Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rare glassy metal discovered in battery performance research

New research describes the evolution of nanostructural lithium atoms (blue) depositing onto an electrode (yellow) during the battery charging operation. 
Materials scientists studying recharging fundamentals say they have made an astonishing discovery that could open the door to better batteries, faster catalysts and other materials science leaps.

Scientists from Idaho National Laboratory and University of California San Diego scrutinized the earliest stages of lithium recharging and learned that slow, low-energy charging causes electrodes to collect atoms in a disorganized way that improves charging behavior. This non-crystalline “glassy” lithium had never been observed, and creating such amorphous metals has traditionally been extremely difficult.

The findings suggest strategies for fine-tuning recharging approaches to boost battery life and — more intriguingly — for making glassy metals for other applications. The study appeared online this week in Nature Materials.

Charging knowns, unknowns


Lithium metal is a preferred anode for high-energy rechargeable batteries. Yet the recharging process (depositing lithium atoms onto the anode surface) is not well understood at the atomic level. The way lithium atoms deposit onto the anode can vary from one recharge cycle to the next, leading to erratic recharging and reduced battery life.

The INL/UCSD team wondered whether recharging patterns were influenced by the earliest congregation of the first few atoms, a process known as nucleation. “That initial nucleation may affect your battery performance, safety and reliability,” said Gorakh Pawar, an INL staff scientist and one of the paper’s two lead authors.

Watching lithium embryos form


The researchers combined images and analyses from a powerful electron microscope with liquid-nitrogen cooling and computer modeling. The cryo-state electron microscopy allowed them to see the creation of lithium metal “embryos,” and the computer simulations helped explain what they saw.
In particular, they discovered that certain conditions created a less structured form of lithium that was amorphous (like glass) rather than crystalline (like diamond).

“The power of cryogenic imaging to discover new phenomena in materials science is showcased in this work,” said Shirley Meng, who led UC San Diego’s pioneering cryo-microscopy work. The imaging and spectroscopic data are often convoluted, she said. “True teamwork enabled us to interpret the experimental data with confidence because the computational modeling helped decipher the complexity.”

A glassy surprise


Pure amorphous elemental metals had never been observed before now. They are extremely difficult to produce, so metal mixtures (alloys) are typically required to achieve a “glassy” configuration, which imparts powerful material properties.

During recharging, glassy lithium embryos were more likely to remain amorphous throughout growth. While studying what conditions favored glassy nucleation, the team was surprised again.
“We can make amorphous metal in very mild conditions at a very slow charging rate,” said Boryann Liaw, an INL directorate fellow and INL lead on the work. “It’s quite surprising.”

That outcome was counterintuitive because experts assumed that slow deposition rates would allow the atoms to find their way into an ordered, crystalline lithium. Yet modeling work explained how reaction kinetics drive the glassy formation. The team confirmed those findings by creating glassy forms of four more reactive metals that are attractive for battery applications.  

What’s next?

The research results could help meet the goals of the Battery500 consortium, a Department of Energy initiative that funded the research. The consortium aims to develop commercially viable electric vehicle batteries with a cell level specific energy of 500 Wh/kg. Plus, this new understanding could lead to more effective metal catalysts, stronger metal coatings and other applications that could benefit from glassy metals. Read more about this research: https://inl.gov/article/discovery-of-rare-glassy-metal/

Commercial real estate transactions | 07.27.2020

Commercial real estate transactions reported July 27 by TOK Commercial:
  • The Radley Group leased 1,000 square feet of office space located at 2285 E. 25th Street in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Helix Auto, LLC leased 3,865 square feet of retail space located at 555 N. Yellowstone in Idaho Falls. Brent Wilson and Brian Wilson of TOK Commercial represented the landlord. Shane Murphy of Venture One Properties represented the tenant.
  • Rebound Financial renewed their 525 square feet of office space located at 626 S. Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Tolsma USA leased 1,000 square feet of office space in the Colonial Plaza, located at 1276 S. Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.

Friday, July 24, 2020

INL seeks partners in lunar power system development

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, is seeking information from leaders in the nuclear and space industries to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power system that can be operated on the moon.

The request for information can be viewed here. Responses are sought by Sept. 8. After receiving responses, INL will issue a request for proposal.

Sponsored by NASA in collaboration with DOE and INL, the request for information seeks partnership on technologies and approaches to test and validate an FSP design that can be built and deployed on the moon, and used for subsequent missions, such as to Mars.

“Idaho National Laboratory has a central role in emphasizing the United States’ global leadership in nuclear innovation, with the anticipated demonstration of advanced reactors on the INL Site,” said Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate.

