Cutting the Cost of Ethanol, Other Biofuels and Gasoline

Biofuels like the ethanol in U.S. gasoline could get cheaper thanks to experts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University. They've demonstrated how to design and genetically engineer enzyme surfaces so they bind less to corn stalks and other cellulosic biomass, reducing enzyme costs in biofuels production, according to a study published this month on the cover of the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Story Tips From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2017

ORNL links Earth and human impact systems for better climate predictions; To develop platform to analyze VA's large health datasets; Neutrons resolve debate over metallic glass behavior origins; 3D printing materials crosslink without heat; Web tool shows energy-savings of airtight buildings; 3D printing and casting yields damage-tolerant parts.

New Studies Reveal Customer Demand and Cost of Supplying Power During an Outage

Long-lasting electrical outages can lead to severe individual and societal impacts, including significant economic losses and even death. A set of companion papers recently published in Risk Analysis found that it would be economically feasible and socially advantageous for electrical companies to provide a partial backup service to customers during a blackout.

'Near-Zero-Power' Temperature Sensor Could Make Wearables, Smart Home Devices Less Power-Hungry

A new "near-zero-power" technology could make wearables and smart home devices last for years without changing or recharging the battery. Electrical engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a temperature sensor that runs on only 113 picowatts of power -- 628 times lower power than the state of the art and about 10 billion times smaller than a watt.

New Studies of Ancient Concrete Could Teach Us to Do as the Romans Did

A new look inside 2,000-year-old Roman concrete has provided new clues to the evolving chemistry and mineral cements that allow ancient harbor structures to withstand the test of time.

Researchers ID New Mechanism for Keeping DNA Protein in Line

Electrostatic forces known as phosphate steering help guide the actions of an enzyme called FEN1 that is critical in DNA replication and repair, finds a new study led by Berkeley Lab researchers. The findings help explain how FEN1 distinguishes which strands of DNA to target, revealing key details about a vital process in healthy cells as well as providing new directions for cancer treatment research.

Bright Thinking Leads to Breakthrough in Nuclear Threat Detection Science

Taking inspiration from an unusual source, a Sandia National Laboratories team has dramatically improved the science of scintillators -- objects that detect nuclear threats. According to the team, using organic glass scintillators could soon make it even harder to smuggle nuclear materials through America's ports and borders.

What's On Your Skin? Archaea, That's What

It turns out your skin is crawling with single-celled microorganisms - (break)and they're not just bacteria. A study by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Medical University of Graz has found that the skin microbiome also contains archaea, a type of extreme-loving microbe, and that the amount of it varies with age.

Magnetic Particles that Flock Like Birds

Tracking movements of individual particles provides understanding of collective motions, synchronization and self-assembly.

'On Your Mark, Get Set' Neutrons Run Enzyme's Reactivity for Better Biofuel Production

Producing biofuels like ethanol from plant materials requires various enzymes to break down the cellulosic fibers. Researchers from ORNL and NC State used neutrons to identify the specifics of an enzyme-catalyzed reaction that could significantly reduce the total amount of enzymes used, improving production processes and lowering costs.

Magnetic Curve Balls

A twisted array of atomic magnets were driven to move in a curved path, a needed level of control for use in future memory devices.

New "Gold Standard" for Flexible Electronics

Simple, economical process makes large-diameter, high-performance, thin, transparent, and conductive foils for bendable LEDs and more.

Microbe Mystery Solved: What Happened to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Plume

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is one of the most studied spills in history, yet scientists haven't agreed on the role of microbes in eating up the oil. Now a research team at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has identified all of the principal oil-degrading bacteria as well as their mechanisms for chewing up the many different components that make up the released crude oil.

New Class of 'Soft' Semiconductors Could Transform HD Displays

New research by Berkeley Lab scientists could help usher in a new generation of high-definition displays, optoelectronic devices, photodetectors, and more. They have shown that a class of "soft" semiconductors can be used to emit multiple, bright colors from a single nanowire at resolutions as small as 500 nanometers. The work could challenge quantum dot displays that rely upon traditional semiconductor nanocrystals to emit light.

Could This Strategy Bring High-Speed Communications to the Deep Sea?

A new strategy for sending acoustic waves through water could potentially open up the world of high-speed communications to divers, marine research vessels, remote ocean monitors, deep sea robots, and submarines. By taking advantage of the dynamic rotation generated as the acoustic wave travels, also known as its orbital angular momentum, Berkeley Lab researchers were able to pack more channels onto a single frequency, effectively increasing the amount of information capable of being transmitted.

2-D Material's Traits Could Send Electronics R&D Spinning in New Directions

Researchers created an atomically thin material at Berkeley Lab and used X-rays to measure its exotic and durable properties that make it a promising candidate for a budding branch of electronics known as "spintronics."

Manipulating Earth-Abundant Materials to Harness the Sun's Energy

New material based on common iron ore can help turn intermittent sunlight and water into long-lasting fuel.

Ames Lab Scientists' Surprising Discovery: Making Ferromagnets Stronger by Adding Non-Magnetic Element

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory discovered that they could functionalize magnetic materials through a thoroughly unlikely method, by adding amounts of the virtually non-magnetic element scandium to a gadolinium-germanium alloy. It was so unlikely they called it a "counterintuitive experimental finding" in their published work on the research.

Cut U.S. Commercial Building Energy Use 29% with Widespread Controls

The U.S. could slash its energy use by the equivalent of what is currently used by 12 to 15 million Americans if commercial buildings fully used energy-efficiency controls nationwide.

How a Single Chemical Bond Balances Cells Between Life and Death

With SLAC's X-ray laser and synchrotron, scientists measured exactly how much energy goes into keeping a crucial chemical bond from triggering a cell's death spiral.

New Efficient, Low-Temperature Catalyst for Converting Water and CO to Hydrogen Gas and CO2

Scientists have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

Study Sheds Light on How Bacterial Organelles Assemble

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Michigan State University are providing the clearest view yet of an intact bacterial microcompartment, revealing at atomic-level resolution the structure and assembly of the organelle's protein shell. This work can help provide important information for research in bioenergy, pathogenesis, and biotechnology.

A Single Electron's Tiny Leap Sets Off 'Molecular Sunscreen' Response

In experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists were able to see the first step of a process that protects a DNA building block called thymine from sun damage: When it's hit with ultraviolet light, a single electron jumps into a slightly higher orbit around the nucleus of a single oxygen atom.

Researchers Find New Mechanism for Genome Regulation

The same mechanisms that separate mixtures of oil and water may also help the organization of an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study by Berkeley Lab researchers. They found that liquid-liquid phase separation helps heterochromatin organize large parts of the genome into specific regions of the nucleus. The work addresses a long-standing question about how DNA functions are organized in space and time, including how genes are silenced or expressed.

The Rise of Giant Viruses

Research reveals that giant viruses acquire genes piecemeal from others, with implications for bioenergy production and environmental cleanup.