Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Jaqueline L. KiplingerKiplinger's work supports threat reduction, clean energy and safer, inexpensive materials

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Jaqueline L. Kiplinger has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, honored for her work in establishing synthetic routes to novel uranium and thorium compounds that have opened new frontiers in understanding the nature of bonding and reactivity in actinides.

In addition to discovering new actinide reactivity patterns and bonding motifs, Kiplinger has developed inexpensive, simple and safe techniques to make thorium and uranium halide starting materials, which has been critical to advancing the synthetic and mechanistic chemistry of these important elements and for understanding their behavior in a variety of applications.

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Leaf-cutter ants and fungus gardens. This image is protected by the Creative Commons Attribution License ( Photo by Austin Lynch.Who says an ant can’t make biofuels from that plant?

Do leaf-cutter ants know the secret of producing biofuels without needing precious metals, high temperatures, or extreme pressures? On the floor of tropical forests, these ants cultivate tiny patches of land where bacteria and fungi turn leaves into sugars and other molecules. These molecules could serve as fuels or the precursors for them. Recently, a team from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the DOE's Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center made significant progress in disentangling the molecular details that underlie the conversion as well as the multispecies associations. They discovered that the bacteria and fungi, or microbes, gobble up the sugars and free amino acids first, leaving behind the harder-to-convert molecules.

"Understanding how bacteria turn plant matter into a source of energy could help improve biofuel production," said Dr. Kristin Burnum-Johnson, a PNNL bioanalytical chemist and co-author on the study. These investigations also show how the ants and their gardens influence larger environmental cycles.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 424  |
  • October 13, 2014
  • Metallic alloy is tough and ductile at cryogenic temps

    At 77K, back‐scattered electron images taken in the wake of a propagated crack show the formation of pronounced cell structures resulting from dislocation activity that includes deformation‐induced nano‐twinning. (Courtesy of Ritchie group) A new concept in metallic alloy design – called “high‐entropy alloys” – has yielded a multiple-element material that not only tests out as one of the toughest on record, but, unlike most materials, the toughness as well as the strength and ductility of this alloy actually improves at cryogenic temperatures. This multi-element alloy was synthesized and tested through a collaboration of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratories (Berkeley Lab and ORNL).

    “We examined CrMnFeCoNi, a high‐entropy alloy that contains five major elements rather than one dominant one,” says Robert Ritchie, a materials scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “Our tests showed that despite containing multiple elements with different crystal structures, this alloy crystalizes as a single phase, face‐centered cubic solid with exceptional damage tolerance, tensile strength above one gigapascal, and fracture toughness values that are off the charts, exceeding that of virtually all other metallic alloys.”

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  • INL model evaluates more battery electrolyte possibilities in less time

    The Advanced Electrolyte Model guides testing of new battery chemistries such as these Li-ion cells. For a battery to work, it needs an electrolyte to act as a bridge and carry ions from the anode to cathode and back again. However, batteries come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to battery electrolytes. For example, electric vehicles and “smart” phones are both powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries, but because the demand on the battery is so different, they require different electrolytes.

    These nuances inspired Kevin Gering, a researcher at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory, to build the Advanced Electrolyte Model (AEM), a powerful tool used to analyze and identify potential electrolytes for battery systems.

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  • NIH taps Lab to develop sophisticated electrode array system to monitor brain activity

    This image gives perspective on how tiny the electrode arrays are when compared to a dime. Graphics by Kwei Chu/LLNL The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) a grant recently to develop an electrode array system that will enable researchers to better understand how the brain works through unprecedented resolution and scale.

    LLNL’s grant-funded project is part of NIH’s efforts to support President Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders.

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  • Neutron, x-ray research into rare sugars aids drug development

    An artist’s rendering of the enzyme D-xylose isomerase as it isomerizes L-arabinose into rare sugars not found in nature. Image: Genevieve Martin/ORNL A team led by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has unlocked the enzymatic synthesis process of rare sugars, which are useful in developing drugs with low side effects using a process more friendly to the environment.

    In a paper published in Structure, the research team reported the pioneering use of neutron and X-ray crystallography and high performance computing to study how the enzyme D-xylose isomerase, or XI, can cause a biochemical reaction in natural sugar to produce rare sugars. Unlike drugs made from natural sugar compounds, drugs made from rare sugars do not interfere with cellular processes. As a result, rare sugars have important commercial and biomedical applications as precursors for the synthesis of different antiviral and anti-cancer drugs with fewer side effects.

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