    Neutrons—On the down-low 

    An Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led team has observed how a prolific class of antibiotics may be losing its effectiveness as certain bacteria develop drug resistance by acquiring enzymes known as aminoglycoside modifying enzymes. Aminoglycosides are commonly used in antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, meningitis and listeriosis. Using X-rays and neutron diffraction, researchers found a known but previously undetected biological architecture called a catalytic triad within this enzyme group. The team identified a low-barrier hydrogen bond, involving a single hydrogen atom formed in this catalytic triad, which is crucial for the enzyme’s ability to disrupt the drugs’ molecular structure and render them ineffective to combat pathogenic bacteria. Detailed in Science Advances, this information provides new insights that could help improve future drug design. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov

    Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/ORNL_neutrons_low-barrierH.png 

    Caption: The ORNL-led team identified a low-barrier hydrogen bond, involving a single hydrogen atom formed in this catalytic triad, which is crucial for the enzyme’s ability to disrupt the drugs’ molecular structure and render them ineffective to combat pathogenic bacteria. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

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    Science Up-Close: Developing a Cookbook for Efficient Fusion Energy

    To develop a future fusion reactor, scientists need to understand how and why plasma in fusion experiments moves into a "high-confinement mode" where particles and heat can't escape. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory simulated the transition into that mode starting from the most basic physics principles.

    Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level

    New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.

    Neutron science publications reach new highs at ORNL's flagship facilities

    The High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have reached new levels of increased science productivity. In 2018, a record high of more than 500 scientific instrument publications were produced between HFIR and SNS--based on neutron beamline experiments conducted by more than 1,200 US and international researchers who used the world-leading facilities.

    Fiery sighting: A new physics of eruptions that damage fusion experiments

    Feature describes first direct sighting of a trigger for bursts of heat that can disrupt fusion reactions.

    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    An effect that Einstein helped discover 100 years ago offers new insight into a puzzling magnetic phenomenon

    Experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have seen for the first time what happens when magnetic materials are demagnetized at ultrafast speeds of millionths of a billionth of a second: The atoms on the surface of the material move, much like the iron bar did. The work, done at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, was published in Nature earlier this month.

    Found: A precise method for determining how waves and particles affect fusion reactions

    Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within plasma can ride waves oscillating through the plasma during fusion energy experiments. Now a team of physicists led by PPPL has devised a faster method to determine how much this interaction contributes to efficiency loss in tokamaks.

    Discovery adapts natural membrane to make hydrogen fuel from water

    In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists have combined two membrane-bound protein complexes to perform a complete conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.


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    Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory compiles a list of the biggest advances made by the Lab's staff scientists, engineers, and visiting researchers. From uncovering mysteries of the universe to building better batteries, here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 10 discoveries of 2018.

    U.S. Department of Energy Announces $33 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award 189 grants totaling $33 million to 149 small businesses in 32 states.

    DOE to Provide $16 Million for New Research into Atmospheric and Terrestrial Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $16 million for new observational research aimed at improving the accuracy of today's climate and earth system models.

    Machine learning award powers Argonne leadership in engine design

    When attempting to design engines to be more fuel-efficient and emissions-free, automotive manufacturers have to take into account all the complexity inherent in the combustion process.

    ORNL partners with industry to address multiple nuclear technology challenges

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.

    Lithium earns honors for three physicists working to bring the energy that powers the sun to Earth

    Feature describes research of three PPPL physicists who have won the laboratory's 2018 outstanding research awards

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.


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    Rapid Lake Draining on Ice Sheets Changes How Water Moves in Unexpected Ways

    Widespread fracturing during lake drainage triggers vertical shafts to form that affect the Greenland Ice Sheet.

    New Historical Emissions Trends Estimated with the Community Emissions Data System

    The data system will allow for more detailed, consistent, and up-to-date global emissions trends that will aid in understanding aerosol effects.

    Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level

    New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.

    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    New Method Knocks Out Yeast Genes with Single-Point Precision

    Researchers can precisely study how different genes affect key properties in a yeast used industrially to produce fuel and chemicals.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    More Designer Peptides, More Possibilities

    A combined experimental and modeling approach contributes to understanding small proteins with potential use in industrial, therapeutic applications.

    Deep Learning for Electron Microscopy

    Artificial intelligence on Summit to discover atomic-scale structures.

    Clarifying Rates of Methylmercury Production

    New model provides more accurate estimates of how fast microbes produce a mercury-based neurotoxin.


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