Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Regulators Give Green Light to Solar, Wind Projects

Construction is now under way on the world's biggest wind farm in California's Mojave Desert. Federal and state regulators have given the green light to several large solar thermal projects in the Mojave as well. “It's very significant. This is a potential project of 3,000 megawatts in scale. To put that in context, the state of California, today, in aggregate, has 2,700 megawatts of wind power capacity online,” said Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “So we're talking about the possibility of more than doubling that capacity with a single project.” More>

Over 400 positions to be offered at job fair

If you're looking for work, and so many are, there is an opportunity you should know about. On Tuesday, there is a big job fair in Emeryville sponsored by ABC7 and the California Job Journal. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is hiring and one doesn't need to be a scientist to apply. The open positions cut across all aspects of the lab's many functions. "We have 160 job opportunities available here at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; everything from scientists, to maintenance supervisors, to I.T. specialists," says Dan Krotz, from Lawrence National Berkeley Laboratory. More>

How to save energy around the house

U.S. consumers spend a collective $241 billion on home energy use every year — keeping the home comfortable, the lights lit, the food cold, the clothes clean and the gadgets charged, according to Evan Mills, who leads the Home Energy Saver ( http://hes.lbl.gov) project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The fuel burned to provide this energy pumps 1.2 billion tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Mills says improvements in efficiency could cut home energy use by more than half, leading to lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. The first step to improving home energy efficiency is as simple as logging onto the Internet or picking up the phone to set up a home energy audit. The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's Home Energy Saver is a free online tool that uses data developed by the U.S. Department of Energy to make specific recommendations for energy-saving upgrades based on details you provide such as ZIP code, address, house size, type of insulation and number of occupants. More>

The mystery of the missing oil plume

Now you see it, now you don't. According to news reports last week, the plume of oil in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico is no more. But just days earlier, the subsurface plume had been proclaimed a long-lived menace. A second study on the plume, led by Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, was published on 24 August. Although Hazen's team measured stable oxygen levels, the group also found oil-eating microbes of the order Oceano­spirillales and saw intense microbial activity. It seemed the microbes were making quick work of the plume — at least in late May to early June, when the measurements were taken. More>

Friday, August 27, 2010

Berkeley's Answer to Gulf Oil Spill Mystery

Biologists at UC Berkeley discovered a previously unknown type of oil-eating bacteria while studying this summer's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Their findings may help answer one of the mysteries of the spill: Where did all the oil go? By some account all of the oil has vanished, and it's now impossible to detect in Gulf waters. That seems impossible when you think about the nearly five million barrels of oil that spilled. The Berkeley researchers credit in part the new and still unclassified species for degrading the oil much faster than anyone anticipated. Ever since BP's catastrophic equipment failure, BP deployed an unprecedented quantity of commercial oil dispersant near the well head. The tiny deep-water micro-organisms called gamma-proteobacteria have been gobbling down the oil. The little guys turned the 22-mile long toxic plume "undetectable," according to Terry C. Hazen, the chief microbiologist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vampire Hunters: Devices Reduce Energy Waste

It's 1 a.m., and everyone in the house is asleep. The television is off. The computers are off. Your cell phones and MP3 players are plugged in but no longer charging. And all these products are still sucking electricity. "Vampire power," also known as "phantom power," accounts for a surprising amount of U.S. electricity consumption. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report, "A typical American home has forty products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to almost 10 percent of residential electricity use." (For more about how organizations can manage their power consumption, see "Save Serious Money With a Business Energy Audit.") More>

Community College Training for Managing Green Jobs

BEYOND “green-collar” jobs, like retrofitting a home to conserve energy or helping build a wind farm, an energy-conscious economy will need a new generation of environmentally smart managers, and that’s where community colleges are stepping up with new courses and degree programs. The federal government is pouring $500 million into training for green jobs, and the sector devoted to energy efficiency is estimated to grow as much as fourfold in the next decade, to some 1.3 million people, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Its March 2010 report was financed by the Energy Department. More>

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Undersea Oil Plume Vanishes in Gulf, Degraded by Previously Unknown Bug

The Gulf of Mexico's undersea oil plume is no more. For nearly a month, scientists sampling the site of a deepwater plume stretching southwest from BP PLC's failed well in the Gulf have been foiled. Their sensors have gone silent. Where once a vibrant -- if diffuse -- cloud of oil stretched for miles, 3,600 feet below the surface, there is now only ocean, and what seems to be the debris of a bacterial feeding frenzy."For the last three weeks, we haven't been able to detect the deepwater plume at all," said Terry Hazen, a microbiologist and oil spill expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who has had a clutch of researchers monitoring the Gulf since late May. More>

Stories on this topic appeared in more than 100 news publications, including San Francisco Chronicle, Wall St. Journal, NPR, CNN, and the Associated Press.

