by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.
NETL is home to world-class talent. Our researchers, scientists and engineers have unmatched expertise that contributes to the Lab’s reputation as the nation’s premier fossil energy science and engineering resource. Facilities provide critical support for this expertise by empowering researchers to push boundaries and enhancing the Lab’s capabilities. NETL’s work to develop technological solutions for America’s energy challenges requires world-class facilities that enable researchers to make breakthrough science and technology discoveries.
We recently celebrated two of our top-notch facilities: Joule 2.0, our revamped supercomputer, and the Reaction Analysis and Chemical Transformation facility, known as ReACT. These strategic infrastructure investments broaden the possibilities for transformative research that will provide affordable, reliable and efficient energy to meet growing needs around the world.
Joule 2.0 offers eight times the computational speed of the original Joule, making it one of the fastest, largest and most energy-efficient high-performance computers in the world. The supercomputer is a vital part of our research infrastructure, impacting more than half of the scientific publications produced by NETL. Joule is particularly valuable because it not only expands our capabilities — allowing researchers to tackle more complex challenges than ever before — but also expedites technology development at minimal cost. For instance, a collaborative NETL-led team used the Lab’s advanced computational tools to screen more than 1 million mixed matrix membrane possibilities and identify 1,153 promising options that could cut the cost of carbon capture to less than $50 per metric ton. Without Joule’s help with the challenging calculations, this exhaustive study could have taken years to complete and required a significant financial investment.
The ReACT facility gives our researchers and collaborators innovative tools to advance the science of chemical reactions and energy conversion. One example: Our state-of-the-art variable frequency microwave reactor is the only known facility in the world that uses microwaves to selectively energize chemical reactions. This groundbreaking research enhances our fundamental understanding of the science behind microwaves and how they interact with materials, so we can design and optimize efficient microwave systems for fuel conversion applications.
Thoughtful planning is key to the success of any agency or organization. As successful author and time-management expert Alan Lakein said, “planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” That’s why NETL is constantly working to upgrade and expand its research capabilities through strategic infrastructure investments that align with our mission and contribute to the short- and long-term goals of the Office of Fossil Energy and the Department of Energy.
As we strive to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions that enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations, we are pursuing first-rate facilities that empower our staff to achieve that mission and make an impact that stretches around the globe. Facilities such as Joule 2.0 and ReACT are critical additions to NETL’s research infrastructure that support the development of novel energy technology solutions and make effective use of our nation’s vast domestic resources.