Newswise — A world-leading researcher in solid electrolytes and sophisticated electron microscopy methods received Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s top science honor today for her work in developing new materials for batteries. The announcement was made during a livestreamed Director’s Awards event hosted by ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia.

Miaofang Chi, a scientist in the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, received the 2021 Director’s Award for Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Science and Technology for contributions to understanding the behavior of energy materials through the development and application of innovative microscopy methods. Chi also won this award in 2015.

“Miaofang’s accomplishments have been forged by her incredible work ethic and her desire to excel,” said Juan Carlos Idrobo, Chi’s group leader in scanning transmission electron microscopy. “She is reserved but relentless, always pushing for the next big idea for how microscopy can be implemented to advance the frontiers of materials science.”

Chi’s primary research has focused on identifying new materials for batteries that are non-flammable, lightweight and have a longer shelf life than batteries currently in use in daily life. Her earlier work on cathode materials initiated the effort within the battery community to enhance cyclability via surface coatings, and she pioneered the effort to understand battery materials at the atomic scale.

The Director’s Award for Outstanding Team Accomplishment in Science and Technology went to Nicholas Peters and his team in quantum communications and networking, including Muneer Alshowkan and Phil Evans. They were honored for their thoughtful collaboration that led to the first demonstration of an interoperable and scalable approach to quantum-secured data transmission in a real-world energy delivery environment. Their work paves the way toward the supervision and control of energy delivery infrastructure at a national scale with an unprecedented level of security.

This achievement underscores the mass development of quantum security technologies to deliver secure, long-term cyber protections for the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Kate Evans, director for ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, said, “Nick leads by creating a positive and professional environment in which scientists thrive. He cares deeply for his staff and their well-being and, as a result, success follows his whole team.”

Two teams received a Director’s Award for Outstanding Team Accomplishment for Mission Support for one high-priority project: the design, construction and installation of Frontier, ORNL’s exascale computing system.

Led by Bart Hammontree and William Wheat, the groups include Aaron Adkisson, Erech Atchley, Bill Barker, Von Bolinger, Dave Bozich, Kenneth Brown, Shannon Caudill, David Grant, Rick Griffin, John Gutman, David Hill, Erik Hunt, Greg Irby, Jeremy Nichols, Nathan Parkison, Brian Pridemore, Kyle Young, Stephen Welch, David Rhodes, William Robertson, Joseph Vanosdale, John Walker and Gary Weber.

The installation of the system, capable of calculating one quintillion operations per second, is under way. But before Frontier arrived at the lab, the largest, most comprehensive upgrade in the history of ORNL had to be completed, including massive upgrades to the power and cooling infrastructures, as well as moving more than 100 offices and seven research facilities.

The groups operated with the utmost attention to safety and timeliness. Given the pandemic, these teams faced additional challenges in the delivery schedule and another layer of evaluation to this complex and detailed project. Their ability to solve problems was realized daily, maneuvering through the difficult scope of work and the required demolition and construction inside existing, fully operational buildings in the heart of the ORNL campus.

The Director’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Mission Support went to Amy Brown, ORNL’s talent strategy director, recognizing her dedication in implementing human resources elements during a comprehensive reorganization effort and for being a driving force for diversity and equity. Brown exemplifies One ORNL, reflecting the importance of unity throughout the lab enterprise in achieving world-changing results.

The award recognizes an unwavering commitment to the principles of consistency, fairness and transparency to ensure accountability and alignment across ORNL, enabling the lab to sustain an equitable workplace and foster an inclusive culture.

She worked closely with the associate laboratory directors to develop a hiring process that was implemented in fiscal year 2021 while the lab expanded its workforce by more than 900 people — the highest number in ORNL’s history.

The lab’s top awards announcement concluded a weeklong recognition of category winners posted daily to laboratory staff.

View the full video playlist of the 2021 award winners.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.

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