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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-08-01 14:05:13
  • Article ID: 678858

Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2017

  • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy

    Used cooking oil can be converted into biofuel with carbon derived from recycled tires—a new method developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led research team.

  • Credit: General Atomics

    A novel technique can help protect the innermost wall in a fusion reactor from the energy created when hydrogen isotopes are heated to temperatures hotter than the sun.

  • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy

    Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory created a new catalyst production process that doubles the output of renewable BTX, a group of high-value chemicals used to produce soda bottles and tires.

  • Credit: Panchapakesan Ganesh, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy

    Researchers predicted where lithium ions (green spheres) would pack and move in an open framework of epitaxially strained vanadium dioxide, depicted here by a stick model (oxygen-connecting bonds are red and vanadium-connecting bonds, turquoise). Guided by theory and computation, they designed, synthesized and tested the material—proving it indeed had excellent storage capacity, ion conduction and structural stability.

Materials – Cooking up biofuel

Using a novel, reusable carbon material derived from old rubber tires, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led research team has developed a simple method to convert used cooking oil into biofuel. The team’s approach combines modified, recovered carbon with sulfuric acids, which is then mixed with free fatty acids in household vegetable oil to produce usable biofuel. The study, done with collaborators Wake Forest University and Georgia Institute of Technology and detailed in Chemistry Select, provides a pathway for inexpensive, environmentally benign and high value-added waste tire-derived products—a step toward large-scale biofuel production, according to ORNL co-author Parans Paranthaman. In previous ORNL studies, carbon powders have proven useful in developing lithium-ion, sodium-ion and potassium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. The patent-pending, waste oil-to-biofuel conversion adds a new approach to waste tire recycling initiatives. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/news/images/Materials_carbon_to_biofuel_ORNL.jpg

Caption: Used cooking oil can be converted into biofuel with carbon derived from recycled tires—a new method developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led research team.

Fusion – Blocking the heat

Fusion scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as part of the DIII-D National Fusion Facility team at General Atomics, are studying an approach to insulate the reactor’s innermost wall that surrounds the burning plasma from the energy created when hydrogen isotopes are heated to millions of degrees. The national team created a buffer that traps neutral gas between the plasma’s edge, which is cooler than the core but still hotter than the sun, and the interior wall at points where hot ions and atomic particles might make contact. “The trapped, relatively cool particles help maintain the delicate balance of keeping the plasma’s core hot enough to produce practical fusion energy and the plasma exhaust cool enough to protect the interior, or first, wall from damaging heat,” said ORNL’s Aaron Sontag, lead author on a paper published in Nuclear Fusion. “This technique reduces downtime for maintenance and contributes to overarching fusion reactor technology development.” [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/news/images/General_Atomics_Tokamak_inside.jpg

Caption: A novel technique can help protect the innermost wall in a fusion reactor from the energy created when hydrogen isotopes are heated to temperatures hotter than the sun. Photo by General Atomics

Chemistry – Discovery doubles output

A simplified catalyst production process developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory could double the output of high-value chemicals used in making materials found in soda bottles and tires. Scientists found that single gallium cations are the key to increasing production of benzene, toluene and xylenes, or BTX, commodity chemicals commonly used to make plastics and rubber. “Most BTX are produced from fossil fuel, which is energy intensive,” said ORNL’s Zhenglong Li, co-author of the study published in Green Chemistry. “Our process creates a greener pathway that doubles BTX production from renewable ethanol by introducing gallium into zeolite catalysts.” The team’s new catalyst production method works without water and reduces costs. [Contact: Kim Askey, (865) 946-1861; askeyka@ornl.gov]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/news/images/BTX_story_tip_image.jpg

Caption: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory created a new catalyst production process that doubles the output of renewable BTX, a group of high-value chemicals used to produce soda bottles and tires.

