Andrew SesslerAndrew Sessler: Fermi Award-winning scientist and champion of humanitarian causes

“I like to think that many physicists look up, on occasion, from their experimental apparatus or computer screen, to see that all is not well with the world, and devote some time and effort to help.”

Andrew Sessler, 85, former director of DOE's Berkeley Lab (1973-1980), made that statement in 1994 when he became the first recipient of the American Physical Society’s Dwight Nicholson Medal for Humanitarian Service. Sessler received the Nicholson Medal for being a co-founder of the human rights group Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov and Sharansky (SOS), scientists who were persecuted as dissidents in what was then the Soviet Union.

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An unmanned, autonomous underwater vehicle surveys a fjord in western Greenland. ORNL researchers are working with the Navy to automate analysis of sonar data. Photo: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (A.Kukulya).ORNL robotics sensors detect underwater explosive ordnance

Modern weapons technologies often keep members of the military out of harm's way by allowing them to perform missions from a distance. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are helping the military play defense from a distance, as well.

Dan Archer and Thomas Karnowski, along with their team of scientists, are working with the Navy and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to continue the development of unmanned, autonomous underwater vehicles with sensors that can scan areas, detect anomalies and differentiate between objects—like a wrench and a hammer versus an explosive mine.

“It’s a difficult problem because if you have a wrench and a hammer—fine—you can distinguish those,” Archer said. “But throw a bunch of other stuff on the table and then try to find the tools amongst the clutter and distinguish them from one another.”

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 406  |
  • February 3, 2014
  • Disordered materials hold promise for better batteries

    Conventional layered lithium and transition metal cathode material (top) and the new disordered material studied by researchers at MIT and Brookhaven (bottom) as seen through a scanning tunneling electron microscope. Inset images show diagrams of the different structures in these materials. (In the disordered material, the blue lines show the pathways that allow lithium ions to traverse the material.) Lithium batteries, with their exceptional ability to store power per a given weight, have been a major focus of research to enable use in everything from portable electronics to electric cars. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and DOE's Brookhaven Lab have found a whole new avenue for such research: the use of disordered materials, which had generally been considered unsuitable for batteries.

    In a rechargeable lithium-based battery, lithium ions — atoms that have given up an electron, and thus carry a net charge — are pulled out of the battery's cathode during the charging process, and returned to the cathode as power is drained. But these repeated round-trips can cause the electrode material to shrink and expand, leading to cracks and degrading performance over time.

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  • Battery development may extend range of electric cars

    PNNL researchers have developed a hybrid anode made of graphite and lithium that could quadruple the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries. Image courtesy of Huang et al, Nature Communications 2014 A "hybrid" anode developed at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could quadruple the life of lithium-sulfur batteries; if these batteries can just overcome a few technical hurdles, they could power electric vehicles for longer distances before needing to charge and could save solar energy for a rainy day. The national lab’s research describing the anode's design and performance, bringing it closer to commercial use, recently appeared in Nature Communications.

    "Lithium-sulfur batteries could one day help us take electric cars on longer drives and store renewable wind energy more cheaply, but some technical challenges have to be overcome first," said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Jun Liu, who is the paper's corresponding author. "PNNL's new anode design is helping -- bringing us closer to that day."

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  • Prototype cryostat for neutrino experiment exceeds purity goals

    This cryostat system has exceeded the stringent liquid-argon purity requirements for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment.Scientists and engineers working on the design of the particle detector for the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment celebrated a major success in January. They operated for the first time a 35-ton prototype cryostat filled with liquid argon and met the stringent, less-than-200-parts-per-trillion purity requirement on oxygen contamination in the liquid.

    The purity of liquid argon is crucial for the proposed LBNE neutrino detector. Oxygen and other electronegative impurities in the liquid can absorb ionization electrons created by neutrino interactions and prevent them from reaching the signal wires of the detector.

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  • Broadband THz wave generation with metamaterials demo'd

    A team led by Ames Laboratory physicists demonstrated broadband, gapless terahertz emission (red line) from split-ring resonator metamaterials (background) in the telecomm wavelength. The THz emission spectra exhibit significant enhancement at magnetic-dipole resonance of the metamaterials emitter (shown in inset image). This approach has potential to generate gapless spectrum covering the entire THz band, which is key to developing practical THz technologies and to exploring fundamental understanding of optics.Scientists at DOE's Ames Laboratory have demonstrated broadband terahertz (THz) wave generation using metamaterials. The discovery may help develop noninvasive imaging and sensing, and make possible THz-speed information communication, processing and storage.

    The team created a metamaterial made up of a special type of meta-atom called split-ring resonators. Split-ring resonators, because of their u-shaped design, display a strong magnetic response to any desired frequency waves in the THz to infrared spectrum.

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