Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Currents Newsletter

Welcome to Currents


Welcome to Currents. Every six to eight weeks, this e-newsletter will feature the latest research from PNNL, discuss how we are working with other labs and universities, and highlight opportunities for colleagues, postdocs and students to partner with our research teams. The purpose of this newsletter is to profile the breadth of research at PNNL - and to highlight opportunities for collaboration. In this way, Currents is our way of starting conversations. Please email us at if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about PNNL's science and technology. Thank you.

Dr. Steven Ashby
Deputy Director for Science and Technology

In this issue - November 2014

Palladium atoms can reduce emissions

Collaborators: University of New Mexico; Purdue University; Fuzhou University; Argonne National Laboratory; Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Catalytic converters struggle to reduce emissions in the first 30 seconds after a vehicle engine starts. A platinum-based converter does not work well before the engine warms up. Now, scientists discovered that isolated palladium atoms can reduce emissions under these conditions. They showed that the palladium atoms efficiently turn carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide at 40°C (104°F). The multi-year study appeared in Nature Communications. Read more.

Seeing every atom on a surface

Collaborators: University of Rouen

On surfaces, like battery electrodes, scientists can use atom probe tomography to identify and locate nearly every atom. But some atoms evaporate non-uniformly before they are identified. In work published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters scientists revealed which atoms evaporate in mixed materials, where there are many different types of atoms. Read more.

Water Scarcity and Climate Change

Collaborators: Joint Global Change Research Institute (a collaboration between PNNL and the University of Maryland); University of Alberta

What will a global water scarcity map look like in 2095? Significantly different, according to scientists. This analysis depends on the type and the stringency of the climate mitigation policies chosen to reduce carbon pollution. This research was published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. Read more.

Removing oxygen for biofuel production

Collaborators: Washington State University

Iron catalysts are an inexpensive way to remove oxygen from plant-based materials during biofuel production. However, the catalyst is not very active and can be readily deactivated due to oxidation. Expensive precious metal catalysts resist oxidation, but they do not efficiently remove oxygen from plant-based materials. In work published in ACS Catalysis, scientists found that adding a small amount of the precious metal palladium to iron produces a catalyst that quickly removes oxygen atoms, releases the desired products and doesn't oxidize. Read more.

Fundamental steps to nucleate MOFs

PNNL scientists completed a groundbreaking study that showed the fundamental reactions that occur when synthesizing the building blocks of a metal-organic framework. In MOFs, metal clusters are connected with organic molecules through metal coordination bonds that result in high surface areas. MOFs are known for their ability to selectively capture, store and release molecules, and applications range from catalysis to hydrogen storage. The research team took a computation- and simulation-based approach, allowing them to delve into the intricacies of the reaction sequence. Understanding the steps is vital to eventually synthesizing MOFs at volume. This research was published in Chemistry of Materials. Read more.

Identification of redox-sensitive enzymes can enrich biofuel production research

Using a targeted chemical biology approach, PNNL scientists identified an important subset of more than 300 proteins in Synechococcus, a bacterium adept at converting carbon dioxide into other molecules of interest to energy researchers. Published in Frontiers in Microbiology, the results have implications for future biofuel production. Read more.

Changing conventional wisdom about how acids behave in water

Collaborators: Argonne National Laboratory

By combining experimental and simulation techniques, researchers found that hydrochloric acid does not dissociate as expected, but rather the hydronium and counter ion are paired across a range of concentrations. Published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B , the findings provide new details about counter ions' behavior and could help scientists design energy storage solutions and mitigate climate change. Read more.

News Center


Additional Resources


Subscribe to PNNL's mailing list to receive the Currents newsletter, our monthly electronic newsletter.

Past Issues

Currents Archive