Ames Lab's Ryan Ott, in the woods. Materials scientist Ott likes the great outdoors

When Ryan Ott of DOE's  Ames Laboratory gets away, he really gets away, backpacking into the Canadian wilderness. 

“We canoe across a few lakes and tent in,” says Ott. “We’re off the grid with no contact with the outside world. Just eating the fish we catch.”

“And when I’m backpacking, I like to go new places and explore different areas,” he continues.

Ott’s zest for variety can be seen in his career as a materials researcher. His work spans nanostructured materials, mechanical behavior of materials, materials synthesis, X-ray synchrotron characterization of materials, and critical materials, like rare earths.

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Ari Palczewski, Jefferson Lab staff scientist, inspects the interior surface of the ILC prototype cavity.Mirrors may reflect good performance

Just as the shiny baubles and lights have begun to appear for the winter holidays, so have the first mirror-like accelerator components at DOE's Jefferson Lab. Researchers have buffed the interiors of some accelerator component prototypes to a high-mirror shine in hopes of finding a more environmentally friendly method for manufacturing ever-more-efficient accelerator components.

The research is being led by Ari Palczewski, a Jefferson Lab staff scientist. He's experimenting with the process of cleaning and preparing the surface of accelerator components made of niobium, a rare metal. The components, called cavities, are designed to harness and focus the energy used to accelerate a beam of particles. Research has suggested that the most efficient accelerator cavities have interior surfaces that are both smooth and defect-free.

"There's this thing called the quality factor, which tells you how efficient the cavity is. That may be able to go up with a smoother surface," Palczewski explains.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 378  |
  • December 17, 2012
  • A human-caused climate change signal emerges from the noise

    The animation shows a month-by-month sequence of atmospheric temperature changes over the 396-month period from January 1979 through to December 2011. The globe on the left displays the atmospheric temperature changes simulated by a computer model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The globe on the right shows satellite estimates of temperature change produced by scientists at Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa, Calif. As the two globes rotate, the temperature changes are visible in three different atmospheric layers. The outermost layer is the lower stratosphere. The middle layer is the mid- to upper- troposphere and the innermost layer is the lower troposphere. Blue colors indicate cooling; red colors denote warming. By comparing simulations from 20 different computer models to satellite observations, climate scientists from DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and colleagues from 16 other organizations have found that tropospheric and stratospheric temperature changes are clearly related to human activities.

    (See the animation at

    The team looked at geographical patterns of atmospheric temperature change over the period of satellite observations. The team's goal of the study was to determine whether previous findings of a "discernible human influence" on tropospheric and stratospheric temperature were sensitive to current uncertainties in climate models and satellite data.

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  • Tropical clouds go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde

    From Jekyll to Hyde, this anvil cloud is an example of tropical clouds that evolve from fair-weather to stormy. Scientists at PNNL used observational data and high-resolution modeling to uncover and rank the key environmental conditions that encourage this transformation. It’s a suspense story with a world-climate conclusion. Using high-resolution model simulations, two scientists from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory uncovered four unique conditions that turn fair-weather clouds into tropical storm clouds. Among four environmental factors, the presence of moisture and vertical wind velocity events, about one hour before the cloud forms, are the prime culprits. The researchers validated the model results with data gathered by a collection of U.S. Department of Energy instruments.

    Weather is born in the turbulent tropics. A continual cycle of heat and moisture is pulled from the tropical ocean and transported around the globe on belts of atmospheric energy. Tropical clouds are at the leading-edge of these forces. Understanding how they form, and replicating their lifecycle in global climate models, remains an elusive goal for those aiming to project climate changes accurately.

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  • BOSS uses quasars to probe dark energy up to 11.5 billion years in the past

    Neutral hydrogen gas “backlit” by distant quasars (red dots) leaves its signature on the quasar spectra as a forest of shifted absorption lines (inset). (Zosia Rostomian and Nic Ross, Berkeley Lab; Springel et al, Virgo Consortium.) The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), led by scientists from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and their colleagues in the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey, recently announced the first major result of a new technique for studying dark energy. Instead of plotting the positions of stars or galaxies, the BOSS “Lyman-alpha” result is based on mapping the density of intergalactic hydrogen gas, using the spectra of over 48,000 quasars with redshifts up to 3.5 – active galaxies whose light originated up to 11.5 billion years in the past. By the time BOSS finishes its five-year survey, its collection of distant quasars will have grown to more than 150,000.

    Most of the BOSS effort is devoted to mapping 1.5 million visible galaxies, distributed in netlike tendrils and voids throughout the universe. These regularly spaced peaks in density, called baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), also map underlying invisible dark matter. BAO originated in primordial density variations, “sound waves,” rippling through the hot soup of matter and radiation that constituted the early universe. The echoes of those acoustic oscillations are detectable today as minute variations in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

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  • Water footprint could tip scale for sustainable energy options

    Graphic by David Combs, INL.
    Low-carbon energy options that increase water consumption could be swapping one problem for another. That's the premise of an analysis reported by researchers at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory. They assessed the water footprint of numerous near-term energy generation options and found some surprising results.

    Water is an essential component of many types of energy production. Even wind and solar energy have water footprints because they typically require coal, nuclear or natural gas backup to ensure electricity is available when sun or wind is not. Greenhouse gas  emission discussions rarely consider water use, which could be the factor tipping support in favor of one approach or against another.

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