Staff Accomplishments Archive
The staff accomplishments archive contains accomplishments prior to 12/19/2011. They are presented with the most recent accomplishments listed first. To search for a specific accomplishment, please use the links below.
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Seismic Studies a Success
Congratulations to ETD's Tom Brouns and Alan Rohay on leading the PNNL team that effectively managed and delivered technical data and analyses to the Seismic Boreholes Project. The project's success allowed the U.S. Department of Energy to resume construction at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), designed to vitrify radioactive waste in underground tanks on the Hanford Site.
Tom Brouns managed the project since April 2006, while Alan Rohay co-developed the technical plan and led the scientific investigations. This project involved obtaining subsurface seismic velocity and other data necessary to reduce the uncertainty in seismic design criteria. Approximately 50 PNNL staff contributed to the project.
This teamwork was a clear example of PNNL's commitment to supporting the cleanup at the Hanford Site and protecting the Columbia River.
Congratulations, again, on a job well done!
Date Entered: 9/18/2007
PNNL Researchers Honored for Contributions to Actinide Separations
Lee Burger's 2007 Glenn T. Seaborg Award makes four "wins" for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, second only to Argonne National Laboratory in the number of Seaborg award recipients. Lee joins PNNL scientists Earl Wheelwright, Jack Ryan, and John Swanson in receiving this prestigious award to honor their extraordinary accomplishments, gained in more than 200 years of combined expertise in this field.
The Glenn T. Seaborg Actinide Separations Award is a national award recognizing significant and lasting contributions to separating actinide elements, such as plutonium and uranium. This award reflects the judgment of the Actinide Separation Conference Board representatives currently from Argonne, Idaho, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River National Laboratories, the Hanford Site, the University of New Mexico, and Washington State University.
In 2007, the Actinide Separation Conference honored retired PNNL scientist Lee Burger with the Glenn T. Seaborg Actinide Separations Award.
Lee's distinguished career spans the history of atomic energy technology, beginning with research at Columbia University in January 1942 where he worked to develop fluorocarbon solvents and diffusion membranes for separating uranium isotopes. This work was done under the Manhattan Project as part of the nation's quest to produce enriched uranium for its World War II effort.
After completing his doctorate at the University of Washington in 1948, he helped develop solvents for the Hanford Site's recovery of plutonium and uranium through the REDOX and PUREX processes. His work included developing tributyl phosphate (TBP) as a solvent to extract uranium and plutonium. Later he contributed to a monograph on the science and technology of TBP.
In addition to his contributions to actinide separations and actinide chemistry, Lee studied other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle such as developing processes for managing and disposing of volatile radionuclides during uranium and plutonium recovery. This work continues to be of interest to scientists involved in nuclear materials recovery.
Of the 24 recipients of the Seaborg award to-date, Lee is unique for his key contributions not only to actinide element separation but also to actinide isotope separation.
Earl Wheelwright was PNNL's first Seaborg award winner in 1993. He began his career in 1955 working for General Electric before transferring to PNNL in 1965. During his career, Earl pioneered development of ion-exchange processes for the multi-kilogram-scale purification of selected actinide and fission-product elements. These include the co-development of a widely used anion exchange process for final purification of plutonium, an exchange process for the purification of promethium-147, and separation and purification process for americium, curium, and strontium-90. Earl conducted a research program that included valuable published research regarding promethium.
As a task leader in the Nuclear Waste Vitrification Project, Earl was responsible for the design, construction, and operation of a "hot" pilot plant facility for processing fully irradiated commercial nuclear fuel and recovering the high-activity waste for waste-form demonstration. After this project, he became the program manager for efforts to separate and purify yittrium-90 for medical use and for a process to leach plutonium from waste.
Throughout his career, Earl was recognized as a leader in his field and was sought after by DOE for review committees. Earl, along with the other Seaborg Award winners, was named "Outstanding Chemist of the Year" by the Richland Section of the American Chemical Society.
Jack Ryan's career spans over 50 years, nearly all in the Radiochemical Processing Laboratory. He conducted original work in theoretical and applied chemistry, authoring many publications, contributing as key technical reviewer, and lecturing at many conferences. Jack also educated scientists and engineers at Hanford in lanthanide and actinide chemistry and ion-exchange chromatography.
His work on anion exchange purification of plutonium and neptunium (partly in collaboration with Earl), on the catalyzed electrolytic dissolution of plutonium dioxide, and on the solubility and thermodynamics of the actinide oxides and hydroxides are of particular significance to actinide separations in the nuclear industry and the reason for his 1999 Glenn T. Seaborg Award.
