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Argonne National Laboratory

Illinois

Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in Illinois and across the United States have led to groundbreaking discoveries and development of new technologies that help meet the nation’s needs for sustainable energy, economic prosperity, and security.

New Argonne collaboration to advance urban science in the Chicagoland region

CROCUS will conduct neighborhood-scale climate research. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and partners will establish an Urban Integrated Field Laboratory called Community Research on Climate and Urban Science (CROCUS) focusing on the Chicago region.

CROCUS will advance urban climate science by studying climate change effects at local and regional scale. Focusing on community input, CROCUS will identify questions and specific areas of urban climate change to study, ensuring that research results directly benefit local residents.

Partnering with local and regional colleges and universities, Argonne will provide educational and workforce development opportunities to students from minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities. These include University of Illinois at Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago State University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The CROCUS research team will also partner with community-based organizations on Chicago’s South and West Sides to envision and create a just transition with clean energy and green infrastructure that meets each community’s needs. Community partners include Blacks in Green, Greater Chatham Initiative, Puerto Rican Agenda and Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

Startup that participated in Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations program works toward cleaner fuel, lower emissions with help from John Deere

Geneva, Illinois–based ClearFlame Engine Technologies enables diesel engines to operate on cleaner fuels and lower harmful emissions. (Image by Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images.)

Machinery manufacturer John Deere — Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer — has made an equity investment in Geneva, Illinois–based ClearFlame Engine Technologies, helping to support an engine testing and pilot demonstration program. ClearFlame’s engine technology enables diesel engines to operate on plant-based ethanol, lowering emissions without compromising overall performance.

ClearFlame co-founders Julie Blumreiter and B.J. Johnson are alumni of the first class of Chain Reactions Innovations, a Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program at Argonne. Working with Argonne researchers at the Lab’s Advanced Powertrain Research Center, Blumreiter and Johnson were able to advance their technology through additional engineering and data collection. Since then, ClearFlame has raised more than $20 million to continue commercializing its technology, and now has its first pilot trucks on the road.

Currently, ClearFlame is testing its technology on a nine-liter John Deere engine commonly used in a range of off-road equipment. Using corn-based ethanol in place of diesel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45%-50%, with other feedstocks offering even larger reductions as the ethanol fuel pool is on track to reach net-zero for greenhouse gases by 2035.

UChicago/Carnegie scientists use Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source to find ​‘superionic ice’ that could exist inside other planets

Using Argonne’s APS, scientists have recreated the structure of ice formed at the center of planets like Neptune and Uranus. (Image by Shutterstock/24K-Production/NASA.)

For generations, science students were taught that water takes three forms: solid, liquid or gas. But now scientists have discovered a new phase: superionic ice. This type of ice forms at extremely high temperatures and pressures, like those found at the center of planets. Because scientists cannot explore those places physically, they attempt to replicate the conditions in the laboratory, squeezing samples between diamond anvils” and heating them with high-powered lasers.  

A team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington D.C., used the extremely bright X-ray beams of the Advanced Photon Source (APS) a DOE user facility at Argonne, to reliably create, sustain and examine superionic ice.  

Scientists are still exploring the full range of the properties of superionic ice. However, being able to map where the ice occurs, promises to reveal more about planet formation and even where to look for life on other planets. From this discovery, scientists believe these conditions exist deep inside Neptune and Uranus and in other icy, rocky planets like them in the universe.  

The APS is a DOE Office of Science user facility. 

UChicago investigates origin of living cells

Studying the behavior of coacervates could help scientists gain new insights about Earth before life began. (Image by Shutterstock/Maximillian cabinet.)

One of the most important questions in science is how life began on Earth. A possible theory is that wet-dry cycling created conditions that allowed membraneless compartments called coacervates to act as homes for chemicals to combine into life-sustaining molecules. Scientists from the UChicago and Pennsylvania State University collaborated to study coacervates in water with makeup similar to that of pond water. A pond would regularly dry up and be replenished with rain or changing tides. This cycle of dehydration and rehydration could provide an environment where molecular building blocks could assemble into the molecules of life: proteins, DNA and RNA.

The team used the extremely bright X-rays at the APS to study coacervates as they underwent phase changes. Small-angle X-ray scattering at the APS suggested how the structures may have behaved in early Earth during a wet-dry cycle. The team found that repetitive cycles of hydration and dehydration caused the compartments to undergo changes in their composition and structure. Their discovery could signal important implications for the design of electronics and drug delivery systems.

IIT studies tarantula muscles with the APS to learn about human heart

Both human and tarantula muscles contain myosin, which triggers muscle movement. Studying tarantula muscles at the APS can help scientists understand human muscle movement. (Image by Pets in Frames/Shutterstock.)

Connected to a network of veins, arteries and capillaries spanning more than 60,000 miles, the heart is the human body’s most important muscle. Yet, even with heart disease ranking as the world’s number one cause of death, understanding the heart’s physiology remains elusive. To learn more about muscle function, researchers used the BioCAT beamline at Argonne’s APS to study how tarantula muscles contract and relax. Both human and spider muscles contain myosin, a family of motor proteins essential to movement, and studying the myosin in spider muscles may provide insights into the ways our own muscles move.

Scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester conducted X-ray diffraction experiments to learn how tarantula muscles are activated. Tarantulas have well-ordered filaments in their muscles, which allows for strong X-ray diffraction patterns. The team demonstrated the presence of two interacting molecular motors in live muscle that produce the force in that muscle — structures that, other studies suggest, also exist in the human heart. The team’s findings may help advance the design of more-effective drugs for human heart conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which a thickened heart muscle can lead to cardiac arrest.

The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

Advanced Diamond Technologies built with Argonne technology

Ultrananocrystalline diamond-coated pump seals. John Crane plans to leverage one of Earth’s hardest materials to improve mechanical seal reliability and performance in difficult applications. (Image courtesy of Advanced Diamond Technologies)

Romeoville, Illinois-based Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT) leveraged the pioneering technology discovered by Argonne to produce diamond films for industrial, electronic, mechanical and medical applications. The start-up was co-founded in 2003 by Argonne Materials Science researchers Orlando Auciello, John Carlisle and Neil Kane. While Carlisle was an executive with ADT for a while, he later returned to Argonne to encourage the next generation of innovators as director of Chain Reaction Innovations, which gives science entrepreneurs access to Argonne’s broad, multi-discipline resources for two years to help mature their technologies.

The pivotal research behind ADT started at Argonne’s Chemistry division (now Chemical Sciences and Engineering) and was supported by DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences program within DOE’s Office of Science. ADT’s products became so successful that by 2019, Chicago-based John Crane, a provider of engineered products, acquired ADT’s industrial division.

Caterpillar finds answers for better engines at Argonne

(Image by 06photo/Shutterstock)

Caterpillar Inc., Deerfield, Illinois collaborated with Argonne and software developer Convergent Science Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin to modernize its engine development process. Caterpillar, a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, relied on Argonne’s world-class resources to help improve the fuel economy, reliability and longevity of its engines. If it wasn’t for leveraging Argonne’s resources, Caterpillar would have faced a costly and time-intensive process.

Argonne’s pioneering leadership in developing engine models and software for computer simulations provided the necessary virtual look that Caterpillar needed before production even started. It also provided a better understanding of how engine parameters interact. This collaboration allowed Caterpillar to significantly reduce the number of its experimental test campaigns, shrink the engine development timescales and lower the cost of its engine development process.