Director’s Message: The Year Ahead in Science
The early months of the year bring renewed energy for defining our scientific priorities. We are achieving our milestones on the APS Upgrade and Aurora projects, and we are well on our way to building the brightest hard X-ray synchrotron light source and one of the first exascale computers in the world. Argonne continues to make world-class contributions to materials and chemistry, manufacturing, X-ray science, environmental science and biology, computing, high-energy physics and national security. In this note, I would like to draw your attention to a few new and emerging science and technology priorities that will shape the balance of 2019 for Argonne.
Artificial Intelligence for Science
We are placing big bets on the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) for science. In 2018, we launched two task forces to explore the role AI can play for advancing our study of materials, as well as chemistry and X-ray science. The first report on Data Science for X-Ray Imaging is available now. A new Director’s Special LDRD Call on AI + Science went out on Feb. 11. Through CELS, we are procuring a multimillion-dollar computing system, one of an emerging generation of hardware platforms specifically designed for deep learning on ultra-large-scale datasets, which are far superior to conventional CPU- and GPU-based systems. It will enable Argonne scientists and users to tackle large-scale science problems with unprecedented computing power.
Quantum Information Science
Argonne’s rapid progress in quantum information science (QIS) will continue through 2019 and beyond. Over the past three years, Argonne’s publications in this field went up fivefold. We had an additional influx of $12.5 million in quantum funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for 2018. The Chicago Quantum Summit, held last November, was a major success with the participation of key stakeholders in QIS research and development across the nation. Argonne’s efforts in QIS have a broad mandate — ranging from algorithms and computing to materials, devices, communication and sensing — appropriate for our lab, with vast skills in both computing systems as well as the physical sciences. Through our various appearances before Congress in 2018, we have been proud advocates for increased investment in QIS, and those efforts paid off when the National Quantum Initiative Act passed the House and Senate in late 2018.
In 2019, we will roll up our sleeves and plan for an Argonne bid for a National Quantum Information Science Research Center. To that end, we recently established a team consisting of Argonne, University of Chicago and University of Illinois scientists called the QIS Incubator, led by David Awschalom and Gary Wiederrecht and reporting to me. The QIS Incubator is crystallizing our plans for a bid for a National Quantum Information Science Research Center, centered at Argonne, which can contribute to the nation’s advancement of quantum expertise.
Manufacturing Science & Engineering
Manufacturing will continue to be a big focus for Argonne in 2019. Last year saw the beginning of the Materials Engineering Research Facility (MERF) expansion, and in FY19, we have committed over $9 million for its completion. Following a successful LDRD project on flame spray synthesis, we established a collaboration with Cabot, a leading global specialty chemicals and performance materials company headquartered in Boston, and we continue to expand on our industrial partnerships at the MERF. This year we will continue to build our programs and pursue more funding under the Battery Materials Manufacturing Center funding opportunity announcement expected from DOE/EERE-AMO and the Vehicle Technology Office (VTO). The Energy-Water Desalination Hub from DOE/EERE-AMO offers an additional opportunity for us.
Last but not least, we are excited that following a competitive process, VTO awarded $15 million for ReCell, a new battery recycling research and development center that will be located at Argonne. Together with the recent renewal of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research and the Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems Energy Frontier Research Center award, this enhances Argonne‘s leadership in research on advanced materials for energy storage and water research — from fundamental to applied sciences.
Through a multidisciplinary collaboration among Energy & Global Security, Physical Sciences & Engineering and Science & Technology Partnerships & Outreach, Argonne has developed a new way of efficiently making high-purity copper-67 (Cu-67). As part of a new generation of treatments for cancer called theranostics, whose development today is limited by the availability of appropriate radioisotope supplies, Argonne is making Cu-67 available to the community. Our first customer shipment was delivered in late 2018 through the DOE National Isotope Development Center, and DOE announced it will begin routine production of isotopes at Argonne in February 2019. In conjunction with producing Cu-67, Argonne scientists continue to research other medically relevant isotopes, such as actinium-225 (Ac-225) and scandium-47 (Sc-47), which Argonne can make more efficiently using our electron linear accelerator. Ac-225 is a promising alpha emitter in short supply, and Sc-47 is an emerging theranostic isotope. We expect to increase our efforts in this critically important area this year as new radiopharmaceuticals are identified and developed for clinical use.
Everyone can be proud of the science and technology we work on at Argonne and the impact we have on the prosperity and security of our nation and world. I encourage you to learn more about each of these important and emerging areas, which we will be part of our Annual Lab Plan, and I welcome your feedback on our scientific priorities and outcomes. It is a privilege to lead this laboratory.