Friday, May 28, 2010

Oil spill's energy lesson for Obama

Berkeley Lab physicist Richard Muller, author of the new textbook "Physics and Technology for Future Presidents," says Barack Obama could learn a lesson from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Using offshore oil to solve America's liquid energy security issue poses a bigger problem than previously thought, he said. You won't find the professor's answer to the problem in the back of the book, but it can be summarized in two words: natural gas. More>

Capitol Hearing for Venter

It is in the ordained order of things on Capitol Hill that Congress shall, more often than not, hold hearings when large scientific splashes are made. Thus did the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Democrat Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, convene this morning to hear from J. Craig Venter the details of his latest coup: the manufacture and insertion of a fully synthetic bacterial genome into a closely-related cell which then booted up and began life’s processes according to the directions of that genome. The details were published in Science last week, with attendant fanfare, leaving members of Congress eager for a first-hand briefing by Venter and other experts including Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Jay Keasling, the acting deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who directs the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center at the University of California Berkeley. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the New York Times.

The search for improved carbon sponges picks up speed

Jeffrey Long's lab will soon host a round-the-clock, robotically choreographed hunt for carbon-hungry materials. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory chemist leads a diverse team of scientists whose goal is to quickly discover materials that can efficiently strip carbon dioxide from a power plant's exhaust, before it leaves the smokestack and contributes to climate change. They're betting on a recently discovered class of materials called metal-organic frameworks that boast a record-shattering internal surface area. A sugar cube-sized piece, if unfolded and flattened, would more than blanket a football field. The crystalline material can also be tweaked to absorb specific molecules. More>

Synthetic Biology has Diverse Uses

Scientists revealed that synthetic biology has diverse uses, as it can be used to make nonpolluting fuel, instant vaccines against new diseases and inexpensive medicines. The technology fails to pose immediate environmental, security or ethical concerns, as per the researchers, an ethicist and members of Congress. Jay Keasling of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California shared that vaccine maker Sanofi Aventis has licensed technology to make engineered brewer's yeast that produces the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. More>

Energy management demonstrations to provide facilities with roadmap

It started in Texas (as big things sometimes do) and then moved to the Northwest, picking up both speed and support. It is now taking root in several other regions across the country. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), working through the Industrial Technologies Program's (ITP's) Save Energy Now initiative, is sponsoring a series of energy management demonstrations to provide U.S. industrial facilities with a roadmap for achieving continuous improvement in energy efficiency through strategic energy management. The Texas Industries of the Future program coordinated the pilot with help from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Georgia Tech, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. More>

Following the Sugar Right From the Start: Berkeley Researchers Image Glycans on Embryonic Cells Hours After Fertilization

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have successfully attached imaging probes to glycans – the sugar molecules that are abundant on the surfaces of living cells – in the embryos of zebrafish less than seven hours after fertilization. Glycans are key regulators of the processes that guide cell development, and zebrafish are a top vertebrate model organism of embryogenesis. This new technique enables scientists to study the physiological changes cells undergo during embryogenesis without invading and doing damage to the embryos. More>

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lawrence Berkeley lab workers sickened by paint fumes

Four employees of the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs in the Berkeley hills were sickened by noxious paint fumes, and was taken to the hospital, a UC Berkeley Police spokesman said Wednesday. Workers were painting a basement break room in building 90 at about 10 a.m. when employees started to get sick, the spokesman said. The building was evacuated a short time later. Three employees were treated on the scene, but one was taken to the hospital. The building was aired out and employees were able to go back to work at about 11:30 a.m., the spokesman said. More>

U.S. names Chinese drywall brands with worst emissions

Hoping a public outing will force Chinese drywall manufacturers to take responsibility for their products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a list of brands that emit the most sulfuric gas compounds. Testing by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that some types of Chinese drywall emitted more than 100 times the hydrogen sulfide of American-made brands. More>
Waterborne bacteria is flourishing mainly along the section of Baker Beach that’s friendliest for families. The source of the contamination is not known for certain. Because The City does not operate a sewage-discharge box nearby, it’s believed to come from seagulls or the droppings of other wildlife. Research by San Francisco in conjunction with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was expected to have identified the species of animals responsible for the contamination. More>

Berkeley Lab Report: Simple Energy Efficiency Measures Can Eliminate Electricity Shortage in India

