Friday, February 26, 2010

Storm Clouds That Threatened Arizona’s Solar Industry Pass

A tempest in Arizona over proposed legislation that some feared could set back the state's growing solar industry has quietly ended. A 2009 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that in Arizona, the installed cost of solar electricity in 2008 for systems under 10 kilowatts of peak rated capacity was the lowest in the United States, averaging $7.40 per watt. A typical residential system has a capacity of about 5 kilowatts. More>

New Transmission Investment Would Reduce Costs of Meeting Hypothetical 33% Renewable Energy Target in the West

A new analysis by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) for the Western Governor’s Association explores renewable resource decisions in the West. The report’s “sensitivity analysis” examines how decisions about which renewable sources are chosen, and how transmission lines are expanded, are affected by changes in policies and other uncertainties. More>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Much-Touted Bloom Fuel Cell Still Too Spendy

A Silicon Valley startup that’s taken more than $400 million in venture funding finally unveiled its product today in a star-studded extravaganza. In fact, a long-term R&D collaboration between the Department of Energy and multiple solid-oxide fuel-cell manufacturers, the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance, estimates that fuel cells will need to cost $700 per kilowatt of peak capacity to compete unsubsidized with the grid. Bloom’s product costs 10 times that. “The cost is about an order of magnitude higher than it needs to be, to be truly competitive,” said Michael Tucker, a fuel cell scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Road Transportation Emerges as Key Driver of Warming in New Analysis from NASA

For decades, climatologists have studied the gases and particles that have potential to alter Earth's climate. They have discovered and described certain airborne chemicals that can trap incoming sunlight and warm the climate, while others cool the planet by blocking the Sun's rays. The team also considered how emissions from each part of the economy can impact clouds, which have an indirect effect on climate, explained Surabi Menon, a coauthor of the paper and scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. More>

Copernicum is the Newest Element on the Block

Soon after, Ninov was caught falsifying data while working on a project that was trying to find element 118 in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California. The periodic table is about to get something new -- "Copernicum". Element 112 (copernicum), originally discovered in 1996 by a group led by Sigurd Hofmann at the Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, will be added to official periodic tables in the next couple weeks after official recognition by the The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. More>

US scientists begin to unravel the mystery of 9p21

New research has shed some light on a hitherto-unsolved genetic mystery: how a common variation on chromosome 9p21—first discovered almost three years ago and known to be the strongest genomic link to premature coronary artery disease (CAD) so far—might exert its effects [1]. Dr Axel Visel (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA) and colleagues report their findings, published online February 21, 2010, in Nature. Senior author of the paper, Dr Len Pennacchio (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), stressed to heartwire, however, that the research was performed in mice and more work will be needed to see whether their discovery translates into humans. More>

Biofuel Options Expand as Science Taps New Sources

Among the promising clean energy alternatives is an algae photo-bioreactor that grows algae in municipal wastewater to produce biofuel. Other projects are concentrating on using microbes and enzymes to help extract biofuels from biomass. A collaboration led by DOE's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Researchers from JEBI and biofuels developer LS9 engineered a strain of Escherichia coli bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel, alcohols, and waxes directly from simple sugars. More>

Alzheimer’s Disease — How Long Before We Find a Cure?

Today more than 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and 10 million caregivers will attend to them during the coming year. If we do not find a way of preventing this disease, there will be about 8 million cases by 2030 and as many as 16 million in 2050. Alzheimer’s is economically as well as emotionally burdensome: direct and indirect costs of the disease amount to over $100 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Aging. Now, as a new decade gets under way, the story appears to be more complicated than many anticipated. Alzheimer’s may turn out to be an illness that has multiple, interrelated molecular causes. Still, it’s likely that the amyloid cascade plays an important role in the disease, and many scientists are trying to understand it. Up on the hill, at the Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Bing Jap and his colleagues have been studying proteins that are active within cell membranes, including the gamma secretase enzyme mentioned above. More>

How Bloom Energy beats the competition

Analysts were left scratching their heads on 24 February after the Sunnyvale, California company Bloom Energy unveiled its “Bloom Boxes” to great media fanfare at Ebay’s headquarters, and revealed a list of beta-testing clients that includes Google, Wal-Mart and Coca Cola. After 8 years of development, its cells don’t seem to be significantly cheaper than competitors. Bloom provides a 100kW box for $800,000 – that is, $8,000 per kW. And that is on a par with the other players, Lux Research analyst John Kluza tells me. Fuel cell scientist Michael Tucker, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, tells Wired reporter Alexis Madrigal that this cost “is about an order of magnitude higher than it needs to be, to be truly competitive [with the US electricity grid].” More>
Some studies have found burying carbon to be a suggested solution to the problem of too much carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, which many scientists say has lead to a pattern of global warming. A paper by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Implications of surface seepage on the effectiveness of geologic storage of carbon dioxide as a climate change mitigation strategy,” found that method as a possibility. “Geologic sequestration can be an effective method to ease the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy over the next several centuries, even if some small amounts of CO2 seep from storage reservoirs back into the atmosphere,” Robert Hepple and Sally Benson wrote in the conclusion of a study on burying carbon dioxide. More>

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pull The Plug!: A new blog called This Week In Batteries, run by Venkat Srinivasan, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) recently launched and is providing fascinating reading. More>

Space Is Getting Bigger, and It's Getting Bigger Faster

Few scientists can say their work forever changed how we see the universe. Saul Perlmutter is one of them, for his central role in the 1998 discovery of dark energy. That invisible energy, which accounts for a whopping 73 percent of everything in the cosmos, is stretching the fabric of space and could cause a runaway expansion of the universe. Through his groundbreaking research, the then 38-year-old physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California basically turned our model of the universe on its head. More>

Junk DNA Tied to Heart Diseases

According to a new scientific study by Len Pennacchio of Berkeley Lab, it would appear that some portion of the human junk DNA has the ability to promote the development of some forms of heart disease. The so-called “junk” DNA is in fact the 98 percent of our genetic material that is not directly responsible for coding proteins. When it was first discovered, researchers had no idea what it was useful for, but over the past few years scientific progress has begun unraveling its mysteries. The latest finding is a part of these ongoing efforts. Researchers found that removing a non-coding region of the junk DNA promotes the narrowing of arteries in mice models, thus paving the way for a host of heart diseases, Nature News reports. More>
Now scientists from MIT -- obviously not content with searching for life within our own cosmos -- have shown that alternate universes could nurture life even if the fundamental nature of these universes is totally different from our own. In complementary research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, scientists didn't ponder the mass of quarks, but totally removed one of the four fundamental forces of our universe instead. Then they allowed the other forces to compensate. In this case, the weak force (the mechanism that allows protons to change to neutrons and vice versa) was removed and the strong force, electromagnetic force and gravitational force were all tweaked to compensate. It appeared to work, allowing stable elements to form. More>

NASA calls for reflective roofs to cool towns

Increasing the reflectivity of roofs and pavements could result in significant cooling, buying time for carbon-cutting initiatives that would slow global warming in the longer term. This is the conclusion of research carried out by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It has long been known that dark roofs and asphalt road and pavement surfaces absorb the sun's heat during daylight hours, acting like a huge storage heater. When combined with the additional warmth from energy using and heating, this creates what's known as the urban heat island effect. More>

Bloom Energy unveils its 'Bloom Box' fuel cell

Bloom Energy, a Sunnyvale startup that has been working for years on a fuel cell that would allow homes and businesses to generate their own electricity, officially unveiled its so-called Bloom Box at a highly orchestrated media event Wednesday morning. Fuel cells use hydrogen, natural gas, methane or other fuels to produce electricity through an electrochemical process with a fraction of the emissions of a typical power plant. But cost is still a significant barrier. "Because they operate at high temperatures, they can accept other fuels like natural gas and methane, and that's an enormous advantage," said Michael Tucker of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "The disadvantage is that they can shatter as they are heating or cooling." More>

NSF builds science and engineering capacity in communities around the United States

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced five new Science and Technology Center (STC) awards as a result of a recent, merit-based competition.

Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI)

Katrina J. Edwards from the University of Southern California in partnership with faculty members at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of California (UC)-Santa Cruz, University of Hawaii, Pacific Northwest National Labs, University of Rhode Island, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science & Technology, Harvard University and the University of Bremen will establish a center to facilitate exploration of the Earth's "deep biosphere" beneath the oceans. More>

Monday, February 22, 2010

Grass: A Renewable Energy Source?

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy have concluded experiments on a type of grass that they say could eventually lead to new sources of renewable energy. In a study published Feb. 11 in the journal Nature, researchers from the department's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, which is managed in part by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, sequenced a form of wild grass in order to derive a genome specifically adapted for biomass and biofuel production. More>

Wind Turbines and Home Values

Wind power has, despite its abundance as a potential power source, sparked a good deal of controversy with the wind turbines necessary to generate the electricity our homes need conjured up as towering eyesores on our landscape. One of the principle concerns of those who would be living nearest wind farms and their turbines is that the presence and noise of the turbines is surely certain to bring the area’s property prices tumbling down and affect the desirability and saleability of the area. New research for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory indicates, however, that such fears are ungrounded. The Laboratory found in the course of its research into the issue that “there was no appreciable impact on the values of around 7,500 properties that stand in close proximity to wind turbines.” More>

Dark Matter in Distant Galaxy Groups Mapped for the First Time

Understanding the nature of dark matter is one of the key open questions in modern cosmology. In one of the approaches used to address this question astronomers use the relationship between mass and luminosity that has been found for clusters of galaxies which links their x-ray emissions, an indication of the mass of the ordinary ("baryonic") matter alone (of course, baryonic matter includes electrons, which are leptons!), and their total masses (baryonic plus dark matter) as determined by gravitational lensing. To date the relationship has only been established for nearby clusters. New work by an international collaboration, including the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseilles (LAM), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), has made major progress in extending the relationship to more distant and smaller structures than was previously possible. More>

The Long Road: Solar

Solar power (both photovoltaic and concentrating) produced an estimated about 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2009. Even at that rate of growth, solar power is still minuscule: Solar generation in 2009 accounted for less than 0.1% of total electricity production in the U.S. Solar capacity remains less than 1% of the total. The cost of solar installations has fallen in recent years, but remains high, partly because demand continues to keep pace with supply. The cost for average residential installations was about $5.40 a watt of capacity in 2008 and $4.20 a watt for commercial, after a raft of federal, state and local incentives, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (Solar installations depend heavily on subsidies, which vary widely; without incentives, costs average $7.50 a watt.). More>

Cal physicist helps confirm Einstein theory

A UC Berkeley physicist and a Nobel prize-winning colleague now in President Obama's Cabinet report they have confirmed one of Albert Einstein's most revolutionary theories 10,000 times more accurately than ever before. One basic prediction from Einstein's theory is that the tug of gravity makes clocks slow down. Now Holger Müller, a physicist at UC Berkeley (and guest at Berkeley Lab), together with Steven Chu, former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and now Obama's energy secretary, as well as Achim Peters of Humboldt University in Berlin, report they have developed what is by far the best confirmation yet of Einstein's monumental achievement. More>

