Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World’s Most Intense X-Ray Laser Takes First Shots

The laser, called the Linac Coherent Light Source, takes up a third of the two-mile-long linear accelerator at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab in Menlo Park, California. In the accelerator hall, tight bunches of electrons wriggle through a series of magnets and give off X-rays billions of times brighter than earlier X-ray sources could muster. The wavelength of these X-rays is comparable to the radius of a hydrogen atom — about one angstrom, or one ten-billionth of a meter — and each pulse can be as short as a few quadrillionths of a second.

“Understanding how intense light, and in particular intense X-rays, interact with both atoms and molecules is critical to understanding how we’re going to be able to image systems using these intense light pulses in the future,” said laser physicist Roger Falcone of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a member of an advisory committee for the laser’s science team but was not involved in the new studies. More>

Study Shows Nanoparticle Clusters of Platinum May Prove More Effective for Fuel Cells

A study led by Gabor Somorjai and Miquel Salmeron of Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division showed that under high pressure, comparable to the pressures at which many industrial technologies operate, nanoparticle clusters of platinum potentially can out-perform the single crystals of platinum now used in fuel cells and catalytic converters. More>

Unpeeling atoms and molecules from the inside out

The first published scientific results from the world's most powerful hard X-ray laser, located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, show its unique ability to control the behaviors of individual electrons within simple atoms and molecules by stripping them away, one by one—in some cases creating hollow atoms.

In another report, published June 22 in Physical Review Letters, a team led by physicist Nora Berrah of Western Michigan University—the third group to conduct experiments at the LCLS—describes the first experiments on molecules. Her group also created hollow atoms, in this case within molecules of nitrogen gas, and found surprising differences in the way short and long laser pulses of exactly the same energies stripped and damaged the nitrogen molecules. "We just introduced molecules into the chamber and looked at what was coming out there, and we found surprising new science," said Matthias Hoener, a postdoctoral researcher in Berrah's group at WMU and visiting scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who was first author of the paper. "Now we know that by reducing the pulse length, the interaction with the molecule becomes less violent. " More>

Four Computing Magazines Interview Kathy Yelick and John Shalf

In the article “Is cloud computing fast enough for science?” Federal Computer Week magazine discusses early results from DOE’s Magellan cloud computing testbed with NERSC Director Kathy Yelick. “For the more traditional MPI applications there were significant slowdowns, over a factor of 10,” Yelick said. But for computations that can be performed serially, such as genomics calculations, there was little or no deterioration in performance in the cloud.

Yelick discusses cloud computing in more detail in “Uncovering Results in the Magellan Testbed” in HPC in the Cloud.

EnterTheGrid/Primeur magazine, a European online magazine for high performance computing and networking, interviewed John Shalf, head of NERSC’s Advanced Technologies Group, at ISC’10 in Hamburg. The resulting article, titled “It takes three to tango in exascale computing: memory, photonic interconnects and embedded processors,” discusses the Green Flash project and the future of supercomputing from the hardware side. On the software side, Shalf discussed native parallel programming languages with International Science Grid This Week in “Q & A — John Shalf talks parallel programming languages.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Zapping Titan-Like Atmosphere With UV Rays Creates Life Precursors

The first experimental evidence showing how atmospheric nitrogen can be incorporated into organic macromolecules is being reported by a University of Arizona team. The finding indicates what organic molecules might be found on Titan, the moon of Saturn that scientists think is a model for the chemistry of pre-life Earth. The scientists used the used the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's synchroton in Berkeley, Calif. to shoot high-energy UV light into a stainless steel cylinder containing nitrogen-and-methane gas held at very low pressure.

Monday, June 28, 2010

NASA Satellite Adds Carbon Dioxide to its Repertoire

A NASA-led research team has expanded the growing global armada of remote sensing satellites capable of studying carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's climate. The newest addition is the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument on NASA's Aura spacecraft, launched in 2004. TES measures the state and composition of Earth's troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere, located between Earth's surface and about 16 kilometers (10 miles) in altitude. While TES was not originally designed to measure carbon dioxide, a team led by Susan Kulawik of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has successfully developed and validated a TES carbon dioxide tool. Other institutions participating in the study include the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba-City, Ibaraki, Japan; the Meteorological Research Institute, Tsukuba-City, Ibaraki, Japan; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; and NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colo. More

