Friday, October 30, 2009

PhyloChip Make R&D 100 2008 Hall of Fame List

For 47 years, the prestigious R&D 100 Awards have identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market. Many of these have become household names, helping shape everyday life. In addition an R&D 100 Award can provide the important initial push a new product needs to compete successfully in the marketplace. The Berkeley Lab PhyloChip — an R&D 100 winner in 2008 — is a DNA microarray that quickly, comprehensively, and accurately identifies species within microbial samples from any environmental source, without any culturing required. More>

Wanted: Smart Workers for Smart Grid

Early this week, President Obama gave a speech touting the $3.4 billion in grants the federal government has awarded to local companies, utilities and cities working to improve the country’s aging and outmoded electric energy grid. The awards will support “smart grid” technology that enables easier and more effective transmission of electricity from one region to another. So, what is a smart grid and how do we build it? If you have the time, I highly recommend a presentation by Roger Levy of the Smart Grid Technical Advisory Project based at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Levy gave the presentation at last month’s meeting of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. More>

Feds: No link yet between drywall, health problems

Federal officials have not linked Chinese drywall to health problems and metal corrosion yet, despite homeowners' and politicians' criticism and initial laboratory test results released Thursday. Those tests showed the imported drywall has more sulfur and strontium, and emits higher rates of volatile sulfuric compounds than comparable North American wallboard. But officials called those tests limited, saying at least another month of study is needed before they can say whether Chinese drywall is causing homes' corroded pipes and electrical outlets, foul odors, and runny noses, sore throats and other health problems. Further testing by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the Chinese samples emitted volatile sulfur compounds at a rate 25 times faster than the North American samples. More>

Berkeley Lab receives US$7m for enhanced geothermal energy technologies

As the world’s energy needs grow ever greater, scientists are charged with finding new ways to expand clean-energy resources and tap new ones. One such resource is geothermal energy, or heat mining, in which the heat acquired by fluid circulation deep in the Earth’s crust is tapped for conversion to electricity. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been awarded $7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for four projects that seek to advance Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), which is capable of harnessing the Earth’s heat where conventional geothermal technologies cannot. The funding is part of a $400 million investment that the Department of Energy has made in geothermal energy thanks to the Recovery Act. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the East Bay Business Times.

California Engineers Launch Assembly Shop for Efficient Stoves in Darfur

The Berkeley, California-based Darfur Stoves Project (DSP), in partnership with Oxfam America and the Sudanese organization, Sustainable Action Group (SAG), has launched an assembly facility for fuel-efficient stoves in El Fasher, the capital of the Darfur region. The assembly facility is the last stop on a global technology solution supply chain that starts with testing and design in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and stops in a manufacturing facility outside of Mumbai, India before arriving, ultimately, for assembly in Darfur, Sudan. More>

NASA to Start Irradiating Monkeys

NASA is stepping up its space radiation studies with a round of experiments that for the first time in decades will use monkeys as subjects. "Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better," added Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studies radiation-induced cataracts. The radiation exposures will take place at NASA's Space Radiation Laboratory at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. More>

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cleantech Open winners get it done quick and cheap

Alphabet Energy took the energy efficiency prize. The startup, which emerged from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making thermoelectric materials that can generate electricity from waste heat. It’s not as sexy as solar but has huge potential to produce power while lowering industrial carbon emissions. “The steel and cement industries generate tremendous amounts of heat that could be used to produce electricity,” said Alphabet chief executive Matthew Scullin. Alphabet intends to disrupt the market not by making super-efficient thermoelectric materials but super-cheap devices that will lower the cost of generating electricity from waste heat. Scullin said the startup needs $2 million to $3 million to commercialize the technology. More>

Want A Job In Akron? Hand Over Your DNA

It's not unusual for employers to conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process. But the University of Akron has taken this to a surprising new level. The Ohio school now reserves the right to require any prospective faculty, staff, or contractor to submit a DNA sample, which genetic-testing experts say makes it the first employer in the nation to take such an extreme and potentially intrusive step. While genetic testing of employees remains exceedingly rare, it has happened. Until 1993, the government-run Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory conducted medical exams with surreptitious blood and urine tests for syphilis, sickle cell anemia, and pregnancy. More>

U.S. energy undersecretary tours Berkeley

Slashing the nation's use of fossil fuels by 2030 will take enormous strides in energy efficiency, and "Berkeley is leading the way" in research on new technology to make that possible, U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Kristina Johnson said in a day-long campus visit Tuesday. She met with Graham Fleming, vice chancellor for research, and Paul Alivisatos, interim director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Defense university builds China's fastest supercomputer

The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) unveiled Thursday China's fastest supercomputer, which could rival the world's most powerful computing devices. The technical data of Tianhe had been submitted to the world Top 500 list, compiled by the University of Mannheim, in Germany, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee in the United States. More>

First Chinese Drywall Test Results Released

Preliminary results from the first round of Chinese drywall tests conducted by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) have revealed that the wallboard emits volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate, and contains higher levels of sulfur and strontium, than domestically-made drywall samples. Chamber studies conducted by nationally-respected Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) show that Chinese drywall emits volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate than the U.S. made drywall. More tests and analyses are underway at LBL to determine the specific chemical compounds that are being emitted, the CPSC said. More>

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Building Black Holes

Because black holes are so outlandish, it is thought that they make matter behave in ways we don't yet understand and they may therefore hold clues to the answers of some of the toughest problems in physics. If only we could see them. Now scientists are learning to create black holes in their labs, using what are called metamaterials. These are common materials whose structures have been altered so they can make light or sound behave in bizarre ways. In 2008, Xiang Zhang at the University of California at Berkeley used metamaterials to create an invisibility cloak. Instead of reflecting light, the way most things do (which is how we see them) Zhang's materials bend light around an object, rendering it invisible. More>

Dark energy rips cosmos and agencies

A once-favoured space probe to study dark energy is struggling to get off the ground, as three agencies in the United States and Europe tussle over the details of a potential international mission. The rise and fall this year of the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) — a satellite meant to pin down the repulsive force that is accelerating the Universe's expansion — is partly due to strife between two US agencies, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), and a third potential partner, the European Space Agency (ESA). Some, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, instead proposed a ground-based dark-energy survey called BigBOSS. In presentations in June, the team claimed that BigBOSS would rival JDEM's results for an overall cost of just $85 million. More>

Hyperlens harnesses metamaterials for ultrasound, sonar

Researchers say they have harnessed metamaterials to fabricate the first acoustic hyperlens, potentially offering an eight-fold increase ultrasound and sonar image resolution. Metamaterials have previously been proposed for sonar invisibility cloaks that hide submarines by bending acoustic waves around them. Researchers at the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory say they have demonstrated that metamaterials also can be used for acoustic hyperlenses focused with sub-wavelength accuracy. More>

Chill Pill for Hot Data

One of the main sources for excessive energy usage and ergo waste is the power used by data centers to cool equipment. Most centers use too much power to cool too little equipment. A team of engineers led by those from The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and drawn from Intel Corp, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Emerson Network Power are spearheading a new system for data center cooling. More>
Nanotechnology researchers in the U.S. — including Lifeng Dong, with Missouri State University — have now discovered that platinum nanoparticles selectively grow on carbon nanotubes in accordance with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) locations. In October, 2007, Dong was awarded the Visiting Scientist Fellowship from the National Center for Electron Microscopy located at Berkeley Lawrence National Laboratory. Consequently, he has access to state-of-the-art electron microscopy facility located in Berkeley to investigate the morphology and interfacial structures of DNA/SWCNT hybrids and DNA/SWCNT/platinum nanostructures. More>

UC GETS $15.7M GRANT TO HAVE PHYSICAL SCIENTISTS JOIN WAR ON CANCER

The University of California at Berkeley will be at the forefront of a new national effort to have physical scientists and engineers join the war on cancer thanks to a $15.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The NCI announced on Monday that UC-Berkeley's Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, which is a collaboration with UC-San Francisco, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and San Francisco's Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of 12 centers to receive grants "to bring new perspectives to the mechanisms of cancer." More>

Berkeley Lab to help train apprentice electricians

Four apprentice electricians start work on Nov. 2 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of a training program set up by the lab and Alameda County. The deal means apprentices in the county can get some of their required 8,000 hours of on-the-job training at the lab. Apprentices also take 900 hours of classes at Chabot College in Hayward. More>

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Berkeley Lab Report Shows That The Installed Cost Of Solar Photovoltaic Systems In The U.S. Fell In 2008

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) released a new study on the installed costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the U.S., showing that the average cost of these systems declined by more than 30 percent from 1998 to 2008. Within the last year of this period, costs fell by more than 4 percent. More>

Cutting Carbon Emissions, One Household at a Time

What can the average person really do to combat global warming? Quite a bit, according to a new study. By taking a few well-known, readily available measures, researchers argue, Americans could cut their emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by as much as 7% over the next decade. Until now, no study has calculated the total amount of carbon emissions that would be slashed via these measures, the likelihood that people will undertake them, and how many households have already implemented each item, says human ecologist Edward Vine of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, who was not involved in the research. More>

Cal, UCSF scientists form cancer research unit

Scientists at UC Berkeley and UCSF have formed a research center to explore the physical principles that govern the origin and behavior of cancer cells, and how they multiply in humans. Physicists, chemists, engineers and mathematicians will be linked with physicians to probe the mechanisms of the disease's many aspects. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UCSF's Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center also will be included. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Daily Californian.

Secretary Chu Announcement of $151 Million in ARPA-E Grants

I'm pleased to announce the first $151 million in funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. ARPA-E was funded for the first time in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to pursue truly transformational solutions to the energy problem. I particularly want to recognize the new head of ARPA-E, Arun Majumdar, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate last week. Arun has a stellar research career in the science and engineering of energy conversion, transport, and storage, ranging from molecular and nanoscale level to large energy systems. In 2007, I was able to convince him to take on the job as Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Las Vegas Sun and the American Chronicle.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lawrence Berkeley Lab May Outsource Shuttle Bus Services

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is in negotiations with an outside company to manage and operate its shuttle bus services, a move current unionized bus drivers said is a misdirected effort to cut costs. The move follows years of concerns from the community over the safety and environmental impact of its aging bus fleet, said Jim Krupnick, chief operating officer at the lab. "The need for constant and ongoing improvements ... requires a level of transportation expertise and special management experience beyond what the lab can reasonably provide," said Krupnick in a letter to the community. More>

UC Berkeley Wants to Turn Former Gold Mine into Lab

The National Science Foundation is giving CAL nearly $30 million to help turn the former Homestake gold mine in South Dakota into the world's deepest laboratory. "We're looking to build a facility to host a variety of different experiments," said Kevin Lesko, a Berkeley Lab researcher and principle investigator for the project. Those experiments that need to be well shielded from sources of background such as cosmic rays or local radiactivity. Physics is just one of the areas of interest for the scientists who hope to set up labs at unprecedented depths. Lesko says geomicrobiologists are trying to understand the organisms that live far below the surface of the earth. More>

Mining Fool's Gold for Solar

Fool's gold, also called pyrite or iron sulfide, can be unearthed just about anywhere, from the hills of California to the villages of Yunnan Province in China. But instead of digging pyrite up, Berkeley Lab researcher Cyrus Wadia is making pure nano­particles of the compound from iron and sulfur salts in his lab. His ultimate goal is to turn fool's gold into real treasure: an inexpensive solar cell. More>

Forklifts from space! Tell your kids

The worst insult you could pay a warehouse manager is that his facility is a black hole. That implies a huge cosmic point of no return. Well if logistics can borrow scientific terminology to imply chaos on a cosmic order, why shouldn’t science be free to use a logistics glossary to bring cosmic theories down to earth? It’s been done. Introducing Sunfall, a kind of outer-space warehouse management system developed for an astrophysics project called the Nearby Supernova Factory. This project represents a new way for scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA, to discover and distribute information. More>

Berkeley researchers find new route to nano self-assembly

If the promise of nanotechnology is to be fulfilled, nanoparticles will have to be able to make something of themselves. An important advance towards this goal has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who have found a simple and yet powerfully robust way to induce nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex arrays. More>

Energy Dept. Aid for Scientists on the Edge

The federal Energy Department will make good on a pledge for a bolder technology strategy on Monday, awarding research grants for ideas like bacteria that will make gasoline, enzymes that will capture carbon dioxide to counter global warming and batteries so cheap that they will allow the use of solar power all night long. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Arun Majumdar, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to lead the agency. Dr. Majumdar said in a telephone interview that his new agency would identify challenges in the energy industry and would finance “five or ten different approaches.” More>

Arpa-E, Government's Mad Science Lab for Energy, Funds First Projects

Darpa's addiction to out-of-this world schemes has rubbed off in the best way on the government's more peaceful push for an energy revolution. Liquid metal batteries, bacteria that convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into gasoline, and artificial enzymes for carbon capture represent just a few of the 37 projects that have received $151 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's new ARPA-E agency. The New York Times reports that the U.S. Senate confirmed Arun Majumdar, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, as head of Arpa-E last Wednesday. More>

Cost of solar photovoltaic systems falls

U.S. government scientists say the installed costs of solar power systems in the nation declined by more than 30 percent between 1998 and 2008. Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied the costs of solar photovoltaic power systems and found the average cost of such systems dropped by more than 4 percent last year. The scientists said the number of such solar systems in the U.S. has been growing at a rapid rate in recent years and with that growth comes a greater need to track and understand trends in the installed cost of solar photovoltaic power systems. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in SouthCoast Today.

At Google, Chu announces grants for 'out-of-the-box' global warming projects

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced this morning at Google's Mountain View campus the first round of federal grants on high-risk but potentially high-reward ventures, such as converting bacteria into gasoline, to counter global warming. Chu chose Google's college-campus-like headquarters to fulfill a pledge by the Obama administration to back the kind of convention-breaking technology Silicon Valley — and the innovative search engine company — is known for. More>

First Acoustic Hyperlens Boosts Power of Ultrasound and Sonar

Imaging an unborn fetus and and spotting a lurking submarine could both become much easier with the world's first acoustic hyperlens. The device manipulates imaging sound waves to provide an eightfold increase in the magnification power of technologies such as ultrasound and sonar. Hyperlenses use specially engineered materials that combine metals and dielectrics, and allow scientists to image features much smaller than typical light wavelengths. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory applied this approach to capture information in evanescent sound waves, which have higher resolution and more detail but dissipate much more quickly than typical waves. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in UPI, Science Daily, and The Register.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Frugality rules among Cleantech Open finalists

California regional finalists for the Cleantech Open were announced Wednesday. Think of the Cleantech Open, which started in 2006, as a Western divisions-only March Madness for environmental techies looking for funding. Contestants initially compete against each other in three Western U.S. regions: California, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest. Since its inception, the contest has garnered more than $125 million in funding for its contestants, according to Cleantech. It's also helped companies like Cool Earth Solar, and GreenVolts get noticed. Alphabet Energy, a team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, won the energy efficiency category for a system that produces electricity from waste heat. The group, which twittered a thank you to "the academy" for its win, says its inexpensive method has the potential to offset up to 500 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. More>

New Route To Nano Self-assembly Found

If the promise of nanotechnology is to be fulfilled, nanoparticles will have to be able to make something of themselves. An important advance towards this goal has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who have found a simple and yet powerfully robust way to induce nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex arrays. More>

