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September 23, 2005

ARM Extends to Niger Data Acquisition

Nicole Hemsoth

The U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) will send a data acquisition system to Niger next year to collect climate information in this data-sparse region. The move is part of a new user facility established by ARM.

Information obtained during the year-long field campaign should help scientists better understand two important relationships —- one between dust and climate and another concerning clouds, heating and monsoon strength.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with seven other national laboratories, shares management duties for the infrastructure that makes up ARM Climate Research Facility (ACRF).

This elements involved include engineering, data archival and operations activities for obtaining atmospheric measurements from research sites around the world.

The six data collection sites include one in Oklahoma, two in Alaska and three in the Western Pacific — all of which contain a variety of state- of-the-art active and passive remote sensing instruments.

“Fifteen years ago, it was unheard of to take continuous long-term climate measurements with this high of quality from the ground,” said PNNL's Jimmy Voyles, who coordinates the multi-lab user facility for the DOE. “ACRF's real-time data and quality analysis have revolutionized climate data gathering.”

Each of the sites provides data for climate research. The Western Pacific sites, for example, are in the tropical warm pool, where warm ocean temperatures produce an abundance of water vapor and cloud formation. This region, sometimes referred to as the “boiler box” of the earth's climate, is an important driver of the global water cycle and plays a crucial role in climate oscillations such as the El Niño cycle.

In addition to the fixed collection sites, ACRF operates a mobile facility. “We recognize that there are other scientifically important climate regions in addition to the regions we are working in,” Voyles said. “Our mobile facility fills these voids.”

In 2006, the mobile facility will join an ongoing international experiment in Niger to provide the first-ever set of continuous ground-based measurements of solar and thermal radiation for comparison to satellite data. As part of the ACRF national user facility, the mobile facility is available to researchers worldwide.

Using a supercomputer to perform quantum calculations, PNNL scientists have characterized a material that might allow on-board refueling of hydrogen powered vehicles.

Researchers, led by Maciej Gutowski, looked at different crystalline structures of a compound made up of nitrogen, boron and hydrogen — NBH6 — and found one that might be more stable compared to ammonia borane, a molecular crystal built of NH3BH3 molecules. Ammonia borane can hold a lot of hydrogen, but isn't easily reversible — or able to be refilled with hydrogen. Ammonia borane, as a storage material, would likely have to be removed from the vehicle and be sent to a processing plant to undergo a reaction to be refilled.

The more stable compound, diammoniate of diborane (DADB) holds more promise for reversibility. Initial thermodynamic properties for the compound indicate it might spontaneously uptake hydrogen fuel.

This work is performed under the Grand Challenge Project “Computational studies of materials to hydrogen storage” in the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility at PNNL. Researchers plan to perform additional calculations, synthesize the diammoniate of diborane compound and test their theories on the material in the coming year.