Jack performed research to develop and implement anion exchange purification of plutonium in Hanford fuels reprocessing and extended that work to neptunium. The plutonium process has since been performed worldwide to purify tons of material.
In 1974, Jack co-invented, and subsequently performed applications research in catalyzed electrolytic dissolution of plutonium dioxide, a technique that is now used worldwide.
In collaboration with fellow lab scientists, Jack's studies on solubilities of actinide dioxides, hydrous oxides, and hydroxides form part of the essential thermodynamic database for performance modeling necessary for repository licensing and operation.
During the course of his 50-year Hanford career, John Swanson made major contributions to improving the PUREX process for the recovery and purification of uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel including: investigating the stability of the PUREX solvent against radiolytic and hydrolytic degradation, inventing the Zirflex process for decladding Zircaloy-clad fuel elements, investigating safety issues associated with processing Zircaloy-clad fuel elements, developing methods to enhance zirconium decontamination, and partition plutonium from uranium with hydrazine-stabilized hydroxylamine nitrate. Because of his in-depth knowledge of the PUREX process, John also was invited to contribute a chapter to the TBP monograph.
John later focused his expertise on meeting Hanford's shifting mission from production to remediation. One of John's focus areas was partitioning high- and low-level wastes for final disposal and developing separations methods for Hanford tank wastes. John investigated several methods to separate transuranic elements from the bulk waste including selective leaching, carrier precipitation, and the TRUEX process.
John received the Glenn T. Seaborg Award in 2000. His pragmatic and analytical approach to solving problems is an on-going asset to DOE as a technical reviewer and advisor. John also has been a top actinide chemistry mentor for Hanford Site scientists.
This award is a great honor and worthy recognition for such outstanding career achievements.
Photo: L to R: Jack Ryan, Earl Wheelwright, John Swanson, and Lee Burger.
Date Entered: 9/12/2007
Technology Offers Promise of Rapid Detection for Pesticide Exposure
Waiting weeks for your test results is the last thing on your mind if you have been exposed to high levels of an insecticide. That is why researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are developing a quick way to test for chemical residues in the body. The scientists are exploring whether saliva can be used as a substitute for blood to assess a person's exposure.
This potentially non-invasive method would eliminate the need to use a needle to collect a blood sample. If successful, this test would significantly reduce the time it takes to get the results from weeks to just 3-4 minutes. Chemical insecticide exposure is an ongoing concern for agricultural workers and people living near farms and orchards.
"An effective monitoring system will make sure the recommended guidelines for exposures are not exceeded." said PNNL scientist Dr. Charles Timchalk. "By monitoring agricultural workers and getting the results back quickly, we can do that."
This research stems from a laboratory research project that began more than 7 years ago. That initial project focused on developing sensor technologies for detecting lead in children's saliva.
"That research shows we can apply it to other chemical exposures," said Timchalk.
Quick and painless method
The current research is focused on a class of insecticides known as organophosphorus pesticides. These pesticides can be beneficial by reducing crop losses. However, high exposure due to accidents and misuse can cause serious health problems.
Current methods of testing require taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. The turnaround time can be lengthy. In addition, the process is complicated and expensive. For example, people may not have the time to take off work to go through this type of testing.
Also, collecting blood samples involves needles, something many people prefer to avoid, no matter what age. If a parent has ever taken their child to the doctor for vaccinations, they know how "painful" this process can be. If successful, PNNL's non-invasive approach to testing can be done more easily, especially on infants and children.
The biosensors under development for this project take advantage of the recent progress at PNNL on nanobiotechnology. The sensors for monitoring pesticide exposure are based on measurement of neuro-enzyme (cholinesterase) activity and the concentration of certain molecules, called metabolites, in blood and saliva. This system requires just a few drops of a sample.
"The hypothesis is that the sensor can detect very small concentrations of the pesticide metabolites in saliva, which can then be used to determine the amount of dose received," said PNNL scientist Dr. Yuehe Lin.
To create the biosensor for monitoring the neuro-enzyme activity, the research team added saliva samples to the tips of the carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes were grown from a conductive material that acted as an electrode (or conductor). The tips of the aligned carbon nanotubes protrude through an insulation layer, allowing them to come in contact with the sample.
The biosensor for monitoring of pesticide metabolite concentration is based on immunoassay, a similar detection principle as a pregnancy test strip. Electroactive nanoparticles are used as labels to enhance the sensitivity and selectivity of the biosensor.
