Thursday, October 28, 2010

6 new isotopes of the superheavy elements discovered

A team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has detected six isotopes, never seen before, of the superheavy elements 104 through 114. Starting with the creation of a new isotope of the yet-to-be-named element 114, the researchers observed successive emissions of alpha particles that yielded new isotopes of copernicium (element 112), darmstadtium (element 110), hassium (element 108), seaborgium (element 106), and rutherfordium (element 104). Rutherfordium ended the chain when it decayed by spontaneous fission. More>

OpenADR Alliance: Taking the Standard to the Next Level

Automated demand response has been maturing lately, with a variety of companies flocking to the standard that has grown out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, known as Open Automated Demand Response or OpenADR. The standard is now coming into its own with the recent announcement of the OpenADR Alliance, a nonprofit corporation that will push for the adoption and compliance of the standard across the country. More>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Campaign Ads Slam Stimulus Bill Program for Renewable Energy

Republican and Democratic campaign leaders clashed today over the accuracy of GOP political ads attacking a stimulus bill program that gives money to renewable power companies. The wind industry's biggest trade group in a letter had asked national campaign committees to cease running ads that the industry argues make false statements about the program. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that as many as 40 percent of the wind farms built in the first year of the program installed turbines and other equipment manufactured overseas (Greenwire, Oct. 14, 2010). More>

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chemists Inch Closer to Stable Superheavy Atoms

Chemists searching for the island of stability now have a better map. Thanks to the discovery of six new variations of the superheavy elements on the bottom rung of the periodic table, scientists are closer to creating elements that are expected to last long enough for in-depth study. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California saw the isotopes of rutherfordium, seaborgium, hassium, darmstadtium, and copernicium by watching the decay of the yet-to-be-named element 114, a synthetic element first produced about a decade ago. Each isotope of an element differs in the number of neutrons in its nucleus, a variable that can affect radioactivity and other properties. More>

Clean energy industry looks ahead

The billions in federal stimulus dollars spent on expanding "green energy" industries and creating "green jobs" have provided a lifeline for U.S. wind and solar companies, but renewable-energy executives are worried that the future will not be as promising. The White House, however, has already declared the program an unqualified success. The Council of Economic Advisers issued a report in July that found the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's more than $90 billion in total spending and future tax breaks produced 190,000 "clean energy" jobs in the first quarter of 2010. A recent Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that the act's $5.4 billion in investment tax credits have created or saved 50,000 jobs in the renewable sector. More>

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alternative yardstick to measure the universe

Astronomers have long relied on stellar explosions called Type Ia supernovae to measure the scale of the cosmos. A second class of supernovae may now be put to the same use, providing an independent check on measurements that were first used more than a decade ago to discover the accelerating expansion of the Universe. A growing number of researchers are working on the idea that some Type II supernovae — which are caused by the gravitational collapse of giant stars with iron cores — may have a role as gauges of cosmic distance. "We're at the stage where it would be stupid to ignore alternative methods to Type Ia," says Dovi Poznanski of Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division, who has re-analysed results that he says show the promise of the new cosmic measuring sticks. His most recent findings were published on 1 October in the Astrophysical Journal. More>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hot air? White House takes credit for Bush-era wind farm jobs

Although the administration has described 50,000 new jobs, Rogers, when pressed, speaks of 40,000 to 50,000 jobs being created, saved or supported. He said these figures were provided by the American Wind Energy Association, an industry lobbying group. In February, for example, that group said, "Were it not for the Recovery Act, we estimated a loss of as much as 40,000 jobs." The association, in turn, cites a study by the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which estimated that the grant program supported more than 51,600 short-term jobs during the construction phase, the equivalent of that many people working full time for one year, and an additional 3,860 long-term full-time jobs. The study assumed that all the projects finished in the first half of 2009 were not caused by the stimulus. More>

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bringing Clean Light to Poor Nations and Moving Beyond Charity

The poorest people on the planet together spent almost $40 billion last year on kerosene and other rudimentary and dangerous fuel-based lighting. Scientists say fuel-burning lanterns release 190 million tons of carbon dioxide each year: about the equivalent of 30 million cars. Now leaders in the field of solar portable lighting believe they can push kerosene lamps out of markets in much of the developing world and make a profit while they're at it. Avato manages a 3-year-old program called Lighting Africa, based in Kenya, that tries to help the private sector provide clean and affordable lighting on the electricity-starved continent. The organization -- like the Lumina Project, which is based out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory -- is part of a small but growing field of market-based initiatives targeting what economists call the "bottom of the pyramid" consumers. More>

Critics of Clean Energy Stimulus Program Miss the Point

While the hastily-constructed stimulus programs for clean energy could have been better optimized, those arguing that the Section 1603 clean energy grant program somehow created a boondoggle are completely off base. Any projects already under construction would have received an equivalent benefit in a better economy, and the stimulus-funded clean energy grant program has been a successful job creator in an industry that was once near collapse. At the scale of the clean energy sector as a whole the effects of the cash grant program have been substantial and positive. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates that the grant supported more than 50,000 short-term job-years and 4,000 long-term job-years. More>