Electricity in India can be a dicey proposition. Half the population lacks access or is too poor to afford it. The other half is using so much that demand far outstrips supply, resulting in daily power outages. Businesses and factories rely on diesel or gasoline generators during the brownouts, creating additional pollution. And with a growing middle class buying more TVs, air conditioners and the like, the situation will only get worse. As chaotic as things are, there is a solution: simple energy efficiency measures, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), can eliminate the electricity deficit as early as 2013. What's more, doing so will add $505 billion to India's gross domestic product (GDP) between 2009 and 2017 (compared to India's total GDP of $911 billion in 2007-2008), as businesses that have had to cut back due to electricity shortages can restore production. More>

Unique crystal could hold key to better carbon capture

Jeffrey Long’s lab will soon host a round-the-clock, robotically choreographed hunt for carbon-hungry materials. The Berkeley Lab chemist leads a diverse team of scientists whose goal is to quickly discover materials that can efficiently strip carbon dioxide from a power plant’s exhaust, before it leaves the smokestack and contributes to climate change. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in Softpedia and Greenbang.

Hearing on synthetic life to examine breakthrough

Venter is accustomed to making headlines and he is also familiar with the hyperbole that often accompanies his scientific announcements. So when he testifies Thursday to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, there will not be any surprises. Last week, Venter and colleagues at his J. Craig Venter Institute announced that they had used an artificially synthesized genome to bring back to life a bacterium that had its own genetic material scooped out. Jay Keasling of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California will also testify. Keasling directs the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center at the University of California Berkeley, where scientists are working to engineer microbes that can eat pollutants. More>\

A story on this topic also appeared on ABC Science.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Preventing Cells From Getting The Kinks Out Of DNA

Many standard antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs block the enzymes that snip the kinks and knots out of DNA - DNA tangles are lethal to cells - but the drugs are increasingly encountering resistant bacteria and tumors. "The technique we used to trap this complex so that we could actually crystallize it and image it we think now gives us a handle on how to go after drug-bound complexes of human topoisomerases that have long eluded the field," said Berger, who also is a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). More>
Contrary to popular belief, screensavers don’t save your monitor. Though at one time, CRT monitors were prone to burning out, that is no longer the case. And LCDs certainly don’t have this problem either. What screensavers do instead of saving your monitor is add to your monthly utility costs. For millions of people, using a screensaver is thought to be a green act, but what they don’t know is that it is actually increasing the energy they use. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, some screensavers could cause your monitor to use between 40 and 100 watts to keep it running. They can also add an additional layer of energy waste by preventing your CPU from going into Standby Mode, further adding to the energy costs of running an individual computer. More>

Microsoft Looks to Peer Pressure for Energy Tool Hohm

Shame, guilt, and embarrassment are always good tools to change people’s behavior. This morning Microsoft added a “score” functionality to its energy management tool Hohm, which gives a Hohm score to every address entered based on how energy efficient the building is. Users can use that score to compare it to their neighborhood, state and across the U.S. Hohm’s score is tallied using publicly available data — like real estate info, weather patterns and average utility bills, — and then is put through algorithms, which Microsoft licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, to predict the energy consumption of a home. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Associated Press.

Researchers calculate the greenhouse gas value of ecosystems

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new, more accurate method of calculating the change in greenhouse gas emissions that results from changes in land use. At first glance, biofuels appear carbon-neutral because the plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their tissues as they grow, said plant biology and Energy Biosciences Institute professor Evan DeLucia, who co-wrote the paper. That carbon is released when the plants are used as fuels. These emissions are balanced by the uptake of CO2, so – in theory, at least – no new carbon is added to the atmosphere, he said. The Energy Biosciences Institute, focused on the development of next-generation biofuels as well as various applications of biology to the energy sector, is a collaboration among the U. of I., the University of California at Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and BP, which is supporting the institute with a 10-year, $500-million grant. More>

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Preventing cells from getting the kinks out of DNA

Many standard antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs block the enzymes that snip the kinks and knots out of DNA – DNA tangles are lethal to cells – but the drugs are increasingly encountering resistant bacteria and tumors. "The technique we used to trap this complex so that we could actually crystallize it and image it we think now gives us a handle on how to go after drug-bound complexes of human topoisomerases that have long eluded the field," said Berger, who also is a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). More>

