Research for secure, sustainable energy.
January 2017
Special Edition: Top 10 of 2016
From imaging the subsurface to advancing the power grid and creating self-powered fish tags, our researchers accomplished a lot in 2016. Check out our top 10 highlights from 2016. See the full list at
With industry partner LanzaTech, researchers at PNNL converted alcohols derived from captured carbon monoxide, a byproduct in the production of steel, into synthetic paraffinic kerosene, a non-fossil-based jet fuel. In 2016, PNNL produced five gallons of this fuel in the lab. Subsequently, LanzaTech produced 1,500 gallons of the fuel for intermediate testing... read more.
When updating a 100-year-old house, you consult a building architect. What about updating the 100-year-old U.S. electrical grid, one of the most complex engineered systems on the planet? Well, a grid architect, of course. A new PNNL report describes seven paradigm shifts that have proven especially useful for modern grid planning and operations. Chief among these is the need to view the grid as a network of structures for maximum visibility across the system... read more
Researchers can now study the behaviors and migration patterns of fish for longer periods of time thanks to new fish tag technology developed at PNNL. The self-powered transmitters use fish's swimming motion as an energy source. The technology will be especially useful in studying species such as white sturgeon, which have been recorded to live over 100 years. The two new JSATS models expand long-term fish tracking and behavior study capabilities... read more.
When a nuclear power reactor is shut down, the used nuclear fuel must be stored safely and securely. A multi-laboratory team led by PNNL analyzed options for removing spent fuel from twelve sites that no longer have operating reactors. Each site was found to have at least one option for off-site transportation to remove spent nuclear fuel and greater-than Class C low-level radioactive waste, with some having multiple options... read more.
Early experimental results from PNNL strongly suggest that a new method known as Intelligent Load Control rapidly reins in a building's energy demand by shifting peak load to "valleys" while also keeping occupants comfortable. The results could help advance transactive energy concepts nationwide. The new method can be deployed in buildings to help manage traditional utility rate structures, including monthly demand charges... read more
Subsurface imaging software that combines supercomputing data analysis with real-time imaging and modeling capabilities is one of the 100 most innovative scientific breakthroughs of the year. Real-time Four-Dimensional Subsurface Imaging Software, or E4D-RT, and its inventor, PNNL scientist Tim Johnson, were recognized November 3 at the R&D 100 Awards ceremony. The software allows researchers to remotely look into the Earth's subsurface... read more.
Once used to explore the inside of pyramids and volcanoes alike, muons - elementary particles originating from cosmic rays - are now enabling researchers to see deep underground with a technological breakthrough from PNNL. Scientists successfully tested the prototype borehole muon detector, moving it one step closer to field deployment for the imaging of carbon dioxide plumes or oil reservoirs... read more.
With an average life span of 30-40 years, the cement around geothermal production wells eventually cracks over time. Wells with cracked cement are vulnerable to leakage, reduced strength, and corrosion, but repairs can easily top $1.5 million dollars. Researchers at PNNL developed cement that can heal itself when cracks occur. Using self-healing cement for geothermal wells could save millions... read more
Distributed energy resources, such as energy storage systems, are part of the answer to a more diversified power supply. There is a complicated gap, though, between renewable generation sources and the electric grid: the "interconnection" application process. A new software tool, called GridUnity™, offers cloud-based analysis services that allow utilities to upload their distribution system planning models and translate them... read more.
With the arrival of fuel cell forklifts and new fuel cell vehicles, ultra-low emission hydrogen fuel cells are on the brink of mainstream adoption. For fuel cell vehicles to become commonplace, liquid hydrogen must be easily accessible. PNNL and partners are developing a novel approach for liquefying hydrogen based on magnetocaloric refrigeration. This new approach could reduce the cost of liquefying hydrogen by 25 percent or more... read more
PNNL is hiring scientists, engineers, managers, and support staff to support
growth in our energy and environment research mission. Join our team!