DOE News
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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.
    • 2008-10-22 11:00:00
    • Article ID: 545613

    Which Grass Is Greener? Study to Select Northeast Grasses That Can Power the Bioenergy Era

    Blaine Friedlander

    607-254-8093

    607-351-2610

    bpf2@cornell.edu

    A field of fuel dreams: Cornell bioenergy plant experts are learning which field grasses are the best candidates for "dedicated energy" crops in the Northeast, considering the region's climate and soil conditions.

    The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' (CALS) Bioenergy Feedstock Project, now in its second year, is the only project of its kind devoted to exploring the many species of field grass that grow in the Northeast and their potential as sources for biofuels.

    The project has roughly 80 acres of different warm- and cool-season perennial grass varieties, otherwise known as "feedstocks," growing in 11 counties across New York. "Our ultimate goal is to maximize the economic benefit of bioenergy production as an alternative energy source," said Donald Viands, professor of plant breeding and genetics, who heads the project, speaking against a colorful backdrop of a field of blue, green, lavender and beige hues, where some plants were withering, but some were some thriving.

    Switchgrass, big bluestem and other wild grasses native to the United States have great potential for producing the quantity and quality of biomass needed for conversion to alternative, renewable energy, particularly biofuels, Viands said. The grass project will eventually provide farmers and producers with answers to such critical questions as which varieties of grasses to plant, appropriate seeding rates, weed control and other best-management practices to produce "quick, cheap" sugars that can be most easily liberated from the plant biomass and converted to fuel.

    Hilary Mayton, extension associate and coordinator of the project, said that of the 12 varieties of switchgrass planted, some are showing a distinct advantage over others. Visitors saw how some strips of these warm-season grasses appeared stunted and unhealthy, while others were tall and vibrant. Julie Hansen, a Cornell plant breeding and genetics senior research associate, discussed trials on cool-season grasses, such as tall wheat grass and tall fescue, some of which are now commonly grown for feeding livestock.

    When the small plots and strip trial demonstration grass trials are harvested later this year, Mayton and her Cornell and private company collaborators will obtain data for both gasification (heat, power and liquid fuels) and cellulosic conversion technologies (biofuels and other byproducts) from the different types of grasses.

    In the wild, many of these native perennial grasses can survive, and even thrive, on marginal land. Some of the Cornell trials were specifically planted on land that is not suitable for such domesticated, monoculture food crops as corn.

    Paul Salon, a plant material specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who is working closely with Cornell on the project, noted that the close proximity of agricultural land to major population and transportation centers in the Northeast makes this region ideal for developing bioenergy crops and industrial byproducts, which is why so much is riding on these fields of mixed greens.

    The project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute, CALS and the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station.

    By Lauren Chambliss

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    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    An effect that Einstein helped discover 100 years ago offers new insight into a puzzling magnetic phenomenon

    Experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have seen for the first time what happens when magnetic materials are demagnetized at ultrafast speeds of millionths of a billionth of a second: The atoms on the surface of the material move, much like the iron bar did. The work, done at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, was published in Nature earlier this month.

    Found: A precise method for determining how waves and particles affect fusion reactions

    Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within plasma can ride waves oscillating through the plasma during fusion energy experiments. Now a team of physicists led by PPPL has devised a faster method to determine how much this interaction contributes to efficiency loss in tokamaks.

    Discovery adapts natural membrane to make hydrogen fuel from water

    In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists have combined two membrane-bound protein complexes to perform a complete conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    Nanocrystals Get Better When They Double Up With MOFs

    Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a dual-purpose material out of a self-assembling MOF (metal-organic framework)-nanocrystal hybrid that could one day be used to store carbon dioxide gas molecules for the manufacture of new chemicals and fuels.

    Turn, turn, turn: New findings bring physicists closer to understanding the formation of planets and stars

    New findings further the understanding of a machine known as the magnetorotational instability experiment, which is named for and brings us closer to detecting the source of the instability that causes interstellar gas and dust to collapse into celestial bodies.

    Scientists inch closer to fusion energy with discovery of a process that stabilizes plasmas

    Feature describes newly discovered stabilizing effect of underappreciated 1983 finding that variations in plasma temperature can influence the growth of magnetic islands that lead to disruption of fusion plasmas.

    Ten PPPL stories you may have missed from 2018 -- plus a special bonus

    Feature summarizes and links to discoveries and breakthroughs at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 2018, plus a profile of the knight who leads the laboratory.


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    Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory compiles a list of the biggest advances made by the Lab's staff scientists, engineers, and visiting researchers. From uncovering mysteries of the universe to building better batteries, here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 10 discoveries of 2018.

    U.S. Department of Energy Announces $33 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award 189 grants totaling $33 million to 149 small businesses in 32 states.

    DOE to Provide $16 Million for New Research into Atmospheric and Terrestrial Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $16 million for new observational research aimed at improving the accuracy of today's climate and earth system models.

    Machine learning award powers Argonne leadership in engine design

    When attempting to design engines to be more fuel-efficient and emissions-free, automotive manufacturers have to take into account all the complexity inherent in the combustion process.

    ORNL partners with industry to address multiple nuclear technology challenges

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.

    Lithium earns honors for three physicists working to bring the energy that powers the sun to Earth

    Feature describes research of three PPPL physicists who have won the laboratory's 2018 outstanding research awards

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.


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    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    New Method Knocks Out Yeast Genes with Single-Point Precision

    Researchers can precisely study how different genes affect key properties in a yeast used industrially to produce fuel and chemicals.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    More Designer Peptides, More Possibilities

    A combined experimental and modeling approach contributes to understanding small proteins with potential use in industrial, therapeutic applications.

    Deep Learning for Electron Microscopy

    Artificial intelligence on Summit to discover atomic-scale structures.

    Clarifying Rates of Methylmercury Production

    New model provides more accurate estimates of how fast microbes produce a mercury-based neurotoxin.

    Drought Stress Changes Microbes Living at Sorghum's Roots

    Scientists explore how drought-tolerant plants communicate to nearby microorganisms, suggesting ways to engineer more resilient bioenergy crops.

    How to Best Predict Chemical Reactions of Contaminants in Water

    Scientists determine the accuracy of computational methods used to study the sulfate radical approach to purifying water.

    Small Particles Play Large Role in Tropical Thunderstorms

    Ultrafine aerosol particles produce bigger storm clouds and more precipitation than larger aerosols in pristine conditions.


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