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Maximizing Energy Gains from Tiny Nanoparticles

Eric Stach and Dmitri Zakharov of the CFN with Anatoly Frenkel of Yeshiva University

Eric Stach and Dmitri Zakharov of the CFN with Anatoly Frenkel of Yeshiva University and his postdoc, Yuanyuan Li, sitting at the Titan 80/300 Environmental Transmission Electron Microscope at the CFN.

Sometimes big change comes from small beginnings. That’s especially true in the research of Anatoly Frenkel, a professor of physics at Yeshiva University, who is working to reinvent the way we use and produce energy by unlocking the potential of some of the world’s tiniest structures – nanoparticles.

“The nanoparticle is the smallest unit in most novel materials, and all of its properties are linked in one way or another to its structure,” said Frenkel. “If we can understand that connection, we can derive much more information about how it can be used for catalysis, energy, and other purposes.”

Frenkel is collaborating with Eric Stach and other scientists at Brookhaven to develop new ways to study how nanoparticles behave in catalysts – the “kick-starters” of chemical reactions that convert fuels to useable forms of energy and transform raw materials to industrial products. The scientists are working to develop a new “micro-reactor” that will enable them to explore many aspects of catalytic function using multiple approaches at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), the soon-to-be-completed NSLS-II, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. This approach helps them to understand multiple aspects of how catalysts work so that their design can be tweaked to improve their function — work that could lead to big gains in energy efficiency and cost savings for industrial processes.

The collaboration also offers opportunities for Frenkel’s undergraduate students at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women to experience the challenges of research. Many have accompanied him to Brookhaven to assist in his work using NSLS and other cutting-edge instruments.

To learn more visit:

2013-4460  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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Tracking the Impacts of Wildfire Aerosols to Learn About Climate Change

A massive wildfire plume over Washington state

A massive wildfire plume over Washington state

The massive wildfires that recently raged through the Northwest carved trails of tremendous destruction. The stories of these fires largely played out across the ground. But wildfire fallout actually extends far into the skies and raises important questions about how smoke can impact climate.

To better understand this impact researchers from Brookhaven Lab’s Environmental Sciences Department recently lead a field campaign known as the Biomass Burn Observation Project (BBOP), a collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab and 12 other research groups, to measure the way airborne soot evolves during its first few hours in the sky above wildfires and prescribed burns. After carefully coordinating with a range of experts to guarantee everyone’s safety, state-of-the-art instruments were flown directly into the multi-mile smoke plumes of the northwestern fires in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho as well as above agricultural fires in the lower Mississippi River Valley. 

The smoke above these fires breaks down into two main components: aerosols and gases. BBOP focuses on studying the aerosols – solid particles or liquid droplets in the air – by measuring their size, optical properties, cloud condensation effects, and chemical composition with some 30 instruments, many of them built at Brookhaven or by collaborating researchers. Nearly 100 gigabytes of data were collected on each of 19 flights in the Pacific Northwest alone. Analysis of that data is now underway. The scientists are already saying with some certainty that the wildfire aerosols observed have a net cooling effect, meaning that they reflect more sunlight than they absorb. The researchers’ measurements are also helping to corroborate and deepen the data pulled from NASA satellites.

To read more about this research visit:

2013-4461  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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Local Students Help Monitor Health of River

Students check water samples from the river

Students check water samples from the river

Recently, schoolchildren and teachers from the Bellport, Longwood, Patchogue-Medford, Rocky Point, and William Floyd High Schools and from Nathaniel Woodhull Elementary School participated in the second annual “Day in the Life of the Carmans River” workshop.

At the workshop, which was sponsored by Brookhaven Lab, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, local experts coached the students and showed them the different ways they study the river to protect it while determining how its ecosystem changes. 

The students caught and counted fish, collected and analyzed water samples, and identified invasive plant species in the Carmans River, which flows from Middle Island to the Great South Bay. They measured their water samples for salt content and clarity and studied erosion and fish breeding patterns. The data collected will be compared to last year’s information to determine how Superstorm Sandy may have affected the river.

“Bringing young people out to breath the fresh air, see the wildlife, and determine how this ecosystem changes is one of the best ways to help develop future scientists and informed, responsible citizens who care for the environment,” said Mel Morris of the Lab’s Office of Education Programs. Morris helped organize the event and also founded and oversees the Lab’s Open Space Stewardship Program, which was designed to help local land stewards manage their properties with students who, as “citizen scientists,” learn about the scientific process while going out into the field to collect useful data.

To learn more about our Education Programs visit:

2013-4462  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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  • Dec. 4 – Lecture – “Truth Versus Beauty in Science” by distinguished mathematician and author Marjorie Senechal. Sponsored by Brookhaven Women in Science & BSA. 4 PM. Physics Dept. Conference Room, Building 510.  
  • Dec. 12 – Community Advisory Council meeting. 6:30 PM. Berkner Hall, Room B.
  • Dec. 18 – Noon recital & lecture – Fan-Chia Tao, accomplished violinist, will present recent research on “Superiority of Stradivari Violins: Fact or Myth? What Can Science Tell Us?” Violinist Aaron Boyd will add audio illustration to the lecture with short musical selections on different violins. Berkner Hall Auditorium.

*The events above are free and open to the public. Visitors 16 and older must bring a photo ID for access to BNL events.

2013-4463  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office