Solar Power: Brighter Long-Term Investment Outlook

With utilities adopting standards to increase the amount of solar-generated electricity in coming years, the U.S. could bolster its presence in the global solar-power market. The quickening growth pace could present attractive opportunities for investors, according to some professionals. Total capacity for grid-connected PV installations was 1.26Gw at the end of 2009. Total solar capacity must reach 6Gw by 2020, and 9.5Gw by 2025, in order for the 16 states with solar carve-outs to meet their targets, according to projections by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Energy Dept. That's expected to be a key driver of revenue growth for manufacturers of PV panels and related materials. More>

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cool Roofs Make Sense

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced a series of initiatives by the Department of Energy to more broadly implement cool roof technologies on DOE facilities and buildings. A recent study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that using cool roofs and cool pavements in cities around the world can help reduce the demand for air conditioning, cool entire cities, and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emission. More>

Commentary: Obstacles to Alternative Energy Deployment

In his just-released report, “Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy,” Lawrence Berkeley staff scientist David Fridley assesses the obvious yet often overlooked obstacles to the widespread deployment of alternative energies around the world. These nine challenges are: Scalability and timing, Commercialization, Substitutability, Material requirements, Intermittency, Energy density, Water, The Law of Receding Horizons, Energy returned on energy invested. More>

Diamonds Are a Supercomputer's Best Friend

Scientists in California have used commercially available technology to pattern large sheets of diamonds with tiny, nitrogen-filled holes. The nitrogen-vacancy diamonds, as the sheets are called by scientists, could store millions of times more information than current silicon-based systems and process that information dozens of times faster. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with colleagues from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, created such an array by using an ion beam to first knock out two carbon atoms, and then replace them with one nitrogen atom. More>
What if every gallon of gas in our cars and lump of coal in our power plants did extra duty? What if we could get more work out of our fuel? That's the basic idea of waste heat recovery systems. A young venture based in San Francisco, California, called Alphabet Energy aims to take the decades-old idea of generating electricity from captured heat, and deploy it at massive scale on the cheap with a little help from nanotechnology and the semiconductor industry. The company employs technology originally developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to adapt this material and lower its thermal conductivity, basically allowing it to produce more electricity with less heat. More>

Friday, August 20, 2010

Listening to Earth breathe through 500 towers

Today, hundreds of science groups in multiple countries have planted more than 500 micrometeorological towers across five continents to monitor these exchanges every 30 minutes. Each group gathers, stores, and sorts its data in its own way. Yet, in order to accurately track and predict long-term trends in climate—on local, regional and global scales—researchers need to bring together and navigate through these thousands of disparate datasets. Realizing the scientific benefits of collaborating and harmonizing data on a global level, a team of environmental scientists and database specialists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Virginia, Microsoft Research, Max-Planck Institute of Biogeochemistry, University of California Berkeley, University of Tuscia and the Berkeley Water Center joined forces to create an online portal called Fluxdata.org. More>

Scientists simulate terror attack on Boston subway

Scientists are releasing gases and fluorescent particles into Boston's subway tunnels on Friday to study how toxic chemicals and lethal biological agents could spread through the nation's oldest subway system in a terrorist attack. The study involves 30 researchers from: Argonne, Ill.-based National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.-based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Arlington, Va.-based ICx Technologies, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory of the United Kingdom and Chemistry Centre of Perth, western Australia. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Boston Globe.

Gulf spill: Is the oil lurking underwater?

