Michelle Shinn, a senior scientist in Jefferson Lab's Free-Electron Laser Division.Scientist shares passion for physics, astronomy and bees

To spend time with Michelle Shinn, a senior scientist at DOE’s Jefferson Lab and a newly elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, is to step into a conversation in which she seamlessly quotes Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and John Adams, and discourses on the raising of bees, the talks she gives on astronomy and her life-long passion for physics.

A self-described "child of 'why?'" Shinn has been questioning the world around her and diving into learning since she was a toddler in Oklahoma. She still recalls declining her mother's response of "because" – and insisting on a better one – when she asked why a toy top demonstrated the principle of precession.

She realized early on the only way to get the answers she sought was through science. An experiment in an eighth-grade class that passed a mild electrical current through a group of students holding hands became one "X" mark on her life map. "What kind of science explains this?" she wanted to know. The answer, of course, was physics.

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Ames Lab scientist Matt Kramer operates the Lab’s transmission electron microscope. Various equipment options allow scientists to probe different aspects of a material. In scanning mode, or scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), the electron beam is scanned back and forth across the sample.Short circuiting the Edisonian approach

Materials scientist Matthew Kramer of DOE's Ames Laboratory is teaming with scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop a new material based on manganese as a rare-earth-free alternative to permanent magnets that contain neodymium and dysprosium. These manganese composite magnets hold the potential to double magnetic strength relative to current magnets while using raw materials, such as iron, cobalt, chrome and nickel that are abundant and less expensive than current permanent-magnet materials.

Kramer says Ames Lab’s part of the project will take advantage of the Lab’s expertise in computational materials science. As he explains it, one of the major obstacles to coming up with any new alloy is finding a faster approach to looking at new materials. Kramer hopes to speed up the process of developing new alloys by using computational tools to guide materials selection. He says the current suite of computational tools allow scientists to begin doing “what if” scenarios much more effectively than in the past, both in terms of accuracy and the complexity of the materials being analyzed.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 396  |
  • September 2, 2013
  • PPPL and Princeton scientists developing a novel system for verifying nuclear warheads

    Researchers display neutron detectors that have collected preliminary data. (Photo by Elle Starkman) Scientists at Princeton University and DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are developing a unique process to verify that nuclear weapons to be dismantled or removed from deployment contain true warheads. The system could confirm this without measuring classified information that could lead to nuclear proliferation if the data were to leak.

    The novel verification process draws upon principles used in cryptography, the science of disguising secret information. “The goal is to prove with as high confidence as required that an object is a true nuclear warhead while learning nothing about the materials and design of the warhead itself,” said physicist Robert Goldston, a co-principal investigator for the project and professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton, and a fusion researcher and former director of PPPL.

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  • New catalyst dives into water to produce hydrogen

    Scientists designed a nickel complex that quickly and efficiently catalyzes the production of hydrogen in the presence of water. Few catalysts are energy efficient, highly active, stable, and operate in water, but a nickel-based catalyst designed at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory quickly produces hydrogen molecules in solutions with 75 percent water. This catalyst contains tailored relays that allow the catalyst to quickly shuttle protons from the solution to the heart of the catalyst, where they are added to electrons. The catalyst is known to be energy efficient, stable and highly active. With the modified design, it now operates in water, producing up to 170,000 hydrogen molecules per second. The study on this catalyst appeared on the cover and was highlighted as a hot article in Chemical Communications.

    "We've moved from pure organic solvents to solutions with increasing amounts of water," said Dr. Monte Helm, Deputy Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center. "We found that our catalyst performed better with water than in an organic solvent alone."

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  • Designer glue improves lithium-ion battery life

    A new binder material forms a fine-grained (top) lithium sulfide/carbon composite cathode, compared with the large clumps (bottom) that form when another common binder is used. In an operating lithium-ion battery, the larger clumps caused the battery to be ruined after just 100 charge/discharge cycles. In contrast, an experimental battery using the new binder lasted nearly five times longer. Credit -- (Image: Zhi Wei Seh/Stanford)When it comes to improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, no part should be overlooked – not even the glue that binds materials together in the cathode, researchers at DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have found.

    Tweaking that material, which binds lithium sulfide and carbon particles together, created a cathode that lasted five times longer than earlier designs, according to a report published last month in Chemical Science. The research results are some of the earliest supported by the Department of Energy's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.

    "We were very impressed with how important this binder was in improving the lifetime of our experimental battery," said Yi Cui, an associate professor at SLAC and Stanford who led the research.

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  • 3D Earth model pinpoints source of earthquakes, explosions

    Sandia Labs researcher Sandy Ballard and colleagues from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed SALSA3D, a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust designed to help pinpoint the location of all types of explosions. (Photo by Randy Montoya) During the Cold War, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they’re looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests.

    Under the sponsorship of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D, DOE's Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory have partnered to develop a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D, or Sandia-Los Alamos 3D. The purpose of this model is to assist the US Air Force and the international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria, more accurately locate all types of explosions.

    The model uses a scalable triangular tessellation and seismic tomography to map the Earth’s “compressional wave seismic velocity,” a property of the rocks and other materials inside the Earth that indicates how quickly compressional waves travel through them and is one way to accurately locate seismic events, Sandia geophysicist Sandy Ballard said. Compressional waves — measured first after seismic events — move the particles in rocks and other materials minute distances backward and forward between the location of the event and the station detecting it.

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  • Video: Why does particle physics matter?

    Why Particle Physics Matters Particle physicists dedicate their lives to understanding the fundamental nature of energy, matter, space and time. Why do they do it? Why is it important for the rest of us?

    Symmetry asked them to explain, and a couple of dozen bravely stepped forward to do so on camera. This 2-minute compilation video brings together the voices of 19 scientists from 13 institutions, including Fermilab, Argonne, Brookhaven and SLAC national laboratories.

    Recorded at the 2013 Snowmass Community Summer Study meeting in Minneapolis, the 19 scientists explain how particle physics’ impacts go beyond the laboratory and the textbook to make significant impacts on other fields of science, improve daily life for people around the world, and train a new generation of scientists and computing professionals.

    See the full range of explanations on symmetry’s YouTube channel

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