DOE Collaboratory Project Focuses on Engine Efficiency & Emission Controls

March 21,1997

By Ron Kolb,

Berkeley Lab's high-tech Washington, D.C., Projects Office was center stage for a March 5 Department of Energy press briefing announcing two pilot projects in the "DOE 2000" national collaboratory initiative.

The vision of DOE 2000, according to briefing host Martha Krebs, director of DOE's Office of Energy Research, is to enable the nationwide use of unique scientific resources via the Internet without regard to geographic boundaries. A conferencing demonstration linking researchers at Berkeley, Argonne and Oak Ridge national labs, using the MBone protocol and coordinated through the Washington office, vividly depicted the promise that networking technologies hold for distant scientific collaborations.

The systems and programs that enable the development of "virtual" shared laboratories will be prototyped in two three-year projects, both of which include Berkeley Lab as a partner: the Materials Microcharacterization Collaboratory, which was awarded $10.8 million in funding, and the Diesel Combustion Collaboratory, funded at $7.1 million. The pilots were chosen from among 13 competitive proposals.

Grants were announced by Krebs, DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Tom Gross, and Jim Eberhard, director of the Office of Heavy Vehicle Technologies. Kevin Mills, science program director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commented on how collaborative technologies will also assist the government's military efforts.

Both pilot projects focus on engine efficiency and emission control. The combustion collaboratory, which includes Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national labs and the University of Wisconsin, will study the design of more powerful diagnostic experiments to control diesel engine emissions. The materials collaboratory, with Oak Ridge, Argonne, the University of Illinois, and the National Institute of Science and Technology, will research catalyst poisoning and potential corrosion-free materials.

They will be part of the national effort "to reduce the reliance on foreign oil by developing new generation vehicles that are more efficient and environmentally acceptable," Eberhard said. "The combustion lab will focus on what is happening in the cylinder of the diesel engine. The materials work is needed for exhaust applications, to get rid of the particulates."

The combustion collaboratory will feature remote access to Sandia's Combustion Research Facility devices, while the materials collaboratory will utilize electron microscopes at Berkeley Lab's National Center for Electron Microscopy and instruments at Argonne, Illinois and Oak Ridge. The High-Temperature Materials Lab at Oak Ridge will play an important role.

Stu Loken, Berkeley Lab's ICSD Division Director and coordinator of the DOE 2000 effort, introduced the demonstration, which featured Brian Tonner of the University of Wisconsin gathering data at an Advanced Light Source beamline. Loken called the ALS experiment "an early prototype of a collaboratory." Tonner's work on environmentally contaminated soils has involved biologists, soil chemists, and x-ray microscopists.

"It has allowed these three groups to work together on a project at the same time--as the data is being gathered," Tonner said via the MBone link, appearing from Berkeley in one of the remote access windows displayed on a Washington monitor. He called the program a "tremendous advantage" because it allows his colleagues in Milwaukee to participate in the experiment in real time, and to operate the machine from a distance.

Rick Stevens, director of Argonne's Mathematics and Computer Science Division, then showed his Washington audience an animated "virtual" reproduction of the ALS, to simulate scientists' interaction within this shared world. This attempt to re-create reality through technology, in a cyberspace simultaneously occupied by participants from multiple locations, is among the efforts designed to make collaboratories more than mere teleconferences.

Krebs said this capability will be especially important in the 21st century, when huge international research projects like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN--with its 500 collaborating physicists in the U.S. alone--begins collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data.

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