“The prospect of deploying an advanced reactor to the lunar surface is as exciting as it is challenging, and partnering with the most forward-thinking companies in the private sector and national laboratory system will help us get there.”

For more information on the RFI, interested parties may contact Aaron Weston at aaron.weston@inl.gov.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Idahoan Foods offering 10,000 free face coverings today

Idahoan Foods has joined forces with the city of Idaho Falls to donate and distribute thousands of cloth face coverings and packaged potatoes to the local community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drew Facer, CEO of Idahoan Foods, accepted the invitation from Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot to take part in the CEO Pay it Forward Challenge. CEO Pay It Forward began in Boise and is aimed at assisting non-profit organizations during the COVID crisis. When he heard of VanderSloot’s challenge, Facer contacted Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and they devised a plan that would reach deep into the community.

“Several days ago, I had read an article regarding Mayor Casper and the city’s deliberation concerning the use of face coverings,” Facer said. “Knowing that face coverings are now being required in many public settings, we worked together on a plan to donate 10,000 face masks throughout the community. Because Idahoan Foods is a critical infrastructure company, we have the ability to source large quantities of personal protective equipment, making this possible. Our city is well deserving and provides a great service to our community, and working with our local officials seemed to be a natural fit.”

The company is donating 10,000 anti-microbial, cloth face coverings to city residents. Distribution is today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the company’s headquarters, located at 900 Pier View Drive in Snake River Landing, and again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., or while supplies last. Undistributed masks will be donated to schools and public offices.

In addition to the face coverings, Idahoan is also donating several thousand packages of their signature “Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes” to residents who come pick up masks. Both the face coverings and potatoes will be distributed on a “first-come, first-served” basis and will be given out with a limit of five per resident. Idahoan is making a further donation of over 4,500 pouches of potatoes to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket. Idahoan Foods' total contribution amounts to just over $37,000.

 “Although Idahoan is an international name in the food production industry, it also happens to be one of our great local community business partners,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, to have a business step up to provide face coverings and product to so many of our residents is inspiring. A donation like this is just a remarkable thing and we are grateful for their generosity.”

The one-size-fits-all cloth face coverings are non-certified but are washable and said to retain their antimicrobial properties for up to three washings, according to Idahoan, and can continue to be used as a regular face covering with normal washing and care.

To keep the CEO Pay it Forward Challenge alive, Facer further stated, “It is my privilege to challenge two people to continue this great effort. The first is Clint Tavenner, the managing partner of Cooper Norman and the second is Chet Taylor, CEO of EVO Automation. I know both of these men well and believe they will make a significant impact as they Pay it Forward. We love the fact that our company is built within communities that serve each other.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Making Golf a Year-round Thing | Bob Gretz, Bob's Indoor Golf

Bob Gretz and his children enjoying
a nice day in eastern Idaho.
When Bob Gretz's wife informed him that they were moving from Washington, D.C., to Idaho Falls to be closer to family, he immediately investigated what eastern Idaho would offer him in the way of golfing.

Learning that there were only about seven months of the year in which golfing was feasible he started to panic, wondering what he'd do without his daily golfing “fix.” This led to him to investigate the availability of indoor golf facilities, and he found the area lacking.

“One of the reasons it's so cool is because of this market. I started looking at some numbers and there are 6,000 regular golfers in Idaho Falls, and the number of rounds they put in the seven-month season is really big. I figured there had to be a need to put in an indoor golf facility,” he said.

Gretz's prior career was in corporate America, in the waste management business. He admits he didn't see himself doing this at this point in his life. “It's fun,” he said. “I have really gotten more people who are saying thanks for doing this instead of 'Why are you doing this?' The people are fun,” he said.

The facility is for anyone, novice to expert. “The worst part about public golf is the constant feeling of someone behind you, staring you down. It's stressful,” he said. "This facility allows new learners to practice and get comfortable with the game before getting on the real course. It also allows experts to come and perfect their game."

Opening the business was a leap of faith, he said. Although he didn't have financing secured he went ahead and signed a lease on the space. He was able to find a bank that supported his vision. “Sink or swim,” he said.

Gretz is grateful that he has had a lot of family and friends who have pitched in and helped, from his wife painting the wall murals to his daughter taking care of the books and his son-in-law coming from Colorado to put together the putting green.

“The first winter was better than we anticipated," he said. By mid-February we were seven days a week, pushing 12 hours. And then COVID hit,” he said. “We are doing a day at a time things right now.”

He believes that that the pandemic has really pushed people to buy local. He's seen individuals really supporting local business.

The facility not only houses golf. The East Idaho Cornhole Association uses the space for cornhole practice and events. It is also a place where you can bring your business associates and do team building events with the simulators or putting practice. There is a conference room available, too.

