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  • richardmitnick 10:42 am on June 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Showtime for Photosynthesis", , , Energy, , One of nature’s most important chemical reactions is now being captured in a breakthrough “molecular movie”, , X-ray emission spectroscopy   

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “Showtime for Photosynthesis” 


    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

    June 4, 2020
    Aliyah Kovner
    akovner@lbl.gov
    510-486-6376

    One of nature’s most important chemical reactions is now being captured in a breakthrough “molecular movie”.

    1
    (Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Using a unique combination of nanoscale imaging and chemical analysis, an international team of researchers has revealed a key step in the molecular mechanism behind the water splitting reaction of photosynthesis, a finding that could help inform the design of renewable energy technology.

    “Life depends on the oxygen that plants and algae split from water; how they do it is still a mystery, but scientists, including our team, are slowly peeling away the layers to get to the answer,” said Vittal K. Yachandra, co-lead author of a new study published in PNAS and a chemist senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). “If we can understand this step of natural photosynthesis, it would enable us to use those design principles for building artificial photosynthetic systems that produce clean and renewable energy from sunlight and water.”

    With an instrument that the team designed and fabricated, they analyzed photosynthetic proteins using both X-ray crystallography and X-ray emission spectroscopy. This dual approach, which the team pioneered and have been refining for the past 10 years, generates chemical and protein structure information from the same sample at the same time. The imaging was performed with the X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) at the LCLS at SLAC National Laboratory, and at SACLA in Japan.

    “With this technique, we get the overall picture of how the entire protein structure dynamically changes and we see the chemical intricacies occurring at the reaction site,” said co-lead author Junko Yano, a chemist senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division. “The X-ray free electron laser produces extremely bright, short bursts of X-rays that allow us to not only analyze a protein at room temperature, which is how these reactions occur in nature, but also capture various moments over the reaction time scale.”

    2
    Structural changes of Photosystem II and its catalytic center (Mn4Ca cluster) during the water oxidation reaction. The movie shows the S2 to S3 transition step, where the first water (as shown in Ox) comes into the catalytic center after the photochemical reaction at the reaction center. (Credit: Jan Kern and Isabel Bogacz/Berkeley Lab)

    3
    Structural changes of Photosystem II and its catalytic center (Mn4Ca cluster) during the water oxidation reaction. The movie shows the S2 to S3 transition step, where the first water (as shown in Ox) comes into the catalytic center after the photochemical reaction at the reaction center. (Credit: Jan Kern and Isabel Bogacz/Berkeley Lab)

    Traditional crystallography methods often require the sample proteins to be frozen; consequently, they can only generate snapshots of static proteins. This limitation makes it difficult for scientists to get a handle on how proteins actually behave in living organisms, because the molecules morph between different physical states during chemical reactions.

    “The water-splitting reaction in photosynthesis is a cyclical process that needs four photons and cycles between four stable ‘states,’” said Yano. “Previously, we could only take pictures of these four states. But by taking multiple snapshots in time, we now can visualize how one state goes to the other.”

    “We saw, really nicely, how the structure changes step-by-step as it transforms from one state to the next state,” said Jan F. Kern, MBIB chemist and co-author. “It is pretty exciting, because we can see the ‘cause and effect’ and the role that each moving atom plays in this transition.”

    Nicholas K. Sauter, co-author and MBIB computational senior scientist, added: “Essentially, we’re trying to take a ‘movie’ of a chemical reaction. We made a lot of progress to get to this point, in terms of our technology and our computational analyses. The work of our co-author Paul Adams and others in MBIB was critical to interpreting the XFEL and X-ray data. But we still have to get the other frames to see how the reaction is completed and the enzyme is ready for the next cycle.”

    The Berkeley Lab researchers hope to continue the project once the many research sites that the entire international team relies upon – located in the U.S., Japan, Switzerland, and South Korea – are operating normally following the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Kern concluded by noting that the technological milestone presented in this paper benefited greatly from the diverse expertise of the authors from SLAC, Uppsala and Umeå Universities in Sweden, Humboldt University in Germany, and from the capabilities of five DOE Office of Science user facilities: the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource and LCLS at Stanford University, and the Advanced Light Source, Energy Sciences Network, and National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley Lab.

    Other Berkeley Lab scientists who contributed to this work include: Ruchira Chatterjee, Louise Lassalle, Kyle D. Sutherlin, Iris D. Young, Sheraz Gul, In-Sik Kim, Philipp S. Simon, Isabel Bogacz, Cindy C. Pham, Nicholas Saichek, Trent Northen, Asmit Bhowmick, Robert Bolotovsky, Derek Mendez, Nigel W. Moriarty, James M. Holton, Aaron S. Brewster, and David Skinner.

    See the full article here .

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    LBNL campus

    LBNL Molecular Foundry

    Bringing Science Solutions to the World
    In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

    Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

    Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab legacy that continues today.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California.

    University of California Seal

     
  • richardmitnick 8:06 am on May 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Solar researchers across country join forces with industry to boost U.S. solar manufacturing", , , Energy,   

    From University of Washington: “Solar researchers across country join forces with industry to boost U.S. solar manufacturing” 

    From University of Washington

    April 29, 2020
    Suzanne Offen, Clean Energy Institute

    U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Perovskites Consortium includes University of Washington, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar companies and universities throughout the nation.

    Working together with leading domestic solar companies, the University of Washington and its Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Toledo have formed the U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Perovskites Consortium, or US-MAP. This research and development coalition aims to accelerate the domestic commercialization of perovskite technologies.

    Perovskites are an emerging class of materials that can be inexpensively made from abundant elements and engineered to convert light to electricity at high efficiencies — ideal for solar energy. The universities and National Renewable Energy Laboratory will offer the participating companies access to, and support in, their complementary cleantech fabrication, characterization and testing facilities. In turn, representatives from each of the member companies will form an industry advisory board that will guide the efforts performed at the research institutions.

    1
    Washington Clean Energy Testbeds Technical Director J. Devin MacKenzie demonstrating the Testbeds’ multi-stage roll-to-roll printer for flexible electronics. Credit: UW Clean Energy Institute.

    “US-MAP harnesses the power of the best perovskite researchers and resources in the nation to help U.S. solar companies continue to innovate and bring this exciting technology to market,” said J. Devin MacKenzie, UW materials science & engineering and mechanical engineering associate professor and Washington Clean Energy Testbeds technical director. “Indeed, UW’s Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, an open-access facility for developing and testing energy devices and systems, has been working with solar startups and we’re eager to help other U.S. companies tap into our staff scientists’ expertise and utilize our best-in-class instruments, including our multi-stage roll-to-roll printer for flexible electronics.”

    US-MAP founding member companies include: BlueDot Photonics, Energy Materials Corporation, First Solar, Hunt Perovskites Technologies, Swift Solar and Tandem PV. As members of the industry advisory board, company representatives will shape R&D directions and priorities and will be engaged actively in selecting and evaluating projects. The founding organizers — the University of Washington, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Toledo — will serve on the executive board and oversee delivery of projects.

    BlueDot Photonics is a Seattle-based startup building next-generation solar panels and other photonic devices.

    “US-MAP will help startups like ours access critical expertise required to prove manufacturability and product reliability, while maintaining ownership of intellectual property,” said BlueDot Photonics CEO Jared Silvia. “This network and its facilities will assist us in de-risking key hurdles to commercialization that will benefit all perovskite-based technologies. This will allow companies like ours to shorten the development cycle for products to satisfy customers and our investors.”

    2
    US-MAP Consortium organizers and industry members. Credit Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    In addition to solar energy, perovskites have shown tremendous promise in a range of other technologies, including solid-state lighting, advanced radiation detection, dynamic sensing and actuation, photo-catalysis and quantum information science. Early investments by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and its Office of Science into perovskite research at the founding organizations have enabled the U.S. to engage at the forefront of many of these technology areas and fostered a vibrant community of industrial leaders.

    “Washington state has long been a leader in clean energy innovation and institutions like UW continue to play a critical role in moving our nation’s vital energy research needs forward,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-WA, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I am encouraged by the work of UW’s Washington Clean Energy Testbeds and its potential for scaling up clean energy adoption — and perovskite technologies, in general — and will continue fighting in the Senate for strengthened investments in these research and technology developments that will help families and communities thrive.”

    “UW has played an incredible role in renewable energy and is now bringing together some of the best researchers and innovators in the country to develop this next-generation technology to expand the use of solar to more homes and businesses across the country,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA.

    “This coalition represents what America does best: partnership for innovation and societal benefit,” said U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, whose district includes the UW. “The United States should and can lead in solar manufacturing, water power and wind energy — and I know Washington can play a role in getting us there through our outstanding public research institutions like the University of Washington and our promising startups.”

    Researchers and companies looking to access resources, capabilities, and expertise within the US-MAP Consortium should visit http://www.nrel.gov/research/us-map.html.

    For more information, contact Suzanne Offen with the UW’s Clean Energy Institute at soffen@uw.edu.

    See the full article here .


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    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Picosecond Lasers and Avalanche Reactions Generate 1 Billion Times Fusion Reactions", , , Energy, Newzlab,   

    From UNSW via Newzlab: “Picosecond Lasers and Avalanche Reactions Generate 1 Billion Times Fusion Reactions” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    via

    1

    February 24, 2020

    HB-11 Energy has published its progress towards generating commercial nuclear fusion using a dual laser method.

    the University of New South Wales reports that HB11 Energy has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy.

    They would use a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction.

    The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.

    2

    3

    Nextbigfuture covered the HB11 Energy work in 2017.

    HB11 Energy will use the reaction between hydrogen H and the boron isotope 11 (HB11) as uncompressed solid-state fuel within an extremely high trapping magnetic field. Both of these conditions have been demonstrated by experiments and following predictions from computations.

    • a 1 kilojoule laser boosts a magnetic field to 4500-10000 tesla for over one nanosecond. About 100 times stronger than powerful superconducting magnets
    • a second laser causes a nuclear fusion chain reaction
    • lab experiments have been performed which indicate fusion yields increase by a billion times.
    • energy production with a proposed system would be four times cheaper than coal

    The ultra-powerful picosecond CPA laser pulses have just reached the necessary condition for producing a turning point to generate electricity from nuclear fusion reactions.

    Ablation compression of spherical HB11 fusion usually arrives at five orders of magnitudes lower energy gains than the DT reaction. However, applying the computations of plane wave ignition with picoseconds laser pulses on solid density fusion fuel, the resulting need of an energy flux E* of 400 million joules per square centimeter for DT was nearly the same as for HB11. This was a surprising gain increase for HB11 by five orders of magnitudes though only binary nuclear reactions as in the case of DT were used for comparison. The reaction producing three 4 He (alpha particles) resulted in an avalanche reaction and using elastic plasma collisions for the exceptionally preferred energy range around 600 keV resulting in a further increase of the energy gains by four orders of magnitudes. These are all together one billion times higher reaction gains than the classical HB11 fusion as measured.

    The very first measured HB11 reaction with picosecond CPA laser pulse irradiation resulted in a thousand reactions. Irradiating a laser pulse together with a second one for producing an intense particle beam resulted in more than one million reactions and experiments with a single laser beam of entirely few dozens of ps arrived at billion reactions which agreed with the calculated just mentioned gain increases. In all experiments, the temperature could be estimated below values of 100 eV, or at least many orders of magnitudes lower than of the thermal equilibrium pressures above 100 Million.

    Using the knowledge of numerously elaborated and experimentally confirmed cases of interaction of CPA laser pulses in the sub-picosecond range and powers above petawatt, the ignition of fusion of hydrogen with the boron isotope 11 (HB11 fusion) is of high energy gain. Experiments indicated energies above one trillion joules per cubic centimeter for non-thermal pressures. This is the basis for the design of an environmentally clean, safe, low-cost and abundant generator of electricity. The equation of motion for the ignition is dominated by the non-thermal term of the nonlinear force fNL for avoiding the thermal pressures that are in the range above temperatures of 100 million °C.

    High Energy Density Physics – Pressure of picosecond CPA laser pulses substitute ultrahigh thermal
    pressures to ignite fusion.

    Nuclear reactions produce ten million times more energy than the chemical reactions e.g. from burning carbon, but the equilibrium thermal pressures for chemical reactions need temperatures of hundred °C while nuclear burns need many dozens of million °C. This is on the level for ITER or at NIF with using nanosecond laser pulses. In contrast, non-thermal pressures can be higher by lasers using nonlinear forces of picoseconds or shorter duration as computer results of 1978 had demonstrated by non-thermal plasma-block acceleration. This is in full agreement with the ultrahigh acceleration measured by Sauerbrey since 1996 thanks to his use of ultra-extreme powers of picosecond CPA-laser pulses. Even the very inefficient classical fusion of hydrogen with the 11B can be used for the non-thermal reaction with sufficiently modest heating in a reactor for generation electricity.

    Background

    Nature Communications– Fusion reactions initiated by laser-accelerated particle beams in a laser-produced plasma (2013)

    Lasers and Particle Beams – Fusion energy using avalanche increased boron reactions for block-ignition by ultrahigh power picosecond laser pulses (2015)

    Journal of Fusion Energy – Kilotesla Magnetic Assisted Fast Laser Ignited Boron-11 Hydrogen Fusion with Nonlinear Force Driven Ultrahigh Accelerated Plasma Blocks (2014)

    Lasers and Particle Beams – Road map to clean energy using laser beam ignition of boron-hydrogen fusion (2017)

    SOURCES: HB11 Energy, University of New South Wales, Nature Communications, High Energy Density Physics, Heinrich Hora, Lasers and Particle Beams, Journal of Fusion Energy
    Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture

    See the full article here.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:13 am on February 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Energy, , HB11 Energy, , Laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy.,   

    From University of New South Wales: “Pioneering technology promises unlimited, clean and safe energy” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    21 Feb 2020
    Yolande Hutchinson
    UNSW Sydney External Relations
    0420 845 023
    y.hutchinson@unsw.edu.au

    Dr Warren McKenzie
    HB11 Energy
    0400 059 509

    Professor Heinrich Hora
    UNSW Physics
    0414 471 424

    A UNSW spin-out company has secured patents for its ground-breaking approach to energy generation.

    1
    HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Picture: Shutterstock

    UNSW Sydney spin-out company, HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Unlike earlier methods, the technique is completely safe as it does not rely on radioactive fuel and leaves no toxic radioactive waste.

    HB11 Energy secured its intellectual property rights in Japan last week, following recent grants in China and the USA.

    Conceived by UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora, HB11 Energy’s concept differs radically from other experimental fusion projects.

    “After investigating a laser-boron fusion approach for over four decades at UNSW, I am thrilled that this pioneering approach has now received patents in three countries,” Professor Hora said.

    “These granted patents represent the eve of HB11 Energy’s seed-stage fundraising campaign that will establish Australia’s first commercial fusion company, and the world’s only approach focused on the safe hydrogen – boron reaction using lasers.”

    The preferred fusion approach employed by most fusion groups is to heat Deuterium-Tritium fuel well beyond the temperature of the sun (or almost 15 million degrees Celsius). Rather than heating the fuel, HB11’s hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers whose pulses apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

    “Tritium is very rare, expensive, radioactive and difficult to store. Fusion reactions employing Deuterium-Tritium also shed harmful neutrons and create radioactive waste which needs to be disposed of safely. I have long favored the combination of cheap and abundant hydrogen H and boron B-11. The fusion of these elements does not primarily produce neutrons and is the ideal fuel combination,” Professor Hora said.

    Most other sources of power production, such as coal, gas and nuclear, rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines. In contrast, the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity allowing for much smaller and simpler generators.

    The two-laser approach needed for HB11 Energy’s hydrogen-boron fusion only became possible recently thanks to advances in laser technology that won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

    2
    Schematic of a hydrogen-boron fusion reactor.

    Hora’s reactor design is deceptively simple: a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction.

    The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.

    “The clean and absolutely safe reactor can be placed within densely populated areas, with no possibility of a catastrophic meltdown such as that which has been seen with nuclear fission reactors,” Professor Hora added.

    With experiments and simulations measuring a laser-initiated chain reaction creating one billion-fold higher reaction rates than predicted (under thermal equilibrium conditions), HB11 Energy stands a high chance of reaching the goal of ‘net-energy gain’ well ahead of other groups.

    “HB11 Energy’s approach could be the only way to achieve very low carbon emissions by 2050. As we aren’t trying to heat fuels to impossibly high temperatures, we are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century,” Dr Warren McKenzie, Managing Director of HB11 Energy, said.

    “This means our development roadmap will be much faster and cheaper than any other fusion approach,” Dr McKenzie added.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
      • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Many people could not find this article. I had over 2000 views on the article in the blog. But not one signed up to receive the blog. I notified UNSW of the problem.

        Like

    • Mark Peak 10:11 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Richard,
      I’m happy to receive your blog. There did not appear to be link to request it. I am very interested in seeing the advances in more environmentally friendly forms of energy and being kept abreast of what is discovered and can be made available globally.

      Like

      • richardmitnick 10:43 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Mark- Thank you so very much for taking the blog. The events around this article are very strange. Apparently somehow the original article disappeared even though I found a copy. I am in the U.S. but for my blog I follow a lot of universities and institutions in Australia, which as a country is a hotbed of Basic and Applied Scientific Research, just up my alley. UNSW is a very important center for research. I generally do about ten blog posts per day and get around 250 views per day. For this post from UNSW I have received over 3,000 views. I did write to UNSW to let them know about this set of events. I am sure I am not the only person who notified the university. Again, thanks for your interest and your comment.

        Like

  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on February 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Generating electricity 'out of thin air'", Air-gen, , , , Energy, , , Using a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.   

    From UMass Amherst via COSMOS Magazine: “Generating electricity ‘out of thin air'” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    via

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    18 February 2020
    Nick Carne

    Researchers unveil a new device powered by a microbe.

    1
    Graphic image of a thin film of protein nanowires generating electricity from atmospheric humidity. UMass Amherst/Yao and Lovley labs.

    Scientists in the US have developed a device they say uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.

    Writing in the journal Nature, electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, introduce the Air-gen (or air-powered generator), which Lovley describes as “the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet”.

    Air-Gen has electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter, which Lovley discovered in the Potomac River three decades ago and has been working with ever since, in particular investigating its potential for “green electronics”.

    The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapour naturally present in the atmosphere.

    It requires only a thin film of protein nanowires less than 10 microns thick. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on top.

    The film adsorbs water vapour from the atmosphere. A combination of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires, coupled with the fine pores between the nanowires within the film, establishes the conditions that generate an electrical current between the two electrodes.

    Developed in Yao’s lab, Air-gen is low-cost, non-polluting and renewable, and needs neither sun nor wind, the researchers say. It can work indoors, or in extremely low humidity of the desert.

    The current generation can power only small electronics, but they hope to bring it to commercial scale soon. Beyond that is the idea a small Air-gen “patch” that can power electronic wearables such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches. And then, maybe, there are mobile phones.

