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OSTIblog Articles in the DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments Topic

Edward Teller, A Theoretical Physicist

by Brian O'Donnell 14 Jun, 2017 in

Edward Teller

To celebrate 70 years of advancing scientific knowledge, OSTI is featuring some of the leading scientists and works particularly relevant to the formation of DOE, OSTI, and their predecessor organizations and is highlighting Nobel laureates and other important research figures in DOE’s history.  Their accomplishments were key to the evolution of the Department of Energy, and OSTI’s collections include many of their publications.

Born in 1908 in Budapest, Hungary, Edward Teller moved to Germany in 1926, earned an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at University of Karlsruhe, and in 1930 was awarded a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Leipzig.  His doctoral dissertation dealt with one of the first accurate quantum mechanical treatments of the hydrogen molecular ion.  He moved to the United States in 1935 and was a physics professor at George Washington University (GWU) until 1941, the same year he became a U.S. citizen. 

Teller’s career can be divided roughly into two overlapping phases.  The first, from 1928 to about 1952, was largely devoted to scientific research and university life.  In the second phase, which coincided with the discovery of fission in 1939, he focused on applying physics to defense and, later, on cofounding the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

At GWU, Teller predicted the Jahn-Teller Effect (1937), which distorts molecules in...

Related Topics: DOE R&D Accomplishments


15 Years of Featuring DOE R&D Accomplishments

by Mary Schorn 04 Apr, 2014 in
DOE R&D Accomplishments


Fifteen years ago was the genesis of DOE R&D Accomplishments.  It was established with the purpose of featuring U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and predecessor agency past research accomplishments whose benefits are being realized now.  As the individual responsible for the growth and development of this Web product, the journey has been challenging, fun, exciting, and thought-provoking -- but never boring.

DOE R&D Accomplishments has over 100 feature pages with topics ranging from tiny atoms to the Big Bang and supernovae; from Archaea (the third branch of life) to RTGs (great to have if you’re a spacecraft), from a video game to a PET, from photosynthesis to superconductivity, and much much more.

Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine/Physiology are also recognized at DOE R&D Accomplishments.  There are feature pages for over 90 of them and the number continues to grow.  Each year in October, the...

Related Topics: DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, erda


DOE and Human Genome Research

Charles DeLisi


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has historically played a leading role in supporting human genome research.  March 2014 is the anniversary of the 1986 Santa Fe Workshop, which brought together participants from government, academia, and the private sector to explore the possibility of sequencing the human genome.  This workshop was sponsored by DOE and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  The Human Genome Project (HGP) was formalized in mid-February 1990.

In honor of the anniversary of the Santa Fe Workshop, DOE R&D Accomplishments has published a new feature page, Human Genome Research: DOE Origins.  This page describes the key role played by Charles DeLisi, then Associate Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER) in conceiving the idea for a program to sequence the human genome.  The Santa Fe Workshop met DeLisi’s goal of laying out an approach to sequence the human genome. 

This new feature page complements a previously published DOE R&D Accomplishments feature page, Human Genome Research: Decoding DNA.  By April 2000, DOE researchers had decoded in draft form the genetic information on human chromosomes 5, 16, and 19, or an estimated 11 percent of the total human genome.  In June of that year, a ‘working draft’ that included a road map to an estimated 90% of the genes on every chromosome was announced. 

Each of these feature pages...

Related Topics: Charles DeLisi, DNA, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, genomics, Human Genome Project, Santa Fe Workshop, sequencing


100th DOE R&D Accomplishments Feature Page Celebration

DOE R&D Accomplishments 100th Feature Page

DOE R&D Accomplishments is a unique website and database in the OSTI collection.  For over 14 years, special Feature pages have been methodically researched and useful information collected on scientists, discoveries, and historical events to include in this searchable resource.   It  is a rich source of DOE trivia unto itself. 

On June 12th, 2013, the 100th Feature Page was released on the website and it highlighted 2004 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, David Gross.  Gross joins other featured DOE Nobel Laureates such as Glenn Seaborg, E. O. Lawrence, Melvin Calvin and Saul Perlmutter on this distinguished list.  But there’s more than just Featured Scientists!  Topics are also featured in the list of 100 pages.  These include Topics like: the amazing breakthrough of decoding the human genome; the RTG-which powered many space vehicles including the Curiosity and New Horizons; the...

Related Topics: Curiosity, David Gross, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, E.O. Lawrence, Glenn Seaborg, human genome, Manhattan Project, Melvin Calvin, nobel laureates, Saul Perlmutter, space


The Manhattan Project -- Its Operations

Manhattan Project Map


Major operations for the Manhattan Engineer District (Manhattan Project) took place in remote site locations in the states of Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington, with additional research being conducted in university laboratories at Chicago and Berkeley.

At the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, Enrico Fermi's experiments at the CP-1 pile took place to determine the exact amount of neutron reduction needed for a safe and controlled sustained nuclear reaction.  A second pile (CP-2), with external cooling, was built at Argonne in order to move the continuing experiments away from populated areas.

Under the umbrella of Clinton Engineer Works near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the X-10 experimental plutonium pile and separation facilities, the Y-12 Electromagnetic Plant, and the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant were constructed. 

In February 1943, ground was broken at X-10 for an air-cooled experimental pile, a pilot chemical separation plant, and support facilities.   On November 4, the pile went critical and it produced plutonium by the end of the month.  The chemical separation plant completed the steps needed for producing pure plutonium by extracting the plutonium from the irradiated uranium.  Chemical separation techniques were so successful that Los Alamos received plutonium samples in the spring of 1944.

