Art and Science

JANUARY 9, 2008

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The prize-winning illustration, created by Nicole Roger Fuller of the National Science Foundation.

Cutting-edge science that could help shape our energy future, combined with the graphic arts, has resulted in an award-winning scientific illustration based on experimentation carried out at the Argonne Advanced Photon Source (APS). A figure created for an abstract submitted to the American Physical Society’s March 2007 Meeting, and previously for a press release by the National Science Foundation (Feb. 16, 2007), is one of the winning entries in the “Gallery of Nonlinear Images,” a competition held at the meeting and sponsored by the American Physical Society’s Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics. Researcher Peter Pfeifer and his colleagues from the University of Missouri, the Midwest Research Institute, and Argonne won for a figure that graphically describes a new methane storage system for natural-gas vehicles.

The APS ultra-small-angle scattering instrument installed at X-ray Operations and Research beamlines 32-ID and 33-ID was used by the scientists in the course of developing a nanoporous carbon material made from waste corncob, which according to the abstract, “stores CH4 [methane] at an unprecedented capacity of 118 g CH4/liter carbon, or 180 times its own volume (DOE target)…This provides the technology to replace bulky cylindrical compressed natural gas tanks… in current natural-gas vehicles by a flat, light-weight tank with storage as absorbed natural gas, under the floor of a car, in next-generation clean vehicles. Natural gas…gives near zero emissions…can be produced in significant amounts from renewable sources…and costs 30%-60% less than gasoline or diesel, at the pump per-energy equivalent.”

The research was carried out under the Alliance for Collaborative Research in Alternative Fuel Technology, or ALL-CRAFT, a partnership of the University of Missouri-Columbia (lead institution), the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City, and other partners, with major funding from the National Science Foundation’s Program “Partnerships for Innovation,” to develop low-pressure, high-capacity storage technologies for natural gas and hydrogen as alternative fuels for advanced transportation. The research supported by the group’s work at the APS has met the ALL-CRAFT objective to “replace bulky cylindrical, heavy-walled compressed natural gas tanks…in current natural-gas vehicles by a flat, light-weight tank, with storage as adsorbed natural gas, in next-generation clean vehicles.”

The prize-winning illustration, which was created by Nicole Roger Fuller of the National science Foundation, was published in “Complex pore spaces create record-breaking methane storage system for natural-gas vehicles,” P. Pfeifer et al., Chaos 17, 041101 (2007).

The APS is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Argonne is a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC.