Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory logo.svg
Established 1965
Budget US$918 million (FY09)
Field of Research Energy, national security and the environment.
Director Michael Kluse
Staff 4,650
Address 902 Battelle Boulevard
Location Richland, Washington (main campus)
Nickname PNNL
Operating Agency Battelle Memorial Institute

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington.

PNNL scientists conduct basic and applied research and development to strengthen U.S. scientific foundations for fundamental research and innovation; prevent and counter acts of terrorism through applied research in information analysis, cyber security, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; increase the U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil; and reduce the effects of human activity on the environment. PNNL has been operated by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.[1]



Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Campus. PNNL has been operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.

PNNL houses several scientific user facilities and research facilities.

Scientific user facilities

The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) is a U.S. Department of Energy national scientific user facility. EMSL provides researchers around the world with integrated capabilities in oxide and mineral interface chemistry, high-performance computing and computational chemistry software, mass spectrometry, high-field magnetic resonance, and subsurface flow and transport.[2]

The Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) is a joint effort between Washington State University and PNNL, and is located on the WSU-Tri-Cities campus. Within BSEL, researchers are developing technology for converting agricultural byproducts into chemicals for products like plastics, solvents, fibers, pharmaceuticals, and fuel additives.[3]

Researchers at PNNL’s Radiochemical Processing Laboratory are developing processes to advance the cleanup of radiological and hazardous wastes; the processing and disposal of nuclear fuels; and the production and delivery of medical isotopes.

The Applied Process Engineering Laboratory (APEL) is a technology business startup user facility, sponsored in part by PNNL. APEL provides engineering- and manufacturing-scale space and chemical, biological, and electronic laboratories and equipment for developing, validating, and commercializing new products.[4]

Research facilities

Three new research facilities were recently constructed on PNNL’s Richland, Washington campus. The three facilities partially replace laboratory and office space PNNL has been using on the south end of the nearby Hanford Site.

The Physical Sciences Facility, a federally funded research complex that was designed by Flad Architects, is slated to open in 2010 and will house PNNL’s research into materials science, radiation detection, and ultra-trace analysis.

The privately funded Computational Sciences Facility and Biological Sciences Facility house about 310 staff who support PNNL’s energy, environmental, national security, and fundamental science research missions. These two new facilities opened in 2009. The CSF contains scientific capabilities in information analytics, high-performance computing, cyber security and bioinformatics. The BSF focuses on bioenergy, environmental and soil remediation and includes systems biology, microbial and cellular biology and analytical interfacial chemistry.[5]

The Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center at PNNL combines software, real-time power grid data and computation into a control room setting. The ideas and technologies developed in the EIOC address better management of the power grid. The EIOC also is available to utilities, vendors, government agencies and universities interested in research, development or training.[6]

The Marine Sciences Laboratory, located at Sequim, Washington, is the DOE’s only marine laboratory. MSL provides analytical and general purpose laboratories, as well as wet or support laboratories supplied with heated and cooled freshwater and seawater. More than 70 engineers and scientists work on coastal restoration and security projects, from reviving salmon habitat to research on how shellfish could detect a bioterrorist attack. MSL also operates a 28-foot (8.5 m) research vessel.[7]

Other PNNL research facilities include the following:

  • Research Aircraft
  • Pretreatment Engineering Platform
  • Microproducts Breakthrough Institute
  • Instrument Performance Testing
  • Hanford Meteorological Station
  • In Vivo Radioassay and Research Facility
  • Non-Destructive Analysis Laboratory
  • Radiological Calibration and Irradiation Facility

Notable scientists

PNNL staff have received numerous awards and recognition. These achievements include six E.O. Lawrence Awards,[8] one Coblentz Award, four Discover Magazine Awards, two Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation Homeland Security Awards,[9] and PECASE (Presidential Early Career award for Scientists and Engineers) Awards. PNNL staff serve as editors-in-chief for scientific journals, hold office in national and international technical societies, and have been granted Guggenheim fellowships, Humboldt Research Awards, and society medals. Staff have been elected to the rank of fellow in national societies including, but not limited to, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, and the Materials Research Society.[10][11]

Facts and figures

PNNL has approximately 4,650 staff members and a business volume of $1.1 billion for FY09, excluding capital funding and Recovery Act funding. PNNL has received 80 R&D 100 Awards for significant innovations, and 69 Federal Laboratory Consortium awards for technology transfer. As of 2009, PNNL has 1,761 domestic and foreign patents and more than 200 active licenses. The main campus is located in Richland, Washington. PNNL operates a marine research facility in Sequim, and has satellite offices in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; Portland, Oregon; College Park, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. The Laboratory has been operated by Ohio-based Battelle since 1965.[12]


This November 1964 Tri-City Herald newspaper clip announces Battelle has been selected to manage the new Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland beginning in January 1965.

In 1965, Battelle won a contract to perform research and development for the Hanford Site, a nuclear site in southeastern Washington State. The Laboratory was originally named Pacific Northwest Laboratory and served as an independent research entity from Hanford Site operations.[13]

Pacific Northwest’s first mission was research and development related to nuclear energy and non-destructive uses for nuclear materials. Pacific Northwest designed the Fast Flux Test Facility used to test fuels and materials for the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor for the Atomic Energy Commission’s commercial nuclear power program.

Scientists and engineers at the Laboratory also worked on nongovernment projects. In the 1960s, researchers pioneered today’s compact disc technology through their advancements in digital data storage using computers to read information using microscopic lenses and a laser light source. In 1969, Pacific Northwest was chosen by NASA to measure the concentration of both solar and galactic cosmic-ray-produced radionuclides in lunar material collected from the entire Apollo program.

