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Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Two-Dimensional MXene Materials Get Their Close-Up

Researchers have long sought electrically conductive materials for economical energy-storage devices. Two-dimensional (2D) ceramics called MXenes are contenders.


Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.

Kalinin, Paranthaman Elected Materials Research Society Fellows

Two researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sergei Kalinin and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, have been elected fellows of the Materials Research Society.

Two PNNL Researchers Elected to Membership in the National Academy of Engineering

Two scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will become members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.


High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


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Tiger Teams Reach Out with Solar

Article ID: 540256

Released: 2008-04-30 13:30:00

Source Newsroom: Sandia National Laboratories

LBUQUERQUE, N.M. — DOE photovoltaic funding for years has gone to programs that promise more efficient conversion of sunlight to electricity, or in aiding solar start-up companies. It's called "technology push."

Now for something different. In the past year, an unusually innovative DOE program called Solar America Cities has focused on reaching out to formerly ignored, sometimes low-profile city decision makers who administer large chunks of urban real estate. It's called "technology pull."

The insight at DOE management was that these key folk could purchase enough solar to make its installation as common and ordinary as curbside recycling.

DOE encouragement would include matching funds, technical support, free policy analyses, and public relations suggestions to help educate relevant political participants as well as the public.

"Tiger Teams" play a large role in underpinning the program. Personnel from Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the Florida Solar Energy Center, New Mexico State University, and private sector partner CH2M Hill, aid city managers and staff with practical savvy as DOE personnel push the higher vision of "making solar mainstream."

Tiger Teams are assemblages of experts put together for a particular purpose, says Sandia Tiger Team group leader Vipin Gupta. They disband once the mission is completed, only to reassemble elsewhere.

"Tigers are an appropriate metaphor," Gupta says. "Our people are independent-minded and driven. You can't just issue an order to them. They're decentralized, creative, and getting more and more disciplined."

Solar America Cities

Tiger Team member Jeannette Moore puts it more viscerally. "People in city agencies have been talking about solar for years. Usually, they've gotten a little sleepy. Then we show up. We tell them, we're going to do solar right now. That wakes everyone up."

The program was conceived by DOE acting program manager Tom Kimbis in a casual drawing on a piece of paper on an airplane trip. He passed it back to a colleague who thought it was a nice idea but saw no reason why anyone would participate.

They would participate, Kimbis decided, because "Cities are strapped for cash," he said in an interview. "We'd give them money. But we'd give more than money. Two hundred k [dollars] is a lot in Ann Arbor but nothing in New York. We'd give them wording for legislation, when legislators call us for advice. A website where they could exchange ideas, so that New York could see what San Francisco was doing. And we'd give it a name — Solar America Cities — because for some reason cities like names [like Sunbelt Cities]. Amazingly, it makes people want to move there."

The remarkably energetic effort celebrated its first anniversary in Tucson on April 14-16.

One-hundred twenty involved participants from 25 selected cities (chosen competitively from among 50 to 75 applicants, says Kimbis) explained or absorbed lessons of success or failure in attempts to use solar not only to save energy and lower greenhouse gases but generate low-interest loans, foster start-up companies, attract technically educated personnel, create high-paying jobs, and develop solar education courses. Other areas under discussion included solidifying local political support, writing workable inspection codes, supplying wording for appropriate legislation when asked, and choosing appropriate and sometimes "out-of-the-box" materials and locations for various forms of solar.

"I'm amazed this is a DOE project," says Mustapha Beydoun, a research scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center. "It's so inclusive. It's good to see who's tried what and what works and what doesn't," he said of the conference, "so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Problems often come up exactly where you never expected them to."

While from a flat financial viewpoint, the dour view is correct that solar is still too expensive to be practical — in some areas, three times the cost of generating electricity from coal — some attendees pointed out that solar power is strongest when the demand for electricity is greatest, at the hottest part of summer days. Thus, it could be used to lower the number of power plants needed to meet air conditioning and other power needs of these peak hours.

Solar electricity also requires no water to convert its fuel into electricity — a possible problem for other methods of generating power as fresh water becomes scarcer.

An oft-repeated mantra, often in the form of graphs, at the convention was that the costs of other fuels are rising while the cost of converting sunlight to electricity is declining.

Rick Scheu, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based King Solar Products, said that administrators in Germany had decided it was useless to compare the various subsidies for different forms of energy production: "About solar, they decided, 'We need it and we're putting it in.'"

Austin Mayor Will Wynn ("That's really my name. My parents did it to me," ) said that city buildings will be 100 percent renewable-energy run by Jan. 1, 2009, with 15 megawatts of solar online by 2012 and 100 solar megawatts online by 2020.

"I tell people that Texas was America's number-one energy state in the 20th century, and if we want to remain that in the 21st, we need to work on starting up companies that harness the sun," he said.

So the enthusiasm was there, along with more cynical motives like the need to meet legislated requirements on alternative energy production, the carrot of tax incentives, and the funding and technical assistance provided by the DOE program.

The program distributed $200,000 cash to each chosen city for the execution of their developing citywide solar adoption plan, and also makes available a kind of gift certificate of $200,000 drawn on DOE that pays for work by Sandia and other labs for solar technical assistance. The cities contribute, on average, $200,000 of their own, though larger cities like Boston and New York contribute far more. The city population must be at least 100,000.

Asked what will bring other cities to the table once the two-year DOE-funded program ceases in fiscal 2009, DOE program "market transformation director" Charlie Hemmeline said that the agency's solar programs weren't going away, and suggested that cities later interested in getting help to follow the path laid out by the 25 chosen cities might not find a deaf ear at DOE.

And there's more. The Solar American Showcase program and the Government Solar Installation Program are less publicized but equally real parts of DOE's solar effort.

The showcase program provides $200,000 and Tiger Team technical assistance to companies, universities, cities, or states interested in trying new solar technologies. The winners include Forest City Military Communities in Hawaii, the city of San Jose, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Montclair State University in New Jersey, and a Housing Authority project in northeast Denver.

The government installation program provides solar technical assistance to federal entities.

Sandia provided two Tiger Team members for these projects last year, says Vipin: one at the Smithsonian Zoo last spring and summer, figuring out the photovoltaic needs for the elephant house (3,000 sq. ft. of photovoltaics would do the job for cooling and lights) and for the US Capitol Building complex. "The Tiger Team did a comprehensive study there on creative ways to adopt solar without running against the stringent historic architecture restrictions there," Gupta says.

Some areas in which Tiger Teams provide help:

* Tech assistance in photovoltaics, solar water heating, concentrated solar power, solar water, air heating technologies; solar resource assessment (time of year/day)

* City municipal planning: city planning, regulatory support, policy-making assistance; market analysis, consumer behavior, project financing; appropriate technology solutions, user training, monitoring.

* Architectural structural support: building codes review, architectural and structural analysis, preparation of bid specifications, outreach communications, best practices.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia media relations contact: Neal Singer, nsinger@sandia.gov, (505) 845-7078