Batteries – Promising electrode material

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory–led team discovered that vanadium dioxide in a crystalline thin film makes an outstanding electrode for lithium-ion batteries. Theory and computation predicted a high capacity for lithium storage, which experiments confirmed with tests in coin cells. Advanced microscopy proved lithium ions pack into a rigid framework, and ions speed through sites favorable for their adsorption which are abundant along the open channels. Because the material is difficult to grow, it had never been tested. ORNL’s Ho Nyung Lee and his team used an advanced synthesis technique to fabricate thin-film crystals and demonstrated that they remained stable even after numerous electrochemical charge/discharge cycles. “The research provides a design strategy for more efficient, long-lived, miniaturized ionic conductors,” said Panchapakesan Ganesh of ORNL, who predicted vanadium dioxide’s theoretical capacity and lithium ion pathways. “We’re developing novel materials and architectures to provide energy solutions for future technologies,” Lee said. [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448; levyd@ornl.gov]

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/news/images/Batteries_promising_electrode_mats_ORNL.jpg

Caption: Researchers predicted where lithium ions (green spheres) would pack and move in an open framework of epitaxially strained vanadium dioxide, depicted here by a stick model (oxygen-connecting bonds are red and vanadium-connecting bonds, turquoise). Guided by theory and computation, they designed, synthesized and tested the material—proving it indeed had excellent storage capacity, ion conduction and structural stability. Image by Panchapakesan Ganesh, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy

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Nanotechnology Gives Green Energy a Green Color

Solar panels have tremendous potential to provide affordable renewable energy, but many people see traditional black and blue panels as an eyesore. Architects, homeowners and city planners may be more open to the technology if they could install colorful, efficient solar panels, and a new study, published this week in Applied Physics Letters, brings us one step closer. Researchers have developed a method for imprinting existing solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that scatter green light back toward an observer.

New 3-D Simulations Show How Galactic Centers Cool Their Jets

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Purdue University developed new theories and 3-D simulations to explain what's at work in the mysterious jets of energy and matter beaming from the center of galaxies at nearly the speed of light.

Are Your Tweets Feeling Well?

Study finds opinion and emotion in tweets change when you get sick, a method public health workers could use to track health trends.

"Getting to 80%" on Energy Cutbacks Cannot Occur Unless Behaviors Change

California's plan to cut energy consumption by 80 percent by 2050 cannot be achieved with current proposed policy changes because most solutions focus on changing technologies rather than changing behavior, a new UC Davis study suggests.

New Battery Material Goes with the Flow

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have engineered a new material to be used in redox flow batteries, which are particularly useful for storing electricity for the grid. The material consists of carefully structured molecules designed to be particularly electrochemically stable in order to prevent the battery from losing energy to unwanted reactions.

Simulation Demonstrates How Exposure to Plasma Makes Carbon Nanotubes Grow

PPPL research performed with collaborators from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has shown how plasma causes exceptionally strong, microscopic structures known as carbon nanotubes to grow.

Night Vision for Bird- & Bat-Friendly Offshore Wind Power

The ThermalTracker software analyzes video with night vision, the same technology that helps soldiers see in the dark, to help birds and bats near offshore wind turbines.

Drone Tech Offers New Ways to Manage Climate Change

An innovation providing key clues to how humans might manage forests and cities to cool the planet is taking flight. Cornell researchers are using drone technology to more accurately measure surface reflectivity on the landscape, a technological advance that could offer a new way to manage climate change.

Energy Efficiency Takes a 'Village'

The city of the future could start with a village - Missouri University of Science and Technology's Solar Village, to be exact. S&T researchers will study the Solar Village and its residents as their living laboratory over the next three years thanks to an $800,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funded as part of the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Physical System initiative. The research team is led by Dr. Simone Silvestri, principal investigator and assistant professor of computer science, and Dr. Denise Baker, co-principal investigator and assistant professor of psychological science

Updated Computer Code Improves Prediction of Energetic Particle Motion in Plasma Experiments

A computer code used by physicists around the world to analyze and predict tokamak experiments can now approximate the behavior of highly energetic atomic nuclei, or ions, in fusion plasmas more accurately than ever.