Mine to House Groundbreaking Research

Returning to the same gold mine shaft that he worked at over a 30-year career, William Jack Stratton, project administrator for the Sanford Underground Laboratory, now works for a scientific team that, along with UC Berkeley researchers, aims to construct the world's deepest research center ever. The planned lab, called the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory-or DUSEL-is being funded through grants from the National Science Foundation. Last month, the foundation awarded a $29 million grant for preliminary designs to the DUSEL team, which also includes members from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and other universities. More>

National Lab Shows Costs of Solar Moving Toward Grid Parity

A new report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a research arm of the Department of Energy, or DoE, shows that solar power costs dropped, during the decade 1998 to 2008, from a peak of $10.80 per watt to less than $7.50 per watt, installed. Solar energy’s ultimate aim – to reach grid parity with fossil-fuel generation (coal, oil and gas) – is getting closer, the report notes. What the report doesn’t note, and writers neglect to mention, is the cost of the installation factor as it affects solar parity. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in CleanTechnica and cooler planet.

Comets Didn't Wipe out Sabertooths, Early Americans?

Though no one disputes the frigid period, more and more researchers have been unable to confirm a 2007 finding that says a collision triggered the change, known as the Younger Dryas. The 2007 research was based on a combination of archaeological artifacts and extraterrestrial magnetic grains in soil samples found in a thin layer of sediment throughout North America. The original team, led by Richard Firestone, a nuclear chemist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, also found what he said are traces of charcoal and microscopic bits of carbon from intense fires ignited by the collision. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in Cosmos.

Argonne scientist named top young innovator

Elena Shevchenko spends her days mixing and matching nanoparticles that measure one billionth of a meter. To the average person, research involving such infinitesimal levels can't get much more abstract. But the work Shevchenko is doing at Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont is providing the building blocks for a field with still unforeseen capabilities in medicine, electronics and energy. PAUL ALIVISATOS, [UC BERKELEY PROFESSOR and] interim director of the Berkeley laboratory, in turn had high praise for Shevchenko, who he said is "one of the top scientists worldwide in the synthesis of colloidal nanocrystals and nanocrystal superlattices." More>

Molecules aid nanoparticle assembly

Researchers in the US claim to have found a simple and robust way to induce nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex arrays. The team, from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that by adding specific types of small molecules to mixtures of nanoparticles and polymers, they could direct the self-assembly of the nanoparticles into arrays of one, two and three dimensions with no additional chemical modification. The leader of this most recent project, TING XU, A POLYMER SCIENTIST FROM BERKELEY UNIVERSITY, claims a better approach is to use block copolymers - long sequences or blocks of one type of monomer molecule bound to blocks of another type of monomer molecule. More>

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Despite Cuts, Research Keeps UC Berkeley in Public Eye

Professors and researchers from UC Berkeley are constantly in the media spotlight showing off new developments in everything from lasers to invisibility cloaks. But the $6.4 million budget cuts to the campus research office have not only threatened the ability of the campus to be a top educational university, but also its ability to facilitate the research projects integral to the campus's identity. Faculty, combined with a close relationship with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, supports the campus as a research institution, said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. More>

The hidden costs of energy production—US$120bn in 2005

A report just released by the National Academies of Science estimates the “hidden” costs of energy production and use. These costs, which include human health effects, physical damages to buildings and other structures, and reduction in grain crop harvests caused by air pollution are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them. Thomas McKone, a senior scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), and Adjunct Professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, was one of 18 distinguished experts in public health, economics, and energy science who wrote the report. More>

Subsidies and a glut of panels; in some places, solar's never been cheaper

The government has plowed so much cash into the solar industry that it's effectively pulled the luxury tag off of home solar systems. Combined with local incentives, buyers can save up to 90 percent on a system, whether it's for a single-family home or a 75-unit condo in the city. Solar power has been getting cheaper for years. Panel prices declined 31 percent from 1998 to 2008 because of lower manufacturing and installation costs and state and local subsidies, according to a study released Wednesday by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But it still took a ramp up in federal incentives this year to bring the cost within many people's reach. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in EnergyEfficiency News, smartplanet, Power Engineering, PV-tech.org, and Cnet News.

