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APPLIED | WINTER 2019 | SAVANNAH RIVER NATIONAL LABORATORY | 5




             Dr. Douglas Hunter honored with prestigious Orth Award



             SRNL Advisory Scientist Dr.                         As an advisory scientist, he studies the physical-chemical
             Douglas Hunter has been named                       mechanisms or signatures of non-reactive gases for detection in
             the 2018 recipient of the Donald                    the atmosphere, particularity from nuclear events. Together with
             Orth Lifetime Achievement                           SRNL engineers and meteorologists, Dr. Hunter interprets and
             Award for being a technical                         analyzes measurements of noble gases collected by researchers.
             leader in improving the detection                   “This award speaks directly to the quality of work that Doug Hunter
             capabilities for low levels of noble                performs,” said Dr. Vahid Majidi, SRNS Executive Vice President
             gases in the atmosphere.                            and SRNL Director. “He’s dedicated to innovation and has made a
             The Orth Award is the highest                       significant impact to the mission work we do at SRNL.”
             honor given by the laboratory                       Most notably, Dr. Hunter has successfully transformed a low-key
             for technical excellence and                        program into a multimillion dollar research and development
             leadership. Established in 1993,                    program that has established itself as the leader in signatory
             the award was named for the                         noble gas collection and detection. He has been recognized by
             late Dr. Donald Orth, who retired   Dr. Douglas Hunter  many federal entities including the National Nuclear Security
             from SRNL in 1992 after a                           Administration and the Department of Defense.
             distinguished 41-year career. The award was established to
             honor an individual “who by character and leadership best   Hunter said that the Don Orth Award is an embodiment of the
             exemplifies Dr. Orth’s character and contributions.”   excellence of the SRNL research community.
             Dr. Hunter was recognized for consistently translating state-of-  “It is when you look at past recipients, and you begin to realize
             the-art research into deployable engineering solutions critical   the common thread between past recipients,” said Hunter. “They
             to the nation’s security needs during his distinguished 17-year   all represent the very fabric of what makes the lab a unique and
             career at the lab.                                  special world class institution. This award is for the entire team
                                                                 of people that I have the pleasure to work with, not just myself.”



        SRNL demonstrates electrochemical techniques for monitoring microbial growth


        SRNL, in collaboration with Clemson University, the University of South   team has
        Carolina, and Savannah River Consulting, LLC, has demonstrated the   demonstrated   R1  R2
        use of electrochemical techniques to monitor the growth status and   a multi-faceted,   CPE1
        energy levels of microorganisms used in biotechnology industries. As   automated   R3  CPE1
        published in a recent Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Express   approach to
        article, the techniques monitor the microbes in real time, improving   monitor the
        the cost-effectiveness of the results compared to conventional   energy levels of microbes.
        sampling and analysis.
                                                                One part of the technology provides an alert when cellular energy levels
        Microorganisms are used in many industrial applications, including   decrease. With electrodes poised at a specific reducing potential,
        production of fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and foods (e.g.,   microbes in the culture can pull energy into their cells in the form of
        ethanol, acetate, biodegradable plastics, penicillin, and yogurt).   electrons from the electrodes held adjacent to the culture. The small
        Like all organisms, microorganisms use food sources such as   portion of the culture that contacts the electrodes serves as an early
        sugars, proteins, and lipids to obtain organic carbon for growth as   warning system for sub-optimal conditions. The energy taken into the
        well as energy from electrons released during break-down of food   microbes from the electrodes shows up on a computer screen as an
        sources. A decline in the vigor of a microbial culture could be caused   increase in electrical current. Because this electrochemical activity can
        by a diminishing food source, presence of a growth inhibitor, or   be monitored as it happens, this technique can be used to maintain the
        contamination from another culture. To avoid further decline, any such   right conditions for optimal microbial behavior.
        issue needs to be addressed promptly.
                                                                The other portion of the technology uses electrochemical impedance
        To ensure the microbes are performing optimally, their cell numbers   to monitor the culture throughout the growth cycle. In this way the
        and/or chemical byproducts must be monitored. The conventional   microbial culture can be defined with an equivalent electrical circuit. The
        approach is to take periodic samples from microbial cultures to analyze   equivalent circuit can then be used to fit impedance data and provide
        the growth status of the cells. Hands-on sampling and analysis are time   valuable information about the culture that relates to the physiological
        consuming, labor intensive, and costly, which may allow problems to   status of the culture. This approach offers significant potential for
        persist for hours before they are detected. This SRNL-led research   decreasing analytical costs as well as automating bioprocesses.
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