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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.
    • 2018-08-31 17:05:07
    • Article ID: 699894

    The Gridlock State

    Traffic is one of the biggest problems California has to solve. Learn how CSU campuses are working to end the state's mind-boggling congestion.

    For Californians, traffic is both a fact of life and a source of unending frustration. Simply put, the state’s available road space cannot accommodate the constantly growing demand, which has led to record levels of congestion. But traffic doesn’t just take a financial toll, it hurts quality of life for nearly everyone who calls the Golden State home.

    Los Angeles is the most congested city in the nation, with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic per year during peak travel periods. San Francisco ranks third in the U.S., with an average of 79 hours. By comparison, the average U.S. driver spends only about 41 hours per year battling traffic.

    Factoring in lost time, wasted fuel and carbon emissions, the combined total cost of congestion in Los Angeles and San Francisco is estimated at nearly $30 billion. In addition, Los Angeles has 10 of the 25 worst traffic hotspots in the U.S., an unwanted honor that's expected to cost drivers $91 billion over the next decade.

    Through research, innovation and education, the California State University is actively working to solve the state’s traffic troubles and, in the process, improve Californians' daily lives while keeping our economy on the right track. Read on to learn more about the work of our faculty, students and staff at campuses all over the state.

    THE PIONEERS

    SAN JOSÉ STATE UNIVERSITY'S SPARTAN SUPERWAY

    In a 9,000-square-foot warehouse near the San José State University campus, dozens of students are working on what may be the future of urban transportation: the Spartan Superway. Students involved in the project, led by San José State engineering professor Burford Furman, Ph.D., are creating a futuristic personal rapid transit system that uses renewable energy.

    The Superway operates similarly to a monorail, with four-person podcars that ride on an elevated rail, but travelers stop at “offline stations” that deliver them directly to their destination without having to stop at every station along the way. The result is a quick, convenient journey.

    The elevated Superway also has the potential to alleviate traffic congestion more effectively than traditional ground public transportation by reducing the volume of vehicles on the roads. In addition, commuters would have a shorter travel time, less waiting and fewer parking headaches.

    Smaller-scale rail systems like the Superway's automated transit network (ATN) may be a good solution for easing traffic in small- and medium-size cities in which conventional rail is not feasible. The ATN concept itself is not new, but the Spartan Superway team is taking new approaches to inspiring the next generation of engineers and commuters.

    A SUSTAINABLE COMMUTE, WITH THE HELP OF THE SUN

    The Superway would be the only system of its kind in the world that’s completely solar-powered. Students have created three different models, including one at full-scale. According to Dr. Furman, a lot more engineering work must be done as features such as accessibility are addressed.

    This interdisciplinary project, launched in 2012, is made possible in part by former SJSU engineering professor Ron Swenson. As co-director, Swenson mentors students and supports the project through his non-profit organization.

    The design has captured the attention of a number of industry and government leaders around the world. Furman and Swenson continue to approach businesses for help with developing the technology needed for the Spartan Superway.

    THE PROBLEM SOLVERS

    CAL POLY POMONA'S DR. XUDONG JIA AND STUDENTS

    At California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, students of civil engineering professor Xudong Jia, Ph.D., take part in a senior project that gives them plenty of real-world experience in tackling some of Southern California’s worst traffic hotspots.

    Every year for more than a decade, a group of Dr. Jia’s students selects a local area with significant traffic challenges and works together to develop a solution, which they then present to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

    This past year’s project focused on a segment of highway—State Route 60 (SR 60)—in Beaumont, a small city in Riverside County. Because Beaumont is growing rapidly and its infrastructure can't keep up with traffic demand, students developed a plan that would increase the capacity for vehicles, alleviate congestion and provide improved access for drivers along the route.

    Their plan includes a proposal for adding an additional lane in each direction of traffic along a section of SR 60, as well as adding a modified cloverleaf interchange at the intersection of SR 60 and Jack Rabbit Trail. The overpass of this intersection would accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.

