Science & Technology Overview
Science & Technology Initiatives
What we do:
We deliver innovative outcomes through five intersecting science and technology (S&T) initiatives to advance our mission to discover, demonstrate and secure innovative nuclear energy solutions, other clean energy options and critical infrastructure. We combine fundamental research with direct applications in science and engineering to deliver groundbreaking technologies through the five S&T initiatives addressing clean energy and critical infrastructure challenges.
How we do it:
INL’s five cross cutting S&T initiatives provide focus for mission delivery, accomplished through our mission and operational directorates in Idaho Falls and across our 890-square-mile site in southeastern Idaho. Click the categories to learn more about our S&T initiatives.
Our core capabilities:
The Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes that our exemplary expertise with dedicated staff members, facilities and equipment span 16 of the 25 DOE core capabilities, and that we are developing two additional capabilities. These 18 core capabilities support our five S&T initiatives. Click through the icons below for official definitions of our core capabilities.
ADVANCED COMPUTER SCIENCE, VISUALIZATION, AND DATA
The ability to have a widely recognized role in advances in all applications in computational science and engineering. A core capability in these areas would involve expertise in areas such as programming languages, high-performance computing tools, peta- to exa-scale scientific data management and scientific visualization, distributed computing infrastructure, programming models for novel computer architectures, and automatic tuning for improving code performance, with unique and/or world-leading components in one or more of these areas. The capability requires access to (note: these resources do not need to be co-located) a high-end computational facility with the resources to test and develop new tools, libraries, languages, etc. In addition, linkages to application teams in computational science and/or engineering of interest to the Department of Energy and/or other Federal agencies would be beneficial to promptly address needs and requirements of those teams.
APPLIED MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
The ability to conduct theoretical, experimental, and computational research to understand and characterize materials with focus on the design, synthesis, scale-up, prediction and measurement of structure/property relationships, the role of defects in controlling properties, the performance of materials in hostile environments to include mechanical behavior and long-term environmental stability, and the large-scale production of new materials with specific properties. The strong linkages with molecular science, engineering, and environmental science provides a basis for the development of materials that improve the efficiency, economy, cost-effectiveness, environmental acceptability, and safety in energy generation, conversion, transmission, and end-use technologies and systems. Primary supporting disciplines and field include materials synthesis, characterization, and processing; chemical and electrochemistry, combinatorial chemistry, surface science, catalysis, analytical and molecular science; and computation science.
BIOLOGICAL AND BIOPROCESS ENGINEERING
Applies understanding of complex biological systems and phenomena to design, prototype, test and validate processes components, technologies, and systems relevant to (1) bioenergy production, (2) environmental contaminants processing, and (3) global carbon cycling and biosequestration. Primary supporting disciplines include chemical engineering, agricultural science, fermentation science, materials science and engineering, and systems science.
CHEMICAL AND MOLECULAR SCIENCE (EMERGING)
The ability to conduct experimental, theoretical, and computational research to fundamentally understand chemical change and energy flow in molecular systems that provide a basis for the development of new processes for the generation, storage, and use of energy and for mitigation of the environmental impacts of energy use. Areas of research include atomic, molecular, and optical sciences; gas-phase chemical physics; condensed phase and interfacial molecular science; solar photochemistry; photosynthetic systems; physical biosciences; catalysis science; separation science; actinide chemistry; and geosciences.
The ability to conduct applied chemical research that spans multiple scales from the molecular to macroscopic and from picoseconds to years. Chemical engineering translates scientific discovery into transformational solutions for advanced energy systems and other U.S. needs related to environment, security, and national competitiveness. The strong linkages between molecular, biological, and materials sciences, engineering science, and separations, catalysis and other chemical conversions provide a basis for the development of chemical processes that improve the efficiency, economy, competitiveness, environmental acceptability, and safety in energy generation, conversion, and utilization. A core capability in chemical engineering would underpin R&D in various areas such as nanomanufacturing, process intensification, biomass utilization, radiochemical processing, dielectric materials, advanced conducting materials, high-efficiency clean combustion, and would generate innovative solutions in alternative energy systems, carbon management, energy-intensive industrial processing, nuclear fuel cycle development, and waste and environmental management.
CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS AND MATERIALS SCIENCE (EMERGING)
The ability to conduct experimental, theoretical, and computational research to fundamentally understand condensed matter physics and materials sciences that provide a basis for the development of materials that improve the efficiency, economy, environmental acceptability, and safety in energy generation, conversion, transmission, and utilization. Areas of research include experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics, x-ray and neutron scattering, electron and scanning probe microscopies, ultrafast materials science, physical and mechanical behavior of materials, radiation effects in materials, materials chemistry, and bimolecular materials.
CYBER AND INFORMATION SCIENCES
The disciplines, technologies, and practices designed to protect, analyze, and disseminate information from electronic sources, including computer systems, computer networks, and sensor networks. A core competency in this area would involve recognized expertise in one or more of the following topics: cyber security, information assurance, information analytics, knowledge representation, and information theory, control systems design and engineering, embedded systems, reverse engineering, and advanced hacking techniques. This core competency would be applied to: the protection of information systems and data from theft or attack; the collection, classification, analysis, and sharing of disparate data; and the creation of knowledge from heterogeneous information sources; securing control systems integrated into critical infrastructure; and increasing security, reliability, and resilience of automated processes and systems.
DECISION SCIENCE AND ANALYSIS
Derives knowledge and insights from measured and modeled data sets to further the understanding of and tradeoffs among resource and technology options, to identify and quantify the risks and impacts of current and emerging technologies on environmental systems, and to assess the impact of market dynamics, human behavior and regulations, policies or institutional practices on the development and uptake of technology. Primary supporting disciplines include engineering, environmental science, applied math, finance, business, social and political science, and market and behavioral economics. This capability provides credible and objective information to support DOE and others to support strategic planning and program direction, policy formulation and implementation, efforts to remove market barriers to deployment and engagement with stakeholders.
EARTH, ENVIRONMENTAL, AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE
The ability to understand and predict the physical, chemical, and biological structure and function of subsurface environments to enable systems-level environmental prediction and decision support related to the sustainable development of subsurface resources, environmentally-responsible use of the subsurface for storage, and effective, mitigation of the impacts of environmental contamination from past nuclear weapons production and provide a scientific basis for the long-term stewardship of nuclear waste disposal via the integration of laboratory-specific research facilities, instrumentation and/or leadership-class computational systems, and multidisciplinary teams of individuals with expertise in environmental subsurface science and related disciplines in microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. This unique combination of tools and expertise is the foundation for research on (1) linking research across scales from the molecular to field scale, (2) integration of advanced computer models into the research and (3) multidisciplinary, iterative experimentation to understand and nutrient cycling and contaminant transport in complex subsurface environments. This ability can contribute to mitigating the impacts of environmental contamination from past nuclear weapons production and provide a scientific basis for the long-term stewardship of nuclear waste disposal, as well as understanding subsurface environments and their role in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.
LARGE-SCALE USER FACILITIES/ R&D FACILITIES/ADVANCED INSTRUMENTATION
The ability to conceive, design, construct and operate leading-edge specialty research facilities available to universities, industry, and national laboratories customers to conduct groundbreaking research and development activities and/or ‘at scale’ testing and demonstration of technology. This includes the ability to effectively manage construction of $100 million or greater one-of-a-kind scientific facilities, and to host hundreds to thousands of U.S. and international users in addition to carrying out world-class research at the facility itself. The ability to conceive, design, build, operate and use first-in-class technical instruments intended for a particular research purpose, often requiring the material expertise of multiple scientific disciplines. Instrumentation that can be created by a small number of individuals or that would sit on a laboratory benchtop is not considered part of this core capability.
MECHANICAL DESIGN AND ENGINEERING
Applies the principles of physics, mechanics, and materials science to analyze, design, test, validate, and enable operation of advanced engineered systems, machines, and tools. Includes equipment used to move or extract energy bearing materials (e.g., oil, gas, coal) or from moving fluids (e.g., water, wind, steam), as well as equipment used to convert energy to useful services (e.g., mobility, home heating and cooling, robotics, imaging devices, etc.) or to manufacture products. Primary supporting disciplines include physics, materials science, aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and computational science.
NUCLEAR AND RADIOCHEMISTRY
The ability to use a broad range of facilities, instrumentation, equipment and, often, interdisciplinary teams that apply the knowledge, data, methods, and techniques of nuclear chemistry, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering to missions of the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security. The elements of this capability are often brought together in unique combinations with those of other disciplines to address high priority needs such as new and improved nuclear systems; radioisotope production and advanced instrumentation for nuclear medicine; development of methods and systems to assure nonproliferation and combat terrorism; and environmental studies, monitoring, and remediation.
The ability to use a broad range of facilities, instrumentation, equipment and, often, interdisciplinary teams that apply the knowledge, data, methods, and techniques of nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering, nuclear reactor physics, measurable science, and risk assessment to missions of the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security. The elements of this capability are often brought together in unique combinations with those of other disciplines to address high priority needs such as new and improved energy sources and systems; advanced instrumentation for nuclear systems; accelerator science and technology; and development of methods and systems to assure nonproliferation and combat terrorism.
POWER SYSTEMS AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING
Applies understanding of electromagnetic phenomena to design and engineer circuitry, electrical and electronic devices and equipment, sensors, instruments, and control systems to address the efficiency and reliability of power transmission and distribution systems, and the interface of the grid with variable generation and modern loads. Primary supporting disciplines include electrical engineering, power systems engineering, computational science, and materials synthesis, characterization, and processing.
SYSTEMS ENGINEERING AND INTEGRATION
The ability to solve problems holistically from the concept and design phase to ultimate deliverable and completion phase, by synthesizing multiple disciplines, and to develop and implement optimal solutions. The ability to develop solutions that address issues of national energy and environmental security. Areas of application of this capability include development of programs in energy supply, storage, transportation, and efficiency; and deployment of novel solutions to materials and sensor problems in fields of interest to the Department of Energy and/or the Department of Homeland Security.
The ability to connect applied mathematics and computer science with research in scientific disciplines (e.g., biological sciences, chemistry, materials, physics, etc.). A core capability in this area involves expertise in applied mathematics, computer science and in scientific domains with a proven record of effectively and efficiently utilizing high performance computing resources to obtain significant results in areas of science and/or engineering of interest to the Department of Energy and/or other Federal agencies. The individual strengths in applied mathematics, computer science and in scientific domains in concert with the strength of the synergy between them is the critical element of this core capability.
ISOTOPE SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
The ability to produce, process, enrich or separate isotopes for distribution, and the research that enables this core competency. This includes technologies, byproducts, and surplus materials for production and processing of radioisotopes using reactor or accelerator facilities, material separation, or enrichment of radioactive and stable isotopes. The ability to conduct theoretical, experimental, and computational research to develop isotope production, processing, enrichment, and separations capabilities and technologies, and to translate to routine production of new isotopes with specific assays. This core competency may include the production of isotopes following current Good Manufacturing Processes, and knowledge to operate reactors, particle accelerators, processing equipment or enrichment devices. Areas of research needed to develop this core competency include chemical processing, analytical chemistry, nuclear and radiochemical processing, catalysis science, separation science, material science, biology, actinide chemistry, computational science, reactor physics, accelerator science, advanced manufacturing, targetry, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, robotics, enrichment science and engineering.
PLASMA AND FUSION ENERGY SCIENCES
The ability to control, maintain, and utilize matter in the state of plasma across a range of conditions to conduct world-leading research. This includes low-temperature plasmas which are utilized in applications such as microelectronics fabrication and nanomaterial synthesis and can have significant spinoff applications, and high temperature/high pressure plasmas, also known as burning plasmas, which are critical for developing the scientific foundation for fusion as a future energy source. This ability can be demonstrated across this entire range of plasma conditions in the operation of state-of-the-art experimental facilities that can support research on the fundamental physics of plasmas; in theory and advanced simulations which are critical to the full understanding of the plasma phenomena being studied and on how plasmas can be best controlled and utilized; and in enabling technologies that allow experiments to reach the necessary conditions where new discoveries can be made.