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NETL Researchers Receive DOE Secretary’s Honor Awards
Secretary's Honor award

A scientist advancing technology to recover rare earth elements, a team incorporating big data capabilities into a platform to accelerate discoveries, and researchers who developed a suite of sorbents to remove contaminants are NETL’s recipients of Secretary’s Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm noted the annual awards recognize outstanding achievements of individuals and teams who have gone above and beyond in fulfilling DOE’s mission and serving the nation.

“These awards are among the highest department honors a federal employee or contractor can receive,” said NETL Director Brian Anderson. “The research efforts advanced by NETL’s award recipients are finding solutions to clean our water and air, lower the environmental footprint of energy production and help communities in need of new jobs and industries. These NETL researchers are drivers of meaningful change.”

NETL’s winners of this prestigious recognition are:

Christina Lopano
  • Christina Lopano, Ph.D., research physical scientist, received the Secretary of Energy’s Excellence Award, which is bestowed on individuals who have achieved a singular accomplishment that demonstrates a high level of performance and outstanding leadership in public service.

    Lopano conducts innovative research and development (R&D) to recover rare earth elements (REEs) and critical minerals (CMs) from coal waste streams such as fly ash and acid mine drainage. She serves as a leader in the scientific community in the deployment of synchrotron technology to enhance the fundamental understanding of REEs and their chemical bonds to find better methods to optimize extraction of valuable REEs and other trace metals from rock, coal and coal combustion byproducts.

    Lopano’s research is advancing efforts to end reliance on offshore suppliers and to establish a reliable domestic source of REEs and CMs, which are needed to manufacture valuable consumer products such as computer hard drives as well as medical equipment, energy components and defense systems. Development of this research also will stimulate economic growth and recovery in regions with coal resources and a legacy of coal production so that no communities are left behind as the U.S. transitions to a clean energy future. 

  • NETL’s Energy Data eXchange (EDX) Development and Operations Team received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award. This award is bestowed upon a group or team of DOE employees and contractors who together accomplished significant achievements on DOE’s behalf.

    Developed and maintained by NETL, EDX is a data laboratory built to find, connect, curate, use and re-use data to advance fossil energy and environmental R&D. Recognizing the need to incorporate big data capabilities within DOE for the benefit of keeping up with the speed of modern research, the EDX Team worked for a decade to create EDX and update it to its current form.

    By providing a platform from which data from more than 20,000 research projects can be accessed, EDX has helped streamline R&D projects that will address some of the greatest energy, environmental and technological challenges of the 21st century.

    Members of the EDX Development and Operations Team (in photo below) are Kelly Rose, Jennifer Bauer, Chad Rowan, Mark Dehlin, Tracey Williams, Aaron Barkhurst, Vic Baker, Timothy Jones, Daniel McFarland, Catherine Hines, Joel Chittum, Joseph Obradovich, Michael Miller and Tracy Rutter

EDX Team

  • NETL’s Multi-Functional Sorbent Technology (MUST) Team also received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award.

    The team developed a suite of sorbents that offers a practical, affordable and green approach to remove selenium and other metals that contaminate water supplies across America and jeopardize the health of millions of people, wildlife and fragile ecosystems.

    MUST is the only sorbent-based technology known to NETL that effectively reduces selenium to consistently meet federal discharge limits.

    MUST is regenerable and reusable, providing a recycling advantage that reduces waste, lowers costs and makes the product accessible to a wide range of consumers and industries. NETL partners in the development of MUST products include Somerset International, which will use MUST to treat acid mine discharges, and Dow Chemical, whose plans call for using MUST in pharmaceutical and electronic production processes.

    In October, the team received R&D 100 Award recognition for its development of this revolutionary technology. Members of the team (in photo below) are McMahan Gray, Thomas Tarka, Nicholas Siefert, Walter Wilfong, Qiuming Wang, Fan Shi, Tuo Ji and Brian Kail.

EDX Team

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.