Illustration made with a photo from inside the LCLS-II tunnel, taken April 6, 2022.Illustration made with a photo from inside the LCLS-II tunnel, taken April 6, 2022.
Illustration made with a photo from inside the LCLS-II tunnel, taken April 6, 2022.
Image courtesy of Illustration Greg Stewart/Photography Jim Gensheimer/SLAC National Accelerator Laborator

What a difference a year can make! As the nation’s largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences, the steward of 10 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, and the lead federal agency supporting fundamental research for energy production and security, DOE’s Office of Science (SC) has made incredible headway over the course of 2023.

Below is a summary of some of our most notable accomplishments this year. This is in addition to the hundreds of innovative discoveries made possible through our collaboration with DOE national laboratories, stakeholders, and partners across the globe. 

Leading globally in key innovation and scientific areas—spanning clean energy, advanced computing, quantum information science, and more

First global cloud-resolving model simulating a year of climate in one day: Gordon Bell Prize for Climate Modelling

Congratulations to the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) team, led by researchers and computational scientists across eight DOE national laboratories—including Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Argonne, Brookhaven, Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest—for being awarded the Gordon Bell Prize for Climate Modelling for its groundbreaking work, “The Simple Cloud-Resolving E3SM Atmosphere Model Running on the Frontier Exascale System,” in November 2023. 

SCREAM was awarded this prestigious prize for performing an unprecedented global climate model simulation on the world’s first exascale supercomputer, Frontier. DOE researchers explained the work is a significant milestone, establishing E3SM as a reference point for all future climate models. 

Exploring uncharted territory with the Muon g-2 collaboration

The Muon g-2 collaboration at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory achieved the world's most precise measurement of the magnetic moment of the muon, a fundamental particle whose behavior might indicate the existence of new particles or forces. In August 2023, the collaboration reported a new measurement of the positive muon magnetic anomaly. This measurement confirms the results of the first experiment announced in 2021 but with more than a factor of two improvement in precision. 

This success was made possible by 181 scientists from seven countries and 33 institutions. It marks a tremendous step toward improving the ultimate precision by a factor of four by the end of the collaboration’s analysis.

Advancing the quantum information science research community 

Led by Q-NEXT, one of DOE’s National Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research CentersArgonne Quantum Foundry was launched to provide the nation’s QIS research community with high-quality, standardized semiconductor materials, tools, and data, offering end-to-end solutions for design, testing, fabrication, and integration of new materials into quantum systems. 

Q-NEXT is also leading the development of a second, complementary foundry at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory that will focus on superconducting materials. The establishment of these two QIS foundries builds on years of foundational materials research supported by basic energy sciences.

Advancing machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities

The Privacy-preserving Analysis and Learning in Secure and Distributed Enclaves and Exascale Systems, or PALISADE-X, team completed the development of new capabilities that allow domain scientists to design and run secure federated training experiments easily and leverage high performance computing resources seamlessly. For instance, these capabilities, which are referred to as Advanced Privacy Preserving Federated Learning as a Service, enabled the PALISADE-X team to create a framework that allows artificial intelligence and machine learning models to be trained on biomedical datasets from multiple health organizations while protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information. ​ 

The PALISADE-X team is also working with national and international collaborators to create a world-wide secure, federated training network for building robust, trustworthy artificial intelligence models that enable all parties to collectively benefit from sharing their respective datasets. 

Driving the discovery of new technologies and research 

Establishing the science foundations for Energy Earthshots

DOE, in collaboration with SC, announced $264 million in funding for 29 projects to drive scientific discoveries necessary to meet the ambitious goals of the DOE’s Energy Earthshot Initiative, which aims to dramatically advance clean energy technologies within the decade and meet the Administration’s climate and energy goals. 

The funding will support 11 new Energy Earthshot Research Centers led by DOE national laboratories and 18 university research teams addressing one or more of the Energy Earthshots that are focused on six different areas—including electrification of steel production, geologic carbon sequestration, floating offshore wind, and water electrolysis, among others. These efforts are helping to accelerate innovations toward more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions.

Generating hundreds of new scientific findings through ground-breaking research

Led in partnership with DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) completed 10 years of ground-breaking research for beyond lithium-ion batteries—generating over 1,000 journal papers, nearly 100 inventions, 34 patents, and three startups. JCESR also trained more than 330 students and postdoctoral researchers who now have careers in academia, industry, and DOE national laboratories.

In addition, JCESR pioneered data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning approaches for battery research that are available to the research and industrial community as part of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Materials Project online data and software

Powering SLAC’s X-ray laser through electrons and a superconducting accelerator 

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) took a significant step forward by accelerating electrons through nearly 300 superconducting accelerator cavities to provide X-rays that are 10,000 times brighter than the normal conducting source. 

This upgrade to the LCLS will provide one million high-brightness X-ray pulses per second that allow scientists to tackle challenges such as understanding how to adapt natural approaches for harvesting solar energy for efficient production of a new generation of clean fuels, inventing sustainable manufacturing methods for industry, and designing a new generation of drugs based on the ability to create molecular movies of how our bodies respond to disease.

Promising medical isotope made and processed at DOE national laboratories

Actinium-225 (Ac-225) is a high-priority radioisotope within the medical research community that is developing targeted radioisotope therapies, including therapies to treat metastasized cancers. The Ac-225 Tri-Lab Research Effort—a collaboration of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists—produced over 100 millicuries of Ac-225 in a single experimental run or batch in June 2023, breaking all previous records. 

The 100 millicurie batch achievement demonstrates that the DOE Isotope Program production sites can produce sufficient quantities of Ac-225 to support clinical trials and represents a factor of 10 increase in batch size. A key component enabling this achievement was the completion of the All-Purpose hot cells at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which allows staff to safely manipulate the radioactive material and extract increased amounts of Ac-225.

Revealing the profound properties of a simple metal alloy

Researchers from DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory measured the highest toughness material ever recorded while investigating a metallic alloy made of chromium, cobalt, and nickel (CrCoNi). The alloy is a subset of a class of metals called high entropy alloys which are made of an equal mix of each constituent element. 

According to the research results, the toughness of CrCoNi near liquid helium temperatures, which is equivalent to -424° Fahrenheit, is as high as 500 megapascals square root meters. In the same units, the toughness of the aluminum airframe in passenger airplanes is about 35, so 500 is a significant number—marking a significant research discovery.

Supporting DOE’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility endeavors

Providing funding for historically underrepresented institutions

SC launched the Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) initiative. In this first year of the initiative, the office provided $37 million awards for 52 projects to 44 institutions. Forty-three of these 44 institutions are emerging research institutions and 25 are identified as minority serving institutions.

SC also established six Climate Resilience Centers placed at historically black colleges and universities, minority serving institutions, and Hispanic-serving institutions. The Centers will establish demonstration research projects with multi-institutional collaborations to develop resilience science and capabilities with demonstration projects involving communities and stakeholders engaged in climate solutions.

Collaborating among researchers, projects, entrepreneurs, and DOE’s national laboratories

SC introduced the requirement that applicants include a Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan with all submitted proposals. PIER Plans describe the actions and strategies the applicant will incorporate to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the project. These efforts have a critical role in helping to advance SC’s commitment of supporting diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible work, research, and funding environments.

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We hope you enjoyed catching up on some of SC’s accomplishments over the past year! To keep up to date with future SC announcements, blogs, and more, sign up for our news alerts and visit SC’s website.

Also be sure to follow SC on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) as well to keep up to date with all of our advancements, as this is only a small glimpse.

Happy New Year from SC!