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.
    • 2018-01-22 09:50:36
    • Article ID: 688195

    Biofuels Feedstock Study Supports Billion-Ton Estimate

    Field trial data available online

    • This map shows the yield potential for herbaceous nonfood crops, including mixed grasses grown on Conservation Reserve Program land, energycane, Giant Miscanthus, sorghum and switchgrass, that could be used to produced biofuels. The estimates were based in part on the analysis of up to seven years of production data gathered through the Regional Feedstock Partnership, established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative.

    • This map shows the yield potential for woody biomass, including and popular and shrub willow, that could be used to produce biofuels.

    • Field trials were conducted for nine potential bioenergy crops at designated locations across the continental United States and Hawaii through the Regional Feedstock Partnership, established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative.

    Can farmers produce at least 1 billion tons of biomass per year that can be used as biofuels feedstock?

    That’s the question that researchers are trying to answer, according to North Central Regional Sun Grant Center Director Vance Owens. The goal is to replace 30 percent of the petroleum consumed in the United States with biofuels.

    Analysis of up to seven years of production data gathered through the Regional Feedstock Partnership, established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative, supports the U.S. Department of Energy billon-ton estimate. That amount could be available annually by 2030.

    “Regional field trials were conducted for the most promising bioenergy feedstocks,” explained Owens, who worked on switchgrass production before becoming Sun Grant director. “Based on these numbers and other research we’ve done, we would still see over a billion tons available per year as the bioeconomy continues to develop.”

    South Dakota State University was the lead institution for the more than $20 million project which began in 2007. The partnership was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office. The project involved researchers from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture, 35 land-grant universities, Heidelberg University and several industry partners, as well as Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory.

    This project helps fill an important information gap in the quest to produce biofuels from nonfood crops.

    Results published, data available online

    Field trial results and yield projections for herbaceous crops, including switchgrass, energycane, mixed perennial grasses on Conservation Reserve Program land, giant miscanthus and sorghum, as well as the woody feedstocks poplar and shrub willow, are available online in the January issue of GCB Bioenergy. An article on environmental mapping of biomass resources in the continental United States will also be published in that issue.

    This partnership came about as a direct result of the efforts of SDSU Vice President Emeritus for Research and Economic Development Kevin Kephart and others in Sun Grant, Owens explained. More than 130 peer-reviewed papers, including field trial results and yield projects related to corn stover, have been published through this project.

    The raw data from the field trials will be available for public use and can be accessed at Knowledge Discovery Framework at the U.S. Department of Energy website. “The ramifications of this research will be much greater due to free data access,” he said.

    Study duration increases value of data, modeling

    The duration of this study is unique, Owens pointed out. “Typically these projects last two to three years, but having trials in place for up to seven years is really important in terms of long-term yield potential.” For example, researchers were able to gather data about how potential biofuels crops reacted to the 2012 national drought and how they recovered in subsequent years in some instances. “Though annual crops suffer, perennials can manage through a one-year drought,” Owens explained. “Being able to see this was a tremendous advantage—and something we wouldn’t likely see with only a two-year study.”

    Among the herbaceous energy crops, field-scale trials using traditional agricultural equipment were conducted for switchgrass and mixed perennial grasses suitable for use on CRP land, while smaller individual plots were utilized for energycane and giant miscanthus due to a lack of vegetative planting materials for these species.

    “Crop potential varies by region,” Owens explained. “There’s not one that makes sense everywhere; it’s more of a localized environment.” The nationwide yield potential maps track which crops are best suited to a particular area.

    “For example, switchgrass is more productive than miscanthus in some of the northern regions because miscanthus is not as winter hardy. On the other hand, energycane is well adapted and highly productive in the Deep South” he said. In the future, the researchers would like to do side-by-side comparisons of different species across multiple environments to better understand their yield potential.

    The model used to estimate yield potential, known as PRISM-ELM, included yield-limiting factors, such as water availability, low-winter and high-summer temperature response, soil pH, salinity, and drainage. Modelers and agronomists from each species group met periodically to exchange information and review yield potential maps.

     “This is unique to have input from all the parties involved, which then helps makes the models more reliable,” Owens said. The model for perennial grasses, for instance, had to be adjusted based on the plants’ ability to develop roots deep in the soil profile.

