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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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Researchers Draft "Genetic Road Map" of Biofuels Crop

Article ID: 572654

Released: 2011-01-26 09:00:00

Source Newsroom: South Dakota State University

  • Credit: South Dakota State University News

    South Dakota State University's Jose Gonzalez said understanding the "genetic road map" of prairie cordgrass can help scientists as they work to a new generation of biofuels.

  • Credit: South Dakota State University News

    Prairie cordgrass, shown here at the EcoSun Prairie Farm in South Dakota, could be used as a biomass feedstock.

Lance Nixon

605-688-5444

The first rough draft of a “genetic road map” of a biomass crop, prairie cordgrass, is giving scientists an inside look at the genes of one of the crops that may help produce the next generation of biofuels.

The study already has produced the “transcriptome” of the species, said plant geneticist Jose Gonzalez of South Dakota State University. He said the transcriptome can be used somewhat like a map — it records the genes the plant uses to reach certain goals.

A transcriptome is the small portion of the DNA of an organism that is transcribed into molecules of ribonucleic acid, or RNA. When DNA is transcribed into what is called “messenger RNA,” it enables the organism to carry out instructions about building and maintaining cells. Scientists can decode those instructions to determine what particular DNA sequences do.

In an article in the September 2010 issue of The Plant Genome, Gonzalez and his colleagues discussed one of the first studies of the prairie cordgrass transcriptome. Prairie cordgrass is being viewed as a species suitable for producing biomass to make biofuels. One of the reasons scientists are interested in prairie cordgrass is because it yields extraordinarily well while tolerating wet conditions, high salinity or poorly aerated soils in low areas unsuitable for growing conventional crops. But it can also survive in open arid prairies.

Gonzalez said one obvious benefit from studying the transcriptome of a plant such as prairie cordgrass is to enable plant breeders to use marker-assisted selection in order to deliberately include gene sequences that confer desirable traits.

In the study, scientists used four tissues of prairie cordgrass to produce 556,198 expressed sequence tags, or portions of expressed genes. They assembled these into 26,302 “contigs,” or overlapping DNA segments from the same gene.

“We calculated probably 40 percent of the genes in prairie cordgrass, or more than 20,000,” Gonzalez said. “We’re starting to be able to look at the genes involved in particular traits. For example, for biofuels, for cellulosic ethanol production, cell wall composition is very important. We can actually look at the genes that are related to that cell wall composition so that we can study the variations of those genes. It can help the breeders eventually to select populations of prairie cordgrass with better composition.”

Gonzalez said cell walls — primarily made up of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin — are largely what remains when prairie cordgrass or some other biomass grass has been harvested and allowed to dry.

Cellulose and hemicellulose are carbohydrates that can be transformed into simple sugars that can be fermented. Lignin can’t be broken down by fermentation, though it can be isolated by other treatments.

The genes involved in the lignin biosynthesis pathway have been very well studied in other grasses, and the genes across the grasses are very similar. That will be one area of ongoing research for Gonzalez and his colleagues.

The synthesis of cellulose or hemicellulose is much more complex and involves many more enzymes. That is also an area of further research for the group, though those pathways will take longer to unravel, he said.

Scientists are also interested in the morphological development of the plant because that’s what supports the yield of the plant through many seasons — how the plant develops underground and starts growing at beginning of the season, how it goes into dormancy in fall, how it reactivates itself next season.

That is why current research efforts to decipher the plant’s genetic information are so important, Gonzalez said.

The research is funded in part by a federal grant of $420,000. The grant is from a joint program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy to promote biofuels research.

Gonzalez’ co-authors in the study were Kristene Gedye, Arvid Boe and Vance Owens of the Department of Plant Science at SDSU; Yuguang Ban and Xijin Ge of SDSU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Jyothi Thimmapuram, Fengjie Sun, and Chris Wright of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Shahjahan Ali of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.