    “The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems,” says Yao. “For example, the technology might be incorporated into wall paint that could help power your home. Or, we may develop stand-alone air-powered generators that supply electricity off the grid.”

    Lovley also is working to improve the practical biological capabilities of Geobacter. His lab recently developed a new microbial strain to more rapidly and inexpensively mass produce protein nanowires.

    “We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory,” he says. “With this new scalable process, protein nanowire supply will no longer be a bottleneck to developing these applications.”

    The Royal Institution of Australia has an education resource based on this article.
    You can access it here.

    See the full article here .

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    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on January 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "UW researchers win combined $5.9M from Department of Energy to advance solar technologies", , BlueDot Photonics, , Energy, Solar panels,   

    From University of Washington: “UW researchers win combined $5.9M from Department of Energy to advance solar technologies” 

    From University of Washington

    1

    January 24, 2020

    Electrical & computer engineering professor Brian B. Johnson will develop power electronics to integrate solar with grid; BlueDot Photonics will develop new solar manufacturing technology

    2

    University of Washington (UW) clean energy researchers won a combined $5.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for two projects that will make solar-generated electricity more affordable. The DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) made a total of 75 awards in late 2019 in a $128 million effort to lower solar electricity costs, boost U.S. manufacturing, reduce administrative red tape, and make solar energy and the grid more resistant to cyberattacks.

    Power electronics to integrate solar with the grid

    Brian B. Johnson, Washington Research Foundation (WRF) Innovation Assistant Professor of Clean Energy and Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), leads a team receiving $4.9 million over the next three years to develop new control strategies to integrate solar photovoltaic systems and energy storage systems into the power grid. The proposed controllers will ensure grid stability at any level of renewable energy utilization. The team includes ECE professors Daniel Kirschen and Baosen Zhang, and partners at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Minnesota, Enphase Energy, and the Electric Power Research Institute. The team will contribute an additional $2.1 million in cost share, bringing the project total to $7 million. This work will enable grid operators to add increasing amounts of solar power onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient, and reliable manner.

    Johnson has led another DO­E-backed project since 2018, collaborating with Kirschen, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado to halve the cost of inverters for solar systems — devices that convert solar-generated dc power into ac power that is usable by the power grid.

    Manufacturing next-generation solar panels

    UW spinoff BlueDot Photonics is a clean technology startup building next-generation solar panels and other photonic devices. The company was co-founded by UW CoMotion Commercialization Fellow Daniel Kroupa, named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” list in 2019, UW alum and WRF Postdoctoral Fellow Matthew Crane (Ph.D. chemical engineering ’17), UW alum Jared Silvia (B.S. chemistry & biochemistry ’05), and UW chemistry professor Daniel Gamelin. BlueDot’s DOE-backed team will receive $1 million over the next 18 months to develop vapor deposition hardware for thin-film perovskite solar cells. Project partners include UW associate professor of materials science & engineering and mechanical engineering J. Devin MacKenzie and researchers at NREL.

    BlueDot’s unique vapor deposition technology is a fast and cost-effective technique in which powder is turned directly to vapor to be evenly coated onto a surface — in this case, perovskites onto the base of a solar cell. Perovskites are an emerging class of materials that can be inexpensively made from common elements and engineered to have high-performing photovoltaic properties. BlueDot will be working at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, where MacKenzie is technical director.

    BlueDot is one of seven companies backed by the DOE SETO for innovations in manufacturing. The awardees are expected to develop robust hardware prototypes that will attract follow-on private investment. BlueDot will contribute an additional $300,000 in cost share, for a project total of $1.3 million.

    1
    One of BlueDot Photonics’ coupon-sized solar module prototypes, fabricated at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:44 pm on January 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Chemistry finding could make solar energy more efficient", , , Energy, , Researchers have shown for the first time that it is possible to collect energy from the entire visible spectrum of sunlight and transform it quickly and efficiently into hydrogen for fuel., Scientists for the first time have developed a single molecule that can absorb sunlight efficiently.   

    From Ohio State University: “Chemistry finding could make solar energy more efficient” 

    From Ohio State University

    Jan 20, 2020
    Laura Arenschield
    Ohio State News
    arenschield.2@osu.edu
    614-292-9475

    Researchers have found a way to harness the entire spectrum of sunlight.

    1
    Researchers have shown, for the first time, that it is possible to collect energy from the entire visible spectrum of sunlight and transform it, quickly and efficiently, into hydrogen for fuel. Photo by David Monje on Unsplash

    Scientists for the first time have developed a single molecule that can absorb sunlight efficiently and also act as a catalyst to transform solar energy into hydrogen, a clean alternative to fuel for things like gas-powered vehicles.

    This new molecule collects energy from the entire visible spectrum, and can harness more than 50% more solar energy than current solar cells can. The finding could help humans transition away from fossil fuels and toward energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.

    The researchers outlined their findings in a study published today in Nature Chemistry. The research team was led by Claudia Turro, a chemistry professor and director of The Ohio State University Center for Chemical and Biophysical Dynamics.

    “The whole idea is that we can use photons from the sun and transform it into hydrogen. To put it simply, we are saving the energy from sunlight and storing it into chemical bonds so it can be used at a later time,” Turro said.

    Photons are elemental particles of sunlight that contain energy.

    The researchers showed, for the first time, that it is possible to collect energy from the entire visible spectrum of sunlight — including low-energy infrared, a part of the solar spectrum that previously had been difficult to collect — and transform it, quickly and efficiently, into hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel, meaning it doesn’t produce carbon or carbon dioxide as a byproduct of its use.

    “What makes it work is that the system is able to put the molecule into an excited state, where it absorbs the photon and is able to store two electrons to make hydrogen,” Turro said. “This storing of two electrons in a single molecule derived from two photons, and using them together to make hydrogen, is unprecedented.”

    Turning energy from the sun into, say, fuel for a car, first requires a mechanism to collect the energy. That energy then has to be converted into a fuel. The conversion requires something called a catalyst — a thing that speeds up a chemical reaction, allowing the conversion from solar energy to usable energy like hydrogen.

    Most previous attempts to collect solar energy and turn it into hydrogen have focused on the higher-energy wavelengths of sunlight — think ultraviolet rays, for example.

    Previous attempts also have relied on catalysts that are built from two or more molecules, which exchange electrons — energy — as they make fuel from solar power. But energy is lost in the exchange, making those multi-molecule systems less efficient.

