Chemistry And Biosciences Are Priorities At PNNL
Construction of what was to become Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) began in 1965, shortly after Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, won an Atomic Energy Commission contract to build and manage a new lab to abut the Hanford Reservation near Richland, Wash.
The prime mission was technological and scientific support for Hanford plutonium production, but the lab also did R&D to develop nuclear power and to study environmental and health effects of radiation.
Since then, the mission has shifted and broadened, the facility has grown, and today PNNL is one of the Department of Energy's nine multiprogram labs.
PNNL has an annual budget of $537 million and a staff of 3,700. About 2,000 staff members are scientists, technicians, or engineers, and more than 1,400 have advanced degrees. Nearly all staff are at the Richland site, but PNNL operates a marine sciences lab in Sequim, Wash., and small facilities in Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C.
Much of its research is in the chemical and biological arena. In 1997, PNNL opened its largest single facility--the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. EMSL cost $230 million to build and equip, most of which went for an array of advanced instruments.
EMSL is a DOE user facility with great potential for chemists. It drew 1,400 scientists in 2001 from 200 organizations--886 from universities, 165 from industry, 135 from other federal labs, and 229 from other parts of PNNL. More than half (784) used the facility remotely via the Web and never came to EMSL or Richland.
User access is free to most scientists but requires a peer-reviewed proposal process. Also, results are expected to be shared broadly within the scientific community.
PNNL prides itself on providing technical support to users and on modifying equipment and experiments to their benefit.
Equipment includes a suite of high-performance mass spectrometers and high-field nuclear magnetic resonance facilities, as well as advanced computing facilities including graphics and visualization capabilities.
Last month, PNNL began installation of one of the world's largest, highest performance NMR spectrometers--a first-of-its-kind unit with a 900-MHz, wide-bore system. The NMR has a bore size of 65 mm and a strength of 21.14 tesla.
Also last month, PNNL announced the purchase of a $24 million Hewlett-Packard supercomputer with 8.3 teraflops of performance. The computer will be geared toward solving chemical, biological, and life sciences problems and is intended to accompany EMSL's research activities. It is expected to be operational in 2003 (C&EN, April 29, page 10).
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