At the surface, the oil does appear to be almost gone. But the big question is whether oil droplets are still around below the surface, and if so how long they will linger. Researchers are divided on this. But Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, says that he has studied the same plume as the Woods Hole group. His results, which have yet to be published, show that microbes are rapidly eating up the plumes – so much so, he says, that the oil should already have vanished. Hazen is adamant: "The plume is no longer there. It's gone." More>

Recent droughts stifled growth of terrestrial vegetation

Deep and extended droughts are responsible for a recent slowdown in the amount of carbon dioxide that land plants pulled from the atmosphere as they grew, a new study suggests. Satellite data suggest that between 1982 and 1999, the world’s net primary production — the amount of carbon pulled from the air as CO2 and stored in living plants each year — rose about 6 percent, says Maosheng Zhao, an ecologist at the University of Montana in Missoula. Previous studies have hinted that drought is a major contributor to declines in plant productivity, says Berkeley Lab earth scientist Inez Fung. But, she adds, “what’s really cool about this paper is the global time series of satellite observations” — a set of data that can’t be reproduced by simply extrapolating from occasional studies of widely scattered plots of forest. More>

New variety of photosynthetic pigment is the first discovered in 60 years

A new kind of chlorophyll that catches sunlight from just beyond the red end of the visible light spectrum has been discovered. The new pigment extends the known range of light that is usable by most photosynthetic organisms. The find may also enable scientists to engineer algae that are more efficient producers of oil for biofuels, says Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Krishna Niyogi. Microbes bearing the new chlorophyll could soak up rays that most microbes can’t make use of. More>

Fund to honor Glenn Seaborg to help fund purchase of prominent Lafayette ridge

David Seaborg and his father, Glenn -- the Nobel Prize-winning chemist who discovered plutonium and helped usher in the nuclear age -- found a common bond hiking in the East Bay hills. Eleven years after Berkeley Lab's Glenn Seaborg died in 1999 at age 86 in his Lafayette home, his son and allies have found a way to honor the senior Seaborg for his work promoting hiking and land preservation. Glenn Seaborg was best known for codiscovering 10 elements, working on the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb, as well as serving as a UC Berkeley chancellor, and as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. More>

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ozone + nicotine = bigger asthma threat

Ozone can react with secondhand tobacco smoke to form ultrafine particles that may pose a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine, U.S. researchers say. Study leader Mohamad Suleiman, a chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's environmental energy technologies division, and colleagues say the ultrafine particles become major components of thirdhand smoke -- the residue from tobacco smoke that clings on surfaces, long after a cigarette or cigar has been extinguished. More>

Will China Overwhelm Us With Greenhouse-Gas Emissions?

Mark Levine was recently the director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and is now working full time with the China Energy Group at LBNL, a group Levine founded in 1988. Looking to the future, Levine outlined a likely scenario where China’s total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow, but then level off in 20 years or so, and then begin a slow steady decrease. But at its peak Chinese energy use per capita will stay well below that of the United States and below that of Europe. China’s emissions will not overwhelm us, according to Levine, because of several reasons, but mainly due to saturation in the appliance and transportation markets in China. More>

Martian Environment Ideally Suited for Crop Farming, Study Says

If we ever decide to colonize Mars, it might be fairly simple to grow crops in that red soil, according to a new study. Mars’ reduced gravity could let us use less water and fertilizer than we do on Earth. Martian gravity is about one-third as strong as Earth’s, meaning water would flow at a slower rate. This could lead to suffocation of microorganisms and roots, along with emissions of toxic gases, Maggia and Pallud write in a study published early online this week in Advances in Space Research. To study this effect, Maggi, a University of Sydney biogeochemist, and Pallud, a biogeophysicist at UC-Berkeley, simulated both Mars- and Earth-gravity root processes using BIOTOUGHREACT, a model of soil nutrient transport and microbe dynamics developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in Wired magazine.

Biotech Academy students get hands-on education

While the facts of this case are real, it wasn’t tried in a real court or even examined by real police detectives. Instead, this CSI-like case was part of the summer curriculum of 28 East Bay students. They are part of Biotech Academy, a private-public partnership that exposes disadvantaged high school students to the biotechnology industry. In the past 17 years, more than 1,500 students from Berkeley High, Oakland Technical High School and other schools have learned about the biotechnology industry by taking hands-on, college preparatory science classes in their last two years of high school and working the summer in between at a Bay Area biotech, green tech, or health care company. This year students held paid internships at Bayer HealthCare, Kaiser Permanente, The Biotech Academy, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley, Libby Laboratories, Tethys Bioscience, and others. The idea is to nurture a love of science in kids who may not have thought of making a career in the industry, according to Deborah Bellush, the executive director of Biotech Partners, which runs the program. More>

