Newswise Throughout2020, Argonne answered fundamental science questions and provided solutions for the world.
Throughout the year, scientists and engineers from the U.S. Department of Energys (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory conducted groundbreaking research to tackle the nations most pressing challenges. Here are eight ways Argonne research made a difference in2020.
More than80research groups from across the country used the Advanced Photon Source (APS), aDOEOffice of Science User Facility at Argonne, to study the SARS-CoV-2virus that causesCOVID-19. Researchers logged more than10,000hours of time at theAPS, discovering among other things the ways the virus camouflages itself inside the human body. This pivotal discovery was published inNature Communications.
One of the most influential contributions theAPSmade to theCOVID-19vaccines can be traced back to work done at the facility between2009and2013. Scientists at the National Institutes for Health (NIH) discovered a technique that helps the human body generate more effective antibodies against a disease called respiratory syncytial virus, orRSV. Years later, those same scientistsadapted that technique to fight SARS-CoV-2,and their innovation is included in five of the announced vaccine candidates, including those developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
Using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputing resources, Argonne researchers areexamining the dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2spike proteinto determine how it fuses with a human host cell, which could advance the search for new medications. In November, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) awarded its firstACMGordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-BasedCOVID-19Research to a multi-institutional research team that included Argonne. The team showed how the SARS-CoV-2virusinfiltrates the human immune system, setting off a viral chain reaction throughout the body.
Argonne researchers developedCityCOVID, a large-scale agent-based epidemiological model that tracks the movements of millions of simulated individuals, or agents, as they go about their daily activities to predict how disease will spread and the impact of preventive measures, such as mask use. Powered by supercomputers at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, aDOEOffice of Science user facility, this model has informed decision making by officials from Chicago, Cook County and Illinois, since early in the pandemic, and was also nominated as a finalist for theACMGordon Bell Special Prize.
Thethermal energy storage system, orTESS, can quickly store heat and release it for use when needed, surpassing conventional storage options in flexibility and efficiency. The introduction ofTESS, announced on April7, can capture and storeheat from concentrated solar power facilities and is suitable for various commercial applications, including desalination plants, combined heat and power (CHP) systems, industrial processes and heavy-duty trucks.
Researchers have demonstrated thatTESScan operate in temperatures over1,292F. Its high-energy density makes it smaller and more flexible than commonly used heat storage tanks. Being able to recover and use heat can raise efficiency and cut costs by extracting more energy from the same amount of fuel.
After a year-long collaboration between Argonne andAT&T to forecast risks from a changing climate in the Southeastern region, the partnership announced in September that they wereextending their analysis to cover the contiguous United States. Researchers are projecting the impact of climate at regional, local and neighborhood scales, using high-resolution models and a wide range of statistical methods for estimating uncertainty.
AT&T, in turn, uses these insights as input for its Climate Change Analysis Tool so it can forecast how changes in climate will impact company infrastructure and operations for up to30years into the future. As it did with the initial Southeastern pilot,AT&T also will make Argonnes data free to the general public, which could inspire new scientific applications that could benefit communities at large.
The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), aDOEEnergy Innovation Hub led by Argonne, made significant strides with solid-state batteries as promising successors to todays lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Researchers at the University of Waterloo, one of18JCESRpartners, published research in June onenhancing the mobility of Li-ions in solid-state batteries using the paddlewheel effect, which is the coordinated motion of atoms.
In addition, knowing how different ions move through different electrolytes will help researchers figure out how to create batteries that best fit their specific uses. In a breakthrough discovery announced Dec.3, a group of scientists demonstrated a combination oftechniques that allows for the precise measurement of ions moving through a batteryduring operation.
Funding is vital to such battery-related research andsix innovative battery manufacturing projectsled by Argonne were awarded funding in August throughDOEs Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The projects, which span a range of essential components for energy storage, are among13battery manufacturing projects at national laboratories that earned combined funding of almost $15million over three years.
Then in September, Argonne completed itsexpansion of the Materials Engineering Research Facility (MERF),a now28,000-square-foot facility, where50scientists, engineers and support staff develop scalable manufacturing technologies for advanced energy materials and chemicals that can be difficult to manufacture.