Cray Launches the Cray XE6 Supercomputer - The Next Generation of Its High-End Supercomputers

At the annual gathering of Cray users from across the world, global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. today officially launched the company's next generation of its high-end supercomputing systems -- the Cray XE6 supercomputer. "At NERSC, we serve a diverse scientific workload and a large user base that includes more than 3,000 scientists and engineers performing a wide array of unclassified research," said Kathy Yelick, Director of NERSC at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Simple Energy Efficiency Measures Can Eliminate Electricity Shortage in India

As chaotic as things are, there is a solution: simple energy efficiency measures, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), can eliminate the electricity deficit as early as 2013. What’s more, doing so will add $505 billion to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) between 2009 and 2017 (compared to India’s total GDP of $911 billion in 2007-2008), as businesses that have had to cut back due to electricity shortages can restore production. More>

Mina Jahan Bissell ’63 and Nancy L. Craig ’73 Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Mina Jahan Bissell ’63 and Nancy L. Craig ’73 have been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Members of the academy are elected annually “in recognition of their distinguished achievements in original research; election is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer.”Bissell was the director of the life sciences division of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for 16 years; she now serves the Berkeley Lab in the role of Distinguished Scientist. More>

How much carbon is stored by the oceans? Putting robots on the case

Think your garden is green? The blue waters of the oceans are actually much greener. Every year, microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton convert roughly 50 petagrams—50 trillion kilograms—of carbon dissolved in ocean surface waters into living tissue. That’s half of all the photosynthesis that occurs on the planet, and it happens at an astoundingly rapid pace. “If I look out my window, I can see the same trees standing mostly unchanged year in and year out. The photosynthetic biomass on land is there for decades before being replaced. In the ocean, the extreme opposite occurs; the plants that are here one week have been eaten by the end of the week,” says Jim Bishop, a Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science and Berkeley Lab earth scientist. More>

Problem drywall manufacturers named

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday released the names of 10 problem drywall manufacturers whose drywall was found to emit high levels of hydrogen sulfide after testing by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Of the samples tested, the top ten reactive sulfur-emitting drywall samples were all produced in China," according to a May 25 CPSC press release. "Some of the Chinese drywall had emission rates of hydrogen sulfide 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall samples." More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Defense Department and General Services Administration, which control three-fourths of the government's office space, say they want to use those facilities to test the latest green technologies. Defense hopes to show that it can reduce electricity demand and water use through these systems, which were developed by United Technologies Research Center, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California at Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Pentagon is paying General Electric $2 million to build a smart microgrid at the Marine Corps' largest base, Twentynine Palms in California's Mojave Desert. In another test case, Defense is spending $3.2 million to deploy advanced building energy management systems at three locations. More>

SAGE Electrochromics ‘Dynamic Glass’ Selected for Chabot College’s Community & Student Services Center

SAGE Electrochromics, Inc. today announced that its energy-saving, electronically tintable SageGlass® product is being integrated into the new Community and Student Services Center (CSSC) at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), SageGlass windows have the potential to reduce building heating and air conditioning equipment requirements by up to 25 percent, reduce cooling loads by up to 20 percent, lower peak power demand by as much as 26 percent, and reduce lighting costs by up to 60 percent. More>

In Mexico, Gulf oil spill draws parallels to worst case ever

Here on Mexico's Gulf Coast, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has revived memories of the world's worst accidental oil spill, a 1979 blowout that spewed oil for nine months, devastated marine life and covered the Texas and Mexican coasts with gobs of crude. Other techniques tried on the Ixtoc 1 might not work in the Deepwater Horizon spill. During the Ixtoc spill, scientists experimented with spreading fertilizer on the slick to encourage bacteria that break down the oil. That may not be a good idea near the Louisiana coast, which already has too much algae because of fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi River, said Terry Hazen, an oil spill cleanup expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The algae created a "dead zone" of low oxygen levels in the Gulf. More>

Cleantech to market benefit scientists as much as students

Launched as a pilot project at Berkeley Lab, the Cleantech to Market program is finishing its first semester as an official class at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and it’s safe to say the students learned more than they expected on how to take a technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. What was less expected is how much the scientists got out of the program. More>

Friday, May 21, 2010

Preventing cells from getting the kinks out of DNA

Many standard antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs block the enzymes that snip the kinks and knots out of DNA — DNA tangles are lethal to cells — but the drugs are increasingly encountering resistant bacteria and tumors. A new discovery by Berkeley biochemists — including James Berger of the Physical Biosciences Division — could pave the way for new research into how to re-design these drugs to make them more effective poisons for cancer cells and harmful bacteria. Berger and his colleagues found a way to obtain a picture that shows the interaction of the protein bound to DNA. The next step is to do the same for a drug bound to the protein/DNA complex, getting an image of exactly how these drugs interfere with the knot elimination machinery. More>

The Darfur Stoves Project: A Market Solution to Poverty

Today, three billion people—nearly half the world’s population—burn coal, wood, dung, or compost to heat their homes and cook their food. In addition to the deforestation associated with open fire cooking, especially in regions of conflict, the need for fuel often leaves searchers vulnerable, exposing them to risk of attack. This is particularly true in Darfur, where there are over two million displaced persons.At the invitation of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the United States Agency for International Development (OFDA/USAID), Dr. Ashok Gadgil and a team of scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory traveled to Darfur in 2005 to assess appropriate stove technology for the region. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove is the result of that initial fact-finding mission (and the subsequent research) and is currently at use in over 5,000 homes in IDP camps in Darfur. More>

VERSATILE HYDROGEN: FUEL, ENERGY STORAGE, AND MORE

GridShift, of Marietta, Georgia, has announced that it has developed “ a new method for hydrogen generation produces four times more hydrogen per electrode surface area than what is currently reported for commercial units today. GridShift is not alone in hydrogen breakthroughs. Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have also discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst to generate hydrogen from water. Inexpensive means 70 times cheaper than platinum, the most popular metal used to coax the breakup of water. The molybdenum-oxo complex, with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo, is so good at its job that it can split dirty water or even sea water into hydrogen and oxygen,with residues of course. More>

Graphene's Electronic Structure Seen in Great Detail

A group of scientists has recently managed to obtain groundbreaking new data on the electronic structure of graphene. The material is a single-atom-thick carbon compound, which exhibits very peculiar physical and chemical properties. Discovered only 5 years ago at the University of Manchester, in the UK, graphene has in the meantime become one of the most widely-studied materials, due to the great promise it holds for improving and innovating the electronics of tomorrow. The new work was carried out at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Scientists from the Advanced Light Source (ALS) used complex observations techniques to make more sense of what's going on inside the carbon compound. ALS experts Aaron Bostwick and Eli Rotenberg were the leaders of the international effort, which was coordinated at the Source. They reveal that plasmarons, a class of composite particles, play a huge role in providing more information on the properties of graphene. More>
To that end, UC Berkeley launched its Cleantech-to-Market (C2M) program in 2008, pairing students from the business school — as well as a handful of students from law and engineering programs — with scientists conducting cleantech-related research. The idea, at least initially, was to give business students a real-life case study to work on. But during presentations last week of work done through the program, scientists said they were surprised at how the business students had improved their ideas. Wadia, who earned a PhD in UC Berkeley's Energy Resources Group, has been researching ways to develop photovoltaic solar cells from earth-abundant materials to make solar energy affordable and accessible worldwide. The "nanomaterials" that Wadia has created in his lab could be used to manufacture flexible, affordable and efficient thin-film solar. Currently working at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy while on a one-year leave from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Wadia worked with a team of five students to develop a market strategy and sales pitch around his research. More>

What A Price on Carbon Would Cost Data Center Operators

It’s easy to see how coal plant owners and oil companies would pay extra when there’s a price put on carbon emissions. But industries that use a significant amounts of electricity will also be greatly affected, and in particular data center operators. Just how much? According to Jonathan Koomey, Project Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford, speaking at the Uptime Institute Symposium this week, if there is a carbon price of $19 per ton under a cap and trade system, a 130,000 square foot data center that was powered by a coal-sourced utility could have to pay an additional $5 million a year (via Data Center Knowledge). More>

