NREL researcher Keith Emery uses a high-intensity pulse solar simulator to test a concentrator solar cell in his laboratory at NREL. This summer, Emery was presented the Cherry Award by the IEEE. Credit: Dennis SchroederEmery makes NREL the go-to place for solar cell characterization

Keith Emery always had amazing computer programming skills, but he lacked that special gift for creating solar cells. So, 30 years ago he switched to something more in his wheelhouse — characterizing and measuring the efficiency of solar cells and modules.

He succeeded so well, building a world-class testing facility at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that he was recently given the annual William R. Cherry Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) — one of the most coveted awards in the world of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.

Emery has a Teddy Roosevelt moustache and routinely climbs high rugged mountains in the Colorado Rockies. But the Cherry Award startled this usually unflappable man.

"I was very surprised," Emery said.

Others aren't surprised, citing his work to bring iron-clad certainty to the claims made by solar companies about the efficiency of their cells and modules — not to mention the 320 scientific publications he's written.

Full Story


For the first time, researchers were able to watch cyanobacteria make their critical carbon-fixing carboxysomes inside living cells using a pioneering visualization technique.Inner workings of a bacterial black box caught on time-lapse video

Cyanobacteria, found in just about every ecosystem on Earth, are one of the few bacteria that can create their own energy through photosynthesis and “fix” carbon – from carbon dioxide molecules – and convert it into fuel inside of miniscule compartments called carboxysomes. Using a pioneering visualization method, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and DOE's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) made what are, in effect, movies of this complex and vital cellular machinery being assembled inside living cells. They observed that bacteria build these internal compartments in a way never seen in plant, animal and other eukaryotic cells.

“The carboxysome, unlike eukaryotic organelles, assembles from the inside out,” said senior author Cheryl Kerfeld, formerly of the DOE JGI, now at Michigan State University and UC Berkeley.  The findings, publishedNovember 21, 2013 in the journal Cell, will illuminate bacterial physiology and may also influence nanotechnology development.

Full Story

See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 403  |
  • December 16, 2013
  • Inside look at a MOF in action

    Mg-MOF-74 is an open metal site MOF whose porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants. A unique inside look at the electronic structure of a highly touted metal-organic framework (MOF) as it is adsorbing carbon dioxide gas should help in the design of new and improved MOFs for carbon capture and storage. Researchers at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first in situ electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside Mg-MOF-74, an open metal site MOF that has emerged as one of the most promising strategies for capturing and storing greenhouse gases.

    MOFs are molecular systems consisting of a metal oxide center surrounded by organic molecules that form a highly porous three-dimensional crystal framework with a sponge-like capacity for adsorbing greenhouse gases. In a study supported by Berkeley’s Energy Frontier Research Center, the team used Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) to obtain what are believed to be the first ever measurements of chemical and electronic signatures inside of a MOF during gas adsorption.

    Full Story

  • Chaotic physics in ferroelectrics hints at brain-like computing

    Unexpected behavior in ferroelectric materials explored by researchers. Unexpected behavior in ferroelectric materials explored by researchers at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory supports a new approach to information storage and processing.

    Ferroelectric materials are known for their ability to spontaneously switch polarization when an electric field is applied. Using a scanning probe microscope, the ORNL-led team took advantage of this property to draw areas of switched polarization called domains on the surface of a ferroelectric material. To the researchers’ surprise, when written in dense arrays, the domains began forming complex and unpredictable patterns on the material’s surface.

    “When we reduced the distance between domains, we started to see things that should have been completely impossible,” said ORNL’s Anton Ievlev, the first author on the paper published in Nature Physics. “All of a sudden, when we tried to draw a domain, it wouldn’t form, or it would form in an alternating pattern like a checkerboard.  At first glance, it didn’t make any sense. We thought that when a domain forms, it forms. It shouldn’t be dependent on surrounding domains.”

    Full Story

  • The character of a cathode

    Scientists obtained a definitive view of an LMNO cathode. The X-ray energy-dispersive spectroscopy map shown here indicates the distribution of manganese (blue) and nickel (green).Scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, FEI Company, and DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory obtained a definitive view of a pristine cathode made of lithium, nickel, manganese, and oxygen. Controversy has encircled this cathode, abbreviated LMNO. Some state it’s a solid solution; others, a composite. The team, using a suite of tools, determined the material is actually a composite with tightly integrated phases. Further, they found the surface contains high levels of nickel and low levels of oxygen and electron-rich manganese.

    “If we want to improve the cycle life and capacity of the layered cathode, we must have this type of clarity around the atomic structure,” said Dr. Nigel Browning, the Chief Science Officer of PNNL’s Chemical Imaging Initiative and a microscopy expert who worked on the study.

    Full Story

  • 'Bubbles' simulation on Sequoia wins Gordon Bell Prize

    Lawrence Livermore scientists and collaborators set a new record in supercomputing in fluid dynamics by resolving unique phenomena associated with clouds of collapsing bubbles. Image courtesy of Petros Koumoutsakos zVg/CSE Laboratory, ETH ZurichScientists at ETH Zurich and IBM Research, in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich and DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, have set a new record in supercomputing in Fluid Dynamics using 6.4 million threads on LLNL's 96 rack Sequoia IBM BlueGene/Q, one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

    The record for a high performance computing calculation, set on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Sequoia supercomputer, was awarded the Gordon Bell Prize for peak performance at SC13 in Denver, Colo.

    Lawrence Livermore computer scientists Adam Bertsch, Blue Gene Systems lead, and Scott Futral, group leader for the HPC development environment, also were members of the winning team. Livermore Computing enabled the achievement of this simulation on Sequoia.

    Full Story

  • Technology Aids Safer, Faster Airport Security

    MagRay engineer Larry Schultz puts a bottle of surrogate material that mimics home made explosives into the MagRay bottle scanner.Scientists at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory have advanced a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology that may provide a breakthrough for screening liquids at airport security. They’ve added low-power X-ray data to the mix, and as a result have unlocked a new detection technology. Funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, the new system is named MagRay.

    The goal is to quickly and accurately distinguish between liquids that visually appear identical. For example, what appears to be a bottle of white wine could potentially be nitromethane, a liquid that could be used to make an explosive. Both are clear liquids, One would be perfectly safe on a commercial aircraft, the other would be strictly prohibited.  How to tell them apart quickly without error at an airport security area is the focus of Michelle Espy, Larry Schultz and their team.

    Full Story