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Top Technological and Scientific Breakthroughs from National Laboratories

DOE topbreakthroughs

The Department of Energy (DOE) is the parent agency to a system of 17 national laboratories that house cutting-edge technologies and equipment and is home to some of the world’s most talented researchers.

DOE labs have made numerous notable contributes to science, energy, and national security over the years. The following list is a snapshot of the awesome technological and scientific breakthroughs our national labs have produced.

1. 3D-Printed a Car.

Additive manufacturing—or 3D-printing—is revolutionizing how we make everything from wrenches to prosthetic body parts. The National Labs showed that this transformative process can even be used in large-scale manufacturing, like in the auto industry, to drive America towards a more sustainable future.

2. Created the Clean Room.

Normal air contains roughly 35 million particles per cubic meter. A clean room can get that number down to 12. Scientists rely on clean rooms for sensitive jobs from building precision detectors to manufacturing pharmaceuticals. National Lab scientists are to thank for taking this technology, which constantly filters the air.

3. Mapped the Human Genome.

National Labs were the workhorses of the Human Genome Project, the massive, 13-year effort that determined the chemical sequences of human DNA. Researchers relied on supercomputers at the Labs to crunch the massive amounts of data.

4. Took Lead Out of Solder.

Lead is toxic, but for thousands of years, people used it to solder everything from pots to jewelry. Today, solder is the “glue” for wires on the circuit boards of virtually any electronic device on the market. Thankfully, National Lab scientists developed a lead-free alloy that is healthier for humans and the environment, and widely in use today.

5. Stopped Acid Rain.

A National Lab curbed the dangers of acid rain by developing devices that keep sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide out of the atmosphere. These devices are now installed on 75 percent of America's coal power plants, and emissions of those two sources are down by more than two-thirds of what they were in 1990.

6. Brought Safe Water to Millions.

Removing arsenic from drinking water is a global priority. A technology engineered at a National Lab can now do exactly that, making contaminated water safe to drink. The technology is simple, requires little maintenance and is in use in thousands of villages across India and Bangladesh.

7. Exposed Explosives.

A credit-card-size detector developed by National Lab scientists can screen for more than 30 kinds of explosives in just minutes. The detector, called ELITE, requires no power and is widely used by the military, law enforcement, and security personnel.

8. Changed the Face of Matter.

Protons and neutrons were once thought to be indivisible. Wrong. National Lab scientists discovered that protons and neutrons were made of even smaller parts, called quarks. Later experiments identified six kinds of quarks, changing our view of how the material world works.

To view the original photo gallery and article on the DOE’s website, visit https://energy.gov/articles/20-amazing-things-national-labs-have-done.

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