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ozone and cigarette smoke worse for asthma than smoke alone

Ozone generators are often used in hotel rooms, cars and private homes to get rid of the smell of cigarette smoke, but new evidence suggests that this cure may be worse than the disease. Researchers at the Univeristy of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that ozone combines with nicotine and other components of cigarette smoke to produce chemicals that are a greater asthma hazard than the original smoke. In particular, the chemicals combine to form ultrafine aerosols that can carry dangerous chemicals deep into the lungs, where they trigger the development of asthma. More>

Research by Energy Biosciences Institute Suggests Exclusive Biofuel Plants for Fuel Production

A recent viewpoint titled ‘Feedstocks for Lignocellulosic Biofuels’ appeared in the August 13th edition of the Journal Science and written by the researchers of the Energy Biosciences Institute reflected a point on the use of biofuels. The research was funded by BP and executed in cooperation between the University of Illinois, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers’ advocate a variety of plant species that are compliant with the weather and soil settings of a specific region of the world and can be used for building up an agro ecosystem exclusively for fuel production that are analogous with the current ecological goals. More>

'Thirdhand Smoke' Especially Harmful For Asthma Sufferers

Components in cigarette smoke that linger long after the cigarette has been extinguished can pose their own health risks, especially for asthma sufferers, according to a new study. "Thirdhand smoke" — the residue that can persist for months after a cigarette is put out — can react with pollutant ozone to form tiny, potentially harmful particles. These "ultrafine" particles, less than 100 nanometers wide, can make their way deep into a person's lungs and could present a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine itself, said study researcher Mohamad Sleiman, a chemist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (A nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter. The diameter of a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers.) More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in Softpedia.

Webb tackles black carbon

Even the most ardent climate change skeptics are familiar with carbon dioxide. The ubiquitous chemical compound, found in everything from carbonated water to car exhaust, is the principle source of global warming, scientists say. How about black carbon? Didn't think so. Essentially a compound found in soot, black carbon is the second leading contributor to climate change, according to 15-year report released earlier this month. Unlike carbon dioxide, which can linger in the atmosphere for 100 years or so, black carbon stays there only a few weeks. Nevertheless, scientists says it contributes respiratory disease and glacier melt. The report, issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, prompted U.S. Sen. Jim Webb to call on Congress to include black carbon in domestic and international climate negotiations. More>

Homeland Security to study Boston-area subway airflow

Commuters in Boston’s MBTA subway system will notice scientific equipment and researchers with electronic monitoring devices throughout the system August 20 -27, while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues a scientific study of airflow throughout the underground portion of the subway system. The purpose of the study is to gather data on the behavior of airborne contaminants if they were to be released into the subway. The study will be conducted by researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and an international team from ICx Technologies of Arlington, Va., Defence Science and Technology Laboratory of the United Kingdom, and Chemistry Centre of Australia. More>

Monday, August 16, 2010

Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live

When Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his automobile parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser. Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home. “Any 16 year-old with basic programming skills can do this,” said Gerald Friedland, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. He and a colleague, Robin Sommer of Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division, wrote a paper, “Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geotagging,” which they presented on Tuesday at a workshop in Washington during the Advanced Computing Systems Association’s annual conference on security. More>

Making Smart Windows that Are Also Cheap

Windows that absorb or reflect light and heat at the flick of a switch could help cut heating and cooling bills. A company called Soladigm has developed methods for making these "electrochromic" windows cheaply, making them more viable for homes and office buildings. Soladigm will use a tungsten oxide-based electrochromic layer for its first windows. Tungsten oxide can endure repeated cycling between ion-rich and ion-free stages-which makes it durable, says Delia Milliron, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) researcher in electrochromic materials. More>

California Solar Program Backs Projects With Big Cost Variations

California has succeeded in encouraging solar power development through a rebate program, but program data show the state is paying for some systems to be installed at costs far above prevailing rates. The program, the California Solar Initiative, pays rebates to households and businesses based on the size of any system installed and includes only limited measures to control costs of the projects. The program had committed $1.41 billion to completed and pending projects as of Aug. 4. Another factor that can increase an installation's cost is if it is secured on a moving rather than a fixed platform, Mark Bolinger, a research scientist in the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, wrote in an email. More>