In a multidisciplinary study, scientists at Argonne, along with collaborators from the Korean Institute of Science and Technology and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, announced on April29that they had developed an approach to prevent plaque formation in Alzheimers disease by engineering ananosized devicethat captures the dangerous peptides before they can self-assemble.
Alzheimers, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affects people who have a specific type of plaque, made of self-assembled molecules called -amyloid (A) peptides, that build up in the brain over time. Researchers are studying ways to prevent the peptides from forming these dangerous plaques to halt development of Alzheimers disease in the brain.
Catalysts speed up chemical reactions and form the backbone of many industrial processes. For example, they are essential in transforming heavy oil into gasoline or jet fuel. A research team, led by Argonne in collaboration with Northern Illinois University, said in August that they discovered anew electrocatalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into ethanolwith very high energy efficiency and at a low cost. Ethanol is a desirable commodity because it is an ingredient in nearly all U.S. gasoline and is widely used as an intermediate product in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
BecauseCO2is a stable molecule, transforming it into a different molecule is normally energy intensive and costly. Argonnes process would electrochemically convert theCO2emitted from industrial processes, such as fossil fuel power plants or alcohol fermentation plants, into valuable commodities at reasonable cost.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy andDOEannounced August26the creation of five new Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research Centers led byDOEs national laboratories, includingQ-NEXT, led by Argonne. Q-NEXT brings together nearly100world-class researchers from three national laboratories, nine universities and10leading U.S. technology companies with the single goal of developing the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information. In August, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation andDOEannounced more than$1billion in awardsto establish12AIand quantum information science (QIS) research institutes. Of the $1billion,DOEawarded $625million to Argonnes Q-NEXT, Brookhaven, Fermi, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.
This followsDOEs unveiling ofa reporton July23that provided a strategy for the development of the national quantum internet that will include all17national laboratories, including Argonne. They will serve as the backbone of the coming quantum internet, which will rely on the laws of quantum mechanics to control and transmit information more securely than ever before.
Argonne increased the supply ofCopper-67(Cu-67),a promising medical radioisotope that could lead to new drug discoveries and clinical studies in the fight against cancers, such as neuroendocrine tumors, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Through support of theDOEIsotope Program,Argonnes Radioisotope Research and Production Programdeveloped a new method to produce large quantities of this desirable radioisotope during its first full year in operation.
There is a pressing need for new radiopharmaceuticals to advance personalized medicine, coupling diagnostic and therapeutic agents to tailor the treatment to the patients individual response. Diagnostic agents enable doctors to visualize tumors and determine the best method of treatment. Therapeutic agents then provide doctors the ability to treat the disease. Cu-67is called atheragnostic radioisotope that couples the ability to visualize tumors with the ability to treat the disease in a single radioisotope. The use of this single agent may result in fewer injections and fewer patient visits to the hospital, along with reduced costs.
About Argonnes Center for Nanoscale MaterialsThe Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the fiveDOENanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by theDOEOffice of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located atDOEs Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about theDOENSRCs, please visithttps://science.osti.gov/User-Facilities/User-Facilities-at-a-Glance.
The Argonne Leadership Computing Facilityprovides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding in a broad range of disciplines. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energys (DOEs) Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, theALCFis one of twoDOELeadership Computing Facilities in the nation dedicated to open science.
The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), aDOEEnergy Innovation Hub, is amajor partnershipthat integrates researchers from many disciplines to overcome critical scientific and technical barriers and create new breakthrough energy storage technology. Led by theU.S. Department of Energys Argonne National Laboratory, partners include national leaders in science and engineering from academia, the private sector, and national laboratories. Their combined expertise spans the full range of the technology-development pipeline from basic research to prototype development to product engineering to market delivery.
About theAdvanced Photon Source
The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Sciences Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the worlds most productive X-ray light source facilities. TheAPSprovides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nations economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than5,000researchers use theAPSto produce over2,000publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility.APSscientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at theAPS.
This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S.DOEOffice of Science User Facility operated for theDOEOffice of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No.DE-AC02-06CH11357.
Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Physics, under contract numberDEAC0206CH11357. This research used resources of the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS), aDOEOffice of Science User Facility.
Argonne National Laboratoryseeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nations first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance Americas scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than60nations, Argonne is managed byUChicago Argonne,LLCfor theU.S. Department of Energys Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energys Office of Scienceis the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visithttps://energy.gov/science.
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