Junk DNA could provide vital clues to heart disease

Scientists have linked a region of junk DNA, the 98% or so of the genome that does not code for proteins, to the risk of developing at least one form of heart disease. The research, published online in Nature, drew on previous genome-wide association studies that linked a non-coding stretch of chromosome 9p21 with coronary artery disease (CAD) and showed that people who carry certain single nucleotide mutations in this stretch of DNA have an increased chance of developing the disease. Principal investigator and geneticist Len Pennacchio of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, based the study on the equivalent chromosome in mice and found a potential mechanism for how the region of non-coding DNA might increase the risk of heart disease. More>
In 1929, Ernest Lawrence was leafing through a paper written by Rolf Wideroe that described the first steps in the development of a linear accelerator. Not able to read German, Lawrence followed the mathematics and drawings. The paper inspired Lawrence’s invention of the cyclotron (Nobel Prize, 1938), a particle accelerator that uses magnetic charge to bend the path of particles into a circle. Protons accelerated in a cyclotron can be sped up by incrementally increasing the voltage as they spin around. Lawrence’s work on particle accelerators, however, did not end here. It could be said that Lawrence was one of the early fathers of particle acceleration as he mentored many scientists who themselves went on to further the field. He was very influential in attracting attention and funding to this new field of science and has been credited as one of the first scientists who could effectively petition donors and government to give science projects large donations. More>

Leading Global Data Center Efficiency Strategists, Analysts and Innovators to Gather for Uptime Institute Symposium 2010

Global computing and data center industry thought leaders and experts on enterprise computing's productivity, energy efficiency and eco-sustainability will be among the featured speakers on topics relating to green IT trends, strategies, new technologies and best practices at the Uptime Institute's fifth annual Symposium, May 17-19, 2010 at the Hilton New York. Attendees will hear from experts recognized as "green pioneers," including: Dr. Jonathan Koomey, Consulting Professor, Stanford University; Project Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Life beyond our universe: Physicists explore the possibility of life in universes with laws different from our own

Researchers focused on quarks because they know enough about quark interactions to predict what will happen when their masses change. However, “any attempt to address the problem in a broader context is going to be very difficult,” says Jaffe, because physicists are limited in their ability to predict the consequences of changing most other physical laws and constants. A group of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has done related studies examining whether congenial universes could arise even while lacking one of the four fundamental forces of our universe — the weak nuclear force, which enables the reactions that turn neutrons into protons, and vice versa. The researchers showed that tweaking the other three fundamental forces could compensate for the missing weak nuclear force and still allow stable elements to be formed. More>

Batteries 'R' Us

Of all the cleantech technology sectors, the one I can least keep track of is batteries. For those of you who want to keep pulse of this dynamic arena, a new blog called This Week in Batteries is just what you might be looking for. The host of this blog is Venkat Srinivasan, who is part of the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, so he should be pretty near the center of the action in the battery world -- at least as it pertains to electric vehicle applications. More>

From Uncharted Region of Human Genome, Clues Emerge About Origins of Coronary Artery Disease

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have learned how an interval of DNA in an unexplored region of the human genome increases the risk for coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Their research paints a fuller picture of a genetic risk for the disease that was discovered only three years ago and which lurks in one out of two people. More>

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life's Smallest Motor, Cargo Carrier of the Cells, Moves Like a Seesaw

Life's smallest motor -- a protein that shuttles cargo within cells and helps cells divide -- does so by rocking up and down like a seesaw, according to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Brandeis University. More>

Road Transport Key Driver In Global Warming

A new study led by Nadine Unger of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City offers a more intuitive way to understand what's changing the Earth's climate. Rather than analyzing impacts by chemical species, scientists have analyzed the climate impacts by different economic sectors. The team also considered how emissions from each part of the economy can impact clouds, which have an indirect effect on climate, explained Surabi Menon, a coauthor of the paper and scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. More>

Climate pact appears increasingly fragile

Just two months after patching together a climate deal in Copenhagen, the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are trying to figure out how to keep the fragile accord together, while the United Nations, which has played a central part in 15 rounds of climate talks, seems destined for a smaller role in the future. In Beijing, the talks reignited debate over whether China has responsibilities for the global common good that go beyond its own economic interests. Mark Levine, co-founder of the China energy group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said Chinese leaders and planners were debating whether to set a target of a 15 or 20 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2015, either one of which would meet Copenhagen commitments. But on transparency and the international monitoring of projects, "I'm far less optimistic," he said. "The Chinese are inherently not transparent." More>