Friday, June 25, 2010

Q & A - John Shalf talks parallel programming languages

Whether on a grid, cloud, or cluster, today’s science software runs in parallel, executing many calculations simultaneously. Programmers have found many ways to create parallel programs in traditional programming languages. Nevertheless, today there are a number of emerging languages that are designed specifically for programming in parallel. To learn more about these unusual programming languages, iSGTW caught up with John Shalf, the team lead of the Advanced Technologies Group at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. More

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nose and Throat Bacteria are Different

Despite their proximity, the nose and throat have distinct differences in bacterial populations, U.S. researchers found. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco, collaborated on a comprehensive comparative analysis of the bacterial communities inhabiting the human nose and throat. More>

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Berkeley Lab moving to Google platform

The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is moving its e-mail to Google’s cloud-based Gmail system to obtain improved functionality and a reduced cost of operation. The lab’s 5,000 e-mail users are migrating to the Google cloud this summer, in a move that should be completed by September, lab Chief Information Officer Rosio Alvarez told Federal Computer Week. More>

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

USGS's Lithium Find Means Little for Mythical Shortfall

Proponents and critics of electric vehicles both talk about how a global shortage of lithium might hinder adoption of battery-based auto technologies. But experts say new lithium finds are largely irrelevant to advanced battery production, as concerns over a shortage of the material are overblown.

"If (and this is a big if), there is a significant conversion of the automotive fleet to batteries, lithium-based ones make the most sense. In this scenario, we can get lithium-limited," wrote Venkat Srinivasan, a researcher with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies program, on his blog, "This Week in Batteries." More>

Secondhand smoke causes serious health problems

Tobacco smoke from other folks’ cigarettes, cigars and pipes can be bad for your heart. In the catalog of cardiac villains, smoking is still a leading cause of heart disease, even though fewer people are smoking these days.

A study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California suggests that tobacco smoke poses a hazard even after it has dissipated. Nicotine in smoke residue clings to walls, carpets, clothing and other surfaces. More>

SciDAC Astrophysics Code Scales to Over 200K Processors

Performing high-resolution, high-fidelity, three-dimensional simulations of Type Ia supernovae, the largest thermonuclear explosions in the universe, requires not only algorithms that accurately represent the correct physics, but also codes that effectively harness the resources of the next generation of the most powerful supercomputers.

Through the Department of Energy's Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Center for Computational Sciences and Engineering (CCSE) has developed two codes that can do just that. More>

Enzyme Trio Hydrocarbon Fuels Biosynthesis

If concerns for global climate change and ever-increasing costs weren’t enough, the disastrous Gulf oil spill makes an even more compelling case for the development of transportation fuels that are renewable, can be produced in a sustainable fashion, and do not put the environment at risk. Liquid fuels derived from plant biomass have the potential to be used as direct replacements for gasoline, diesel and jet fuels if cost-effective means of commercial production can be found.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a trio of bacterial enzymes that can catalyze key steps in the conversion of plant sugars into hydrocarbon compounds for the production of green transportation fuels. More>

Energy Department lab moving e-mail to Google cloud

The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California plans to move all 5,000 of its e-mail users to a public cloud — Google Apps, Google's suite of online applications — by this summer. Since January, about half of those users, all of whom are government contractors, have made the switch from Sun Microsystems' e-mail system to Gmail, said Rosio Alvarez, the lab's chief information officer. More>

Tennesseans donate hair, pantyhose to sop up oil spill

Berkeley Lab scientist Terry Hazen also is concerned about the use of dispersants — basically, detergents. The chemicals, which were used after the Exxon Valdez incident, could harm the fragile coastal ecosystem for many years to come, according to his research. More>

Hazen also quoted in The Bellingham Herald.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pac-Man to the Rescue?

Can naturally occurring microbes help clean up the oil spill? Some experts say yes.

Scientists say microbes, some of the smallest living things on Earth, can gobble up some of the oil, much like the pint-sized yellow chompers who swallow dots in the Pac-Man video game.

