Matthew J. Parker SRNL meteorologist proud of the breadth of field

Matthew J. Parker of the Atmospheric Technologies Group at DOE's Savannah River National Laboratory is proud to be part of a profession — meteorology — that so many people rely on.  “The weather forecast is still one of the, if not the, most anticipated portions of the local newscast,” he says.  “And if you’re not a Weather Channel junkie, you probably know someone who is.  The weather matters in people's lives, and that's why meteorologists study to become professionals.  We truly want to help protect lives and property.”

He’s equally proud of the other, less well-known work that meteorologists do.  “While forecasting the weather is very important to our work within SRNL, that's not the only thing meteorologists do.  We perform all kinds of studies where meteorological or climatological data can be used to provide the answers our customers are seeking.  For example, we can project downwind concentrations of an airborne release, whether actual or simulated.  The location and concentration — sometimes over many miles — would be of interest, for example, to emergency response personnel,” he says.  Working from the other side of the equation, he adds, “If you have an airborne sample with concentration ‘x,’ the next question is ‘Where did this come from?’  We can make those kinds of assessments, too.”

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Spiders weave a web even more tangled than originally thought - at least on the nanoscale levelHigh-energy X-rays probe amazing spider silk

Spiders weave a web even more tangled than originally thought - at least on the nanoscale level, according to a new study performed at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory.

Using high-energy X-rays provided by Argonne's Advanced Photon Source (APS), scientists peered into the structure of orb spiders' dragline silk. This is the chief thread that allows them to dangle precipitously off branches and window frames.

"Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know," said Professor Jeffery Yarger of Arizona State University, one of the lead researchers of the study.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 363  |
  • May 21, 2012
  • New nanostructure for batteries keeps going and going…

    The new double-walled silicon nanotube anode is made by a clever four-step process: Polymer nanofibers (green) are made, then heated (with, and then without, air) until they are reduced to carbon (black). Silicon (light blue) is coated over the outside of the carbon fibers.Finally, heating in air drives off the carbon and creates the tube as well as the clamping oxide layer (red). Image courtesy Hui Wu, Stanford, and Yi Cui For more than a decade, scientists have tried to improve lithium-based batteries by replacing the graphite in one terminal with silicon, which can store 10 times more charge. But after just a few charge/discharge cycles, the silicon structure would crack and crumble, rendering the battery useless.

    Now a team led by materials scientist Yi Cui of Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has found a solution: a cleverly designed double-walled nanostructure that lasts more than 6,000 cycles, far more than needed by electric vehicles or mobile electronics.

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  • Scientists propose a solution to a critical barrier to producing fusion

    Physicists Luis Delgado-Aparicio (left) and David Gates, who wrote the paper with the proposed solution.

    Physicists have discovered a possible solution to a mystery that has long baffled researchers working to harness fusion. If confirmed by experiment, the finding could help scientists eliminate a major impediment to the development of fusion as a clean and abundant source of energy for producing electric power.

    An in-depth analysis by scientists from DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) zeroed in on tiny, bubble-like islands that appear in the hot, charged gases—or plasmas—during experiments. These minute islands collect impurities that cool the plasma. And it is these islands, the scientists report in the April 20 issue of Physical Review Letters, that are at the root of a long-standing problem known as the “density limit” that can prevent fusion reactors from operating at maximum efficiency.

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  • Nanotube 'sponge' has potential in oil spill cleanup

    The addition of boron atoms encourages the formation of "elbow" junctions that help the nanotubes grow into large spongelike clumps, shown here.

    A carbon nanotube sponge that can soak up oil in water with unparalleled efficiency has been developed with help from computational simulations performed at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    Carbon nanotubes, which consist of atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into cylinders, have captured scientific attention in recent decades because of their high strength, potential high conductivity and light weight. But producing nanotubes in bulk for specialized applications was often limited by difficulties in controlling the growth process as well as dispersing and sorting the produced nanotubes.

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  • Model brings us closer to biofuels from bacteria

    Transmission electron micrograph of Cyanothece 51142 (Courtesy of Alice Dohnalkova, PNNL)

    In an important step toward engineering bacteria to produce biofuel, scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed one of the first global models for the nitrogen-fixing photosynthetic cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142. This round, bluish-green bacteria could produce biofuel because it uses sunlight to create sugars and other molecules, the precursors for fuel. The cyanobacterium also grows relatively rapidly, tolerates extreme environments, and can accumulate high amounts of the desired compounds. But only a few models have been developed for investigating cyanobacterium because they are so complex.

    The new global model describes the cyanobacterium’s complete metabolism, not just isolated pathways. “The model details how carbon and energy are distributed throughout the cell for photosynthesis and respiration,” said Dr. Alex Beliaev, a microbiologist at PNNL. “Developing a computational model brings us closer to a systems-level understanding of the metabolism of photoautrophs such as Cyanothece, putting metabolic engineering of these organisms within reach.”

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  • Sequence of switchgrass' closer kin now available

    Switchgrass seedlings.

    Researchers interested in the perennial grass switchgrass, considered a prospective biofuels feedstock by the DOE, have found the genome challenging to assemble because it has multiple copies of its chromosomes. The DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), in an international partnership that includes the BioEnergy Science Center and the Joint BioEnergy Institute, two of the three DOE Bioenergy Research Centers, has sequenced plant genomes of related candidate bioenergy crops such as sorghum and the model grass Brachypodium.

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