Research at Pacific Northwest expanded in energy, environment, health and national security as the 1970s dawned and the Atomic Energy Commission segmented into Energy Research and Development Administration and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy replaced the Energy Administration and consolidated federal energy programs. During the 1970s, Pacific Northwest developed vitrification, a process to lock hazardous waste inside glass. Researchers developed an acoustic holography technique that allows medical personnel to view internal organs without an operation, detect fetal abnormalities, and locate blood clots.

Health-related work continued to be a focus at Pacific Northwest well into the 1980s. Researchers introduced the first portable blood irradiator, which was used in leukemia treatments.[14] The manufacture and delivery of the irradiators and the development of safer, more effective protocols occurred between the Laboratory and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It was Pacific Northwest's first Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. In the mid-1980s, Pacific Northwest became one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s multiprogram laboratories.

In the 1990s, the Laboratory’s scientific reputation began to garner more attention on a global and national scale, beginning with its name. In 1995, the Laboratory officially added "National" to its name, becoming the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The Laboratory’s global environmental and nuclear nonproliferation work moved to the forefront during the 1990s. The Pacific Northwest Center for Global Security was established to coordinate nuclear nonproliferation programs, research and policy work within the Laboratory and throughout the region.[15] The Material Identification System and the Ultrasonic Pulse Echo instrument, technologies developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, were provided to customs inspectors[16] in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union republics to reduce smuggling and terrorism. Researchers also studied global climate models, including cloud formation and radiative properties of clouds. In addition, the Laboratory created energy efficiency centers to promote economic growth while mitigating its harmful effects and participating on the United Nations panel on climate change assessments.[17]

In 2007, more than 20 PNNL scientists were recognized for their contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize in equal parts with former Vice President Al Gore.[18]

Technologies to counter acts of terrorism have progressed at PNNL in this decade with the expansion of radiation portal monitoring technology developed at the Laboratory. This technology is used at ports of entry around the country to scan for and detect the presence of nuclear and radiological materials. In 2004, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security established the National Visualization and Analytics Center (NVAC) to advance visualization research using computer technology to enable humans to visually synthesize and derive insight from massive amounts of information to help the nation predict and respond to manmade and natural disasters and terrorist incidents.

PNNL scientists are designing catalysts to use solar energy to power reactions that turn water into hydrogen. They are incorporating the concepts of energy matching and proton relays to design inexpensive nickel and cobalt containing molecular complexes that catalyze that reaction. DOE has awarded $22.5 million over five years for PNNL’s new Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, where scientists will study catalysts that covert electrical energy into chemical bonds and back again.[19][20]

PNNL continues to address threats to the environment by developing solutions to capture and stabilize human-made carbon emissions along with advancements in biomass research and biobased products that address the global need for renewable and sustainable energy sources. On the fundamental science forefront, PNNL’s focus on genomics, proteomics, systems biology, chemical and materials sciences is paving the way for the next decade of scientific advancements.

PNNL directors

  • Sherwood Fawcett (1965–1967)
  • Fred Albaugh (1967–1971)
  • Ron Paul (1971–1973)
  • Ed Alpen (1973–1975)
  • Tommy Ambrose (1975–1979)
  • Doug Olesen (1979–1984)
  • William R. Wiley (1984–1994)
  • Bill Madia (1994–2000)
  • Lura Powell (2000–2003)
  • Leonard Peters (2003–2007)
  • Mike Kluse (2008–present)


  1. ^ PNNL: Research
  2. ^ Newman, AR 1997. “PNNL’s Laboratory for the Environment.” Analytical Chemistry, 69, 298A-301A.
  3. ^ Schill, SR. 2008. “PNNL, WSU partner in new biomass research lab.” Biomass Magazine
  4. ^ About PNNL Facilities
  5. ^ U.S. Department of Energy. 2007. “Construction Approved for State-of-the-Art Physical Sciences Facility- Existing Facilities Included in Project.” Pacific Northwest Site Office, Richland, WA.
  6. ^ Huang Z, RT Guttromson, J Nieplocha, and RG Pratt. 2007. "Transforming Power Grid Operations." Scientific Computing 24(5):22-27.
  7. ^ Urbani de la Paz, D. October 14, 2008. “Plant power on the rise at Sequim Bay lab.” Peninsula Daily News.]
  8. ^ U.S. DOE Press Release "Secretary of Energy Announces Eight E.O. Lawrence Award Winners"
  9. ^ Tri-City Herald "Homeland security work wins national award for PNNL scientist"
  10. ^ PNNL. 2006. “Futrell Named Head of PNNL’s Council of Fellows.” Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA.
  11. ^ Staff Information Richard Smith
  12. ^ PNNL: About - Business Facts
  13. ^ Boehm, GAW and A Groner. 1981. Science in the Service of Mankind. Battelle Press, Columbus, Ohio.
  14. ^ Hungate, FP. 1995. “Portable Blood Irradiator.” Radiation Protection Dosimetry 60(4): 359-362.
  15. ^ PNNL: Pacific Northwest Center for Global Security
  16. ^ Anonymous. 1998. “Instruments Smother Smuggling Attempts.” Research & Development 40(2):140.
  17. ^ About PNNL - Laboratory history
  18. ^ "Local researchers among thousands who share in prize" Seattle Times, 13 October 2007
  19. ^ DuBois, MR and DL DuBois. 2008. "The Role of Pendant Bases in Molecular Catalysts for H2 Oxidation and Production." Comptes Rendus Chimie 11(8):805-817.
  20. ^ Basic Energy Science, Energy Frontier Research Centers. Office of Basic Energy Science, U.S. Department of Energy

External links

Coordinates: 46°20′36″N 119°16′35″W / 46.343224°N 119.276333°W / 46.343224; -119.276333

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