There were unanticipated challenges starting the business. Gretz said there were unanticipated price points he bumped up against, as well as challenges with his beer and wine license. The advantage of it just being him running the business means he's been able to make adjustments quickly.

Gretz has also faced physical challenges. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago. “I don't let it be a barrier," he said. "When the end of the day comes around I'm pretty worn out. I have to pace myself. Everyone here knows it and understands it. This is one of the most unbiased populations I've ever lived in. They watch out for me. It's nice. It's a pain in the butt dealing with any kind of handicap, but it gives you a look into how other people have to live. There are people worse off than you.”

Although the corporate world is steady, Bob wishes he would have left it long ago and started a business. He believes in being involved in the business and being present for the customers to see him. His vision for the business is to continue to grow his clientele and be here for those starved for golf all year round. 


For more information on Bob's Indoor Golf go to their website at https://www.bobsindoorgolf.com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/bobsindoorgolf/.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Idaho Falls-based business receives DOE Small Business of the Year Award

The Marcom team, CEO Marcella Medor second from left.
MarCom, LLC, a small business headquartered in Idaho Falls, has won the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Small Business of the Year Award for Fiscal Year 2019.

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nominated MarCom for this award, in large part due to their  support of INL’s recent award-winning project, the Remote-Handled Low-Level Waste (RHLLW) Disposal Facility. This facility enables safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

MarCom delivered technical and software development support for RHLLW, allowing productivity and efficiency gains to support the start of operations and the recovery from a six-month construction delay due to inclement weather and equipment failures. With the support of the MarCom team, the facility was completed for $4.7 million less than the baseline cost estimate and six months ahead of schedule, despite the earlier delays.

“The software MarCom built and all the work they did for RHLLW was fantastic,” said Sadie Butler, an INL project manager on the RHLLW team. “They are a great resource, and we are lucky to have them supporting us here at the lab.”

RHLLW is just one of many projects where MarCom has supported INL and other DOE labs. Founded in 2003 by Marcella Medor, MarCom is a Small Business Administration-certified, Native American-owned and woman-owned business with offices in Idaho Falls, Butte, Montana, and Fort Collins, Colorado. They supply management, administrative, engineering, nuclear operations and health-and-safety services to DOE sites around the nation, with 90% of their work coming from INL.

“Being a successful small business is all about your people,” Medor said. “The people that work with you make the difference between a business that can flourish and one that stays stagnant. Here at MarCom, we have some truly excellent staff.”

“MarCom definitely deserves this award,” said Stacey Francis, INL’s Small Business Program manager. “They have always been able to provide unique services to the lab, with their critical staff augmentation support and strong quality assurance background.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

CAES unveils new fellowship, names inaugural fellow

Veronika Vashnik
The Center for Advanced Energy Studies has announced its first Idaho Science and Technology Policy/CAES fellow. The fellowship is one of two offered through the newly launched Idaho Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program, a collaborative effort among three CAES entities: University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University.

Idaho Science and Technology Policy fellows spend a year embedded in an Idaho state government agency, developing and implementing solutions that address challenges in areas such as energy, cybersecurity, water, public health, and economic development. The program is modeled on the national American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science & Technology Policy Fellowship Program, initiated to bring scientists and engineers into a policy context where their technical knowledge and networks can inform people in government, a CAES news release said.

Sarah Hendricks
UI’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research leads the program. Nearly $300,000 was raised to launch the 2020 Idaho Science and Technology Policy Fellowship cohort.

The 2020 Idaho Science and Technology Policy fellows are:

Veronika Vazhnik, Ph.D., was selected as the inaugural ISTP/CAES Fellow.  She recently completed her doctorate in BioRenewable Systems with a minor in Operations Research at Penn State University. At INL, she has been leading Sustainability engagement programs for employees and the community. In energy research, her interests are in energy system sustainability assessment, and the technology and policy for a bio-based economy. A native of Belarus, she completed her bachelor's degree from the University of Freiburg, Germany, focusing on Earth and Environmental Sciences, with an exchange year in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hong Kong. She will begin her fellowship in August.

