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carbon footprint cartoon

Transformations: Fundamental Catalysis Enabling Zero-Carbon-Footprint Future, Scale-up of Aviation Biofuels from Alcohols, Five Cents about Nickel Catalysts

(August  2016)

The August issue of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations recognizes innovation in catalysis. The lead item describes the potential of catalysis to enable a zero-carbon-footprint future. Also featured is the latest work on aviation biofuels by PNNL and industry partner LanzaTech.

Image showing ccobalt catalyst and lead investigator

The Case of the Cobalt Catalyst

The story's plotline could solve other mysteries around generating electricity without fossil fuels

(July  2016)

It's the worst short story ever written: on a dark and stormy night; the end. The real story -- the context, the tension, and the motivations -- are missing. That's what it feels like for scientists reading the reaction that uses a cobalt catalyst to produce hydrogen. Dr. Eric Wiedner and Dr. Morris Bullock at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wanted to know the rest of the story. They found out what happened between the first page and the last.

Morris Bullock Quoted in Chemical & Engineering News

(June  2016)

Morris Bullock
Morris Bullock was quoted in the June 13, 2016, issue of Chemical and Engineering News.

In the June 13 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, Dr. Morris Bullock at Pacific Northwest National laboratory is quoted as an outside expert. In the article titled "Chemists announce the end of the innocence for cyclopentadienyl," writer Stephen K. Ritter covers research by two groups that show the ligand cyclopentadienyl is reactive, suggesting new opportunities for catalyst design. Bullock is quoted at the end of the article about the significance of the research.

At the national laboratory, Bullock leads the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and American Chemical Society. His work in developing transition metal electrocatalysts earned him the Royal Society of Chemistry's Homogeneous Catalysis Award in 2013.

Following Nature's Lead: Mimicking Enzymes to Release Energy

Lessons from nature inspire breakthrough in catalyzing electricity from renewable energy

(June  2016)

Researchers at PNNL have demonstrated that stored renewable energy can be interconverted efficiently and inexpensively by mimicking enzymatic catalysts used in biological processes. This new catalyst actually performs best in water and at temperatures and acidities remarkably similar to conditions found in hydrogen fuel cells.

Artistic representation of catalysis research and applications

Catalyze It! Special Issue Highlights Drive for Discoveries at National Labs

(May  2016)

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and ten other labs had their work featured in a special issue of ACS Catalysis. Their efforts have clarified basic scientific principles, funded by DOE's Office of Science, and have resolved issues for biofuels, emission control, fuel cells, and more, funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The peer-reviewed online publication features ten articles by PNNL scientists and their university collaborators.

Catalytic efficiency vs cost

Five Cents About Nickel Catalysts

Computational methods and experimental techniques reveal important design principles for future nickel catalysts

(May  2016)

Platinum is a good catalyst, but it costs ~$950 an ounce. Nickel, whose market price of less than $4 a pound, is an attractive option, but it doesn’t pack the same punch. Two Energy Frontier Research Centers are helping nickel muscle its way to center stage of fuel production. Read more in this article which first appeared in Frontiers in Energy Research.

Four reactions on gold background

Measuring Up: The Gold Standard for Catalysts in Real World Conditions

Combining 4 well-known reactions precisely predicts how well a catalyst performs

(April  2016)

High efficiency is the goal when using renewable energy to split water into hydrogen (a fuel) and oxygen. Catalysts are the workhorses that accomplish this conversion, but in some cases, scientists haven't had an easy way to know if a catalyst is living up to its potential. Methods are well established for calculating that potential when the catalyst is in water, but not when in other solvents. Scientists have found a way to bridge this gap. With just four reactions, the team showed how much energy each catalyst could use if it worked perfectly. This work was done through the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center.

Chromium catalyzes reaction

Chromium Breaks the Toughest of Bonds, with the Right Support

Phosphorus atoms help drive metal to form ammonia, adding insights to turning renewable energy to fuel

(March  2016)

At the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, scientists showed what it takes to make long-overlooked chromium help form ammonia; this work is a critical step in controlling a reaction that could store electrons from intermittent wind and solar stations in use-any-time fuels.

Artistic representation of rotor in NMR

Teaching Reactions How to Navigate

New topographical map shows the energy hills and valleys involved in turning electrons into fuel

(November  2015)

When starting out on a new adventure, it helps to have a map, allowing you to determine how to best spend your time and energy along the way. The same is true for chemical reactions. Without understanding the steps involved, reactions can end up on energy-wasting backroads or creating toxic wastes. Unfortunately, few reaction maps exist because of the expertise needed to chart all the possible paths. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists mapped areaction that turns wind-generated electricity into fuel and the amount of energy needed for each step.


Shoving Protons Around

Review highlights molecular-level work involved in creating a design guide for catalysts for use of sustainable energy

(September  2015)

In an invited review of research by the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, Dr. Morris Bullock and Dr. Monte Helm at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory showed how shoving protons can enable iron and nickel to replace platinum in catalysts, providing a less expensive and more readily available base for sustainable storage of renewable energy.

Artistic representation of two metal-free catalysts

Two Great Catalysts that Work Great Together

Researchers use materials free of precious metals to speed the troubling side of the fuel cell reaction

(August  2015)

Replacing technologies that use fossil fuel with ones that use rare metals -- that's part of the problem for fuel cells. The cells use hydrogen generated at solar and wind stations to produce electricity. But, the cells require platinum to speed the reactions. Scientists at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, have found another way. By combining two simple, inexpensive, metal-free catalysts, they sped the cell's slower reaction.

Model of a zeolite

Energy in Chemical Bonds and the Plant-Pollution Connection

PNNL scientists share fundamental insights in energy and atmospheric science at ACS National Meeting

(August  2015)

Researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be honored and present new work at the 250th American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Aug. 16-20.

Wind energy

How to Store Sunlight on a Tight Energy Budget: Add More Protons

The reaction to convert solar energy to fuel is 50 times faster with a simple change in the solvent used

(August  2015)

For catalysts, the environment matters. Packing in protons and water lets a hydrogen-producing catalyst work 50 times faster than the previous record holder, according to scientists at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, which is led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This discovery provides another page to the design guidelines for super-fast catalysts to turn intermittent sunlight into fuels.

Wendy Shaw and Monte Helm

Researchers Ace Hydrogenase at PNNL-Led Workshop

(August  2015)

Before they can power your car, hydrogen fuel cells need an efficiency boost. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists Dr. Wendy Shaw and Dr. Monte Helm led an invitation-only workshop at the Telluride Science Research Center on hydrogenase mimics, which catalyze hydrogen production and use for fuel cells.

American Chemical Society video opening screen

The Story Behind ACS Winners Daniel DuBois, Morris Bullock, and the Hydrogen Catalysis Team

Interview with Chris Jones, Editor-in-Chief of ACS Catalysis, shows what it takes to control protons

(August  2015)

Congratulations to the Hydrogen Catalysis Team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on receiving the 2015 ACS Catalysis Lectureship for the Advancement of Catalytic Science. Check out the video interview with Chris Jones, an American Chemical Society Editor-in-Chief, to learn what it took for the team to elucidate the design rules of one of the decade's great catalysis breakthroughs.

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Our Mission

Develop a comprehensive understanding of molecular electrocatalysts that efficiently convert electrical energy into chemical bonds in fuels, or the reverse, convert chemical energy from fuels into electrical energy. To learn more about the Energy Frontier Research Centers, visit the Department of Energy's EFRC website.


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