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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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Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

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NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Article ID: 671100

Released: 2017-03-13 13:05:13

Source Newsroom: Department of Energy, Office of Science

  • Credit: Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

    Microbes in the soil are central players in converting carbon into greenhouse gases

The Science

Globally, soils store enormous quantities of carbon. Microbes consume some of that carbon and exhale it as carbon dioxide. Thus, soils contribute carbon dioxide to the air. Researchers studied how moisture influences carbon dioxide releases by microbes converting dead carbon in soil to carbon dioxide. The team’s cost-effective modeling strategy is the first to investigate the effect of moisture on these climate-critical respiration rates in hard-to-simulate pores. The pores are tiny gap-like spaces between the soil particles where water and nutrients flow and microbes thrive, making them a microenvironment. The study finds that simulations must acknowledge the diversity of soil-pore spaces. Simulations must move beyond the modeling assumption that they are uniform, or homogeneous.

The Impact

Soils annually produce a major natural carbon dioxide flux into the atmosphere. Soils release an amount roughly six times larger than human emissions of the same greenhouse gas. Understanding what influences this flux has enormous implications for understanding climate change, the carbon cycle, and setting emissions targets.

Summary

Moisture conditions in soil affect the respiration rate of heterotrophic microbes. A heterotrophic organism obtains its food and energy by taking in plant matter or other substances. Soils are made of sand, silt, clays, and organic matter. Within all this material, miniature “porospheres” interlock to create microbial habitats made of water and gases. Modeling heterotrophic respiration at this “pore scale” is difficult because of two factors: (1) the computational challenges of modeling fluids at this scale and (2) the microscale differences within soil. In every soil, distribution of organic carbon is highly localized and dependent on physical protection, chemical recalcitrance, pore connectivity, nonuniform microbial colonies, and local moisture content.

This study, led by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is the first to conduct a pore-scale investigation of how moisture-driven respiration rates are affected by soil pore structure heterogeneity, soil organic carbon bioavailability, moisture content distribution, and substrate transport. The work provides insight into the physical processes that control how soil respiration responds to changes in moisture conditions. The paper’s numerical analyses represent a cost-effective approach for investigating carbon mineralization in soils.

The simulations in this study generally confirmed that the soil respiration rate is a function of moisture content. Respiration rates increase as moisture (and therefore substrate availability) increases, and soil respiration decreases after some optimum because of oxygen limitation. The model’s results, also replicated by field research, show that respiration rates go up with higher soil porosity. Compacted soils—those with less porosity because they are unplowed and undisturbed—reduce the rate at which carbon dioxide escapes into the atmosphere. The study also warned of a danger to assuming uniform porosity in modeled soils. Instead, the researchers found that the structural diversity of soils should be modeled as it exists in nature.

Further research is needed to determine how coupled aerobic and anaerobic processes would speed up or slow down the amount of organic carbon sequestered in soil.

Funding

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research through the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) program. Part of the research was performed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE user facility located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Publications

Z. Yan, C. Liu, K.E. Todd-Brown, Y. Liu, B. Bond-Lamberty, and V.L. Bailey, “Pore-scale investigation on the response of heterotrophic respiration to moisture conditions in heterogeneous soils.” Biogeochemistry 131(1), 121-134 (2016). [DOI: 10.1007/s10533-016-0270-0]