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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 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 - March 2015

Oral exposure does not create high-BPA risk in humans

Collaborators: Oregon State University; The Ohio State University; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

A new study published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology shows that oral exposure to BPA — also known as bisphenol A — does not lead to higher than expected levels of the compound in human blood. Furthermore, this PNNL-led research confirms that BPA does not accumulate in humans; the body eliminates the compound within 24 hours. Read more.

An ideal microbe for industrial purposes

Collaborators: Washington University in St. Louis; University of Texas at Austin

A recent study identified a novel cyanobacterial strain that grows rapidly and is amenable to genetic manipulation - qualities that make it useful for synthetic biology and metabolic engineering applications. This research was published in Nature's Scientific Reports. Read more.

New electrolyte rids batteries of short-circuiting dendrites

Collaborators: Joint Center for Energy Storage Research; U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Postdoctoral researcher Matus Martini's first paper at PNNL was selected for a recent cover of the Dendrites create fire hazards and can limit the ability of batteries to store energy. A recent paper in Nature Communications describes how a new electrolyte for lithium batteries eliminates dendrites while also enabling batteries to be highly efficient and carry a large amount of electric current. Until now, batteries using other dendrite-limiting solutions haven't been able to maintain both high efficiencies and current densities. Read more.

How ocean biology affects sea spray chemistry and atmospheric particles

Collaborators: Los Alamos National Laboratory; University of California, San Diego; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Scientists created a new method to identify the chemical composition of sea spray, and how that chemical make-up is affected by ocean biology. The new model provides a better description of microscopic sea organisms affecting ocean chemistry that in turn affects the chemistry of sea spray particles. These far-flung particles can loft high enough to impact cloud-forming droplets. The research was published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Read more.

Proteins and carbohydrates may instigate crystallization by acting like a sponge

Collaborators: Eindhoven University of Technology; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Nature packs away carbon in chalk, shells, and rocks made by marine organisms that crystallize calcium carbonate. Recent research published in Nature Materials suggests that the soft organic scaffolds in which such crystals form direct crystallization by soaking up the calcium like an "ion sponge." Understanding the process better may help researchers develop advanced materials for energy and environmental uses, such as for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Read more.

Examining the information content in nanoscale chemical images

Collaborators: University of Puget Sound

PNNL-led research shows how light waves trapped on a metal's surface reveal the chemical identity of nearby molecules through characteristic molecular vibrations, which act as fingerprints. Detailed in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, scientists "saw" the interaction between molecules and the trapped light waves or surface plasmons using tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. With potential uses in catalysis and energy conversion, this research will help scientists better interpret ultrasensitive chemical images of new materials. Read more.

Computational model shows if and when minerals form

To reduce the impacts of coal-fired power plants, scientists want to quickly transform the carbon dioxide into minerals that last for thousands of years. PNNL researchers devised a way to reduce the time to create the mineral with a computational model that determines if and when minerals form. Described in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A, the computational model uses first principles, meaning it includes atomic properties and does not rely on estimates. Read more.

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