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National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers studying reaction chemistry in the new cutting-edge ReACT (Reaction Analysis & Chemical Transformation) facility are working to unleash the power of microwaves to advance coal gasification technologies capable of providing cleaner and more affordable energy and valuable chemicals. Gasification involves reacting coal at a high temperature without combustion; however, traditional thermal heating can be costly and very energy intensive. Alternatively, NETL researchers are focusing on using microwaves to provide rapid and selective energitics on a molecular level. “Microwaves have many advantages over traditional thermal heating,” said Christina Wildfire, a researcher at NETL. “For instance, you don’t need to heat up the entire system. Microwaves can target just the materials, resulting in higher product yields and greater selectivity.”
Work Day
NETL welcomes the children of employees this week for Bring Your Kids to Work Day festivities, which reflect the Lab’s strong commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education outreach. All three NETL sites will celebrate Bring Your Kids to Work Day. Festivities will begin in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Tuesday; continue in Albany, Oregon, on Wednesday; and wrap up in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Approximately 200 children are expected to participate across all locations. Employees will host interactive indoor activities, engaging outdoor demonstrations and educational Lab tours for the children to enjoy before spending the afternoon shadowing their parents. In years past, NETL volunteers have used slime, LEGO bricks, magnetics and more to excite participating kids about the wonders STEM as they learn about the Lab’s fossil energy research and development.
Super Computer
NETL’s highly ranked Joule 2.0 supercomputer is breaking barriers by accelerating the development of innovative, cost-effective energy technologies to ensure affordable, reliable energy for all Americans. The high-performance system ranks 21st in the United States and 55th in the world per the latest rankings by TOP500, announced today. A recent $16.5 million upgrade boosted Joule’s computational power by nearly eight times, enabling researchers to tackle more challenging problems than ever before as they work to make more efficient use of the nation’s vast fossil fuel resources. Named for the familiar unit of energy, Joule allows researchers to model energy technologies, simulate challenging phenomena and solve complex calculations using computational tools that save time and money to ensure that technology development ultimately proves successful. The upgrade work more than tripled the number of central processing unit (CPU) cores — from 24,192 to 73,240 — and added graphics processing units to further enhance simulations of advanced energy technologies.
NETL Visit
NETL celebrated new and revamped facilities that expand the Lab’s robust research capabilities to develop efficient, affordable energy technology solutions at a special ceremony Friday, June 14. NETL welcomed U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Representative David McKinley , Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg and regional media to the Lab’s Morgantown, West Virginia, site to dedicate a new Reaction Analysis and Chemical Transformation (ReACT) facility and showcase a $16.5 million upgrade to the Joule supercomputer. A representative from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s office also participated. “The ReACT facility pushes the boundaries of reaction science to boost efficiency, while Joule 2.0 enhances our computational work to deliver innovative energy technologies more quickly and at a reduced cost,” NETL Director Brian J. Anderson, Ph.D., said. “Collectively, these facilities offer greater capabilities in support of NETL’s work to create technologies that enable efficient, affordable energy production from our vast domestic resources, while ensuring responsible stewardship of the environment.”
Brian Anderson
NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., will speak at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo, which will be held Sunday, June 16 through Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. Anderson explained that the event connects top applied research and early-stage innovations from universities, labs and startups with industry end-users and prospectors. “TechConnect has published more than 10,000 technical papers, connected more than 20,000 innovations with industry partners, provided prospecting to many Fortune 500 technology companies, and supported most every U.S. Science and Technology agency since its inception,” Anderson said. “Showcasing NETL’s technology leadership in carbon capture and conversion technologies at this important networking and business event will help showcase some of the innovations we have made possible to an important gathering of potential commercialization partners.”
FOA Announcement
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected 17 projects to receive approximately $39 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development under funding opportunity announcement Improving Efficiency, Reliability, and Flexibility of Existing Coal-Based Power Plants.
School Visit
Paul Ohodnicki, Ph.D., of NETL’s Functional Materials team, visited Central Elementary School in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, May 31 to share his expertise in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by assisting with Hampton Township School District’s Science Olympiad. With support from the Lab’s STEM K-12 Education & Outreach team, Ohodnicki encouraged students to solve real-world engineering problems through application of the engineering design process during the event.
2019 Mickey Leland and CIESESE Students
NETL welcomed more than 40 research associates June 3 as the Lab opened its doors to participants in the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) and Consortium for Integrating Energy Systems in Engineering and Science Education (CIESESE) programs. The summer research associates include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors who will get hands-on experience in NETL’s world-class facilities and conduct research one-on-one with the Lab’s expert scientists and engineers. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy, MLEF kicks off its 24th year with a class of 34 undergraduate and graduate students. The program was named after late Congressman Mickey Leland of Texas, a passionate advocate on many issues who died in a 1989 plane crash while on a mission to Ethiopia. 
NETL-led research is offering groundbreaking insight into the mysteries of methane hydrate formation and behavior by enabling pore-scale observation in natural conditions for the first time ever. The impactful data gleaned from this research will inform future efforts to produce clean, affordable and reliable energy from these abundant natural gas resources. Methane hydrate is a cage-like lattice of ice that forms underwater at low-temperature, high-pressure conditions, trapping molecules of methane — the chief constituent of natural gas — inside. The amount of carbon stored in gas hydrate deposits worldwide is comparable to the volume stored in all conventional fossil fuels combined, offering promising possibilities to meet global energy needs. Yet, researchers have previously only speculated as to how methane hydrates form in nature due to inadequate methods of scientific investigation.
NETL Welcomes Case Western Reserve University for Oil & Gas Talk
NETL welcomed an esteemed lecturer and other representatives from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) May 28 to share insights on managing oil and natural gas data for unconventional resources. Jeffrey Yarus, a CWRU lecturer and recently retired Halliburton Technology Fellow for Landmark, presented a talk entitled “Rethinking Geoscience, Industry and Academia: The Impact of Digitalization” to Lab employees at the invitation of NETL Senior Fellow Grant Bromhal. Yarus was accompanied by CWRU’s Chris Littman, business development director and operations manager of the Solar Durability and Lifetime Extension Center, and Beverly Saylor, professor of stratigraphy and sedimentology, for his visit to the Pittsburgh site.