Mike Williams. Credit: Elle Starkman, PPPL Office of CommunicationsMike Williams: The engineer’s engineer sets standard for excellence

As an early career engineer at DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Mike Williams found himself in the midst of a frantic race. He led a team charged with building crucial neutral beam heating systems for the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR), the largest fusion facility in the world at the time. The deadline was impossibly tight.

“We worked 16-hour days, Monday through Friday, and came in every Saturday and worked eight-to-10-hour days,” Williams said. “And we were successful — we got the beams on and they worked.”

Such dedication, plus a singular knack for solving problems, helped propel Williams into his post as head of engineering and infrastructure at PPPL — a position he has held since 1991. The job calls for steering all engineering activities at the Laboratory, from the design of power systems to construction of the $94 million upgrade of the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U), PPPL’s major fusion facility today. He oversees the Lab’s heating, air conditioning and plumbing systems as well.

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Bill Gates (in glasses) views a containment box in the Hot Fuel Examination Facility at Idaho National Laboratory.Bill Gates validates innovation role for national laboratories

Privately funded research utilizing government owned facilities validates the important role national laboratories have in advancing innovation says Bill Gates, American business magnate and chair of the nuclear reactor startup company TerraPower, LLC.

TerraPower has engaged DOE's Idaho National Laboratory to support certain aspects of design for TerraPower’s traveling wave reactor. Gates and his stall recently toured the Materials and Fuels complex at INL. The visit focused on demonstrating the lab's expertise and capabilities.

During his visit he proclaimed studies conducted by scientists and engineers as “incredibly important.” When addressing employees after his tour Gates said, “Getting to visit INL was really enlightening. It was amazing to see reactor fuel analysis and how it can be conducted safely in a hot cell environment.”

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 400  |
  • November 4, 2013
  • Wood-boring gribbles intrigue researchers

    A gribble is a tiny wood borer that produces its own enzyme that can devastate wood efficiently. Researchers hope that by studying gribbles they can learn ways to improve the process of turning biomass into liquid fuels. Courtesy Laura Michie, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom Tiny wood borers known colloquially as gribbles make their own enzymes and use them to eat through docks in harbor towns, earning enmity from fishermen all around the world.

    Now, researchers from the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and elsewhere are exploring whether that curse can be turned into a blessing for the biofuels industry.

    The trouble with gribbles — that they can break down biomass into sugars even in harsh environments — might become the great thing about gribbles, as the industry searches for enzymes that can thrive in salt-rich, high-solids settings.

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  • Researchers demonstrate 'Accelerator on a Chip'

    Nanofabricated chips of fused silica just 3 millimeters long were used to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional particle accelerator technology. (Matt Beardsley/SLAC) In an advance that could dramatically shrink particle accelerators for science and medicine, researchers used a laser to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional technology in a nanostructured glass chip smaller than a grain of rice.

    The achievement was reported recently in Nature by a team including scientists from the DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.

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  • Solar Decathlon house continues to yield data

    The Universlity of Tennessee's "Living Light "solar house. (Photo courtesy of UT)Staff and students at the University of Tennessee hope their innovations from last year’s Department of Energy Solar Decathlon benefit teams gearing up for the 2013 contest.

    The biannual international competition, launched by DOE in 2002, challenges teams of students to design and build low- to zero-energy homes, learning about solar power and sustainable design along the way.

    At UT, the “Living Light” house that placed eighth in the 2011 competition is still yielding research results and offering new teams a head start.

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  • Water-stressed globe will face increased thirst, study finds

    This study indicates the increasing importance of water conservation technologies and strategies, especially in alrea.By the end of the century, India and the Middle East – already dealing with water scarcity – will face more water stress as the rising demand for fresh water hits certain regions harder than others, according to new research at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The team, working at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland, used the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) to run projections of water demand and use through the end of the century.

    The team assessed future water demands in the agricultural, energy, industrial and municipal sectors within GCAM. They assigned base-year water requirements to specific activities to maximize consistency between bottom-up estimates of water demand intensities of specific technologies and practices and top-down regional and sectoral estimates of water use. They represented these scenarios through 14 geopolitical regions with the agricultural sector further divided into as many as 18 agro-ecological zones within each region.

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  • Nano-cone textures generate extremely ‘robust’ water-repellent surfaces

    Antonio CheccoWhen it comes to designing extremely water-repellent surfaces, shape and size matter. That's the finding of a group of scientists at DOE's Brookhaven Lab who investigated the effects of differently shaped, nanoscale textures on a material's ability to force water droplets to roll off.

    "The idea that microscopic textures can impart a material with water-repellent properties has its origins in nature," explained lead author Antonio Checco. "For example, the leaves of lotus plants and some insects' exoskeletons have tiny-scale texturing designed to repel water by trapping air. This property, called 'superhydrophobicity' (or super-water-hating), enables water droplets to easily roll off, carrying dirt particles along with them."

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  • Neutrino experiment reveals surprising behavior inside heavy nuclei

    The MINERvA neutrino experiment at Fermilab. Credit: Fermilab A new measurement by the MINERvA collaboration at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory shows that current predictions of how protons and neutrons behave inside heavy nuclei are not accurate.

    The MINERvA experiment uses neutrinos to look at the interior of nuclei. Surprisingly, the scientists found that the nucleons inside heavy nuclei behave differently from what one would predict from measurements using electrons to peek inside those same nuclei.

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  • JGI & EMSL partner to study carbon cycling, biofuels production

    The boreal forest moss (Hylocomium splendens). Credit: Jeroen Gillard from JCVI] Reflecting its vision of serving the scientific community as a next-generation genome science user facility, the DOE Joint Genome Institute has joined forces with the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide complementary scientific resources to significantly expand genomic understanding to cellular function. The inaugural round of eight accepted proposals showcases the synergy between these two DOE user facilities. Five of the eight new DOE JGI-EMSL proposals going forward will focus on carbon cycling and three relate to improvements in biofuels production.

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