Frontiers in Energy Research: Spring 2017

Spring 2017


Microbes Making the Most of Their Energy Sources

Dan Colman

Typically, you think of bacteria when you see the mystery container in the back of the fridge, but microscopic organisms are able to combine energy-needing and energy-producing reactions in such a way that could, one day, lead to new forms of biofuels. See what we know…

Learn how...


Tailoring Materials’ Properties for Nuclear Energy

Eva Zarkadoula

How do you make better materials for nuclear reactors? What makes materials work well even after being irradiated? How can we make materials that last longer? See how a center, headquartered in Tennessee, is answering these questions...

Learn how...

Research Highlights

  • thumb

    Teaching Perovskites to Swim

    Rebecca Palmer
    Cheaper and more effective perovskite solar panels don't like to work when it is hot and humid. Researchers at the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center helped the materials stand up to harsher conditions...
  • thumb

    Saving Energy through Light Control

    Manuel A. Ortuño
    Tired of blinds and shades? Researchers at the Center for Excitonics took on the challenge of materials that get dark on bright days and turn clear on cloudy ones...
  • thumb

    Sunblock for Bacteria

    Dan Colman
    Borrowing lessons from Mother Nature's ability to use solar energy, scientists at the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center learned how a primitive microbe regulates the harmful effects of excess sunlight...
  • thumb

    Opening Efficient Routes to Everyday Plastics

    Manuel A. Ortuño and Zhanyong Li
    Making plastics isn’t as efficient as it could be. At the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, scientists found a material that could lead to better options...

Editor's Note


When you’re fixing a special dinner for family and friends, the ingredients you get matter. A recent family dinner was derailed when the sample pack of appetizer cheese turned out to be three pungent cheeses. By pungent, I mean smelling like the inside of a teenager’s wet, muddy, running shoe after a half marathon. There was no way to turn the stinky cheese into family-friendly appetizers. Simply put, the materials weren’t up to the job, and I postponed the event.

I’m thinking of what I need for my next attempt as I’m writing because the problem is how I recently explained the materials challenge to a new employee. The right materials are vital. The wrong ones simply won’t take energy production, storage and use where we need it to be. In making fuels from sunshine, more efficient solar cells, longer lasting nuclear reactors, and much more, you need the right materials. And often, they don’t exist. Yet. This issue gives you insights into recent discoveries about designer materials, including basswood for disposable energy storage and microbes for creating electricity. See how the scientists at the Energy Frontier Research Centers, funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, are putting together the right ingredients, whether it is gold or basswood, to create something special.

Image courtesy of Scott Butner

Editorial Board and Writers

Editorial Board

Daniel Colman, Center for Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis
Nicholas Gould, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation
Shannon McCullough, Center for Solar Fuels
Ian McKendry, Center for the Computational Design of Functional Layered Materials
Manuel Ortuño, Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center
Rebecca Palmer, Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center
Pyae Phyo, Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation
Eva Zarkadoula, Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution Energy Frontier Research Center


Zhanyong Li, Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center


Kristin Manke, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis

Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.