    The few attempts that relied on a single-molecule catalyst were also inefficient, Turro said, in part because they did not collect energy from the full visible spectrum of sunlight, and in part because the catalysts themselves degraded quickly.

    Turro’s research team figured out how to make a catalyst out of just one molecule — a form of the element rhodium — which means less energy is lost, she said. And they figured out how to collect energy from infrared to ultraviolent — the entire visible spectrum. The system this research team designed is nearly 25 times more efficient with low-energy near-infrared light than previous single-molecule systems operative with ultraviolet photons, according to the study.

    In the study, the researchers used LEDs to shine light onto acid solutions containing the active molecule. When they did, they found that hydrogen was produced.

    “I think the reason it works is because the molecule is difficult to oxidize,” she said. “And we have to have renewable energy. Just imagine if we could use sunlight for our energy instead of coal or gas or oil, what we could do to address climate change.”

    Before the research team’s finding can be put into real-world applications, Turro said, there is still much work to be done. Rhodium is a rare metal and producing catalysts from rhodium is expensive. The team is working on improving this molecule to produce hydrogen over a longer period of time and is working on building the catalyst out of less expensive materials.

    This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Ohio State University (OSU, commonly referred to as Ohio State) is a public research university in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and the ninth university in Ohio with the Morrill Act of 1862,[4] the university was originally known as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The college originally focused on various agricultural and mechanical disciplines but it developed into a comprehensive university under the direction of then-Governor (later, U.S. President) Rutherford B. Hayes, and in 1878 the Ohio General Assembly passed a law changing the name to “The Ohio State University”.[5] The main campus in Columbus, Ohio, has since grown into the third-largest university campus in the United States.[6] The university also operates regional campuses in Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark, and Wooster.

    The university has an extensive student life program, with over 1,000 student organizations; intercollegiate, club and recreational sports programs; student media organizations and publications, fraternities and sororities; and three student governments. Ohio State athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are known as the Ohio State Buckeyes. As of the 2016 Summer Olympics, athletes from Ohio State have won 104 Olympic medals (46 gold, 35 silver, and 23 bronze). The university is a member of the Big Ten Conference for the majority of sports.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on January 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Transformative 'Green' Accelerator Achieves World's First 8-pass Full Energy Recovery", , , CBETA: Instead of dumping the energy of previously accelerated particles it recovers and reuses that energy to accelerate the next batch of particles., , Electron-Ion Collider a planned groundbreaking nuclear physics research facility that will be located at Brookhaven Lab., Energy, Fixed-Field-Alternating Linear Gradient (FFA-LG) beamline, The Cornell-BNL ERL Test Accelerator- or CBETA- located at Cornell is an Energy Recovery Linear accelerator (ERL) that uses two transformational “green” technologies.   

    From Brookhaven National Lab and Cornell University: “Transformative ‘Green’ Accelerator Achieves World’s First 8-pass Full Energy Recovery” 


    Cornell University

    From Brookhaven National Lab

    January 21, 2020
    Karen McNulty Walsh,
    kmcnulty@bnl.gov
    (631) 344-8350

    Peter Genzer
    genzer@bnl.gov
    (631) 344-3174

    Successful demonstration paves the way for unprecedented applications in science, industry, and medicine.

    1
    Georg Hoffstaetter (left) and Dejan Trbojevic at the CBETA facility at Cornell University.

    Scientists from Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have successfully demonstrated the world’s first capture and reuse of energy in a multi-turn particle accelerator, where electrons are accelerated and decelerated in multiple stages and transported at different energies through a single beamline. This advance paves the way for ultra-bright particle accelerators that use far less energy than today’s machines.

    Applications include medical isotope production, cancer therapy, x-ray sources, and industrial applications such as micro-chip production, as well as more energy-efficient machines for basic research in physics, materials science, and many other fields. One example: Scientists may use such energy-recovery accelerator technology to efficiently generate electrons for “cooling” ions at the Electron-Ion Collider, a planned groundbreaking nuclear physics research facility that will be located at Brookhaven Lab.

    The Cornell-BNL ERL Test Accelerator, or CBETA, located at Cornell, is an Energy Recovery Linear accelerator (ERL) that uses two transformational “green” technologies: Instead of dumping the energy of previously accelerated particles, it recovers and reuses that energy to accelerate the next batch of particles. And the beamline that steers the particles through the accelerator is made of permanent magnets, which require no electricity to operate. These are expected to become the most energy-efficient technologies for high-performance accelerators of the future.

    2
    Schematic of the Cornell-BNL ERL Test Accelerator. Superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) cavities accelerate electrons to high energy in stages, sending them around the racetrack-shaped accelerator after each acceleration stage. Each curved arc is made of a series of fixed field, alternating gradient (FFA) permanent magnets that can carry beams at multiple energies simultaneously. After four passes through the accelerating infrastructure and FFA arcs, the electrons then decelerate in stages, returning their energy to the SRF cavities so it can be used to accelerate electrons again.

    “Reusing a particle beam’s energy in this new kind of accelerator makes brighter beams available, which would have required too much energy until now,” said Georg Hoffstaetter, physics professor and principle investigator for Cornell. In addition to the above-mentioned applications, Hoffstaetter points out that “such innovative technology and these brighter beams will likely lead to additional uses yet to be imagined.”

    CBETA’s construction was funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and used components that were developed with funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and industrial partners. The CBETA team achieved the key milestone of full energy recovery and reacceleration of particles in the early hours of December 24, 2019, on schedule. Since then, the team has continued to enhance CBETA’s performance.

    Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “NYSERDA is extremely proud to support this groundbreaking project and we look forward to seeing how it advances our ability to address the most pressing scientific and societal challenges of our time. New York’s support for technologies that deliver economy-wide benefits is unwavering under Governor Cuomo’s leadership and we congratulate our partners on this tremendous milestone.”

    Energy-recovery design basics

    The CBETA machine includes the world’s first eight-pass superconducting Energy-Recovery Linear accelerator, in which a beam is accelerated by passing four times through a Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) cavity to reach its highest energy.

    1
    Energy-efficient accelerator was 50 years in the making

    By making another four passes through the same cavity, but this time decelerating, the beam’s energy is captured and made available for new particles to be accelerated. This ERL concept was first proposed in 1965 by Maury Tigner, professor emeritus at Cornell University, but it took decades of work at Cornell and elsewhere to develop the necessary technology.

