By Greg Koller
RICHLAND, Wash. — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and science leaders today helped dedicate a new, $90-million research facility that will accelerate scientific discovery in chemistry, materials science and computing.
Speaking at the virtual dedication ceremony at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland, PNNL Director Steven Ashby noted the Energy Sciences Center will help the U.S. meet decarbonization goals by reducing vehicle emissions, developing next-generation energy storage technologies and creating more efficient manufacturing methods. It also will provide improved techniques for capturing carbon dioxide and turning waste carbon into fuels and products more efficiently and economically, Ashby said.
“Meeting the goal we set here in Washington of transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050 will require continued scientific and technological advances,” said Inslee. “It is my hope that those next big breakthroughs will be made right here in the Energy Sciences Center.”
Fundamental and clean energy science
Fundamental research conducted at the Energy Sciences Center will help meet the nation’s energy goals by hastening the development of improved industrial catalysts and batteries. It will create more efficient processes for breaking down and reusing plastics, producing fertilizers and turning agricultural waste into fuels and other products.
Speakers at the dedication ceremony noted the new facility will enable collaboration and idea sharing. It will bring together staff at PNNL with colleagues from industry, other national laboratories and academia. The ESC will also enhance regional research collaborations, including those with long-standing partners at the University of Washington and Washington State University.
“It is exciting to see our vision for the Energy Sciences Center realized, where PNNL scientists will draw on distinguishing capabilities in chemistry, materials science and computing and collaborate with top researchers across the country to deliver the breakthroughs required for a clean energy future,” said Ashby. “Partnership made this unique facility possible, and going forward, partnerships will be essential to our collective success.”
“This investment by DOE has created one of the most advanced facilities in the world. The Energy Sciences Center is designed for fundamental, basic energy research and will be a tremendous asset for the nation,” added Lou Terminello, associate laboratory director of PNNL’s Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate.
“Basic research is essential to meeting the nation’s energy goals,” he said. “The ESC positions PNNL to identify, develop and lead emerging research areas and positions DOE and the U.S. for scientific and technological leadership in key areas of energy research well into the future.”
Designed for science
The 140,000-square-foot facility includes space for 52 laboratories, flexible-use collaborative spaces, conference rooms and offices for 250 staff and visiting researchers.
The ESC brings much of PNNL’s related expertise under one roof. The co-location of broad expertise and advanced instrumentation are designed to encourage collaboration among fundamental and applied researchers across a range of disciplines and research areas.
Congress approved $90 million for the building’s design and construction in March 2018. The state of Washington—through its Clean Energy Fund—appropriated $8 million in matching funds to purchase advanced scientific instrumentation for the facility. Battelle, which manages and operates PNNL for DOE, provided $5 million.
The facility features an energy- and water-reducing design that incorporates natural light and includes a system to collect and distribute the waste heat energy generated by high-performance computers and research equipment housed in an adjacent building.
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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit: https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.