Both the biosensors for measuring neuro-enzyme activity and metabolite concentration are connected to a hand-held device that can be used in the field. If a person has been exposed to pesticides, their neuro-enzyme activities decrease. This sends an electrical signal to the hand-held monitor. The signal is converted into activity of the neuro-enzyme, which can be read on the monitor screen.
The biosensor for pesticide metabolite will measure the metabolite concentration. The higher the concentration, the higher the electrical signal will be generated from the biosensor. The researchers found that the results from simultaneous measurement of neuro-enzyme activity and metabolite concentration are complementary. "The frequency of false alarms is reduced because we are using more than one measurement method," said Lin.
Nerve agents just one of many applications
If validated, this technology can be deployed to public health facilities, to field hospitals after a natural disaster has occurred, and to developing countries.
"Once developed, the new technology could be adapted to test for a variety of contaminants. We foresee its usefulness in the case of a bioterrorist attack," said Timchalk.
In October 2006, PNNL received a 5-year $3.5M grant from the National Institutes of Health. This project involves developing a portable monitor device to rapidly detect exposure to nerve agents using another monitoring approach: biosensors for detecting protein biomarkers. Other uses could include assessment of common health concerns, such as cholesterol or alcohol, and monitoring for industrial chemicals, radioactive substances, and toxic metals.
By determining the make up of chemicals in the body, health care workers can treat patients effectively. In addition, health departments can more effectively track chronic diseases that may be associated with certain chemical exposures.
Date Entered: 8/21/2007
Truly Sick or Simply Scared?
Small nano-based biosensor may get help first to those who need it most
Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have discovered a way to increase the sensitivity of test strips that will enable creation of a portable biosensor that can address a major concern associated with incidents involving chemical or nerve agents -- the need to quickly distinguish between individuals who have been exposed and the "worried well."
The sensor components resemble a pregnancy test strip and a small glucose testing meter. Its development will be discussed by principal investigator Yuehe Lin at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Every disease has biomarkers, a change in the proteins that announces something is wrong. Lin and his team are creating a nanoparticle "label" that can increase the ability of a sensor to detect and interpret the message of biomarkers.
"Current test strip based-immunoassay technology has very good selectivity, but it can only give a positive or negative response," Lin said.
The researchers are working with an "electrochemical immunoassay approach." This involves using the antibody of a specific disease -- a protein produced in response to an invading bacterium or other foreign substance -- to attract the biomarker. Lin found that labeling a second antibody with a nanoparticle amplifies the biomarker's signal. Greater amplification means more precise readings.
Lin achieves this by removing the iron from a nanoparticle-sized ball of the protein ferrin, creating an empty "cage" called apoferritin, which he then loads with another metal, such as cadmium. The cadmium-filled cage is attached to one end of the reporting antibody, and the immuno-reaction product becomes electroactive.
"The electrochemical signal is amplified several hundreds to thousand times because of the metal ions," Lin said. "This level of sensitivity will allow detectors to be very precise in identifying the concentration of biomarkers in biological samples."
The five-year biosensor effort is funded by a 3.5 million-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (CounterACT) Research Network through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. A key resource for the biosensor research is the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy national scientific user facility located at PNNL.
Yuehe Lin made his presentation at the 234th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Boston, Mass., on Sunday, August 19, at 2:40 p.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in room 151B.
Date Entered: 8/20/2007
PNNL Staff Showcase Expertise at Health Physics Meeting
Congratulations to 13 of ETD's staff who participated in the annual Health Physics Society (HPS) meeting in Portland, Oregon. In addition to attending,
* Eva Hickey presented a paper, co-chaired a session and participated in the HPS board meetings.
* Dan Strom presented a paper, coauthored another and taught a continuing education course.
* Mary Ann Parkhurst coauthored a poster and was formally presented as an HPS fellow.
* Bob Scherpelz presented two papers and coauthored two others.
* Mike Tinker participated in an HPS Homeland Security Subcommittee on Training.
* Rick Traub presented a paper and coauthored a second.
* Ernie Antonio, Adam Davis, Ron McConn, Kathy Rhoads, and Sandi Snyder presented papers.
* Bev Miller and Amanda Stegen presented a poster.
* Lissa Staven coauthored a paper, but was unable to attend the conference.
HPS is an international professional scientific organization dedicated to promoting the practice of radiation safety.
Congratulations again, team, for serving the broader scientific community promoting radiation safety--a critical element to cleanup, nuclear power and national security!