"You take natural oil-eating microbes in the water and give them fertilizer to make them multiply and degrade the oil faster. Oil is a natural product. It's inherently biodegradable,'' Terry Hazen, microbial ecologist in the Earth Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, tells the Miamia Herald.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday visited a Sarasota company that sells microbes that eat oil. BP says it's open to using them. And the federal government is contacting its pre-approved list of companies to see how quickly they can ramp up production. More>

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Magellan explores the cloud as a research tool

The Energy Department is inviting researchers to apply for a space in its $32 million Magellan cloud computing evaluation program that's exploring the effectiveness of the cloud for a range of scientific computations.

Energy's National Energy Scientific Research Computing Center, operated by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, along with the Argonne National Laboratory, began setting up the Magellan project six months ago using economic stimulus law money, according to statements on the project Web site. More>

How to Power the Energy Innovation Lifecycle

Freeing our economy from its dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and averting the calamitous risks of climate change will require a major technological transformation in the way we produce, transmit, and consume energy. Inventing, developing, building, and deploying these new technologies will require a new era of American technological innovation. The result will be new industries and jobs, along with more clean energy and less pollution. More>

Monday, June 14, 2010

Electricity Regulators from India Learn from California

India suffers from chronic electricity shortages, and as the country’s voracious demand for energy continues to grow due to rising incomes and expanding industrialization and urbanization, the situation is expected to worsen. Berkeley Lab has been working with various public agencies in India to promote energy efficiency there—including greener buildings, a smarter electric grid and more efficient home appliances. Such measures will not only address the shortages but could also reduce pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. More>

How a Summer Internship—or a Weekend Lecture—Can Change a Life

Emily Chen still vividly remembers the lecture on gecko feet. She was an eighth grader attending Berkeley Lab's Nano*High program to hear materials scientist Arun Majumdar explain how what he was learning about gecko feet might translate into a new adhesive product based on carbon nanotubes. There are a number of students who come away from a Berkeley Lab summer internship—or just a weekend lecture—infected by the scientists' passion for their work and with a sharper focus on their own academic and career path. More>

Friday, June 11, 2010

LBNL, Wildcat Discovery Technologies and EPRI Selected for $3.66 Million ARPA-E Carbon Capture Grant Award

Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a technology company that uses combinatorial methods to rapidly synthesize and test new clean energy materials, announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Wildcat Discovery Technologies and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) a $3.66 million grant under the “Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT)” solicitation. More>

Data acquisition and coordination key to human microbiome project

At birth, your body was 100-percent human in terms of cells. At death, about 10-percent of the cells in your body will be human and the remaining 90-percent will be microorganisms. That makes you a 'supraorganism,' and it is the interactions between your human and microbial cells that go a long way towards determining your health and physical well-being, especially your resistance to infectious diseases. To learn more about the community of symbiotic microbes, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 launched the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). The project catalogue is housed at the HMP Data Acquisition and Coordination Centre (DACC), which was created and is maintained by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). 'The HMP project catalogue is a unique worldwide resource,' says molecular biologist Nikos Kyrpides of Berkeley Lab's Genomics Division, who heads the Genome Biology and Metagenomics Programs for the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and is the co-principal investigator of the DACC. More>

10 most costly appliances

The average U.S. household will spend about $2,160 this year on home energy, which is $60 less than in 2009, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Start with how you heat and cool your home. Almost half, 47%, of the $2,200 it took to power a typical American home in 2009 is from heating and cooling. According to a 2009 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, here's how the average annual utility bill is broken down by appliance, along with some tips I've collected on how to lower costs. More>

DOE Backs New Technology Test After Troubled Calif. Geothermal Project

Land just outside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument will be the site of a new geothermal project to demonstrate a technology that has been controversial for its links with earthquakes but holds promise as a sustainable source of always-on power. The team will work with experts from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as researchers with the University of Oregon, the University of Utah, Texas A&M University and Temple University, and hopes to find results that can be applied more widely in the Cascade Mountains throughout Washington and Oregon, a region that has been assessed as a potential source of as much as 50,000 megawatts of geothermal power. More>

The Search for Cheaper, Lighter Car Batteries

The unattractiveness of electric vehicles boils down to two facts: Rechargeable batteries cost a lot and weigh a lot. A lithium-ion battery, at its best, packs 110 watt-hours of energy per pound. Gasoline has 6,000 watt-hours per pound. Another difficulty is that the lithium needs to be kept away from water, and air contains water vapor. PolyPlus, a company founded by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists, thinks it has found an answer. It's a thin ceramic membrane that envelops the lithium and allows lithium ions to pass through but not water molecules. More>