The Birth of a U.S. Wind Power Manufacturing Industry

According to the just-released 2009 Wind Market Report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a contemporary wind turbine averages about two megawatts in capacity, or enough power for almost 500 U.S. homes. According to Winds of Change; A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry (.pdf) from AWEA, the Blue-Green Alliance and the United Steelworkers, the average turbine weighs 200 to 400 short tons, 90 percent of that in steel and most of the rest in fiberglass, copper, concrete, aluminum and adhesives. It has about 8,000 components, many already manufactured domestically in smaller versions for aerospace, defense, energy and mining. More>

Metal microbes

Proteins can be more than just long strings of amino acids, because many also contain a metal ion, in which case they are known as metalloproteins. But only now are scientists realising quite how many, thanks to a new chromatography technique, employing two different forms of mass spectrometry, recently developed by a team of US scientists. This all suggests that metalloproteins are much more varied and widespread than previously suspected. 'We thought we knew most of the metalloproteins out there,' says team member John Tainer from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. 'But it turns out we only know a tiny fraction of them.' More>

“Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy” released

In California, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientist David Fridley released “Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy” as a chapter in the October 2010 Watershed Media/UC Press publication, The Post Carbon Reader. The report looks at Scalability and Timing, Commercialization, Substitutability, Material Requirements, Intermittency, Energy Density, Water, The Law of Receding Horizons, and Energy Returned on Energy Invested. More>

Analysis on Feedstocks for Cellulosic Biofuel Production

In a "Perspective" article in the Aug. 13 edition of the Journal Science, researchers from the Energy Biosciences Institute suggest that a diversity of plant species, adaptable to the climate and soil conditions of specific regions of the world, can be used to develop agroecosystems for fuel production that are compatible with contemporary environmental goals. EBI Director Chris Somerville of the University of California, Berkeley, and Deputy Director Steve Long of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were co-authors with EBI bioenergy analysts Caroline Taylor, Heather Youngs and Sarah Davis. The institute is a research collaboration between UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the funding sponsor BP. More>

Upcoming Events

Oct. 14: The third annual Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit will be held at the Brocade Communications campus in San Jose, Calif. The summit is a partnership between the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the California Energy Commission and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Companies scheduled to present case studies at this year’s event include Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Cisco Systems, eBay and NetApp. More>

Study shows ozone and nicotine a bad combination for ashtma

A new study by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) shows that ozone can react with the in secondhand smoke to form ultrafine particles that may become a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine itself. These ultrafine particles also become major components of thirdhand smoke - the residue from tobacco smoke that persists long after a cigarette or cigar has been extinguished. More>

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Turning Down The Noise In Graphene

Working with the unique nanoscience capabilities of the Molecular Foundry at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a multi-institutional team of researchers has developed the first model of signal-to-noise-ratios for low frequency noises in graphene on silica. Their results show noise patterns that run just the opposite of noise patterns in other electronic materials. Berkeley Lab materials scientist Yuegang Zhang led a study in which it was determined that for graphene on silica, the background signal noise is minimal near the region in the graphene where the electron density of states (the number of energy states available to each electron) is lowest. More>

AT&T Launches First Vampire Powerless Charger

Ever wonder why your cell phone charger feels warm when plugged into the wall, even if there’s no phone attached? This is a classic example of vampire power – the power your electrical devices use even when they are turned off or in standby mode. Also known as phantom load, vampire power is no small blip on your energy bill. In fact, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that vampire power accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all residential electricity use. More>

Scientists Use Laser Light To Watch An Atom's Electrons Moving In Real Time

An international team of scientists led by groups from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching, Germany, and from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley has used ultrashort flashes of laser light to directly observe the movement of an atom's outer electrons for the first time. More>
When it comes to the creation of green businesses, those BART-riding, granola-gnawing, patchouli-oiling earth muffins in Northern California have nothing on Orange Countians. According to the Environmental Defense Fund's map of California's Green Economy, Orange County's 275 green companies are surpassed only by Los Angeles County's 489 businesses.The Environmental Defense Fund, which began the map in 2009, includes 3,500 companies in every major metropolitan area of the state. It is based on data contained in recent reports by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the state's Employment Development Department. More>