    Students not only get to add this hands-on experience to their resume even before they graduate; Caltrans uses much of their research—for example, the SR60 project is now being used as part of planned improvements to accommodate future growth in the region.

    The hands-on learning partnerships with Caltrans are gaining momentum. Jia’s program caught the attention of Derek Higa, assistant director of design for Caltrans District 7, who is currently working to implement a similar model with Cal State LA.

    “It’s a win-win for them as students and for Caltrans as an employer,” Higa says. “They get valuable industry skills and we get great job candidates and research we can use to improve our transportation system.”

    THE THOUGHT LEADERS

    CSU SAN BERNARDINO’S LEONARD TRANSPORTATION CENTER

    Solving a problem as big and complex as traffic in a state the size of California requires creating a dialogue with a wide variety of people. That was the genesis of California State University, San Bernardino’s William and Barbara Leonard Transportation Center (LTC), which focuses on issues related to reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiency in Southern California. 

    In addition to a robust research and student engagement program, the center serves as a local think tank and leads many of the conversations that must take place for the state to find solutions that will ease congestion now and into the future. 

    “We are currently undergoing a radical transformation in the transportation sector with the advancement of new technologies, and that makes planning ahead even more important,” says LTC Executive Director Kimberly Collins, Ph.D.

    CSU San Bernardino is also garnering attention with its recent selection as one of only 18 institutions nationwide to take part in a U.S. Department of Transportation program to study expected traffic trends in the next three decades.

    LEADING THE DIALOGUE

    The LTC hosts dialogue series and workshops that bring public and private sector experts together to explore solutions to these problems. To address traffic challenges years down the road, the conversation has to start today, says Dr. Collins. Visit the LTC’s Mobility Dialogue Series site to learn about upcoming panels and workshops. Below are links to two recent conversations.

    CAN CONGESTION PRICING IMPROVE MOBILITY?

    A recent session at the LTC focused on the use of congestion pricing — in which drivers pay a toll or fee during peak commuting hours — to improve traffic flow. The approach has been effective in many urban areas because, surprisingly, most drivers during rush hour are not commuters. However, some have expressed concerns about equity of use due to the economic incentive. Learn More

    TECHNOLOGY SAVE US?

    A May 2018 dialogue session brought together professionals from industry, government and academia to address the possibilities and challenges of transportation innovations like electric cars and autonomous vehicles. Learn More 

    HEAVY TRAFFIC AHEAD

    As California’s population continues to grow, so will the need for ways to solve traffic congestion. A study by the Public Policy Institute of California projects the state’s population will reach 44.1 million by 2030 and that average annual increases will be equivalent to adding the population of a city the size of Anaheim every year.

    The CSU is tackling the problem from all angles — acting as a think tank to encourage novel and practical ideas, facilitating the engineering of large-scale solutions, and preparing the workforce to implement them.

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    Microbes Eat the Same in Labs and the Desert

    Analyses of natural communities forming soil crusts agree with laboratory studies of isolated microbe-metabolite relationships.

    Scientists Produce 3-D Chemical Maps of Single Bacteria

    Scientists at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)--a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory--have used ultrabright x-rays to image single bacteria with higher spatial resolution than ever before. Their work, published in Scientific Reports, demonstrates an x-ray imaging technique, called x-ray fluorescence microscopy (XRF), as an effective approach to produce 3-D images of small biological samples.

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    Climate Simulations Project Wetter, Windier Hurricanes

    New supercomputer simulations by climate scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that climate change intensified the amount of rainfall in recent hurricanes such as Katrina, Irma, and Maria by 5 to 10 percent. They further found that if those hurricanes were to occur in a future world that is warmer than present, those storms would have even more rainfall and stronger winds.

    Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells

    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    X-Rays Show How Periods of Stress Changed an Ice Age Hyena to the Bone

    An international team has unearthed what life might have been like for a now-extinct subspecies of spotted hyena. They found that despite their massive size, some cave hyenas experienced times of hardship that affected them to the bone, causing areas of arrested growth that appear as dark lines, like rings on a tree trunk.

    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.


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    Argonne's Min Si receives early career award from IEEE Computer Society

    Argonne's Min Si wins Award for Excellence for Early Career Researchers in High Performance Computing through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

    Jefferson Lab Director Appointed to Distinguished Professorship

    Stuart Henderson, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, has been appointed the Governor's Distinguished CEBAF professor at Old Dominion University. The position is supported by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is named for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, which is the main research facility located at Jefferson Lab.

    DOE issues call for HPC for Energy Innovation proposals

    The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) High Performance Computing for Energy Innovation (HPC4EI) Initiative today issued its first joint solicitation for the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing Program (HPC4Mfg) and the High Performance Computing for Materials Program (HPC4Mtls).

    DOE funding advances project to turn captured CO2 into key chemicals

    The U.S. Department of Energy has selected Southern Research for an award of up to $1.5 million to advance technology for carbon dioxide utilization.

    Sierra Reaches Higher Altitudes, Takes Number Two Spot on List of Fastest Supercomputers

    Sierra, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's newest supercomputer, rose to second place on the list of the world's fastest computing systems, TOP500 List representatives announced Monday at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis conference (SC18) in Dallas.

    Green energy: Wind energy agreement will provide savings, 50 percent of electricity needs for Kansas State University Manhattan campus

    Kansas State University has signed an agreement with Westar Energy to provide approximately 50 percent of the energy needs for the university's main Manhattan campus from a wind farm in Nemaha County and save the university nearly $200,000 annually.

    INCITE grants awarded to 62 computational research projects

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced new projects for 2019 through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

    Argonne's Raj Kettimuthu Named ACM Distinguished Member

    Argonne computer scientist Raj Kettimuthu recently was named a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery for his development of tools to analyze and enhance end-to-end data transfer performance.

    Jefferson Lab-Affiliated Researchers Honored as APS Fellows

    The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility now has a few more fellows on campus. The American Physical Society, a professional membership society that works on behalf of the physics community, recently announced its list of 2018 fellowships.

    Jefferson Lab Receives DOE Award for Energy Efficient Upgrade

    On Oct. 23, a team from the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility was honored at the 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award Ceremony for upgrades made to the lab's data center, ultimately improving its energy efficiency.


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    Microbes Eat the Same in Labs and the Desert

    Analyses of natural communities forming soil crusts agree with laboratory studies of isolated microbe-metabolite relationships.

    Diverse Biofeedstocks Have High Ethanol Yields and Offer Biorefineries Flexibility

    Evidence suggests that biorefineries can accept various feedstocks without negatively impacting the amount of ethanol produced per acre.

    Opening Access to Explore the Synthetic Chemistry of Neptunium

    New, easily prepared starting material opens access to learning more about a difficult-to-control element in nuclear waste.

    Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells

    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.

    Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons

    Scientists revise understanding of the limits of bonding for very electron-rich heavy elements.

    Probing Water's "No-Man's Land" Temperature Region

    Measuring the physical properties of water at previously unexplored temperatures offers insights into one of the world's essential liquids.

    Novel Soil Bacteria with Unusual Genes Synthesize Unique Antibiotic Precursors

    A large-scale soil project uncovered genetic information from bacteria with the capacity to make specialized molecules that could lead to new pharmaceuticals.

    Warmer Temperatures Lengthen Growing Season, Increase Plants' Vulnerability to Frost

    Experimental warming treatments show how peatland forests may respond to future environmental change.

    Rising Stars Seek to Learn from the Master: Mother Nature

    A trio of scientists was recognized for their early career successes in uncovering how microbes produce fuel, insights that could change our energy portfolio


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