Solar Cells Use Nanoparticles to Capture More Sunlight

Inexpensive thin-film solar cells aren't as efficient as conventional solar cells, but a new coating that incorporates nanoscale metallic particles could help close the gap. Broadband Solar, a startup spun out of Stanford University late last year, is developing coatings that increase the amount of light these solar cells absorb. Based on computer models and initial experiments, an amorphous silicon cell could jump from converting about 8 percent of the energy in light into electricity to converting around 12 percent. That would make such cells competitive with the leading thin-film solar cells produced today, such as those made by First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, AZ, says Berkeley Lab's Cyrus Wadia. Amorphous silicon has the advantage of being much more abundant than the materials used by First Solar. The coatings could also be applied to other types of thin-film solar cells, including First Solar's, to increase their efficiency. More>

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Clashing stellar couples trigger cosmic blasts

Ill-fated encounters between stellar couples may be responsible for the spectacular explosions used to measure the effects of dark energy, a new study suggests. Although the new result is "contrary to quite a bit of common wisdom … this is a very important study in our understanding of these colossal explosions" said Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved in the study."We thought that mergers were possible. Now it looks like they're more than just possible," says Peter Nugent of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. More>

Five Berkeley Lab Researchers Elected to NAE

Five researchers affiliated with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been elected into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional honors accorded to an engineer. Joining this year’s class of 68 new members and nine foreign associates were Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, Eugene Haller, Jay Keasling, Art Rosenfeld and Xiang Zhang. More>

This story was also mentioned in the San Francisco Business Times.

Phila. contest aims to whiten city's roofs

Last year, white roofs got a boost from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said they might slow global warming. Months later, President Obama publicly announced that insulation was, of all things, "sexy." The agency has since received enough funds to put white roofs on 600 homes. Independent evaluators concluded that temperatures upstairs in them were as much as five degrees cooler on hot days. None of this surprises Hashem Akbari, a scientist who for three decades has studied the "urban heat island effect." He and others at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California have shown that because of dark roofs and pavements, many urban areas are from six to eight degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas. More>

Life's smallest motor, cargo carrier of the cells, moves like a seesaw

Life's smallest motor, a protein that shuttles cargo within cells and helps cells divide, does so by rocking up and down like a seesaw, according to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Brandeis University. The researchers created high-resolution snapshots of a protein motor, called kinesin, as it walked along a microtubule, which are tube-shaped structures that form a cell’s “skeleton.” The result is the closest look yet at the structural changes kinesin proteins undergo as they ferry molecules within cells. More>

Road transport comes under fire in "smart climate policy"

The IPCC has ranked individual chemicals by their effect on climate or "radiative forcing". But in real life, man's activities release a mixture of chemicals to the atmosphere. Some, such as sulphate aerosols, have a short-term cooling effect, whereas black-carbon aerosols tend to create short-term warming and greenhouse gases warm climate over long timescales. Unger and colleagues from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Columbia University; University of Illinois; Urbana-Champaign; Environmental Defense Fund and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, US, believe that their analysis identifies the most effective opportunities for fast mitigation of climate change. More>

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Godfather of Green

Art Rosenfeld is retiring, stepping down from his post with the California Energy Commission. The 83-year-old nuclear physicist pushed California to enact some of the toughest efficiency standards in the world. QUEST talks with Rosenfeld about his passion for saving kilowatts. More>

Urban Form, Behavior Energy Modeling in China: Sim City for Real?

One of the great challenges in urban planning and green building has been material life cycle energy use--how steel, concrete and wood products were produced and transported. Add to that the decisions people make once construction is finished, and you can rightly conclude that development standards have only scratched the veneer of total energy and sustainability impacts.
In addition to material climate and resource burdens, there are myriad consequences on life-cycle energy use that arise from commuting and transit choices, food and product consumption, and building heating or cooling. Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have devised a tool that may soon provide governments and urban planners ways in which to model complete material, building and residents' anticipated energy use. More>