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Southern Research to Play Key Role in Low Cost Carbon Fiber Project

Southern Research's Energy & Environment division (E&E) will participate as a subcontractor to WRI to provide renewable acrylonitrile -- the key raw material needed to produce the highest quality carbon fibers -- produced from biomass-derived second generation sugars.

Newly Upgraded Laser Allows Scientists to Peer Further Into the Extreme Universe at SLAC's LCLS

Scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently upgraded a powerful optical laser system used to create shockwaves that generate high-pressure conditions like those found within planetary interiors. The laser system now delivers three times more energy for experiments with SLAC's ultrabright X-ray laser, providing a more powerful tool for probing extreme states of matter in our universe.

Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Selected to Receive Early Career Research Program Funding

Three scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been selected by DOE's Office of Science to receive significant research funding through its Early Career Research Program.

Upcoming 232nd ECS Meeting to Feature International Energy Summit, Nobel Laureate Lecture

The 232nd ECS Meeting will include 49 topical symposia and over 2,300 technical presentations, including the 7th International Electrochemical Energy Summit, the Society's inaugural OpenCon and Hack Day events, and plenary lecture delivered by former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Prize Laureate Steven Chu.

PNNL Scientist Jiwen Fan Receives DOE Early Career Research Award

Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been selected to receive a 2017 Early Career Research Program award from the U.S. Department of Energy. Fan will use the award to study severe thunderstorms in the central United States - storms that produce large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, and torrential rainfall.

Three SLAC Scientists Receive DOE Early Career Research Grants

Three scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will receive DOE Early Career Research Program grants for research to find evidence of cosmic inflation, understand how plasmas excite particles to high energies and develop a way to accelerate particles in much shorter distances with terahertz radiation.

Four ORNL Researchers Receive DOE Early Career Funding Awards

Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers specializing in nuclear physics, fusion energy, advanced materials and environmental science are among 59 recipients of Department of Energy's Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards.

Missouri S&T Professor Earns Patent for Energy Storage Technology

ceramic engineering professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology has received a federal patent for his latest innovation, a multi-layer ceramic capacitor that could help boost energy storage in applications ranging from pulse power devices to military hardware.

James Peery Named Chief Scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

James Peery, who has led critical national security programs at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been selected as the chief scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Franklin Fuller and Cornelius Gati Named 2017 Panofsky Fellows at SLAC

Franklin Fuller and Cornelius Gati have been awarded 2017 Panofsky Fellowships by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where they will work over the next five years to get significantly more information about how catalysts work and develop new and improved biological imaging methods.


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Physicists Move Closer to Listening in on Sub-Atomic Conversation

Calculations of a subatomic particle called the sigma provide insight into the communication between subatomic particles deep inside the heart of matter.

Meet the Director: Chuck Black

This is a continuing profile series on the directors of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facilities. These scientists lead a variety of research institutions that provide researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science including accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, light sources and neutron sources, as well as facilities for studying the nano world, the environment, and the atmosphere.

Making an Ultra-small Silicon "Chip"

A new polymer, created with a structure inspired by crystalline silicon, may make it easier to build better computers and solar cells.

How to Keep a Vital Diagnostic Isotope in Stock

Researchers succeed in producing larger quantities of a long-lived radioisotope, titanium-44, that generates a needed isotope, scandium-44g, on demand.

When Strontium Is Away, Iridium Comes Out to Play

Developing a highly active and acid-stable catalyst for water splitting could significantly impact solar energy technologies.

On Track Towards a Zika Virus Vaccine

Antibody's molecular structure reveals how it recognizes the Zika virus

Quantum Computing Building Blocks

Scientists invented an approach to creating ordered patterns of nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds, a promising approach to storing and computing quantum data.

Scientists Program Yeast to Turn Plant Sugars into Biodiesel

Redox metabolism was engineered in Yarrowia lipolytica to increase the availability of reducing molecules needed for lipid production.

Soils Could Release Much More Carbon than Expected as Climate Warms

Deeper soil layers are more sensitive to warming than previously thought.

Weaving a Fermented Path to Nylons

Microbial enzymes create precursors of nylon while avoiding harsh chemicals and energy-demanding heat.


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