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Royal Society journal honors early career PNNL scientists

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June 28, 2017 Share This!

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RICHLAND, Wash. — Every year, the journal Chemical Communications, published by the United Kingdom's Royal Society of Chemistry, singles out up-and-coming researchers as "emerging investigators" for the contributions these early career scientists have already made to their field. Then the researchers review their work in a special issue of the journal.

This year, two researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory received the honor: chemical physicist Patrick El-Khoury and physical chemist Grant Johnson.

El-Khoury and Johnson are exploring the properties of extremely small structures that could, one day, change how we produce energy and manufacture chemicals.

Nanoscale current

Even the smoothest surface has bumps and dips at the atomic level. On an uneven silver surface, some of these small structures can be used to localize visible light. In other cases, tiny formations sitting near each other can convert light into current.

El-Khoury and colleagues are further developing a well-established technique, Raman spectroscopy, to examine both localized electric fields caused by light and light-induced current generation. His Chemical Communications article describes efforts to bring the new approach to sub-nanometer spatial resolution.

Surrounding gold

Researchers are exploring tiny objects called ligated metal clusters to help manufacturing processes produce more materials with less waste and use less energy. Ligated gold clusters consist of a core of gold atoms surrounded by molecules of choice, which dictate the cluster properties and what they will be used for.

Johnson and colleagues used an advanced analytical technique, ion mobility spectrometry, which is typically used for proteins, to study how ligands, which are non-protein molecules in this case, move around the gold atoms, sometimes switching places. Since the gold atoms can be surrounded by the same molecules or several different ones, understanding this movement will help scientists grasp the function and customize the design of ligated gold clusters for specific energy-related applications. Johnson's Chemical Communications article describes initial efforts to study a variety of ligated gold clusters using this powerful approach.

The researchers performed the work using resources at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility located at PNNL. Read more about the two scientists' work and background in this article.

Tags: Energy, Fundamental Science, EMSL, Awards and Honors, Chemistry, Nanoscience, Materials

PNNL LogoEMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. Its integrated computational and experimental resources enable researchers to realize important scientific insights and create new technologies. Follow EMSL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

PNNL LogoInterdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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