Reducing Emissions One Crack and Infrared Photo at a Time

Efficiency is the less flashy side of greenhouse gas reduction, but it’s getting more attention these days, especially since it’s the one sure bet when it comes to reducing emissions. “Energy efficiency first – it’s the cheapest, fastest, cleanest thing you can do,” said Jim McMahon, the energy analysis department head for the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. McMahon supports solar but said that from a cost per kilowatt hour standpoint, efficiency is the first stop. He said a well-executed retrofit – providing sufficient air flow – can also increase comfort and health. More>

Life’s smallest motor, cargo carrier of the cells, moves like a seesaw

Life’s smallest motor, a protein that shuttles cargo within cells and helps cells divide, does so by rocking up and down like a seesaw, according to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Brandeis University. The researchers created high-resolution snapshots of a protein motor, called kinesin, as it walked along a microtubule, which are tube-shaped structures that form a cell’s “skeleton.” The result is the closest look yet at the structural changes kinesin proteins undergo as they ferry molecules within cells. More>

Einstein's gravitational redshift measured with unprecedented precision

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity makes a number of counterintuitive predictions about the workings of gravity, and experimentalists nearly 100 years after the theory was developed continue to confirm those predictions with increasing accuracy. A new paper co-authored by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Berkeley Lab's Holger Mueller measures the gravitational redshift, illustrated by the gravity-induced slowing of a clock and sometimes referred to as gravitational time dilation (though users of that term often conflate two separate phenomena), a measurement that jibes with Einstein and that is 10,000 times more precise than its predecessor. More>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Standard DNA parts from synthetic biology research facility

A new facility called BIOFAB (International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology) has been established with funding from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the BioBricks Foundation (BBF). BIOFAB intends to create standardised DNA parts that will be made freely available to academic and commercial groups seeking to use synthetic biology to create organisms for different purposes. More>

'Thirdhand' smokes forms lasting cancer-causing residue

Tobacco smoke contamination lingering on furniture, clothes and other surfaces, dubbed thirdhand smoke, may react with indoor air chemicals to form potential cancer-causing substances, a study found. After exposing a piece of paper to smoke, researchers found the sheet had levels of newly formed carcinogens that were 10 times higher after three hours in the presence of an indoor air chemical called nitrous acid commonly emitted by household appliances or cigarette smoke. That means people may face a risk from indoor tobacco smoke in a way that's never been recognized before, said one of the study's authors, Lara Gundel of Berkeley Lab. More>

'Bubbles' of Broken Symmetry in Quark Soup

Scientists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a 2.4-mile-circumference particle accelerator at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, report the first hints of profound symmetry transformations in the hot soup of quarks, antiquarks, and gluons produced in RHIC's most energetic collisions. Early data from RHIC's STAR detector hint at a violation in what is known as mirror symmetry, or parity. "The key to observing the effect in high-energy nuclear collisions is to study correlations among the particles emerging from the collision," said Nu Xu of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the spokesperson for the STAR collaboration. More>

Black nanoneedles for anti-reflective coatings

Researchers in the US have succeeded in growing germanium nanoneedle arrays on flexible substrates for the first time. The arrays could be useful for making anti-reflective coatings as well as in high-performance photodetectors and photovoltaic devices. The germanium nanoneedles have ultrasharp tips that measure just 2 nm across and strongly absorb light. Light is hardly reflected at all from the nanostructures, even at high angles of incidence. Ali Javey at the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues at Berkeley Lab found that nickel nanoparticle catalysts can be used to grow highly dense germanium nanoneedle arrays with ultrasharp tips and wider bases in a chemical vapour deposition process. More>

Department Of Energy Names New Acting CIO

The Department of Energy is pulling from its own ranks to temporarily fill the first of several impending gaps in IT leadership left by a departing CIO, acting CIO and associate CIO. Previously rumored to be an interim replacement, Rosio Alvarez, CIO at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will advise agency leadership on transitional issues, including IT transformation within the department. Alvarez was hired as Lawrence Berkeley's CIO by the current secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, when he was director of that lab. More>