Sarah Hendricks, Ph.D., has been named an ISTP Fellow. She earned her doctorate in bioinformatics and computation biology at the University of Idaho, her master's in ecology and systematic biology at San Francisco State University, and her bachelor's in biological sciences and women’s and gender studies at DePaul University. In 2019, she participated in a San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research program analyzing white rhino genomes in an effort to keep the species from going extinct. Hendricks developed an interest in species conservation as an undergraduate at DePaul University while working on butterfly genetics. This interest continued and eventually lead her to work on the Channel Islands off the coast of California where she learned about the gray foxes of these islands.Presently, she is a postdoctoral bioinformatics researcher at the University of Idaho.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Your Local Milkman | Alan Reed, Reed's Dairy

Alan Reed
The Reed's Dairy legacy started with farming and worked its way to adding the dairy through three generations. Alan Reed's uncle added milk cows to their operation and sold milk to the public in the 1950s. In 1962, they added their own processing equipment and started packaging it themselves. They also had a home delivery service at that time. “We packaged our milk and delivered it to the door,” he said.

Reed's Dairy has always been in milk delivery. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many dairys were having to dump their milk. Reed's Dairy didn't experience the same impact, and that was primarily due to their home delivery service. Already having that infrastructure in place, they were able to increase their home delivery customers. “We were gathering new customers quickly. We have great people and they stepped up to meet the need and put in a lot of hours,” he said. They have maintained about two-thirds of the customers who signed up for home delivery during the start of the pandemic.

In the beginning, Reed didn't see himself as being a milkman. “I was raised on the farming side and I didn't really do much with the cows,” he said. He had attended Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) and studied accounting. His father asked him to help his uncle with the dairy side and be involved in running the business. When spring came and he wanted to go back to farming, his father asked him to stay and help in the dairy. “When the brothers divided their operation up, I stayed on the dairy side,” he said.

Eventually taking over operations and positioning himself as the fourth generation of the legacy, Reed felt like it made sense to expand and use their cream to make ice cream. The famous ice cream is Reed's Dairy's own special recipe, and he even attended special training to learn how to make ice cream to perfect the Reed's formula. “That's been a lifesaver for Reed's Dairy -- to have that ice cream business -- because it has become really popular,” he said.

Another favorite product that people come miles for is Reed's Dairy chocolate milk. “We have a lot of out-of-state license plates in our parking lot during the summer, and I see them packing out multiple bottles of chocolate milk and putting it in their cooler,” he said. Reed's Dairy has multiple specialty milk flavors that are produced and sold at various times during the year.

Around 1986, Reed added cheese to their line of products. That included cheese curds. Again, he went back for special training. “Most of our cheese is sold as fresh cheese curds,” he said. “It's very popular.” Wanting to improve his cheese sales he also added grilled cheese sandwiches, to complement the ice cream that was sold to customers at their stores.

Reed's Dairy has continued to grow. They opened a store in Ammon around 6 1/2 years ago, and are also in Boise, with two store locations and robust home delivery. Alan's son Sam has joined the business, and has been the catalyst for opening the stores in Boise.

Family is very important to Reed and he feels a deep responsibility to honor the name. “I've grown up with a really deep commitment to family,” he said.

Reed prides himself on the quality of Reed's Dairy products. “I would rather make the best than just make something,” he said. He feels his business is successful due to integrity built over the years. “Your brand is your promise to your customer. If you break that promise you have no brand. Understand your brand and fulfill it every day,” he said.

When feelings of doubt enter his mind, his approach is to plow forward -- with caution. “I let it evolve, if it naturally comes around and everything falls into place, we move ahead. If it easily comes together it's probably going to be OK,” he said. He said his biggest risk was expanding to Boise, because it was hard to be so far away and he believes in a very hands-on approach. But risks are worth taking if you know you have a strong team.


For more information on Reed's Dairy or to set up home delivery, visit their site at https://reedsdairy.com/. You can also find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ReedsDairy/.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Commercial real estate transactions | Idaho Falls, Ammon

TOK Commercial reports the following real estate transactions in Idaho Falls and Ammon for the last two weeks of June 2020:
  • Craig Counseling leased 125 square feet of office space located at 1070 Riverwalk Drive in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Summit Spine and Sport Chiropractic, PLLC leased 2,737 square feet of office space located at 1515 Ashment Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Firehouse Subs leased 1,900 square feet of retail space in Sandcreek Commons, located at 3417 S. 25th E. in Ammon. Brent Wilson and Brian Wilson of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
  • Gaches Family Flooring leased 2,100 square feet of retail space located at 1352 Lincoln Rd. in Idaho Falls.  Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial represented the landlord. Darren Puetz of High Desert Commercial represented the tenant.
  • Colling Pest Solutions, LLC leased 6,555 square feet of retail space at 1615 N. Woodruff Ave. in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial represented the landlord. Darren Puetz of SVN High Desert Commercial represented the tenant.
  • Thomsen Holman Wheiler, PLLC leased 3,527 square feet of office space in Taylor Crossing, located at 1000 Riverwalk Drive in Idaho Falls. Brent Wilson and Brian Wilson of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.