According to a new report from the National Research Council, although ignition of fusion fuel has not yet been achieved, the potential benefits of inertial fusion energy justify investment in fusion energy research and development. Scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion over the past decade has been substantial, but continued progress will require a large and concerted effort.
In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources. Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts.
From providing living cells with energy, to nitrogen fixation, to the splitting of water molecules, the catalytic activities of metalloenzymes—proteins that contain a metal ion—are vital to life on Earth. Using ultrafast, intensely bright pulses of X-rays from SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source researchers were able to simultaneously image at room temperature the atomic and electronic structures of photosystem II, a metalloenzyme critical to photosynthesis.
Emissions from coal power stations could be drastically reduced by a new, energy-efficient material that adsorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, then release it when exposed to sunlight. Monash University and CSIRO scientists, for the first time, discovered a photosensitive metal organic framework, which has lead to a powerful and cost-effective tool to capture and store, or potentially recycle, carbon dioxide.
The persistent U.S. drought is taking a toll on producers of ethanol, with corn becoming so scarce that nearly two dozen ethanol plants have been forced to halt production. The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, provided data to The Associated Press showing that 20 of the nation's 211 ethanol plants have ceased production over the past year, including five in January.
Another major corporate gift from the oil and gas industry, this time from ExxonMobil, seeks to boost hydrocarbon deposit research at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources. Gov. Matt Mead, UW President Tom Buchanan and ExxonMobil vice president Randy Broiles announced the $2.5 million gift Thursday at the State Capitol.
Scientists studying an enzyme that naturally produces alkanes—long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline—have figured out why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles. Armed with that knowledge, they’ve devised a strategy to keep the reaction going.
The Alaskan Brewing Co. is going green, but instead of looking to solar and wind energy, it has turned to a very familiar source: beer. The Juneau-based beer maker has installed a unique boiler system in order to cut its fuel costs. It purchased a $1.8 million furnace that burns the company's spent grain—the waste accumulated from the brewing process—into steam which powers the majority of the brewery's operations.
At Columbia University, Ozgur Sahin is using an atomic force microscope to analyze bacterial spores called Bacillus. Curious about the accordion-like wrinkles that disappear when the spores collect moisture from the air, Sahin noticed the forceful response these unfolding spores create against the microscope’s cantilever arm. His laboratory is now attempting to harness this energy, which he describes as something akin to a muscle.
What if we could assess technologies for hidden environmental dangers before they hit the marketplace? And even better, what if the technology's positive impacts could be maximized and negative ones minimized before the technology is even deployed, as part of the development process? The Emerging Technology Assessment Team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working to do just that, using energy and environmental analysis techniques to estimate potential impacts of early-stage technologies.
Several Iowa businesses and organizations have joined together to create a coalition that will push for continued government support of renewable fuels including ethanol and biodiesel. The Iowa RFS Coalition includes biotech giants DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta. In addition groups representing corn and soybean growers and farm equipment dealers have joined in the effort.
Marginal lands—those unsuited for food crops—can serve as prime real estate for meeting the nation's alternative energy production goals. In Nature, a team of researchers led by Michigan State University shows that marginal lands represent a huge untapped resource to grow mixed species cellulosic biomass, plants grown specifically for fuel production, which could annually produce up to 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the Midwest alone.
Google Inc. is investing $200 million in a Texas wind farm, the Internet search leader's latest big bet on the future alternative energy. The commitment to the Spinning Spur Wind Project announced Wednesday brings Google's total investments in alternative energy to about $1.2 billion. The company has backed 11 different projects with a combined capacity to produce 2 gigawatts of electricity—enough to power about 500,000 U.S. homes for a year.
A new U.S. Department of Energy research facility could help bring the U.S. closer to generating power from the winds and waters along America's coasts and help alleviate a major hurdle for offshore wind and ocean power development.
Chemists at the University of California, Davis have engineered blue-green algae to grow chemical precursors for fuels and plastics—the first step in replacing fossil fuels as raw materials for the chemical industry.
Sandia National Laboratories Truman Fellow Anne Ruffing has engineered two strains of cyanobacteria to produce free fatty acids, a precursor to liquid fuels, but she has also found that the process cuts the bacteria’s production potential.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will help develop microbes that convert methane found in natural gas into liquid diesel fuel, a novel approach that if successful could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower dependence on foreign oil.
The wind energy and ethanol industries celebrated a victory Wednesday with the inclusion of tax credit extensions in the tax relief bill approved by Congress, but that may not mean lost jobs will come back anytime soon. The measure approved Tuesday night as part of the bill extending tax cuts for most taxpayers also helps wind energy and ethanol producers by extending tax credits, most of which expired Monday.
The following Web sites are good sources of information related to the global R&D enterprise. Much of the information in this report was derived from these sources, which are certainly not all-inclusive.
Scientists at the University of Manchester have identified a biocatalyst which could produce chemicals found in ice cream and household items such as soap and shampoo—possibly leading to the long-term replacement of chemicals derived from fossil fuels.
Changes in the R&D environment are driving research managers to look at different ways to support and grow their organizations.
New research from North Carolina State University provides molecular-level insights into how cellulose breaks down in wood to create "bio-oils" which can be refined into any number of useful products. Using a supercomputer, the team calculated what's occurring at the molecular level when wood is rapidly heated to high temperature in the absence of oxygen, a decomposition process known as pyrolysis.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Underground Coal Gasification Program has received a two-year research grant to study water-quality hazard mitigation strategies from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
The United States could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas, and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton University researchers has found. Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages.
Google is investing $75 million in an Iowa wind farm as part of its effort to encourage development of cleaner energy sources. The deal announced Thursday gives Google Inc. a stake in the Ropey Wind Farm in Greene County, Iowa. RPM Access LLC is the primary owner.