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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 if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about PNNL's science and technology. Thank you.

Dr. Steven Ashby
Laboratory Director

In this issue — August 2016

Cobalt Keeps Radionuclide in Check During Waste Processing

Research Partners: Department of Energy Office of River Protection; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Pohang University of Science and Technology (South Korea)

With a half-life of 210,000 years, technetium (Tc) waste will be around for a long time. It can migrate in the environment, moving though groundwater systems or becoming a gas when heated. Since thermal processes are used to immobilize nuclear waste streams in glass logs for long-term storage, it is a challenge to capture and immobilize a significant fraction of the Tc. In work published in Nature Communications, scientists developed a way to retain more technetium by adding cobalt to the process stream. Mixed with an iron oxide, the cobalt helps stabilize technetium. The result? A modified glass formulation that immobilizes 50 to 60 percent more Tc then the baseline glass formulas. Read more.

Teasing Out the Microbiome From the Kansas Prairie

The soil beneath the Kansas prairie bears witness to an incredible diversity of life. Now, in one of the most in-depth looks to date at a soil metagenome, a team of scientists reconstructed portions of the genomes of 129 species of microbes. The results include the first reconstruction of the complete genome of a single microbe ever from a complex soil sample. Published in the journal mSystems, this area of research is important, because soil microbes play a significant role in determining how the planet stores carbon, when and how carbon is released into the environment, how plants take up nutrients and how crops fare. Read more.

How Soot Seeds Ice in Clouds

Research Partners: Michigan Technology University; Los Alamos National Laboratory

Scientists mimicked how soot can generate ice crystals in nature under super-cold temperatures. They found that diesel soot particles are not very efficient at nucleating ice, but that altering the properties of soot changes the ice crystal concentration observed in clouds. The findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters, will help researchers understand how cirrus and other clouds influence the Earth's radiative energy budget. Read more.

Research Settles Debate on How Methane Forms

Research Partners: University of Michigan

A recent study — using computational capabilities at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL — expanded understanding about how methane is made biologically and how to make things from it. Published in Science, the findings could lead to better catalysts for fuel production and improved strategies to inhibit microbial production of the potent greenhouse gas. Read more.

Ocean Bacterium Leaves Genetic Lights On

Research Partners: Oregon State University; University of East Anglia (United Kingdom); Louisiana State University; Plymouth Marine Laboratory (United Kingdom); Qingdao Aquarium (China)

PNNL scientists contributed to a recent Nature Microbiology letter on novel metabolic strategies in the ocean bacterium Pelagibacterales (SAR11). These carbon-scavenging marine organisms are microscopic, yet account for a third of all microbes living on the surface of the world's oceans. The research showed that the bacterium's metabolic circuits stay activated all the time as a "survival mechanism." The significance of this research is profound. SAR11 and similar bacterioplankton oxidize much of Earth's total photosynthesis, and of the entire world's organic carbon produced through sunlight, SAR11 converts from 5 to 22 percent of it to carbon dioxide. Read more.

Advancing Transformational Science and Technology

At PNNL, researchers are moving the boundaries of science through an interdisciplinary approach to solving the nation's challenges in energy and the environment, national security, and fundamental sciences. This short video offers a broad overview of PNNL — who we are and our research missions. View.

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