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flower Power: Genetic Modification Could Amply Boost Plants' Carbon-Capture and Bioenergy Capacity

A new analysis published in the October issue of Bioscience suggests that by 2050 humans could offset between five and eight gigatons of the carbon emitted annually by growing plants and trees optimized via genetic engineering both for fuel production and carbon sequestration. Bioenergy crops represent an opportunity to mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide in two separate ways, says lead author Christer Jansson, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Earth Sciences Division. First, they are a carbon-neutral energy source that could offset the burning of fossil fuels. Second, "if they are the right kind of plants, they have a chance to transfer a lot of carbon underground for long-term sequestration," he says. More>

In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy

Residents of this deeply conservative city do not put much stock in scientific predictions of climate change. Saving energy, though, is another matter. Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics. The towns were featured as a case study on changing behavior by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And the Climate and Energy Project just received a grant from the Kansas Energy Office to coordinate a competition among 16 Kansas cities to cut energy use in 2011. More>

The promise of ion beam cancer therapy

The world’s foremost experts in this unique medical therapy are meeting at a workshop for Ion Beams in Biology and Medicine on October 26-29 at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland, Calif., sponsored by Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division. It’s the 13th gathering of this international workshop, but the first to be held in the United States. More>

Monday, October 18, 2010

'Red China' Energy Jobs Play in House Races

A central renewable energy program in the stimulus package, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides grants covering 30 percent of the cost of a power project. It replaced a similar program that provided that amount in tax credits, and is meant to spark construction by providing a payoff when the project begins generating electricity. By last April, the program had created about 51,600 construction and other short-term jobs and about 3,860 permanent jobs, all in the United States, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated in a study earlier this year. It's not surprising to experts, however, that the stimulus program also strengthened foreign manufacturers of wind turbines and other equipment. That's because the United States doesn't make enough turbines -- affordably, at least -- to supply the growing industry. More>

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Group challenges independence of research contracts

Contracts awarded to several universities by major oil companies to study alternative energy lack safeguards for academic independence and scientific objectivity, according to a report to be published Thursday by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington research and advocacy group. The report examines 10 contracts, ranging from $2.5 million to more than $300 million, that govern the corporate-backed energy research at several major universities, including UC BERKELEY, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Stanford University and UC Davis. University representatives immediately took issue with the report. GRAHAM FLEMING, VICE CHANCELLOR FOR RESEARCH AT BERKELEY, questioned the report's fundamental premise that the reality of the research and the university's relationship with a corporate funder could be gleaned from a contract alone. More>

Green energy field is fertile ground for wild concepts

Spray-on solar panels, power beaming down from outer space and gasoline-like fuel made from bacteria. Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but these and other futuristic concepts for producing power are being taken seriously in scientific, business and academic circles. Some have even raised millions in funding. UC Santa Barbara professor Alan J. Heeger — who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2000 — is developing flexible plastic solar cells that could end up costing far less than rigid silicon-based panels. And at the California Institute of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, experts are trying to conjure liquid fuel from thin air by using technology — and a $122 million federal grant — to replicate the photosynthesis process used by plants to derive energy from sunlight. More>

Berkeley researchers produce high-res model of Ndc80 in action

Unless you are in a field of study related to cell biology, you most likely have never heard of Ndc80. Yet this protein complex is essential to mitosis, the process by which a living cell separates its chromosomes and distributes them equally between its two daughter cells. Now, through a combination of cryo-electron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction, a team of researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have produced a subnanometer resolution model of human Ndc80 that reveals how this unsung hero carries out its essential tasks. More>

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Build 'Em and They'll Come

So far Congress has appropriated partial funding — “up to $22 million” but probably less — for three of these hubs for one year. So Penn State and two national labs will develop energy efficient building designs. Oak Ridge National Laboratory will lead a team to model new nuclear reactors, and the California Institute of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will work on revolutionary ways to generate fuels from sunlight. Chu is now trying to persuade Congress to finance those three again for 2011, as well as at least one more: batteries. More>

GridWeek Leadership Awards Recognize Five Innovators for Vision and Contributions to Advancing the Smart Grid

A California utility deploying one of the most comprehensive Smart Grid projects in the country; a woman at the forefront of Smart Grid research and collaboration; and one of the founders of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative that brings consumers and organizations together to advance Smart Grid deployments are among the five winning individuals and organizations selected to receive this year's GridWeek Leadership Awards. The Acceleration Award was given to Sila Kiliccote of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for her research and work in promoting standards-based secure communications for new Smart Grid demand response applications. More>

Monday, October 11, 2010

The End of the World as We Know It?

A new study suggests the universe and everything in it could end within the Earth's lifespan -- less than 3.7 billion years from now -- and we won't know it when it happens. But one expert says the result isn't valid because the researchers chose an arbitrary end point. According to standard cosmology models the most likely outcome for the universe is that it will expand forever. But a TEAM OF PHYSICISTS LED BY RAPHAEL BOUSSO of Berkeley Lab, claim their calculations show the universe will end. More>

Research Universities and Big Pharma’s Wicked Problem

A few years ago BP awarded a consortium of universities led by BERKELEY the largest grant in University of California history: $500 million over 10 years to develop biofuels. Despite BP’s well-publicized travails, their commitment to the ENERGY BIOSCIENCES INSTITUTE (of which Berkeley Lab is a member) remains firmly in place. BP is a huge company with a wealth of resources at its disposal. Why did it choose to turn to universities for help? GRAHAM FLEMING, NOW VICE-CHANCELLOR FOR RESEARCH AT UC BERKELEY, but earlier one of the architects of the EBI consortium, explains it this way: Manufacture of biofuels is a “wicked” problem, defined conventionally as a problem that is almost insoluble because it requires the expertise of many stakeholders with disparate backgrounds and non-overlapping goals to work well together to address an important society problem. More>

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When Selling Energy Efficiency, Don't Say 'Retrofit,' Say 'Upgrade' -- Study

Give the people what they want. Know your customer. Make it easy to do the right thing. These are some of the common-sense recommendations featured in a new report that highlights just how unprepared many energy program designers are when it comes to selling efficiency to the public. In a study (pdf) of programs aimed at improving residential energy efficiency, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found much to learn from. The results, they say, should serve as a guide to the more than 2,000 towns, cities, states and regions with stimulus funding to spend on clean energy programs and with minimal experience to draw from. More>

A hot new look at working fuel cells

Measuring a fuel cell’s overall performance is relatively easy, but measuring its components individually as they work together is a challenge. That’s because one of the best experimental techniques for investigating the details of an electrochemical device while it’s operating is x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Traditional XPS works only in a vacuum, while fuel cells need gases under pressure to function. Now a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories, and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has used a new kind of XPS, called ambient-pressure XPS (APXPS), to examine every feature of a working solid oxide electrochemical cell. More>

Berkeley takes unusual approach to mountain lions

There's plenty of prey drawing mountain lions to the Berkeley hills and authorities are taking what may seem an unusual approach. Their plan of action is to take no action at all. Mountain lions have been spotted repeatedly over the past few weeks on land near Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Freshly posted signs signify there is a mountain lion somewhere near the area, but no one is trying to hunt or trap this animal. More>

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Engineer Greenberg Lives Up to His Name With Energy-Efficient Lifestyle

About a month ago, an e-mail was sent out to the energy technology scientists of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory instigating a little competition to see who could use the least amount of energy in their homes. Steve Greenberg won the contest before it even started. Dressed in a yellow windbreaker and jeans, Greenberg, an engineer in the lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, is prepared for the hilly descent to his North Berkeley home, which he makes on his bike every day and has done every day since he was a graduate student studying energy and resources at UC Berkeley and working at the lab 28 years ago. More>

Berkeleyside Berkeley sunset Lawrence Berkeley Lab ready for thousands of visitors

For most residents of Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is a mysterious presence on the hills over the university campus. Unless you work there or have business there, you won’t get passed the security on the gates. Tomorrow, however, 4,000 members of the public will get a rare chance to visit the Lab on its first Open Day in eight years. The visitors will be able to take bus tours of the site, but the main activities will be in a covered tent space with exhibits and demonstrations about the scientific work that goes on at the Lab. Many of the exhibits will be on the pioneering work done at the Lab on energy. More>

Genetically altered plants could counter global warming

Forests of genetically altered trees and other plants could ameliorate global warming by sequestering several billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year, a new study reports. Plants could be modified to capture more carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into long-lived forms of carbon, say researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For example, the study says, they could be altered to grow better on marginal land, yield improved crops or send more carbon into their roots, where it could remain out of circulation for centuries. More>

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Open House

Thousands of curious locals, including many children, ascended to the usually off-limits grounds of Berkeley’s Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Saturday, October 2, 2010, at the Lab’s open house. The Lab opened its gates to large numbers of members of the public for the first time in nine years for the event called “It’s All About Energy!” which featured tours, talks, demonstrations, food and entertainment. More>

Monday, October 4, 2010

Visitors warned of mountain lion mother and cubs seen in Berkeley hills

OFFICIALS AT LAWRENCE BERKELEY LABORATORY and the LAWRENCE HALL OF SCIENCE in the Berkeley hills are warning visitors to beware of mountain lions after a mother and her two cubs, along with deer and goat carcasses, were sighted recently. The warnings come just a month after Berkeley police shot and killed a 100-pound mountain lion in Berkeley's gourmet ghetto, a heavily populated business and residential area just down the hill from the labs. State fish and game warden Jessica Jacobsen said SECURITY OFFICIALS AT THE LAB told her "a couple of cubs have been killing deer on the property." If you see a mountain lion, Jacobsen said, face it, wave your arms, make lots of noise and "if there are objects near like rocks or whatever you have, throw it at the animal." Do not run away, she said. More>

Friday, October 1, 2010

Genetically altered trees could help climate

Genetically altered trees could help reduce global warming, according to a study released Friday in the journal BioScience. The study, led by a team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, analyzed ways plants process carbon dioxide and convert it into forms of carbon. The findings could one day lead to a forest of trees and other plants genetically engineered to pull in billions of tons of carbon from the air, counteracting the effects of global warming. More>