Because of security requirements, fear of radioactive accidents, need for a long construction...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, electromagnetic, gaseous diffusion, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, plutonium, uranium, World War II


Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Nobel Prizes for Two DOE-associated Researchers

Georges Charpak and Rudolph Marcus


DOE-associated researchers have contributed to the advancement of a variety of science disciplines as a result of research they have conducted. Twenty years ago, the work of two of these researchers (Georges Charpak and Rudolph Marcus) was recognized when they were awarded Nobel Prizes.

Georges Charpak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber".

"It's hard to imagine a particle physics experiment that wouldn't use one of his concepts. ... Particle physicists owe him a lot, and so does the general public, since his inventions yield applications in many other fields that use ionising radiation such as biology, radiology and nuclear medicine.

Georges Charpak ... revolutionised particle detection in 1968 ... . Before he proposed this new detector [the multiwire proportional chamber], particle physicists were thrilled by the bubble chamber, though analysing data at that time was fastidious, requiring loads of manpower. Charpak took advantage of the development of electronics to develop a new ionisation detector that combined the technology of tube detectors ... with proportional counters for energy measurement. His historical 100-square-centimetre detector was able to detect one million particle events per second when former one-square-metre proportional chambers could count only one hundred. Thanks to multiwire chambers and its daughters that equipped from then nearly all...

Related Topics: Charpak, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, electron transfer reactions, Lederman, Marcus, multiwire chamber, particle detectors


Powering Curiosity; Exploring New Horizons - DOE's MMRTG



DOE's RTG is doing it again. The Department's Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) is providing continuous power to the Mars rover Curiosity.  This radioactive power source is "essentially a nuclear battery that will operate the rover’s instruments, robotic arm, wheels, computers and radio. It is fueled with plutonium-238 that gives off heat as it naturally decays. No moving parts are required to convert this heat into electricity."1

The MMRTG "can go farther, travel to more places, and power and heat a larger and more capable scientific payload compared to the solar power alternative NASA studied. The radioisotope power system gives Curiosity the potential to be the longest-operating, farthest-traveling, most productive Mars surface mission in history." 1

With the Curiosity safely on Mars, it begins its mission to explore and investigate "whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and [to] preserve clues it finds in the rocks. Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover."1

"For 50 years, radioisotope power sources have safely and reliably fueled dozens of U.S. missions to explore seven planets in the solar system, including the [current] ...

Related Topics: Curiosity, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, Mars rover, MMRTG, New Horizons, Pluto, plutonium, Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, RTG, space battery


The Manhattan Project -- Its Establishment

President Roosevelt


On August 13, 1942, the Manhattan Engineer District, whose name was based upon the geographical location of its headquarters, was established.  In September, the Army appointed Colonel Leslie R. Groves to head the effort.  Groves held that the exigencies of war required scientists to move from laboratory research to development and production in record time.  Though traditional scientific caution might be short-circuited in the process, there was no alternative if a bomb was to be built in time to be used in the current conflict (World War II).

Various isotope separation methods (uranium enrichment) to produce uranium-235 were being researched at this time.  One was gaseous diffusion being done at Columbia and another was the electromagnetic method being done at Berkeley under Ernest O. Lawrence.  Based upon the success of the electromagnetic method, the S-1 (The Office of Scientific Research and Development Section On Uranium) Executive Committee recommended building plants in Tennessee at Site X (now Oak Ridge).

During this time, construction was taking place on the Stagg Field pile --...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, electromagnetic, fission, gaseous diffusion, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, plutonium, Roosevelt, uranium, World War II


The Manhattan Project -- Its Background

Manhattan Project


This year is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Manhattan Project, a predecessor of the U.S. Department of Energy.  In honor of its impacts on science and history, a 'Manhattan Project' series on this blog will revisit various aspects of its background, establishment, operations, and immediate and long-term influences. The first of the series is about the background of the Manhattan Project.

During the fall of 1939, President F. D. Roosevelt was made aware of the possibility that German scientists were racing to build an atomic bomb and he was warned that Hitler would be more than willing to resort to such a weapon.  As a result, Roosevelt set up the Advisory Committee on Uranium, consisting of both civilian and military representatives, to study the current state of research on uranium and to recommend an appropriate role for the federal government.  The result was limited military funding for isotope separation and the work on chain reactions by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard at Columbia University.

On a separate front, in late 1939 Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Foundation, became convinced of the need for the government to marshal the forces of science for a war that would inevitably involve the United States.  In June 1940, Roosevelt established a voice for the scientific...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, Roosevelt, uranium, World War II


Congratulations to Saul Perlmutter -- 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics DOE-Affiliated Researcher

Saul Perlmutter


"For the Discovery of the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe through Observations of Distant Supernovae"

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley.  Perlmutter heads the International Supernova Cosmology Project, which pioneered the methods used to discover the accelerating expansion of the universe.  Dr. Perlmutter has been a leader in studies to determine the nature of dark energy.

Perlmutter shares the prize with Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess, leader of the High-z Supernova Search Team and first author of that team’s analysis, respectively, which led to their almost simultaneous announcement of accelerating expansion, which implies the existence of so-called dark energy, a mysterious force that acts to oppose gravity and increase the distance among galaxies. The nature of dark energy is unknown and has been termed the most important problem facing 21st century physics.  It will continue to be studied by cosmologists, astrophysicists and particle physicists.

On learning of the award, Perlmutter said, “I am delighted, excited, and deeply honored. It’s wonderful that the Nobel Prize is...

Related Topics: Berkeley, dark energy, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, Nobel Prize, Perlmutter