The “Magic” Behind Apple’s New Battery

When it comes to all things batteries, I’m a fanboy of Venkat Srinivasan, researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab‘s Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) program, and rockin’ blogger for his site This Week In Batteries. Well, for his weekly update this week, he helps explain some of the technology he thinks is at the heart of Apple’s recent announcement that it has developed and is selling a battery charger with six Apple-optimized nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) reusable batteries for its wireless Mac accessories. More>

Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry 'quantifies thousands of molecules'

A single measurement using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) can quantify hundreds to thousands of molecules, according to researchers from California. The team, comprising representatives of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, write in BioTechniques of the value that GC-MS brings to experiments. More>

NAS President, NAE Members Named to Secretary of Energy Advisory Board

The U.S. Department of Energy announced yesterday that National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone will serve as a member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, representing the NAS. Also joining Cicerone are five members of the National Academy of Engineering:

Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp.; Nicholas M. Donofrio, retired executive vice president of innovation and technology, IBM Corp.; Charles O. Holliday Jr., chairman of Bank of America and former chairman and CEO of DuPont; William J. Perry, former U.S. secretary of defense and now a professor at Stanford University; and Arthur H. Rosenfeld, a guest faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and former commissioner of the California Energy Commission. More>

Scientists Shed New Light on Protein-Salt Interactions

Traditional crystallographic techniques, such as x-ray diffraction, provide a profile of ordered materials with static structures. However, for dynamic or complex systems in which the atomic structure is rapidly changing, more sophisticated methods are needed. Now, Berkeley Lab scientists have applied x-ray absorption spectroscopy to study a model protein, triglycine – a short chain of three molecules of the simplest amino acid, glycine. By simulating this molecule’s x-ray absorption spectrum the team has show how its chain kinks and straightens in response to ions in solution. More>

Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Dies at 86

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicist Gerson Goldhaber, an award-winning scientist with "a great nose for physics" and research contributions ranging from particle to cosmic discoveries, died in his Berkeley home of natural causes July 19 at the age of 86. An artist as well as a physicist, Goldhaber's ability to seek out unexplored areas and internalize data in a unique way led him to his considerable success, according to longtime colleague and physicist at the laboratory, Robert Cahn, who co-authored the 2009 book "The Experimental Foundations of Particle Physics" with Goldhaber. More>

Stopping the runaway train of server energy usage

Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford University professor and project scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was the first person to quantify data center energy use. Experts would argue that his 2007 study on server power consumption was the catalyst that drove data center efficiency forward over the coming years. In this Q&A, Koomey discusses why those numbers were so important, how server energy consumption has slowed, and why data centers shouldn't get a bad rap as energy hogs. This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with five data center professionals who have changed the industry. More>

Wide range of plants offer cellulosic biofuel potential, ecological diversity

When it comes to selecting the right plant source for future cellulosic biofuel production, the solution won't be one-size-fits-all, and it certainly doesn't have to involve food and feed crops. In a "Perspective" article in the Aug. 13 edition of the Journal Science, researchers from the Energy Biosciences Institute suggest that a diversity of plant species, adaptable to the climate and soil conditions of specific regions of the world, can be used to develop agroecosystems for fuel production that are compatible with contemporary environmental goals. EBI Director Chris Somerville of the University of California, Berkeley, and Deputy Director Steve Long of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were co-authors with EBI bioenergy analysts Caroline Taylor, Heather Youngs and Sarah Davis. The institute is a research collaboration between UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the funding sponsor BP. More>

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Selenium makes more efficient solar cells

Call it the anti-sunscreen. That's more or less the description of what many solar energy researchers would like to find -- light-catching substances that could be added to photovoltaic materials in order to convert more of the sun's energy into carbon-free electricity. Research reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP), describes how solar power could potentially be harvested by using oxide materials that contain the element selenium. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, embedded selenium in zinc oxide, a relatively inexpensive material that could be promising for solar power conversion if it could make more efficient use of the sun's energy. The team found that even a relatively small amount of selenium, just 9 percent of the mostly zinc-oxide base, dramatically boosted the material's efficiency in absorbing light. More>

Berkeley Lab to Study Effects of Contamination on IT Equipment

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is preparing to study the effects of gaseous contamination on the operation of IT equipment. Currently, Berkeley Lab is seeking data center managers that would like to volunteer to assist in the study; these data centers would provide an information base for the study to, in part, determine whether airborne contamination is a source of IT equipment failure. More>