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Scientific Mission: Strengthen U.S. Scientific Foundations for Innovation

Increasing global competition demands new capabilities for advancing scientific discoveries that are essential to fueling the U.S. economy and securing the future. The President has established the American Competitiveness Initiative, and Congress has introduced legislation to increase investments in physical science and engineering with the intention to accelerate discovery and the translation of those discoveries into positive economic impact.

In response to this challenge, PNNL is providing science, technology and solutions to:

  • deliver unique user facilities to the scientific community
  • predict and engineer the behavior of complex systems to solve energy, environment and security challenges.

User Facilities

PNNL has delivered several user facilities with unique sets of instrumentation and science and engineering expertise that exist nowhere else in the world.

The William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

EMSL is the premier national user facility of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), located on the PNNL campus. EMSL provides an integrated suite of resources for the scientific community, combining theory, modeling, and simulation with experiment. EMSL's broad array of instrumentation includes a 900-MHz (21.1-Tesla) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer—one of the most powerful NMRs in the world—and one of the fastest HP cluster platform supercomputers on the Top 500 list. Scientists from around the world can access the resources at EMSL through a peer-reviewed proposal system and collaborate with leading scientists in their field. Research at EMSL focuses principally on developing a molecular-level understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that underlie the most critical environmental issues facing DOE.

ARM Climate Research Facility

PNNL provides technical direction for management and operations of the ARM Climate Research Facility, from instrument engineering and development to process controls and information management. This DOE Office of Science national user facility provides opportunities for scientists from around the world to conduct research in a wide range of interdisciplinary earth sciences using the infrastructure established through the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program.

Institute for Integrated Catalysis

Catalysis is a vital part of U.S. core industrial infrastructure because it is integral to chemical processing and petroleum refining, and it is critical to proposed advances needed to secure a sustainable energy future. In 2005, PNNL launched the Institute for Integrated Catalysis (IIC) to encourage collaboration among catalysis researchers across the country and bridge the gap from fundamental catalysis research to process application. Advances in catalysis could reduce our need for foreign oil by making better use of domestic carbon resources. IIC focuses much of its catalysis research on the issues of producing and consuming energy, the chemistry of fuels, both fossil and renewable, and emissions.

Predictive Science

PNNL is making significant progress in developing the ability to predict and engineer the behavior of complex systems. PNNL researchers focus on areas where fundamental understanding will advance U.S. energy, environmental and security missions and where the Laboratory capabilities can make a significant contribution:

  • To advance control of complex chemical and physical processes important to energy efficiency and environmental quality, researchers from the Institute for Integrated Catalysis as well as the Chemical & Materials Sciences Division are synthesizing arrangements of atoms at interfaces and in solids. Complex molecular computation is conducted using combination of desktop and parallel computing resources embodied in the NWChem program.
  • PNNL researchers are developing new knowledge to predict, manipulate and design biological systems for bioenergy, bioremediation, carbon sequestration and responses to stress. These complex systems rely on advanced analytical methods, such as high-resolution separations and mass spectrometry that have greatly increased the rate of throughput and sensitivity of proteomics and metabolism measurements. Real-time, in situ, multiscale imaging technologies also are critical to understanding multiscale processes, thus enabling modeling and design of complex systems. PNNL's Biomolecular Systems and Environmental Biomarkers initiatives embody this type of research.
  • Validated, scalable models will reduce the uncertainty in global and regional climate change predictions and impacts. PNNL researchers are developing new knowledge about complex climate systems where intricate molecular reactions are linked to climate processes.
  • PNNL is advancing understanding of the complicated, interdependent chemical, biological, and physical processes that take place in the subsurface through its work in computational chemistry and the mineral-microbe interface, studies of biofilms and microbial communities, and research to better describe the fate and transport of contaminants. The EMSL Biogeochemistry Grand Challenge serves as a platform to bring further understanding of subsurface processes.
  • To predict the behavior of multiscale phenomena and complex systems, PNNL researchers are developing new computational concepts, models, tools and approaches. Using data intensive computing and model-driven programs that rely on precise mathematical descriptions, researchers are developing ways to better understand the intricate workings of complex systems.

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