Once in a while there is an opportunity for my programming colleagues and me to do some collective research. One such opportunity was a fascinating field trip we took to Argonne National Laboratory in early February, where we toured several of Argonne’s research divisions. At the Transportation Center, we got a primer in how a lithium-ion battery works from Jeff Chamberlain, Argonne’s Head of Chemical Sciences and Engineering Electrochemical Energy Storage and learned about Argonne’s cutting-edge research in fuel cells and improving the capacity of batteries.
The Theory and Computing Sciences Building at Argonne National Laboratory
We visited the exquisite new Theory and Computing Sciences building that houses the Computation Institute and the Computing, Environment and Life Sciences “directorate.” There we saw an amazing imaging lab and a huge empty space that will be filled by Q, Argonne’s newest supercomputer, scheduled to be up and running in 2012.
Finally, we poked around the Center for Nanoscale Materials with manager Katie Carrado Gregar and had an introduction to the mechanics of the synchrotron. One of the most remarkable things about visiting Argonne was how palpable people’s enthusiasm was for the work they are doing. (And I thought I loved my job!) One of the most memorable analogies offered to help us get our heads around the specificity and complexity of their nanoscale research was this, with regard to the size of a particle moving through the synchrotron: “Imagine the width of a human hair enlarged to the size of a football field and then imagine a coffee cup on that football field.” Turns out the guy who offered that to us (sorry I didn’t get his name) was not only a nano-scientist, but also an actor. He clearly knew how to help us non-scientists visualize his world.
M. Christina Negri
Since it was a snowy wintry day, we were not able to see the work of environmental engineer M. Christina Negri. Dr. Negri’s lab is not indoors, like most of the research facilities at Argonne. Hers is a forest of poplar and willow trees planted and engineered with the express intent to clean up toxins in the groundwater present from decades of atomic energy research on the Argonne campus. Negri is a pioneer, both as a female scientist in a very male-dominated field and as the developer of technologies that harness the natural processes of plants to restore environmentally blighted areas (or brownfields)—a strategy called phytoremediation. When we invited Dr. Negri to join us as a presenter at the Festival this fall, we knew her current research, as well as her experience working with a team of European scientists to address soil contamination after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, would be of great interest to our audience. The ongoing tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, unfortunately, makes her work all the more relevant.
Francis W. Parker School - Diane and David B Heller Auditorium: Nov. 13, 10:00 AM
Francis W. Parker School - Diane and David B Heller Auditorium: Nov. 13, 12:00 PM
Tags: energy, batteries, lithium-ion, argonne, laboratory, computing, computation, negri, environment, engineering, chernobyl, nuclear, brownfield, clean-up, fukushima, nanoscale, science, scientist