    After each pass through the acceleration apparatus, the particles have a different energy and traverse their own “lane” through a special chain of magnets, referred to as Fixed-Field-Alternating Linear Gradient (FFA-LG) beamline, which loops the particles back to the SRF cavities. The permanent magnets that make up this beamline were designed, developed, and precisely shaped at Brookhaven to allow all beams to traverse the same magnet structure, even though they have four different energies. This design reduces the need for multiple accelerator rings to accommodate beams at different energies and eliminates the need for electricity to power the magnets, further reducing cost and improving overall efficiency.

    Dejan Trbojevic, senior physicist and principal investigator for Brookhaven’s participation in the project, first described the idea of accelerating beams at multiple energies in a single beamline made of fixed-field alternating-gradient magnets at a muon collider workshop in 1999. Meanwhile, Cornell was developing components for a superconducting ERL.

    “With CBETA, the idea was to show that Brookhaven’s single-beamline return loop would work with Cornell’s ERL technology for the acceleration of electrons, particles with many more potential applications than their heavier muon cousins,” Trbojevic said.

    In late December, with Cornell physicist Adam Bartnik as the lead operator, CBETA did just that. Starting with an electron beam at the energy of six million electron volts (MeV), the accelerator components brought the particles to 42, 78, 114, and 150 MeV in four passes through the ERL. After deceleration during four additional passes through the SRF cavities, the particles reached their original 6 MeV energy—at exactly the same position as the starting beam. This showed that full electron energy recovery had been achieved, and that the SRF cavities were energized to accelerate the next batch of particles.

    This accomplishment makes CBETA the first multi-turn ERL to recover the energy of accelerated particle beams in SRF accelerating structures, and the first accelerator to use a single beamline with fixed magnetic fields to transport seven different accelerating and decelerating energy beams.

    “We couldn’t have achieved these results without many contributions throughout the design, construction, and commissioning phases by scientists, engineers, and technical staff at both Brookhaven and Cornell, along with input from many industrial partners and renowned accelerator experts,” said Brookhaven Lab engineer Rob Michnoff, director of the CBETA project.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Once called “the first American university” by educational historian Frederick Rudolph, Cornell University represents a distinctive mix of eminent scholarship and democratic ideals. Adding practical subjects to the classics and admitting qualified students regardless of nationality, race, social circumstance, gender, or religion was quite a departure when Cornell was founded in 1865.

    Today’s Cornell reflects this heritage of egalitarian excellence. It is home to the nation’s first colleges devoted to hotel administration, industrial and labor relations, and veterinary medicine. Both a private university and the land-grant institution of New York State, Cornell University is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.

    On the Ithaca campus alone nearly 20,000 students representing every state and 120 countries choose from among 4,000 courses in 11 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. Many undergraduates participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary programs, play meaningful roles in original research, and study in Cornell programs in Washington, New York City, and the world over.

    Brookhaven campus


    BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials

    BNL NSLS-II


    BNL NSLS II

    BNL RHIC Campus

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector

    BNL RHIC PHENIX Detector

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.
    i1

     
  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on January 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Integrating Input to Forge Ahead in Geothermal Research", , , , Energy,   

    From Eos: “Integrating Input to Forge Ahead in Geothermal Research” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    1.3.20
    Robert Rozansky
    Alexis McKittrick

    A road map for a major geothermal energy development initiative determines proposed priorities and goals by integrating input from stakeholders, data, and technological assessments.

    1
    The road map for one U.S. geothermal energy initiative provides a methodology for integrating stakeholder input and priorities with information from research and technical sources to provide a set of common research priorities. Credit: iStock.com/DrAfter123

    Scientific communities often struggle to find consensus on how to achieve the next big leap in technology, methods, or understanding in their fields. Geothermal energy development is no exception. Here we describe a methodological approach to combining qualitative input from the geothermal research community with technical information and data. The result of this approach is a road map to overcoming barriers facing this important field of research.

    Geothermal energy accounts for merely 0.4% of U.S. electricity production today, but the country has vast, untapped geothermal energy resources—if only we can access them. The U.S. Geological Survey has found that unconventional geothermal sources could produce as much as 500 gigawatts of electricity—roughly half of U.S. electric power generating capacity. These sources have sufficient heat but insufficient fluid permeability to enable extraction of this heat [U.S. Geological Survey, 2008]. One approach to tapping these resources is to construct enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), in which techniques such as fluid injection are used to increase the permeability of the subsurface to make a reservoir suitable for heat exchange and extraction (Figure 1).

    2
    Fig. 1. A geothermal power plant produces electricity from water that has been injected (blue pipe at center) into a subsurface reservoir, heated, and then pumped back to the surface (red pipes). Enhanced geothermal systems use techniques such as fluid injection to enhance the permeability of underground reservoirs that might otherwise not be accessible for geothermal heat extraction. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy.

    The United States and other countries have conducted experimental EGS projects since the 1970s. However, engineering a successful heat exchange reservoir in the high temperatures and pressures characteristic of EGS sites remains a significant technical challenge, one that must be overcome to enable commercial viability [Ziagos et al., 2013].

    Because of the great potential of this technology, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is driving an ambitious initiative called the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) to accelerate research and development in EGS. The FORGE initiative will provide $140 million in funding over the next 5 years (subject to congressional appropriation) for cutting-edge research, drilling, and technology testing at a field laboratory and experimental EGS site in Milford, Utah, operated by the University of Utah [U.S. Department of Energy, 2018].

    Assessing Challenges of Enhanced Geothermal Systems

    DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) asked the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to develop a methodology for collecting input from the EGS community to produce a FORGE road map with strategic guidance for the managers and operators of the site. STPI is a federally funded research and development center established by Congress and operated by the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analyses, which provides analyses of scientific issues important to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to other federal agencies.

    EGS faces numerous technical challenges. These include developing drilling equipment that can withstand the heat, pressure, and geology of the EGS environment; improving the ability to isolate specific targets in the subsurface for stimulation (called zonal isolation); and learning to better mitigate the risk of induced seismicity during operations. The EGS community has a variety of ideas for how FORGE can address these challenges and for the balance needed between conducting research that is novel, though potentially risky, and efforts that will maintain a functioning site for continued use.

    The time frame for FORGE is also relatively short, about 5 years, especially given the substantial effort required simply to drill and establish an EGS reservoir. In light of this, STPI designed and conducted a process to capture the community’s ideas for how FORGE can advance EGS, process this information methodically and impartially, and distill it into a document that is reflective of the community’s input and useful for planning research at FORGE.

