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Argonne National Laboratory


Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in Tennessee 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.

State-by-State Highlights: Tennessee

Vanderbilt team collaborates with Argonne for pivotal study on cataclysmic volcanoes

Mammoth Hot Geothermal Springs, Long Valley Caldera, California (Image by Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock)

Nashville, Tennessee-based Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago collaborated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory by using its Advanced Photon Source (APS) to determine that only about a year’s warning is provided before a supereruption — a volcanic event large enough to devastate the entire planet. That was the conclusion of a 2016 microscopic analysis of quartz crystals in pumice taken from the Bishop Tuff in eastern California, the site of the supereruption that formed the Long Valley Caldera more than 760,000 years ago. The study was described in the paper The year leading to a supereruption,” by Guilherme Gualda, professor of earth and environment sciences at Vanderbilt, and Stephen Sutton, University of Chicago, published in the journal, PLOS One.

Gualda and Sutton analyzed dozens of small quartz crystals from the Bishop Tuff. Previous investigations of quartz crystals from several supereruptions, including Long Valley, had distinctive surface rims. These studies concluded that the rims formed in less than a century before eruption. The study used imaging techniques at the APS that provided higher resolution in a scanning electron microscope at Vanderbilt to yield more precise timescale estimates.

Grad students vie for coveted NXSchool at Oak Ridge, Argonne

Previous NXSchool graduates

DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Argonne National Laboratory are collaborating to host the 22nd annual National School on Neutron and X-ray Scattering (NXSchool) on June 13-27. This year, 256 graduate students from universities around the United States, Canada and Mexico applied for 60 highly coveted positions. NXSchool is funded by DOE’s Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, and administered by Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach group. The four directors of the school are scientists at Oak Ridge and Argonne.

The school is providing a basic education in how state-of-the-art neutron and X-ray scattering techniques can be applied to a variety of scientific disciplines, including hands-on experiments at two user facilities, the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne and the Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge. The experiments and lectures offer opportunities to build a network with leading scientists, helping the students to develop new ideas and their careers. Their work often leads to cutting-edge projects and published in high-impact journals, said Uta Ruett, an Argonne group leader and co-director of NXSchool.

Tennessee researchers, Argonne revolutionize computational materials science

For one of its efforts, the team used diffusion Monte Carlo to compute how doping affects the energetics of nickel oxide. (Image by Anouar Benali, Olle Heinonen, Joseph A. Insley, and Hyeondeok Shin, Argonne National Laboratory)

A team led by research scientist Paul Kent of Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory is using quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) simulations to study promising materials with functional properties that elude the investigative and predictive powers of the density functional theory (DFT). The recent advances in QMC methods have the potential to revolutionize computational materials science, a discipline traditionally driven by DFT, a method of approximating the electronic structure of difficult-to-model quantum systems. The multi-institutional team, which includes researchers from DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, is using supercomputing resources at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) to advance its studies. The ALCF and OLCF are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

The key challenge materials scientists face is to reliably describe the complicated interactions of numerous quantum particles. QMC uses random numbers to sample likely solutions, offering extraordinary accuracy. These calculations require large-scale supercomputers like the ALCF’s Theta system. Kent’s team, employing the open-source code QMCPACK they developed, is focused on studying materials relevant for current and future technological devices. These capabilities have helped deliver key theoretical insights, not only for materials but also for chemistry.