Dru Renner An accidental physicist tells all

Not many youngsters walk out of their sophomore year in high school and into college, but a then-new program in Ohio allowed Dru Renner, a staff scientist at DOE's Jefferson Lab, to do just that.

With the goal of funneling students into the state's university system, the program allowed high school students to take college classes at no cost. Renner, ever curious, went to an informational session about the program and was one of the few students who pursued it. What he found, largely because it was the first year of the experimental program and administrators were feeling their way through it, was the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Ames Laboratory will use scanning tunneling electron microscopy in a research effort to develop a new manganese-based material for use in rare-earth free high-strength, permanent magnets.Manganese may be key to rare-earth free magnets

Rare earths elements are of high interest because they are key components of nearly every modern-day electronic device, from televisions to cell phones and computers to automobiles. They’re also key elements in magnets used in wind turbines.

Scientists from DOE's Ames Laboratory will team with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on research to reduce dependence on critical materials like rare earths in wind turbines and electric vehicles by developing a new material based on manganese as a rare-earth free alternative to rare-earth permanent magnets. These manganese composite magnets hold the potential to double the magnetic strength relative to current magnets while using raw materials that are inexpensive and abundant.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 362  |
  • May 7, 2012
  • NIF fires historic laser shot

    Control room staff at the National Ignition Facility monitor the progress of the world's most energetic laser shot on March 15.  From left: Rodrigo Miramontes-Ortiz, Dean LaTray, Scott Phillip Rogers, Dean Steven Felzkowski. Photo by Damien Jemison/NIF. The National Ignition Facility, the world's most energetic laser, surpassed a critical milestone in its efforts to meet one of modern science's greatest challenges: achieving fusion ignition and energy gain in a laboratory setting at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. NIF's 192 lasers fired in perfect unison, delivering a record 1.875 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to the facility's target chamber center.

    This historic laser shot, made March 15, involved a shaped pulse of energy 23 billionths of a second long that generated 411 trillion watts (TW) of peak power (1,000 times more than the United States uses at any instant in time).

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  • NREL Catalyst Brings Drop-In Fuels Closer

    NREL Engineer Whitney Jablonski places a quartz reactor tube with a nickel-based catalyst into a reactor at NREL's Thermochemical Users Facility. Credit: Dennis Schroeder.

    Researchers at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory are looking for ways to thermochemically treat biomass to arrive at an end product that is similar to oil.  NREL has patented a catalyst that cleans up biomass gas, making it ready to convert into fuels compatible with today's infrastructure.

    "In the end you want to create something that's going to look just like gasoline, with a cost similar to gasoline, but that is derived from biomass," NREL Principal Scientist Kim Magrini said. "There is an added benefit to this process because you are taking biomass, which has carbon in it, and putting it into your fuel, which gets combusted into carbon dioxide — which is food for future biomass. If you look at the life-cycle analysis, it has a greater than 90 percent closure on the carbon loop."

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  • New alloy electrode designed for plus-sized ions

    Thanks to fundamental research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, sodium-ion batteries could be part of storing energy from wind farms and releasing that electricity on demand.

    Storing wind farm energy and releasing it on demand requires high-capacity, low-cost batteries; sodium-ion batteries could be part of the answer, thanks to fundamental insights from scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Instead of force-fitting larger sodium ions into battery electrodes built for much smaller lithium ions, the researchers designed an electrode based on the ion's character, not its circumference.

    The new electrode or anode is built from a tin and antimony alloy, with a specially designed carbon support. Based on microscopy work at EMSL and other examinations, the team believes the tin- and antimony-rich phases that likely formed during the battery's operations support one another. When one phase becomes disconnected, the other phase takes up the slack, remaining stable and continuing to interact with the sodium.

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  • Novel composite materials demonstrate ultra-sensitivity

    An artistic representation of the synthesis process of gold nanowires on functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes. The growth mechanism of gold nanowires identified contains an ensemble of adsorption/desorption, shuttling and nanowelding elementary steps.

    Nanoscale building blocks allow scientists to create new complex architectures. The resulting novel materials have unique structures and functions that can achieve amazing laboratory results. 

    Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have successfully developed a method to self-assemble gold into nanowires for gas sensing applications. Their strategy is a bottom-up approach in which gold nanowires are built from gold nanoparticles in aqueous suspensions of single-walled carbon nanotubes treated with various coatings. In a complementary effort, the mechanisms that describe the observed growth of the gold nanowires, (composed of an ensemble of adsorption/desorption, shuttling and nanowelding) have also been deduced. The elementary steps of this mechanism were demonstrated through first principles density functional theory calculations and validated with X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy measurements.

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