U.S. Distributed Solar Prices Fell 10 to 20 Percent in 2014, with Trends Continuing into 2015

The installed price of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the United States continues to fall precipitously. This is according to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost tracking report produced by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

New ORNL Hybrid Microscope Offers Unparalleled Capabilities

A microscope that will allow scientists studying biological and synthetic materials to simultaneously observe chemical and physical properties on and beneath the surface.

Study Finds that the Price of Wind Energy in the United States is at an All-time Low, Averaging under 2.5 cents/kWh

Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Berkeley Lab. The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged under 2.5 cents/kWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2014, spurring demand for wind energy.

New Mathematics Advances the Frontier of Macromolecular Imaging

An emerging technique called fluctuation X-ray scattering (FXS) could provide much more detail about a protein's molecular structure than traditional solution scattering. But a major limitation for FXS has been a lack of math methods to efficiently interpret the data. That's where Berkeley Lab's M-TIP comes in.

Copper Clusters Capture and Convert Carbon Dioxide to Make Fuel

The chemical reactions that make methanol from carbon dioxide rely on a catalyst to speed up the conversion, and Argonne scientists identified a new material that could fill this role. With its unique structure, this catalyst can capture and convert carbon dioxide in a way that ultimately saves energy.

Fermilab Experiment Sees Neutrinos Change Over 500 Miles

Scientists on the NOvA experiment saw their first evidence of oscillating neutrinos, confirming that the extraordinary detector built for the project not only functions as planned but is also making great progress toward its goal of a major leap in our understanding of these ghostly particles.

Protective Shells May Boost Silicon Lithium-Ion Batteries

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are developing lithium-ion batteries containing silicon-based materials so that they charge faster and last longer between charges. The most commonly used commercial lithium-ion batteries are graphite-based, but scientists are becoming increasingly interested in silicon because it can store roughly 10 times more lithium than graphite.

SLAC Builds One of the World's Fastest 'Electron Cameras'

A new scientific instrument at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory promises to capture some of nature's speediest processes. It uses a method known as ultrafast electron diffraction (UED) and can reveal motions of electrons and atomic nuclei within molecules that take place in less than a tenth of a trillionth of a second - information that will benefit groundbreaking research in materials science, chemistry and biology.

Two Spin Liquids Square Off in an Iron-Based Superconductor

A study conducted by researchers at Brookhaven and Oak Ridge national laboratories describes how an iron-telluride material related to a family of high-temperature superconductors develops superconductivity with no long-range electronic or magnetic order. In fact, the material displays a liquid-like magnetic state consisting of two coexisting and competing disordered magnetic phases. The results challenge a number of widely accepted paradigms into how unconventional superconductors work.

Keeping Algae from Stressing Out

Researchers walk a fine line in stressing algae just enough to produce lipids that can be converted into biofuel without killing them. In Nature Plants, a team led by U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) scientists analyzed the genes that are being activated during algal lipid production.

Gut Microbes Affect Circadian Rhythms in Mice, Study Says

A study including researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago found evidence that gut microbes affect circadian rhythms and metabolism in mice.

Scientists Propose an Explanation for Puzzling Electron Heat Loss in Fusion Plasmas

Scientist Elena Belova of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and a team of collaborators have proposed an explanation for why the hot plasma within fusion facilities called tokamaks sometimes fails to reach the required temperature, even as researchers pump beams of fast-moving neutral atoms into the plasma in an effort to make it hotter.

Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2015

Intelligent agent-based software to be showcased at Smithsonian; Supercomputer speeding design, deployment of lightweight powertrain materials; ORNL process produces hydrogen from switchgrass; Sampling probe system identifies bioactive compounds in fungi; ORNL technique could accelerate advances in materials science

Power Grid Forecasting Tool Reduces Costly Errors

PNNL has developed a new tool to forecast for future energy needs that is up to 50 percent more accurate than several commonly used industry tools, showing potential to save millions in wasted electricity. The advancement was selected a 'best paper' at the IEEE Power & Energy general meeting.

Argonne Finds Butanol is Good for Boats

Argonne has collaborated with Bombardier Recreational Products and the National Marine Manufacturers Association to demonstrate the effectiveness of a fuel blend with 16 percent butane. This blend would incorporate more biofuels into marine fuel without the issues caused by increasing levels of ethanol, which can cause difficulties in marine engines at high concentrations.

Meet the High-Performance Single-Molecule Diode

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University have created the world's highest-performance single-molecule diode. Development of a functional single-molecule diode is a major pursuit of the electronics industry.

Playing 'Tag' with Pollution Lets Scientists See Who's It

Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot and track where it lands, researchers have determined which areas around the Tibetan Plateau contribute the most soot -- and where. The model can also suggest the most effective way to reduce soot on the plateau, easing the amount of warming the region undergoes. The study, which appeared in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics in June, might help policy makers target pollution reduction efforts.

Tiny Grains of Rice Hold Big Promise for Greenhouse Gas Reductions, Bioenergy

Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world's population, but the paddies it's grown in contributes up to 17 percent of global methane emissions -- about 100 million tons a year. Now, with the addition of a single gene, rice can be cultivated to emit virtually no methane, more starch for a richer food source and biomass for energy production, as announced in the July 30 edition of Nature and online.

Researchers Build Bacteria's Photosynthetic Engine

A team led by Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used the OLCF's Titan to achieve a milestone in the field of biomolecular simulation, modeling a complete photosynthetic organelle of the bacteria Rhodobacter sphaeroides in atomic detail. The project, a 100-million atom spherical chromatophore, is the first of its kind, giving scientists a system-level understanding of a fundamental biological process based on all-atom precision.

New Computer Model Could Explain how Simple Molecules Took First Step Toward Life

Sergei Maslov, a computational biologist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and adjunct professor at Stony Brook University, and Alexei Tkachenko, a scientist at Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), have developed a model that explains how simple monomers could rapidly make the jump to more complex self-replicating polymers. What their model points to could have intriguing implications for the origins of life on Earth and CFN's work in engineering artificial self-assembly at the nanoscale.

Unlocking the Rice Immune System

JBEI, UC Davis and Berkeley Lab researchers have identified a bacterial signaling molecule that triggers an immunity response in rice plants, enabling the plants to resist a devastating blight disease.

Young Scientist Discovers Magnetic Material Unnecessary to Create Spin Current

Research at Argonne indicates that you don't need a magnetic material to create spin current from insulators--with important implications for the field of spintronics and the development of high-speed, low-power electronics that use electron spin rather than charge to carry information.

ORNL Researchers Make Scalable Arrays of 'Building Blocks' for Ultrathin Electronics

For the first time, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have produced arrays of semiconductor junctions in arbitrary patterns within a single, nanometer-thick semiconductor crystal.

How Clouds Get Their Brightness

How clouds form and how they help set the temperature of the earth are two of the big remaining questions in climate research. Now, a study of clouds over the world's remotest ocean shows that ocean life is responsible for up to half the cloud droplets that pop in and out of existence during summer.

A Most Singular Nano-Imaging Technique

"SINGLE" is a new imaging technique that provides the first atomic-scale 3D structures of individual nanoparticles in solution. This is an important step for improving the design of colloidal nanoparticles for catalysis and energy research applications.