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Argonne National Laboratory

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Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in New Jersey 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.

Researchers gain new insights on how to engineer better solid-state batteries

The research team used a powerful X-ray diffraction technique to characterize grains in next-generation battery materials called garnets. Each colored blob represents a grain. Left image: the grains before battery operation; right image: after battery failure. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

Researchers have discovered promising pathways to make game-changing, solid-state batteries with crystalline materials called garnets. The study was a collaboration between Princeton University in New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and Purdue University.

Garnets are a promising battery electrolyte because they can move ions through batteries quickly. However, when garnets are used, needle-like growths called filaments can form on lithium metal in a battery’s anode (negative electrode). Filaments make batteries less safe and less durable. The research team sought to understand why filaments form and how garnets can be engineered to eliminate them.

At Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility, the team simultaneously applied two cutting edge X-ray techniques to observe deep inside an operating battery with a garnet electrolyte and lithium anode. The techniques enabled the researchers to track changes in both tiny and large features in the garnet material as filaments developed.

The team found that nonuniform regions of the garnet materials tend to be where much of the filament formation occurred. This suggests that it may be beneficial to investigate new material processing methods to make garnets more uniform in structure.

Princeton team uses Argonne supercomputers to simulate the collapse of a massive star

A 3D simulation of a core-collapse supernova explosion. (Image by Joseph A. Insley and Silvio Rizzi/Argonne National Laboratory.)

A team of scientists from Princeton and Argonne leveraged the power of Argonne supercomputers to simulate the last seconds in the life of a massive star. Those last seconds end in a series of abrupt dynamic events that create a supernova — that is, a collapsed star caused by a huge explosion. Researchers simulated the collapse of more than 20 massive star models — ranging from nine to 60 times larger than our sun — and published their findings in the journals Nature and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

World-class supercomputers like those at Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science user facility, provide the power essential for conducting such complex 3D simulations, which help scientists understand the physics behind the collapse of a massive star. Improvements in these calculations have been driven, in part, by a state-of-the-art code called Fornax, developed at Princeton.

While the team’s research has given rise to numerous theories, further simulations are planned. This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.

Argonne APS helps identify how meteorite strikes affect planet Earth

Artist’s representation of meteorites falling to earth. (Image by Shutterstock/Triff/NASA.)

Researchers from Princeton, the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and Washington State University, Pullman, used the capabilities of Argonne’s APS to learn more about how quartz transforms when struck by meteorites, and how such impacts affect the geological makeup of planets.

The team found a new crystal structure of quartz, one that lasts only about 100 nanoseconds after impact. The team analyzed the atomic-level changes that occurred in the quartz’s structure at the very moment of impact.

At the APS’ Dynamic Compression Sector, the team was able to capture the moment of impact on a quartz sample, taking snapshots of its structure at extremely short timescales. Researchers used a hydrogen gas gun to fire a projectile at the quartz, then used an X-ray beam to probe the changes the quartz underwent in the nanoseconds during and after impact.

Princeton scientists use APS to investigate chemical exposure in South Carolina wetlands

Tracking long-term changes in South Carolina wetlands, scientists from Princeton investigated the effect of bromine introduced into the soil. (Image by Shutterstock/makasanaphoto.)

Naturally forming organic compounds containing halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine) are common in most environments. In wetlands and freshwater sediments, organic compounds containing chlorine are the most common. But when saltwater seeps into freshwater wetlands, higher levels of bromine are introduced, which can turn the chlorine compounds toxic. These new compounds, when they enter the atmosphere, add to the destruction of the ozone layer and contribute to a rising sea level.

Where four rivers — the Black, the Pee Dee, the Sampit and the Waccamaw — converge on the coast of eastern South Carolina, they form the Winyah Bay estuary. A team of scientists from Princeton studied the level of bromine introduced into the freshwater wetlands of Winyah Bay in an effort to track long-term changes in the ecosystem as a result of bromide exposure.

Scientists used the extremely bright X-rays at the APS to analyze samples from leaf litter and soil in the bay. Their analysis revealed a strong relationship between the introduction of bromine and, on average, a 39% loss of organic chlorine from leaf litter and soil. Their discovery could offer insight into climate change.

The APS is a DOE Office of Science user facility.