    STPI’s process was designed specifically for the FORGE road map, but the general approach described here, or specific elements of it, could prove valuable for other efforts seeking to leverage collective community feedback to move a research field forward. Using this approach, a community struggling to make progress can prioritize research and technology needs without focusing on the individual approaches of different researchers or organizations.

    A Road Map for Geothermal Research

    The FORGE road map, published in February 2019, is intended to offer input from the EGS research community to help the managers of FORGE craft funding opportunities, operate the site in Utah, and work toward achieving DOE’s mission for FORGE: a set of rigorous and reproducible EGS technical solutions and a pathway to successful commercial EGS development.

    The document outlines discrete research activities—and highlights the most critical of these activities—that the EGS research community proposed for FORGE to address technical challenges. The road map also categorizes all research activities into three overarching areas of focus: stimulation planning and design, fracture control, and reservoir management.

    Engaging the Community

    In developing the road map, STPI, in coordination with DOE, first determined categories of information that could serve as building blocks for the road map. They did this by analyzing U.S. and foreign EGS road maps and vision studies from the past 2 decades. These categories included the major technical challenges facing EGS, such as developing optimal subsurface fracture networks, and the specific areas of research that could be investigated at FORGE to address those challenges, such as testing different zonal isolation methods.

    Higher-level questions included determining how progress or success could be recognized in these research areas and what accomplishments could serve as milestones for the FORGE project. Examples of potential milestones include drilling a well to a predetermined depth and measuring subsurface properties to a target resolution.

    STPI then conducted semistructured interviews with 24 stakeholders from DOE, national laboratories, industry, and academia to validate and expand the initially identified technical challenges, understand the barriers that researchers were facing when trying to address these challenges, and discuss technology that could overcome these barriers.

    STPI summarized the results of these interviews, including technical challenges and potential research activities for FORGE, in an informal memorandum. This memorandum served as a preliminary, skeletal draft of the road map, and it provided the starting point for discussion in a community workshop.

    In August 2018, STPI hosted a FORGE Roadmap Development Workshop at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Nearly 30 EGS subject matter experts from across academia, national laboratories, industry, and government attended and provided input. In a series of breakout sessions, attendees reviewed the technical challenges and research activities identified in STPI’s interviews, generated a list of technical milestones for FORGE’s 5 years of operation, discussed the dependencies among the research activities and milestones on the FORGE timeline, and produced qualitative and quantitative criteria to measure progress in each of the research activities.

    The steps in this process—a literature review, interviews with subject matter experts, and a stakeholder workshop—represent a progression of inputs that helped elucidate EGS community perspectives on current challenges to commercial EGS development and research activities that would help FORGE solve those challenges.

    After this information had been collected, STPI worked with DOE on the technical content of the road map in preparation for its publication last February. STPI and DOE consolidated, structured, and prioritized this content to provide the greatest utility to the FORGE managers and operators.

    The Way Ahead

    Clean, geothermal energy has the potential to make up a much larger share of the U.S. energy portfolio than it does at present, but to get there, the field of EGS will have to make substantial progress. The FORGE road map is designed to help the FORGE initiative move toward this goal as effectively as possible, especially given the variety of viewpoints on what research is most important with the limited funding and time available.

    The fundamental difficulties faced by the EGS community in charting a path forward are hardly unique, and so the successful process used in developing this road map could be applicable to other research communities. Collaborative processes such as the one described here look beyond literature reviews and individual research projects, and they build on themselves as they progress. Such processes can incorporate diverging viewpoints to bring out the common challenges and potential solutions that might help a research community gain consensus on how to move forward. Although a community may not agree on the exact path to success, having a common end point and a set of research priorities can help everyone forge ahead.

    References

    U.S. Department of Energy (2018), Department of Energy selects University of Utah site for $140 million geothermal research and development, https://www.energy.gov/articles/department-energy-selects-university-utah-site-140-million-geothermal-research-and.

    U.S. Geological Survey (2008), Assessment of moderate- and high-temperature geothermal resources of the United States, U.S. Geol. Surv. Fact Sheet, 2008-3082, 4 pp., https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3082/.

    Ziagos, J., et al. (2013), A technology roadmap for strategic development of enhanced geothermal systems, in Proceedings of the 38th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, pp. 11–13, Stanford Univ., Stanford, Calif., https://pangea.stanford.edu/ERE/pdf/IGAstandard/SGW/2013/Ziagos.pdf.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:26 pm on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Understanding the impact of deep-sea mining", , Energy, , ,   

    From MIT News: “Understanding the impact of deep-sea mining” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    December 5, 2019
    Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering

    Mining materials from the sea floor could help secure a low-carbon future, but researchers are racing to understand the environmental effects.

    1
    Professor Thomas Peacock (left) with graduate students Rohit Balasaheb Supekar (center) and Carlos Munoz Royo (right) aboard the RV Sally Ride. Image: John Freidah

    2
    While aboard the research vessel Sally Ride off the coast of San Diego, Peacock, Alford and a multistakeholder team of researchers deployed a discharge hose and studied sediment plumes to assess the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.
    Image: John Freidah

    3
    Polymetallic nodules containing minerals essential to energy storage lie at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In deep-sea mining, a collector vehicle is sent to pick up these nodules from the deep seabed. The vehicle creates a sediment cloud known as a ‘collector plume,’ seen here in the foreground, that is then carried away by ocean currents. Image courtesy of the DeepCCZ expedition.

    Resting atop Thomas Peacock’s desk is an ordinary-looking brown rock. Roughly the size of a potato, it has been at the center of decades of debate. Known as a polymetallic nodule, it spent 10 million years sitting on the deep seabed, 15,000 feet below sea level. The nodule contains nickel, cobalt, copper, and manganese — four minerals that are essential in energy storage.

    “As society moves toward driving more electric vehicles and utilizing renewable energy, there will be an increased demand for these minerals, to manufacture the batteries necessary to decarbonize the economy,” says Peacock, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of MIT’s Environmental Dynamics Lab (END Lab). He is part of an international team of researchers that has been trying to gain a better understanding the environmental impact of collecting polymetallic nodules, a process known as deep-sea mining.

    The minerals found in the nodules, particularly cobalt and nickel, are key components of lithium-ion batteries. Currently, lithium-ion batteries offer the best energy density of any commercially available battery. This high energy density makes them ideal for use in everything from cellphones to electric vehicles, which require large amounts of energy within a compact space.

    “Those two elements are expected to see a tremendous growth in demand due to energy storage,” says Richard Roth, director of MIT’s Materials Systems Laboratory.