Government Compensation Expanded for Some Older Lawrence Lab Cancer Patients

A program that has paid out more than $118 million in medical compensation to former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees has been expanded. Those who worked at Lawrence Berkeley Lab through 1961 constitute one of the beneficiary groups whose cancers are presumed occupational, and yet very little nuclear weapons research took place there starting a few years after World War II. More>

Scientists to share energy and environmental discoveries

Can we stop climate change by pumping carbon into the Earth’s core? Could marine life on Earth be the key to discovering life on other planets? What did the world look like hundreds of millions of years ago? These are some questions that will be addressed at this year’s Goldschmidt Conference. Sigurdur Gislason, of the University of Iceland, will discuss his pilot program which captures carbon from a geothermal power plant in Iceland and injects it up to a half a mile into the Earth. Donald DePaolo, of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is not so sure about the successes of the process. The distinguished geochemist will speak about the potential dangers of carbon sequestration. According to DePaolo, more analysis on how carbon reacts with chemicals underground is needed. More>

LBNL, Wildcat Discovery Technologies and EPRI Selected for $3.66 Million ARPA-E Carbon Capture Grant

Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a technology company that uses combinatorial methods to rapidly synthesize and test new clean energy materials, announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Wildcat Discovery Technologies and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) a $3.66 million grant under the “Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT)” solicitation. More>

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry to Demonstrate Innovative Geothermal Technology

AltaRock Energy, a renewable energy development company focused on the research and development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), and Davenport Newberry, which specializes in the development and management of geothermal opportunities, announced plans today to conduct a demonstration of EGS technology as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technology Program at a site located near Bend, Oregon. Funded by a recent $21.45 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant through the U.S. Department of Energy and $22.36 million from the AltaRock-Davenport partnership, the project will also benefit from the research efforts of faculty and students at the University of Oregon, University of Utah, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Texas A&M, Temple University, and scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey. More>

Study shows how radiation causes breast cancer

Common sense suggests there is plenty of reason to be worried about radiation causing breast cancer. And now there's a new reason to be concerned. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered that radiation exposure can alter cells' microenvironment (the environment surrounding cells). And that greatly raises the odds future cells will become cancerous. More>

A New Twist on the ‘Smart’ Window

Adding proper insulation can help, but increasing the windows’ ability to control the flow of heat in and out of the building is the most effective improvement, according to Wil McCarthy, co-inventor of a new “smart” window technology. His company, RavenBrick, has developed a smart film that when applied to a window can vary its tint (like transition lens sunglasses) based on the outside temperature. Based on early testing and computer models provided by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, RavenBrick estimates that its smart window film can reduce a building’s energy consumption by 30 to 40 percent. More>

Data Centers Can Now Earn the Energy Star Label

The U.S. EPA announced on June 7 that stand-alone data centers and buildings that house large data centers can now earn the Energy Star label. To earn the Energy Star label, data centers must be in the top 25% of their peers in terms of energy efficiency, as measured by EPA's energy performance scale. Data centers can improve energy efficiency in many ways, such as purchasing Energy Star-qualified servers and ensuring that all cooling equipment functions properly. In fact, DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) has been studying energy use in data centers for years, and has compiled a list of 67 best practices for data centers, covering such topics as air delivery systems and water systems for cooling, internal and external power supplies, and other issues. LBNL also worked with the PG&E to create design guidelines for high-performance data centers. Access to both is available on the "Data Centers: Best Practice Summaries" page on LBNL's High-Performance Buildings for High-Tech Industries Web site.

Taking some heat ... and turning it into electricity

Now, imagine if your laptop could feed its own battery with the heat it creates. Pretty compelling, huh? One of the start-ups that I’ve been meaning to interview for some time, Alphabet Energy, is engaged in this idea. It’s goal is to create chips that you would add to anything from appliances to an automobile to help harvest the waste heat and make sure its not wasted. The technology was born out of the founder’s work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Monday, June 7, 2010

DOE program to develop new imager for improving reliability of cancer therapy using heavy-ion beams