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The business of finding and fixing these mistakes is called “building commissioning,” a term borrowed from the standard naval practice of commissioning a new ship with sea trials to determine whether it’s fit for service. And yet building commissioning is “arguably the single-most cost-effective strategy for reducing energy, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions in buildings today,” according to a 2009 report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>
Extending the Department of Treasury Grant Program (TGP) by two years and including solar manufacturing in the industries' existing tax credit would add 200,000 new domestic solar jobs and jobs in supporting industries, according to a new study published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA’s study complements research released in April by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found the TGP “has provided significant economic value” and showed strong employment levels in renewable energy industries during 2009. More>

China's infrastructure gains affect energy

Just for building its rail lines last year, China used 200 million tons of cement, while the entire American economy only used 93 million tons, David Fridley, a China energy specialist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory told the Times. Production of such massive quantities of cement increases China's energy use as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. But the cement also has been responsible for expanding a high-speed passenger rail system that is among the most energy-efficient in the world. More>

Observation of Plasmarons in Quasi-Freestanding Doped Graphene

Electrons in metals and semiconductors undergo many complex interactions, and most theoretical treatments make use of the quasiparticle approximation, in which independent electrons are replaced by electron- and hole-like quasiparticles interacting through a dynamically screened Coulomb force. The details of the screening are determined by the valence band structure, but the band energies are modified by the screened interactions. A complex self-energy function describes the energy and lifetime renormalization of the band structure resulting from this interplay. More>

Plasmonic promises: First observation of plasmarons in graphene

Scientists working at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered striking new details about the electronic structure of graphene, crystalline sheets of carbon just one atom thick. An international team led by Aaron Bostwick and Eli Rotenberg of the ALS found that composite particles called plasmarons play a vital role in determining graphene’s properties. More>

Solexant plans 100-employee solar plant

A California solar company is seeking a $25 million state loan to build a manufacturing plant in either Wilsonville or Gresham that would employ about 100. San Jose-based Solexant Corp.’s loan request will be reviewed Tuesday by an advisory committee to the Oregon Department of Energy’s state Energy Loan Program. Privately held Solexant is a four-year-old, venture-backed developer of what it refers to as “ultra-thin-film solar cells." Its technology, first developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, increases solar cell efficiency while reducing manufacturing costs, according to the company’s website. More>

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ecologist urges caution in Gulf Coast oil cleanup

Once the Gulf Coast oil spill is contained, the next problem will be how to clean it up. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Ecology Department is led by Terry Hazen, who says after picking up as much oil as possible, "exercise extreme caution about whatever else you do." Hazen has more than 30 years experience studying the effects of oil spills. He says the oil will be damaging enough; toxic dispersants will just make it worse. He points to the 1978 Amoco Cadiz Spill off the coast of Normandy as an example. He says areas where dispersants were used still have not fully recovered, while areas where there was no human intervention are now fine. More>

Scientists Find Photosynthesis Depends on Quantum Entanglement

Researchers at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have discovered that photosynthesis depends on a relatively obscure physical phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Photosynthesis is the highly efficient process that plants use to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars and other chemicals, and scientists hope to one day mimic the process of photosynthesis to produce fuels and chemicals directly from sunlight. The new LBNL research sheds light on the process, but also reveals new unexpected levels of complexity. More>

New type of supernova may shed light on some universal mysteries

In the past decade, robotic telescopes have turned astronomers' attention to scads of strange exploding stars, one-offs that may or may not point to new and unusual physics. But supernova (SN) 2005E, discovered five years ago by the University of California, Berkeley's Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT), is one of eight known "calcium-rich supernovae" that seem to stand out as horses of a different color. To make things even muddier, Filippenko and former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Dovi Poznanski, currently at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and also coauthor on the Nature paper, reported last November another supernova, SN 2002bj, that they believe explodes by a similar mechanism: ignition of a helium layer on a white dwarf. More>

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

4 power advantages of cloud computing

There has been some debate here on ZDnet in the past few months over the energy efficiency profile of the cloud, especially since Greenpeace came out blasting the high-tech industry at large for not thinking through the power equation properly. So, it is perhaps natural that one of the keynote presentatations during the opening day of the Uptime Institute’s Symposium 2010 here in New York focused on the “Power-Related Advantages of Cloud Computing.” According to Jonathan Koomey, who is a consulting professor for Stanford University and a project scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, there are four primary reasons why cloud computing (at least philosophically speaking) should be a more power-efficient approach than an in-house data center. More>