Energy Department Appeals Defeat in Computer Lab Lawsuit

The battle over the supercomputing lab planned for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shifted to a new venue Friday: the U.S. Court of Appeals. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) filed an appeal from the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, who upheld the claims of Berkeley activists charging that the UC Board of Regents had erroneously approved the $133 million building project without conducting a federal environmental review. More>

Senate Confirms Nominees for Interior, DOE

Filling some of the remaining holes in the Obama administration's energy and environmental team, the Senate yesterday confirmed one Interior and two Energy department nominees. The Senate unanimously approved Arun Majumdar to direct the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Majumdar, who has been associate laboratory director for energy and environmental sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will head ARPA-E, a new Energy Department agency dedicated to developing breakthrough technologies. More>

Researchers find new route to nanotechnology self-assembly

If the promise of nanotechnology is to be fulfilled, nanoparticles will have to be able to make something of themselves. An important advance towards this goal has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who have found a simple and yet powerfully robust way to induce nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex arrays. More>

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crashing the size barrier

Berkeley Lab, about an hour north of SLAC, has no big linac. But it does have lasers—very, very powerful lasers. Researchers there are working on a complementary technique called laser wakefield acceleration. "Right now, we have three lasers: Godzilla, TREX, and Chihuahua," says project leader Wim Leemans, who heads Berkeley Lab's Laser Optics and Accelerator Systems Integrated Studies program. "Everyone seems to have very macho names for their lasers, so that last one is a bit of a joke." Jokes aside, the lasers are no weaklings. The newest one, TREX, operates at 50 trillion watts for a sliver of a second. For comparison, the average stroke of lightning transfers about one trillion watts of power at its peak. More>

The Great Fume Hood Debate

For decades the assumption was that a safer fume hood was one with high air flow. But air flow is expensive, and vendors and researchers are designing ways to save money while continuing to protect the operator. In 2007, at the behest of Pacific Gas & Electric utility, fume hood experts Dale Sartor of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Rishabh Kasliwal of Cogent Energy Inc. conducted a study that quantified potential energy savings from revised usage strategies in two different California laboratories that relied on fume hoods. More>

New Technique Could Allow MRI to Do Ultra-Sensitive Molecular Imaging Studies

In the race to make MRI technology suitable for molecular imaging studies, one lab gets a step closer thanks to a technique involving the reconstruction of MR images using captured xenon gas.Research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests the technique, called Hyper-SAGE, could amplify signals from tiny molecular detectors enough so MRI could pick up the faint biomarkers that indicate cancer or other clinically interesting targets. Hyper-SAGE depends on a complicated technique called remote detection, developed in MRI-pioneer Alexander Pines' lab in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, where these studies took place. More>

New PV Cost Study That Shows Government Policies Reduce Installed Costs, Expand U.S. Solar Market

Today researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab released "Tracking the Sun II: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2008." The new report found that the average cost of going solar in the U.S. declined by more than 30 percent from 1998 to 2008, a trend that can be largely attributed to the success of market-building policies at the state and local level. Findings also show that, after a three-year plateau, costs decreased by 3.6 percent from 2007 to 2008, marking a pivotal year for the American solar industry. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Solar Industry, bnet, greentechsolar, getsolar.com and Nanotechnology News.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Driving While Distracted

Defensive driving is helpful if you can give the distracted drivers plenty of space. But in the fray of rush-hour interstates, giving one driver space just puts you closer to another distracted driver. The National Highway Traffic Administration reported that in 2008, 5,870 people died and an estimated 515,000 people were injured in car wrecks that had at least one form of driver distraction noted in the police report. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California compiled tips for safe driving, including “do your personal grooming at home,” and “review maps before hitting the road.” And, amazingly: “Keep your eyes on the road.” More>