In 2008 the Nuclear Science Division (NSD) of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory launched the Applied Nuclear Physics program, headed by NSD's Kai Vetter upon his return to Berkeley after six years with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. One of the goals of Applied Nuclear Physics is to take experimental principles and equipment created for basic research and develop them into tools that can address practical needs like cancer therapy and homeland security. More>

Ultrathin-film solar start-up snags $41.5 million in funding

Solexant, a green tech startup that intends to raise the bar in efficiency for manufacturing ultrathin-film solar cells, has just closed a $41.5 million round of venture funding, including new player Olympus Capital Partners. Solexant’s value proposition is its manufacturing process, which it is piloting at its facility in San Jose, Calif. Its process is based on a roll-to-roll technique that was pioneered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The company plans to “print” its first commercial solar cells on cadmium telluride nanocrystals. More>

BP's Detergents Might Cause More Harm

A Berkeley scientist who is advising BP is cautioning against the use of too many detergents to clean up the vast oil spill in the gulf. Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and a leading bioremediation expert, is advising authorities that using detergents to clean up oil-contaminated sites may make matters worse. They might cause their own environmental problems. More>

BP funds search for green fuels at UC Berkeley

A picture of an oiled bird is taped to the wall above CHARLIE ANDERSON'S DESK INSIDE A UC BERKELEY LAB. The cormorant, drenched in reddish-brown oil, lies limp on a Louisiana shore, water rippling around its splayed wings. On a hook next to the picture hangs Anderson's white lab coat, embroidered with the words "ENERGY BIOSCIENCES INSTITUTE." The connection between the crisp lab coat in Berkeley and the oiled bird more than 2,000 miles away is BP, the petroleum company responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history. BP sponsors the Energy Biosciences Institute at Cal (of which Berkeley Lab is a partner), a buzzing lab of 300 researchers trying to make fuel out of plants. It may seem incongruous that an oil company responsible for such environmental devastation is funding this effort to find green fuels and reduce oil use. But the scientists here say what they're doing is more important than where they get the money. More>

This story also appeared in the Miami Herald.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Earning A LEED Certification

Achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, whether for a data center or the building in which it’s housed, can pay for itself in terms of cost savings and in marketing strategy, experts say, but getting there is no small task. The USGBC is currently considering standards that would apply exclusively to data centers seeking LEED certification, according to officials at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which helped develop the standards under consideration. More>

Baker Beach Cleanup a 10-Year Goal

A slice of Baker Beach is possibly contaminated with poop-related bacteria – but the cleanup could take years. The State Water Control Resources Board is responsible for figuring out where the bacteria is coming from -- and coming up with a prescription for keeping the water clean. The deadline for the work to be completed at Baker Beach is 2019, a whole decade from now, as you can see here. Scientist Hulls has been testing the Baker Beach area with next-generation technology called the Phylochip, a project in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley labs that's funded by the water board. The computer chip tests the DNA of bacteria and can determine “what bacteria is there and what the most likely source of it is,” Hulls said. More>

Doping graphene

In a Viewpoint article in the current issue of APS Physics, Alexei Fedorov of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory describes the challenges of creating electronic devices built of graphene and recent attempts to identify doping materials to do the job. An organic molecule that has been found to be effective in making silicon-based electronics may be viable for building electronics on sheets of carbon only a single molecule thick. Researchers at the Max Plank Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart report the advance in a paper appearing online in the journal Physical Review B. More>
Silicon Valley solar company Solexant has raised $41.5 million to pursue technology it says can slice the costs of solar power with a printing-like manufacturing process. The company's technology, which was developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, takes raw semiconductor material and creates nanoparticles which, once dissolved in a solvent, creates an ink that can be printed. More>

Subra Suresh nominated to lead National Science Foundation

President Barack Obama announced in a speech June 3 that he plans to nominate MIT School of Engineering dean, Subra Suresh ScD ’81, to act as the next director of the National Science Foundation. Suresh earned his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1977. He received his MS from Iowa State University in 1979, his ScD from MIT in 1981, and completed postdoctoral work from 1981 to 1983 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

U.S. Climate Satellite Capabilities in Jeopardy

The United States is in danger of losing its ability to monitor key climate variables from satellites, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The country’s Earth-observing satellite program has been underfunded for a decade, and the impact of the lack of funds is finally hitting home. The GAO report found that capabilities originally slated for two new Earth-monitoring programs, NPOESS and GOES-R, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense have been cut and adequate plans to replace them do not exist. But American scientists are now playing from behind trying to replace or patch up the infrastructure that lets us understand what’s going on with our planet. There are structural problems, too. Climate observation missions have very particular requirements, said Berkeley Lab climate scientist Inez Fung. More>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Carolyn Bertozzi wins Lemelson-MIT prize