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    New Molecular Blueprint Advances Our Understanding of Photosynthesis

    New Molecular Blueprint Advances Our Understanding of Photosynthesis

    Researchers at Berkeley Lab have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy. The finding will allow scientists to explore for the first time how the complex functions and could have implications for the production of a variety of bioproducts, including plastic alternatives and biofuels.

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    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

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    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

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    Newly isolated human gut bacterium reveals possible connection to depression

    Researchers have established a correlation between depression and a group of neurotransmitter-producing bacteria found in the human gut.

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    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

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    ORNL Teams with Los Alamos, EPB to Demonstrate Next-Generation Grid Security Tech

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    A team of researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories has partnered with EPB, a Chattanooga utility and telecommunications company, to demonstrate the effectiveness of metro-scale quantum key distribution (QKD) as a means of secure communication for the nation's electricity suppliers. This initial milestone is part of the team's three-year project focused on next-generation grid security.

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    Sophisticated Blood Analysis Provides New Clues About Ebola, Treatment Avenues

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    Researchers use X-rays to understand the flaws of battery fast charging

    Researchers use X-rays to understand the flaws of battery fast charging

    Argonne researchers used the laboratory's Advanced Photon Source to image a battery as it was quickly charged and discharged, allowing for the observation of lithium plating behavior that can inhibit the battery's long-term function.


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    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    The launch of the Energy Department's first lithium-ion battery recycling center, called the ReCell Center, will help the United States grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal by the Polish Radiation Research Society (PRRS). The award recognizes his distinguished achievements in the field of radiation chemistry and his long-lasting and productive interactions with Polish scientists.

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

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    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    Students to build sustainable home of healing for military veterans for U.S. Department of Energy contest; UNLV competed in 2013 and 2017.

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been named to the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers List, which recognizes influential researchers whose work ranks in the top one percent of the world's most-cited scientific papers. Brookhaven's Radoslav Adzic, Mark Hybertsen, and Xiao-Qing Yang are among only 4,000 researchers from around the world whom achieved the distinction in 2018.

    New tools in transportation

    New tools in transportation

    A new version of the AFLEET Tool from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory calculates and compares the costs and environmental benefits of a broad range of alternative fuel technologies. Covering 18 fuel/vehicle technologies, AFLEET Online offers an easy-to-use web-based platform.

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    EarthCam names remote-control experiment at PPPL one of 25 most interesting Webcams of 2018.

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Cynthia Keppel, leader of Jefferson Lab's Halls A&C, has been honored with the APS 2019 Distinguished Lectureship Award on the Applications of Physics.

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    The Journal of the Electrochemical Society and Surface Science recognized the contributions of Brookhaven Lab chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek to electrocatalysis and catalysis.

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Scientist Michael Wang from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently inducted as a Fellow of the professional engineering organization SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The organization reserves this prestigious grade of membership for thosewho have made significant contributions to mobility technology and have demonstrated leadership in their field.


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    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Optimized oxides made from common metals use less energy and show the potential of new design approach.

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Particle crowding interferes with moving energy efficiently along promising molecular chains.

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Scientists catch details with atomic resolution, potentially helping design systems to use sunlight and water to produce fuels.

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Far from being a mere spectator, solvents can play a larger role in chemical reactions, likely including those used in energy storage and biology.

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Researchers watch and measure in real time charge dynamics between layers of oxide materials, offering insights into solar cells.

    Controls on Nitrogen Nutrient Availability in the Arctic Tundra

    Controls on Nitrogen Nutrient Availability in the Arctic Tundra

    Soil moisture is key to determining plant growth and nutrient cycling in complex tundra landscapes.

    Hydrogels Change Water and Solute Dynamics

    Hydrogels Change Water and Solute Dynamics

    Hydrogel pores can modify the molecular-level motion of water and dissolved ions.

    Coupling Computer Models Shows Interactions among River Water, Groundwater, and Land Surfaces

    Coupling Computer Models Shows Interactions among River Water, Groundwater, and Land Surfaces

    Computer model offers detailed view of water cycling and complex Earth system dynamics.

    Viruses Must Overcome Challenges to Infect Bacteria in Nature

    Viruses Must Overcome Challenges to Infect Bacteria in Nature

    Molecular studies show phage-host interactions are more complicated than most laboratory studies suggest.

    The Subtle, but Significant, Role of Surfaces in Ion Stickiness

    The Subtle, but Significant, Role of Surfaces in Ion Stickiness

    Direct interactions dominate ion adsorption to aqueous graphene, a process central to vital processes in energy technology.


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