Carbon tax could whack data centers

A carbon tax is inevitable, several speakers and panelists said at the Uptime Institute IT Symposium this week. Data centers that don't plan for it could get whacked with millions of dollars in additional operating costs per year -- and it could happen sooner than most people might think. "There will be a price for carbon, in spite of the nasty, messy politics in Washington," said Jonathan Koomey, a data center energy efficiency researcher, consulting professor with Stanford University and project scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It is impossible to meet government mandated carbon reduction targets without one, he says. More>

On Second Thought, Says Scientist, Hair Still Crummy Way to Fight Oil Spill

Distinguished scientist Terry Hazen had to be the big, bad killjoy on a story about how local company Matter of Trust could collect your hair and use it to fight the ongoing Deep Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. "If you shaved everybody in the United States, there wouldn't be enough hair to cover this oil spill," Hazen told SF Weekly. So it came as something of a surprise to read the suggestion to the New York Times of one Terry Hazen, the esteemed microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, on how to soak up the oil: "One tactic for reducing the amount of oil in the Gulf would be to seed the affected waters with absorbent materials -- for example cellulose fibers or animal hair -- that can soak up oil." (underlining ours) Terry, what gives? Have you had a hair epiphany? Not quite, explains the scientist. More>

Berkeley Lab Scientists Build Software Framework for ATLAS Collaboration

Three thousand researchers in 37 countries are searching for the origins of mass, new dimensions of space and undiscovered forces of physics in the head-on collisions of high-energy protons at the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS experiment. When ATLAS is turned-on, its detectors record about 400 collision events per second from a variety of perspectives, a rate equivalent to filling 27 compact disks per minute. In order to sift out signs of new physics in this torrent of data, thousands of researchers must be able to process this information and collaborate on results in real time. To facilitate this distributed workflow, they are relying on a software framework called Athena, which was developed by an international team of scientists led by Paolo Calafiura of the Advanced Computing for Science Department in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab) Computational Research Division. More>

Monday, May 17, 2010

Untangling the Quantum Entanglement Behind Photosynthesis: Berkeley scientists shine new light on green plant secrets

The future of clean green solar power may well hinge on scientists being able to unravel the mysteries of photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert sunlight into electrochemical energy. To this end, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC), Berkeley have recorded the first observation and characterization of a critical physical phenomenon behind photosynthesis known as quantum entanglement. More>

New Concerns About Radiation And Breast Cancer

It is well established that exposure to ionizing radiation can result in mutations or other genetic damage that cause cells to turn cancerous. Now a new study led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has revealed another way in which radiation can promote cancer development. Working with cultures of human breast cells, the researchers discovered that radiation exposure can alter the environment surrounding the cells so that future cells are more likely to become cancerous. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in Softpedia and Times of India.

Research Spurs Hope of Mimicking Photosynthesis to Boost Solar Efficiency

Biomimicry is all the rage in cleantech these days. There are solar cells modeled after butterfly wings, fans borrowing from humpback whales to become more aerodynamic and wind turbine blades mimicking whale flippers. And now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley Lab have inched closer to being able to replicate the mechanical processes underlying photosynthesis — a discovery that could one day lead to cleaner and more efficient solar power systems. More>

Has the Hydrogen Highway Become a Good Idea Again?

Remember the Hydrogen Highway that would run the length of California and provide the infrastructure for the Hydrogen Economy? California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger talked up the idea in his 2004 State of the State Address. It might have been a good idea, but a bit premature in 2004. Now, after an exciting discovery at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), it’s a good idea whose time may have come around. Hemamala Karunadasa, Christopher Chang, and Jeffrey Long, who hold joint appointments at LBNL and UC Berkeley, discovered a cheap way to create hydrogen from water—even “dirty” water like seawater. More>

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Obama administration recruits outside experts to help BP

Two of President Obama's cabinet secretaries charged with overseeing the oil spill in the Gulf met with officials in BP America's headquarters on Wednesday as the government and industry experts continued to look for remedies to stop the massive escape of oil from 5,000 feet below the surface. The two secretaries also recruited a team of high-level experts to inject what Chu described as outside “intellectual firepower” into the mission, including Berkeley Lab earth scientist George Cooper. More>