Tailored molecules, better battery electrolytes, going beyond Moore’s Law and improving the accuracy of climate models

Newswise — Materials — Custom Molecules

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are using state-of-the-art methods to shed light on the chemical separations needed to recover rare earth elements and secure critical materials for clean energy technologies.

Bastnäsite deposits in the United States are rich in rare earth metals but must be mined and separated from unwanted minerals by chemical processes that are not well understood. Fundamental insights are needed to improve current recovery approaches based largely on trial and error. Greater efficiency provides cost savings as well as environmental benefits by reducing mining and carbon impacts.

“The way forward will require predictive modeling to help us uncover the best candidates for more efficient separations,” said Vyacheslav Bryantsev of ORNL.

The team combined theory and spectroscopy methods to design collector molecules that float bastnäsite out of an ore mix to enhance froth flotation recovery. Their study provides missing information to model future custom manifolds for efficient separations.

Media contact: Ashley Huff, 865.241.6451, [email protected]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/cover_Bryantsev.png

Caption: Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have shed light on chemical separations to recover rare earth elements. Credit: Ben Doughty/ORNL, US Department of Energy

Polymers — Best Battery Electrolytes

New polymer materials being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory may allow for safer and more stable use Battery needed for electric vehicles and grid energy storage.

Polymers are promising electrolytes for solid-state lithium Battery for their low cost, flexibility and ease of processing, but performance needs to be improved.

“Generally, you can increase flexibility to improve conductivity, but you sacrifice strength. Our approach circumvents this trade-off by selectively adding flexibility in the ion-conducting blocks,” said ORNL’s Guang Yang.

The team designed a block copolymer that sandwiches a conductive core between rigid outer layers that protect the “fill”. Use-inspired design is nano-engineered to block dendrites, lithium growths that could break through electrolytes and damage Battery.

Results were published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Societythe problem which honored John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium-ion battery.

“Discoveries like this can lead to robust metallic lithium Battery that can help us achieve clean energy goals,” said Jagjit Nanda of ORNL.

Media contact: Ashley Huff, 865.241.6451, [email protected]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/story_tip_battery-v3.jpg

Caption: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are improving the performance of polymer materials for next-generation lithium Battery. Credit: Adam Malin/ORNL, US Department of Energy

Microscopy Beyond Moore’s Law

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University are using advanced microscopy to design promising materials for computing and electronics in an era beyond Moore.

Historically, computers have become faster and more powerful due to Moore’s Law, an observation that technology advances as transistor sizes decrease. Today’s nanoscale transistors are reaching practical limits and new approaches are needed to advance existing technology.

A team from the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL applied a focused beam of helium ions to locally tailor ferroelectricity into a thin film of metal oxide, improving a property useful for transistors and memory. Results Posted in Science show how light ion microscopy can unlock unique features in materials and create new pathways for designing future devices.

“This project highlights the advanced ion beam and scanning probe capabilities available to CNMS users, which open up new frontiers to locally control and understand the properties of materials at the nanoscale,” said Liam. Collins of ORNL.

Media contact: Ashley Huff, 865.241.6451, [email protected]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/STORY-TIP.jpg

Caption: Collaborators at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Science used advanced microscopy to improve materials for next-generation devices. Credit: Adam Malin/ORNL, US Department of Energy

Climate Improved model accuracy

A study by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory promises to help improve the accuracy of climate change models and enable more reliable predictions of extreme weather.

The team’s findings describe an invertible neural network, a type of artificial intelligence that mimics the human brain, to improve the calibration of models that attempt to predict the rate and outcome of climate change based on existing climate data. Tests have shown that the network improves model accuracy and consistency at up to 30 times faster than other methods.

“This network has the potential to fundamentally change our approach to calibration and simulation in traditional Earth system modelling,” said ORNL’s Dan Lu, lead author of the study. “The network is efficient enough to solve problems within seconds of being trained and can therefore be used to make fast and accurate predictions in scenarios that require a quick response.”

The template will be regularly updated to ensure further improvements. – Matt Laquin

Media contact: Scott Jones, 865.241.6491, [email protected]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/ccsd_neuro-climate.png

Caption: Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an invertible neural network, a type of artificial intelligence that mimics the human brain, to improve the accuracy of climate change models and predictions. Credit: Getty Images

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