Like many of you, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is getting ready to celebrate the holidays. Here’s a look at some of our research and development highlights throughout the years — holiday style.
On the first day of ... PNNL gave to you, a 50-year history: In 1965, Battelle was selected to manage the newly created Pacific Northwest Laboratory. The word “national” was added to our name in 1995.
Today, PNNL is under the auspices of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and is DOE’s premier chemistry, environmental sciences and data analytics national laboratory.
On the second day of ... PNNL gave to you, technology for the Compact Disc: PNNL pioneered a system that allows information to be stored and retrieved as a series of dots about one micron in diameter — smaller than the width of a strand of hair. This process is the foundation for today’s CD and DVD technology and revolutionized data storage and digital recording of music and video.
On the third day ... an understanding of aerosols: Major advances in understanding aerosol particles and cloud systems made by PNNL scientists led to an improved estimate of climate sensitivity in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. This report, the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change, was finalized in October.
On the fourth day ... PNNL gave to you, safer airports: Explosives, plastic devices and other concealed weapons are easier to detect thanks to technology developed at PNNL. The security scanners rely on safe, millimeter wave holographic technology that has its roots in PNNL research done as early as the 1970s. More than 1,000 security scanners have been deployed in airports worldwide.
On the fifth day ... PNNL gave to you, a cost-effective, bio-based products: By creating a breakthrough catalyst, PNNL developed a method to convert the sugar alcohols from plants into propylene glycol. This additive is typically produced from petroleum and is found in everyday products including hand sanitizers, detergents and plastics. Archer Daniels Midland Company licensed the process and built a facility in 2011 that produces more than 100 million pounds of propylene glycol from soybeans a year.
On the sixth day ... PNNL gave to you, better fuel cells: Since 1999, PNNL scientists have been collaborating with industry and research organizations to develop low-cost solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). They developed a unique method for sealing metal or ceramic components of SOFCs air tight , resulting in a stronger, more robust seal that can stand the tests of time — a critical issue in fuel cell design and fabrication.
On the seventh day ... PNNL gave to you, more efficient engines: PNNL’s insights into catalysts paved the way for Cummins to introduce a new, “lean-burn” diesel engine in the 2007 Dodge Ram truck that met emissions standards and improved fuel efficiency by 25 percent over conventional engines.
On the eighth day ... PNNL gave to you, innovative cancer treatment: By improving the chemistry for producing ultra-pure yttrium-90 (Y-90) from nuclear waste, PNNL helped create a targeted cancer treatment for brain, neck and kidney tumors, as well as pancreatic and prostate cancer. Y-90 is now used in cancer drug products worldwide.
On the ninth day ... PNNL gave to you, widespread energy savings: For more than two decades, PNNL has helped DOE’s Building Energy Codes Program improve building energy efficiency. The most recent round of revisions to residential and commercial energy efficiency codes are expected to deliver 500 trillion BTU of primary energy savings, $4.8 billion in energy cost savings, and a reduction of 27.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2015.
On the tenth day ... PNNL gave to you, visual analytics: Just like the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” PNNL’s visual analytic systems graphically depict complex collections of data to uncover relationships, trends and themes. These visualization tools can help the intelligence community, emergency responders and others who need to quickly understand, evaluate, and analyze enormous volumes of data.
On the eleventh day ... PNNL gave to you, unique collaborations: As a national user facility, DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory located at PNNL offers visiting researchers access to multidisciplinary teams of scientists and state-of-the-art instruments. EMSL has served scientific users representing all 50 states and nearly 40 countries since opening in 1997.
On the twelfth day ... PNNL gave to you, solutions for industry: PNNL has partnered with hundreds of businesses to help create new and improved products. Companies have signed 780 licenses for the rights to our inventions. In addition, 108 companies with foundational technology or expertise from PNNL are thriving nationwide — 76 of them right here in Washington state.
. . .and a 50-year history!
Much like the “partridge in a pear tree” that punctuates the list in the holiday carol, PNNL’s 50-year history is a theme that I am proud to repeat. As we look forward to the future, I know the 4,300 people who work at PNNL will continue to deliver gifts of science and technology that make the world more prosperous, safe and secure — and that’s something we all can celebrate.