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DOE to establish Energy Frontier Research Center at PNNL
Date:4/30/2009

Molecular Electrocatalysis will enable a group of outstanding scientists to focus on grand challenges recently identified by the Department of Energy as critical to controlling chemical transformations for energy applications."

PNNL was also a partner on two other centers one led by the University of South Carolina on nanomaterials and the other led by the University of Notre Dame on materials containing radioactive elements such as plutonium and uranium. PNNL's partnership with the UND center will involve the use of equipment at EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus.

EFRC researchers will take advantage of new capabilities in nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, neutron scattering sources, supercomputing, and other advanced instrumentation, much of it developed with DOE Office of Science support over the past decade, in an effort to lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, biofuels, transportation, energy efficiency, electricity storage and transmission, clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear energy.

At PNNL's Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, Bullock and colleagues will study molecules called catalysts that convert electrical energy into chemical bonds and back again. Of interest are catalysts that pack energy into bonds involving hydrogen, oxygen or nitrogen. These reactions are at the core of technologies such as solar energy and fuel cells.

For example, a catalyst breaks down chemical bonds to produce electricity in a fuel cell. A fast, efficient catalyst produces more power from fuel than a slow one -- and fuel cells for vehicles need to release energy as fast as the explosions in a gasoline engine do.

In previous work, PNNL scientists copied a feature called a "proton relay" from fast and efficient enzyme catalysts found in nature. The proton relay gave their synthetic catalyst speed comparable to natural catal
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Contact: Mary Beckman
mary.beckman@pnl.gov
509-375-3688
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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