Date Entered: 8/13/2007
Praveen Thallapally's Research Published in Nano Today
Congratulations to ETD's Praveen Thallapally whose work was published in the August 2007 edition of Nano Today magazine. Praveen and a team of researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia and the Universitá di Salerno in Italy discovered a porous organic solid that can capture carbon dioxide. The CO2 can be captured at room temperature and pressure, which is significantly better than commercially available materials. The new material's ability to capture CO2 in an more efficient and cost manner than other materials makes it a potential candidate in carbon sequestration applications.
A senior research scientist at the Lab, Praveen is credited with developing a new class of compounds called frustrated organic and metal coordination solids for gas storage and separation.
Congratulations, Praveen! Keep up the excellent work!
Date Entered: 8/13/2007
Seven ETD Staff Published in Journal of Materials Chemistry
Congratulations to ETD staff Shane Addleman, Sandra Fiskum, Yuehe Lin, Shas Mattigod, Kent Parker, Wassana Yantasee and Richard Zheng on co-authoring an article that was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. The article, "Design and Synthesis of Self Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports (SAMMS): The Importance of Ligand Posture in Functional Nanomaterials," appeared in the August 2007 issue.
The article describes how SAAMS is exceptionally selective and efficient in removing heavy metals and other contaminants from waste streams. The ETD staff are joined by other PNNL co-authors: Glen Fryxell, Jun Liu, Hong Wu and Tom Zemanian,
Congratulations to all on this noteworthy accomplishment!
Date Entered: 8/13/2007
Seven ETD Staff Published in Journal of Materials Chemistry
Congratulations to ETD's Shane Addleman, Sandra Fiskum, Yuehe Lin, Shas Mattigod, Kent Parker, Wassana Yantasee and Richard Zheng on co-authoring an article that was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. The article, "Design and Synthesis of Self Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports (SAMMS): The Importance of Ligand Posture in Functional Nanomaterials," appeared in the August 2007 issue.
The article describes how SAMMS is exceptionally selective and efficient in removing heavy metals and other contaminants from waste streams. The ETD staff are joined by PNNL co-authors Glen Fryxell, Jun Liu, Hong Wu and Tom Zemanian.
Congratulations to all on this noteworthy accomplishment!
Date Entered: 8/12/2007
Turning Waste into Profit
One company's throw-away materials could be another company's business opportunity. That message attracted close to 100 people to the kickoff of the Byproducts Synergy Northwest Network at Seattle City Hall on June 28, 2007. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is among the partners organizing the network. The network follows a national model, pioneered by the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, where companies identify waste products that could become the feedstock for other companies, resulting in increased business profits and less waste disposed in the environment.
Last month's workshop attracted participants from a wide variety of industrial and government sectors, including Weyerhaeuser, Boeing, ConocoPhillips, Seattle Mariners, Washington State Convention and Trade Center, government agencies, hospitals, utilities, and universities. After learning about the byproducts synergy process, participants listed on flipcharts their top wastes and feedstocks. Categories included chemicals, metals, construction materials, food waste, biologicals, and other materials ranging from Styrofoam to carbon dioxide. One promising synergy was glass waste that might be useful for making dishware, vases, and building products.
Network members will work together over the following year to identify new market opportunities and waste products; find lower-cost, local feedstocks; and reduce costs and risks associated with wastes. Though the kickoff workshop attracted mostly Puget Sound participants, an Eastern Washington chapter is being planned, with Boise Cascade already a founding member.
PNNL participants include Kristi Branch, National Security Directorate; Rich Chapas, Commercial Partnerships Directorate; Scott Butner, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate; and Wally Weimer; Environmental Technology Directorate. In addition to PNNL, other partners involved in organizing the network include the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, Pollution Prevention Resource Center, The RETEC Group, the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability, Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, and King County.
Date Entered: 7/25/2007
Tidwell Receives Honor for Hazardous Materials Management
For the second year in a row, ETD's Robbie Tidwell received the Academy of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers' Champion of Excellence Award. This national award recognizes outstanding work in the profession of hazardous materials management, promotion of the credential, and active participation in local and national ACHMM activities.
Robbie has helped the Lab reduce, reuse, or redistribute chemicals. Further, she has helped develop processes to ensure safe handling and cost- and time-effective procurement, inventorying, and handling.
In addition, Robbie shares her experience with the scientific community. She has served as the vice president and president of the Eastern Washington Chapter of ACHMM. Under her leadership as president, the chapter attained the National Award of Honor Roll of Champions for the 8th consecutive year. She is now serving as past president.
Robbie will receive the award at the national conference in Washington, D.C., in August 2007.
Date Entered: 7/23/2007