    While researchers are exploring alternative battery technologies such as sodium-ion batteries and flow batteries that utilize electrochemical cells, these technologies are far from commercialization.

    “Few people expect any of these lithium-ion alternatives to be available in the next decade,” explains Roth. “Waiting for unknown future battery chemistries and technologies could significantly delay widespread adoption of electric vehicles.”

    Vast amounts of specialty nickel will be also needed to build larger-scale batteries that will be required as societies look to shift from an electric grid powered by fossil fuels to one powered by renewable resources like solar, wind, wave, and thermal.

    “The collection of nodules from the seabed is being considered as a new means for getting these materials, but before doing so it is imperative to fully understand the environmental impact of mining resources from the deep ocean and compare it to the environmental impact of mining resources on land,” explains Peacock.

    After receiving seed funding from MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), Peacock was able to apply his expertise in fluid dynamics to study how deep-sea mining could affect surrounding ecosystems.

    Meeting the demand for energy storage

    Currently, nickel and cobalt are extracted through land-based mining operations. Much of this mining occurs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which produces 60 percent of the world’s cobalt. These land-based mines often impact surrounding environments through the destruction of habitats, erosion, and soil and water contamination. There are also concerns that land-based mining, especially in politically unstable countries, might not be able to supply enough of these materials as the demand for batteries rises.

    The swath of ocean located between Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States — also known as the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone — is estimated to possess six times more cobalt and three times more nickel than all known land-based stores, as well as vast deposits of manganese and a substantial amount of copper.

    While the seabed is abundant with these materials, little is known about the short- and long-term environmental effects of mining 15,000 feet below sea level. Peacock and his collaborator Professor Matthew Alford from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California at San Diego are leading the quest to understand how the sediment plumes generated by the collection of nodules from the seabed will be carried by water currents.

    “The key question is, if we decide to make a plume at site A, how far does it spread before eventually raining down on the sea floor?” explains Alford. “That ability to map the geography of the impact of sea floor mining is a crucial unknown right now.”

    The research Peacock and Alford are conducting will help inform stakeholders about the potential environmental effects of deep-sea mining. One pressing matter is that draft exploitation regulations for deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction are currently being negotiated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an independent organization established by the United Nations that regulates all mining activities on the sea floor. Peacock and Alford’s research will help guide the development of environmental standards and guidelines to be issued under those regulations.

    “We have a unique opportunity to help regulators and other concerned parties to assess draft regulations using our data and modeling, before operations start and we regret the impact of our activity,” says Carlos Munoz Royo, a PhD student in MIT’s END Lab.

    Tracking plumes in the water

    In deep-sea mining, a collector vehicle would be deployed from a ship. The collector vehicle then travels 15,000 feet down to the seabed, where it vacuums up the top four inches of the seabed. This process creates a plume known as a collector plume.

    “As the collector moves across the seabed floor, it stirs up sediment and creates a sediment cloud, or plume, that’s carried away and distributed by ocean currents,” explains Peacock.

    The collector vehicle picks up the nodules, which are pumped through a pipe back to the ship. On the ship, usable nodules are separated from unwanted sediment. That sediment is piped back into the ocean, creating a second plume, known as a discharge plume.

    Peacock collaborated with Pierre Lermusiaux, professor of mechanical engineering and of ocean science and engineering, and Glenn Flierl, professor of Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, to create mathematical models that predict how these two plumes travel through the water.

    To test these models, Peacock set out to track actual plumes created by mining the floor of the Pacific Ocean. With funding from MIT ESI, he embarked on the first-ever field study of such plumes. He was joined by Alford and Eric Adams, senior research engineer at MIT, as well as other researchers and engineers from MIT, Scripps, and the United States Geological Survey.

    With funding from the UC Ship Funds Program, the team conducted experiments in consultation with the ISA during a weeklong expedition in the Pacific Ocean aboard the U.S. Navy R/V Sally Ride in March 2018. The researchers mixed sediment with a tracer dye that they were able to track using sensors on the ship developed by Alford’s Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group. In doing so, they created a map of the plumes’ journeys.

    The field experiments demonstrated that the models Peacock and Lermusiaux developed can be used to predict how plumes will travel through the water — and could help give a clearer picture of how surrounding biology might be affected.

    Impact on deep-sea organisms

    Life on the ocean floor moves at a glacial pace. Sediment accumulates at a rate of 1 millimeter every millennium. With such a slow rate of growth, areas disturbed by deep-sea mining would be unlikely to recover on a reasonable timescale.

    “The concern is that if there is a biological community specific to the area, it might be irretrievably impacted by mining,” explains Peacock.

    According to Cindy Van Dover, professor of biological oceanography at Duke University, in addition to organisms that live in or around the nodules, other organisms elsewhere in the water column could be affected as the plumes travel.

    “There could be clogging of filter feeding structures of, for example, gelatinous organisms in the water column, and burial of organisms on the sediment,” she explains. “There could also be some metals that get into the water column, so there are concerns about toxicology.”

    Peacock’s research on plumes could help biologists like Van Dover assess collateral damage from deep-sea mining operations in surrounding ecosystems.

    Drafting regulations for mining the sea

    Through connections with MIT’s Policy Lab, the Institute is one of only two research universities with observer status at the ISA.

    “The plume research is very important, and MIT is helping with the experimentation and developing plume models, which is vital to inform the current work of the International Seabed Authority and its stakeholder base,” explains Chris Brown, a consultant at the ISA. Brown was one of dozens of experts who convened on MIT’s campus last fall at a workshop discussing the risks of deep-sea mining.

    To date, the field research Peacock and Alford conducted is the only ocean dataset on midwater plumes that exists to help guide decision-making. The next step in understanding how plumes move through the water will be to track plumes generated by a prototype collector vehicle. Peacock and his team in the END Lab are preparing to participate in a major field study using a prototype vehicle in 2020.

    Thanks to recent funding provided by the 11th Hour Project, Peacock and Lermusiaux hope to develop models that give increasingly accurate predictions about how deep-sea mining plumes will travel through the ocean. They will continue to interact with academic colleagues, international agencies, NGOs, and contractors to develop a clearer picture of deep-sea mining’s environmental impact.

    “It’s important to have input from all stakeholders early in the conversation to help make informed decisions, so we can fully understand the environmental impact of mining resources from the ocean and compare it to the environmental impact of mining resources on land,” says Peacock.

    See the full article here .


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