PNNL's science and technology: progress, partnerships and pride
Published: April 24, 2020
The Tri-Cities is an amazing place, and it is exciting to see it moving forward. At the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, we are proud of our contributions to our community and the world. From basic scientific research to practical solutions to vexing problems, PNNL is doing its part to make a difference.
PNNL's many accomplishments are a tribute to the expertise and experience of our nearly 4,800 scientists, engineers and support professionals. Each bright mind and innovative spirit plays a role in advancing the frontiers of knowledge, enhancing energy resiliency and strengthening national security. Our researchers and operations staff members work side-by-side to ensure that work is performed safely and sustainably.
Last year, PNNL conducted $1 billion in scientific research, drawing upon signature capabilities in chemistry, Earth sciences and data analytics. Our researchers made new discoveries and deepened our understanding of our planet and the universe. They also applied their knowledge to address some of society's greatest challenges, helping to ensure a more prosperous and secure future.
For example, PNNL is renowned for its catalysis research. This research has led to longer-lasting, more efficient and safer batteries. Our researchers also contributed to the first biofuel approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, performed in collaboration with industry partners. Closer to home, our capabilities in actinide science, subsurface flow and transport, and glass science support Hanford cleanup.
PNNL mathematicians and computer scientists are advancing machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as demonstrating their potential in real-world applications. They are using machine learning to improve climate models, identify novel molecules for energy storage and support national security needs. In the future, we hope to imbue critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, with artificial intelligence to keep it safe and sound.
To enhance our capabilities, we just began construction of the Energy Sciences Capability project. This facility will house 200 staff members and state-of-the-art instruments for fundamental research in chemistry, materials science and computational science. Another planned facility will translate these discoveries into energy storage solutions for the grid.
We know that achieving bold outcomes requires collaboration. Our joint institutes with Washington State University, the University of Washington, the Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Maryland demonstrate how we apply our collective strengths toward shared objectives. Graduate student programs help train tomorrow's scientific leaders and provide them with opportunities to work with our researchers on our campus. And our growing industrial partnerships are key to moving research results into the marketplace.
We also recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion at PNNL, and we strive to set an example within the community and across the DOE complex. We need people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to fuel the creativity and innovation required to meet the challenges before us. This is a personal passion of mine, and I am proud of what we are doing to make PNNL and the Tri-Cities a welcoming workplace and community.
Speaking of community, we deeply appreciate the support of our neighbors and enjoy opportunities to give back. Our staff volunteered more than 30,000 hours to local organizations in 2019. Over the years, Battelle has invested nearly $30 million in science, education and the quality of life in the Tri-Cities area.
At PNNL, your friends, relatives and neighbors are striving to make the world cleaner, safer and more prosperous. This is a daunting challenge, but we're committed to delivering the scientific leadership and impact needed to do it. We appreciate your support and are proud to contribute to the progress of the Tri-Cities.
Steven Ashby, director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, writes this column monthly. His other columns and opinion pieces are available here.
Published: April 24, 2020