Professor Carolyn Bertozzi, a chemical biologist, was named the winner Wednesday of the 2010, $500,000 Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prize. Bertozzi, who conducts research at both the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California-Berkeley, was honored for achieving extraordinary success with her pioneering inventions in the field of biotechnology. More>

Experts question use of dispersants to break up oil

BP has been using chemical dispersants to break up the oil flowing into the Gulf in an attempt to minimize environmental damage. And while BP claims the dispersants have helped, their use has been extremely controversial. Wednesday afternoon, samples of water from the Gulf arrived at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They come from within the oil plume and also from along the edge of the sheen. Terry Hazen, who has expressed concern about the use of dispersants, will conduct tests on those samples to see if the oil is breaking up. He also wants to know how clean or toxic the water may be. More>

Berkeley Lab Gets Grants for Developing Gamma-Ray Detectors

Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been conducting research related to the fields of nuclear physics for many years. A couple of years ago, in 2008, experts at the Lab's Nuclear Science Division (NSD) launched the Applied Nuclear Physics program, through which they sought to develop and implement even more widely-useful technologies for applications ranging from medicine to astronomy and surveillance. Together with colleagues from the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California in Berkeley (UCB), the team has just been awarded two grants to research gamma-ray detectors. More>

Congress Holds Hearings on the Benefits and Risks of Synthetic Biology

The US House of Representatives held hearings last week to gain testimony on the potential benefits and risks associated with synthetic biology and synthetic genomics. The hearings follow news late last month that researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI, Rockville, MD), a genomic-research organization founded and headed by J. Craig Venter, who helped map the human genome, had successfully constructed the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell. Testifying before the committee were Venter; Jay D. Keasling, acting deputy director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, part of the Office of Science under the US Department of Energy; Drew Endy, assistant professor at Stanford University; Gregory E. Kaebnick, editor of the Hastings Center Report and associate for philosophical studies at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute; and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). More>

How Is a Living Organism Assembled?

Scientists are a step closer to unraveling one of the greatest mysteries of the biological world: how stem cells morph into different organs and tissues to create a living creature. Thanks to a remarkable little fish, and some very cleaver engineering at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, they now can watch in real time as an undistinguishable blob of cells gradually change into an embryonic zebra fish, one cell at a time. Until now, scientists could only observe this process by harvesting a living animal and examining each step as it moves through the embryonic stage. More>

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wind power experts visit Vinalhaven to assess noise situation

Some of the nation’s top experts on wind turbine sound issues spent two days on Vinalhaven last month in order to learn more about the noise issues raised by neighbors of the Fox Islands Wind project. The group represented researchers affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Electric, and Acentech. Researchers at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed the data that was collected during the expermiment and the results are to be shared at the co-op’s monthly board meeting scheduled for May 25. More>

China seeks to unseat the West in supercomputing

Building a supercomputer is not just a testosterone-fueled race to take the Top 500 crown. High-performance computing, which allows people to model and develop simulations, is all about creating a computing infrastructure for accelerating product development and research in every conceivable area. Supercomputers may well be emerging as a visible symbol of battling national economies. "There clearly seems to be a strategic and strong commitment to supercomputing at the very highest level in China," said Erich Strohmaier, who heads the Future Technology Group of the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the founders of the Top 500. "I would not be surprised to see this new system being followed by even larger ones and even a potential number one system within a few years," Strohmaier said by e-mail. More>

Synthetic-biology competition launches

The organizers hope that GenoCon will attract budding scientists through its separate category for high-school students. Yutaka Mizokami, a biology teacher at the Yokohama Science Frontier High School (see 'Reading, writing and nanofabrication'), says that he expects several teams from his school to join, and thinks that most of the other 125 Super Science High Schools in Japan (which are given extra funding to accelerate science teaching) will also put up teams. Adam Arkin, a bioengineering expert based at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says that GenoCon "beautifully refocuses students and their mentors on the design aspects of synthetic biology." More>