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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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Iowa State Engineers Design, Test Taller, High-Strength Concrete Towers for Wind Turbines

Article ID: 603044

Released: 2013-05-15 07:00:00

Source Newsroom: Iowa State University

  • Credit: Photo by Mike Krapfl/Iowa State University

    Iowa State's Aaron Shelman, green shirt, and Owen Steffens, red shirt, check a concrete panel for signs of cracking.

AMES, Iowa – Grant Schmitz, eyes inches from a 6.5-by-12-foot panel of ultra-high performance concrete, studied the smooth surface for tiny cracks. He and other research engineers carefully marked every one with black markers.

Schmitz, an Iowa State graduate student of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Sri Sritharan, Iowa State’s Wilson Engineering Professor and leader of the College of Engineering’s wind energy initiative, were trying to answer some basic questions about using concrete panels and columns to build wind turbine towers using prefabricated, easily transportable components.

Could assembled concrete towers be a viable alternative to the steel towers now used for wind turbines? Could concrete towers be a practical way to raise turbine towers from today’s 80 meters to the steadier winds at 100 meters and taller? Which of three ways to connect the columns and panels works best for wind turbine towers?

“We have definitely reached the limits of steel towers,” Sritharan said. “Increasing the steel tower by 20 meters will require significant cost increases and thus the wind energy industry is starting to say, ‘Why don’t we go to concrete?’”

And so, Sritharan and Schmitz watched as Doug Wood, engineering specialist and manager of Iowa State’s Structural Engineering Research Laboratory, typed in the commands for the lab’s hydraulic equipment to push or pull with bigger loads on a full-size test segment of a 100-meter concrete wind turbine tower. With each increase, the segment creaked and thumped.

The goal was to test three column-and-panel segments for the expected loads at the top of a turbine tower. The engineers wanted to see if the segments could handle 150,000 pounds of load, 20 percent over the extreme load at that height.

Sritharan and Schmitz designed the concrete towers to be built in hexagon-shaped segments, with six panels connected to six columns. They tested three methods to connect the panels and columns: bolted connections; horizontal, prestressed connections with cables running through the tower pieces; and a grout connection using ultra-high performance concrete poured into the joints between panels and columns. In addition, the concrete columns were attached to a foundation using prestressing methods.

All three versions of the test segments withstood 150,000 pounds of lateral load. The researchers also tested the segment with the grout connections under 170,000 pounds of load, 36 percent beyond extreme load. In each test, the segments performed well with no sign of distress at the operational load of 100,000 pounds. Some distress to the test segments was visible at the extreme load and beyond.

“Panel cracking was expected at very high loads and will be closed upon removal of the load,” Sritharan said. “This can also be avoided if this is requested by the industry.”

After all the testing, Schmitz said, “I definitely think we’re getting close to being able to use this technology in the industry.”

The concrete tower design offers several advantages over today’s steel towers:

• increasing steel’s 20-year tower life by using ultra-high performance and high-strength concrete

• easier transportation because pieces are small enough for standard trucking

• precast concrete industry is established across the country

• less reliance on imported steel for turbine towers

• smaller precast pieces can be assembled on site in multiple ways

• the concept is versatile and towers can be tailored for any turbine size or even a height beyond 100 meters.

“What we have shown is that this system can potentially be deployed to a 100-meter height for a 2.5 to 3 megawatt system,” Sritharan said.

Moving from 80- to 100-meter towers is important for wind energy producers.

Sritharan said wind conditions at 100 meters are steadier and less turbulent. Taller towers also allow for longer turbine blades. Studies indicate all of that can increase energy production by 15 percent.

Sritharan said as turbine size increases, the need for taller towers will be inevitable.

“A lot of people are talking about taller, concrete wind turbine towers,” he said. “And we’ve already established a new versatile concept with multiple construction options.”

Sritharan said the studies of concrete turbine towers will continue at Iowa State. The project has been supported, in part, by a $109,000 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic-development program. Industry partners in the experimental program are Clipper Windpower, a company based in Carpinteria, Calif., with a turbine design and manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids; Lafarge North America Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Coreslab Structures (OMAHA) Inc. of Bellevue, Neb.

And Schmitz, who’s describing the project for his master’s thesis, could breathe a little easier after the successful testing.

“There is a lot of preparation for this,” he said. “We started coordinating the tests in August. We had to arrange for the precast and transportation and assembly through the fall. It’s definitely a relief when you see it handling the capacity it has to meet.”

Sri Sritharan, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering; Wind Energy Initiative, 515-294-5238, sri@iastate.edu

Grant Schmitz, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, 712-304-4937, gschmitz@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl, News Service, 515-294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu