Jonathan Hull Catalysis chemist accelerates alternative energy research

For Jonathan Hull, chemistry is in the blood. With a chemical engineer and a doctor in the family, it’s no surprise that some of Hull’s first memories involve chemistry experiments, like putting vinegar and baking soda into a glass bottle and watching the cork blow off in his backyard sandbox in the New Mexico desert.

“I certainly got a kick out of the loud explosion,” he said. “I wanted to see how high I could make the cork go. I also remember trying to make a parachute for it. I was excited by the process of having an idea, and then designing a test for it and making it happen. I still am.”

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Elton Wright shows a torsional spring that’s used to simulate the rotational vibration of the drill string in a Sandia experiment. (Photo by Randy Montoya)Polycrystalline diamond drill bits open up options for geothermal energy

30-year-old investment comes full circle

Nearly two-thirds of the oil we use comes from wells drilled using polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits, originally developed nearly 30 years ago to lower the cost of geothermal drilling. DOE's Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Navy recently brought the technology full circle, showing how geothermal drillers might use the original PDC technology, incorporating decades of subsequent improvements by the oil and gas industry.


Sandia and the Navy’s Geothermal Program Office (USN GPO) conducted the Phase One demonstration tests as part of a geothermal resources evaluation at the Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range in Imperial Valley, Calif.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 359  |
  • March 26, 2012
  • PPPL delivers plasma source for new Berkeley Lab accelerator

    Erik Gilson with a copper-clad module and chamber for testing the units. (Photo credit: Elle Starkman, PPPL Office of Communications) Scientists at DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have designed and delivered a crucial component for a device that can heat a spot of foil to 30,000 degrees Centigrade in less than a billionth of a second. The part will complete a linear accelerator that researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are using to create a superheated state called “warm dense matter.”

    Researchers are eager to study this substance, which is rarely seen on Earth but common throughout the universe. Warm dense matter can be found in the molten core of giant planets like Jupiter, and in the preliminary stages of fusion, a process that powers the sun and stars. Such matter intrigues physicists studying the cosmos and scientists including those at PPPL who are seeking to harness fusion to produce electric power.

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  • Toppling Raman shift in supercritical carbon dioxide

    Toppling Raman Shift in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide. Vibrational mix shines new light on carbon sequestration measurements. Image reproduced by permission of Battelle and PCCP Owner Societies from Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2012, 14, 2560-2566, DOI: 10.1039/C1CP22349F.

    Just as a wine glass vibrates and sometimes breaks when a diva sings the right note, carbon dioxide vibrates when light or heat serenades it. When it vibrates, the chemical compound exhibits a vibrational puzzle known as Fermi resonance, first recognized in carbon dioxide and explained by Enrico Fermi in 1931.

    Now, researchers studying geologic carbon storage have learned a bit more about the nature of the Fermi resonance in carbon dioxide. This new knowledge can ultimately help scientists interpret spectral lines in complex environments and therefore better understand details in chemical reactions.

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  • FACE harvest reveals soil carbon storage

    From  left, ORNL's Joanne Childs, Colleen Iversen and Rich Norby dig soil pits and excavate roots and soil at the FACE site.

    Elevated carbon dioxide concentrations can increase carbon storage in the soil, according to results from a 12-year carbon dioxide-enrichment experiment at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
    The increased storage of carbon in soil could help to slow down rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

    The Department of Energy-sponsored free-air carbon dioxide-enrichment, or FACE, experiment officially ended in 2009. The conclusion and final harvest of the ORNL FACE experiment provided researchers with the unique opportunity to cut down entire trees and to dig in the soil to quantify the effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations on plant and soil carbon.

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  • Nano-size particles show big potential

    Nano-size particles show big potential

    Sometimes bigger isn’t better.

    Researchers at DOE's Savannah River National Laboratory have successfully shown that they can replace useful little particles of monosodium titanate (MST) with even tinier nano-sized particles, making them even more useful for a variety of applications.

    MST is an ion exchange material used to decontaminate radioactive and industrial wastewater solutions, and has been shown to be an effective way to deliver metals into living cells for some types of medical treatment.  Typically, MST, and  a modified form known as mMST developed by SRNL and Sandia National Laboratories, are in the form of fine powders, spherically-shaped particles about 1 to 10 microns in diameter (a micron is one-millionth of a meter). 

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