Igor AronsonArgonne's Arsonson directs traffic at busy research intersections

In his almost 20-year tenure at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, physicist and materials scientist Igor Aronson has primarily investigated soft condensed matter physics, which deals with the material states that are easily deformable by thermal fluctuations or mechanical stresses. Much of his work has focused on the intersection of small mechanical structures and living matter – bacteria. Aronson took some time to talk about his research, career, and hobbies.

What attracted you to work at Argonne?

I came to Argonne in 1996 as a visiting scientist, attracted by the lab’s high scientific standards and significant opportunities to conduct challenging research. I’ve stayed, and my career here has been very rewarding.

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Metal organic framework.Innovation to advance natural gas fueled vehicles

As part of his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for improved use of natural gas in transportation and industry. The President called for an Energy Security Trust Fund to finance research and development for advanced vehicle technologies that focuses on shifting our cars and trucks off oil and promotes vehicles that run on electricity, hydrogen and domestically produced natural gas.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory are doing their part to help promote this effort.

Cars fueled by natural gas are not a new concept, but the challenge exists over finding a cost-effective, low-pressure storage system that can be refueled at a gas pump, similar to today’s vehicles. Researchers at SRNL are working with a special material for use in gas storage tanks, using innovation to address concerns over both cost and safety.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 428  |
  • December 8, 2014
  • National Synchrotron Light Source II achieves 'first light'

    The team of scientists, engineers, and technicians at the Coherent Soft X-ray Scattering (CSX) beamline gathered around the control station to watch as the shutter between the beamline and the storage ring opened, allowing x-rays to enter the first optical enclosure for the first time. The brightest synchrotron light source in the world has delivered its first x-ray beams. The National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab achieved "first light" on October 23, 2014, when operators opened the shutter to begin commissioning the first experimental station (called a beamline), allowing powerful x-rays to travel to a phosphor detector and capture the facility's first photons.

    "This is a significant milestone for Brookhaven Lab, for the Department of Energy, and for the nation," said Harriet Kung, DOE Associate Director of Science for Basic Energy Sciences. "The National Synchrotron Light Source II will foster new discoveries and create breakthroughs in crucial areas of national need, including energy security and the environment. This new U.S. user facility will advance the Department's mission and play a leadership role in enabling and producing high-impact research for many years to come."

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  • A long journey toward advanced nuclear fuels

    INL employees place the experiment cask in a hot cell, where examination of the fuel samples can begin. After years of waiting, a trans-Atlantic voyage and a cross-country trip, a cask containing four experimental irradiated pins of nuclear fuel arrived at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory in late July. The pins traveled from the Phénix fast reactor in France, where INL researchers had shipped them more than eight years ago. At the same time a parallel experiment was running here in the United States.

    "These fuels are intended for use in a fast reactor, but we don't have a fast reactor available for testing in the U.S.," explained INL nuclear engineer Heather Chichester. "So we've been running experiments under modified conditions in ATR (INL's Advanced Test Reactor). We believe that the modifications we've made reproduce most of the important aspects of the environment inside a fast reactor, but we needed to confirm that."

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  • Multilaboratory collaboration brings new X-ray detector to light

    Researchers from Brookhaven, Fermilab and Argonne work on a new type of X-ray detector that uses a 3-D imaging chip. A collaboration blending research in DOE's offices of High-Energy Physics with Basic Energy Sciences is yielding a one-of-a-kind X-ray detector. Results achieved with a powerful prototype detector featuring a 3-D imaging chip already have attracted attention from the scientific community.

    The new type of detector boasts Brookhaven Lab sensors mounted on Fermilab integrated circuits linked to Argonne Lab data acquisition systems. It will be used at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source II and Argonne's Advanced Photon Source.

    "This partnership between HEP and BES has been a fruitful collaboration, advancing detector technology for both fields," said Brookhaven's Peter Siddons.

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  • 100 supercomputers later, Los Alamos still supports national security mission

    The project has been unearthing a wealth of information about supercomputers and the supercomputing industry, as viewed through the prism of 70 years of computing for science in the national interest at Los Alamos National Laboratory. From the 1952 MANIAC to Bonanza deployed during November, DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory has deployed 100 supercomputers in the last 60 years – a showcase of high-performance computing history.

    "The computing capability in our data centers in any given year dwarfs what was there 10 years before," said Randal Rheinheimer of the High Performance Computing division, "and Los Alamos has been on that curve for 60 years."

    The Los Alamos computers deployed along the way include the MANIAC II, which started its nearly 20-year service life with over 5000 vacuum tubes, all of which were replaced over time with circuit boards. Any computing device today would have to be purpose-built to compute as slowly as the MANIAC computers. But compared to a room full of people with mechanical calculators, those early computing tools were significant advances, Rheinheimer notes. "It was the first and only triumph of serial over parallel computing."

    Other deployed systems include Stretch, a technological stretch built in collaboration between Los Alamos and IBM, Serial Number 1 of the iconic Cray-1, and a Thinking Machines CM-5, with its lightning bolt footprint and fat-tree interconnect. "The fat-tree today seems an obvious topology, but we have detailed diagrams of it in our archive labeled 'Thinking Machines Proprietary'," says Rheinheimer.

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