- Number 415 |
- June 9, 2014
Geothermal energy could become a cost-competitive source for electricity in the very near future with the help of a subsurface modeling program designed by researchers at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory. The Fracturing and Liquid CONvection (FALCON) code can analyze various facets of the subsurface physics behind geothermal energy extraction.
Traditional geothermal energy can be accessed only at rare sites where subsurface heat, water and permeable rock converge. However, Enhanced (or Engineered) Geothermal Systems (EGS) can be built so that they add fluid to the system, as well as increase rock permeability via techniques such as fracturing. Thus, an EGS site only needs a location with subsurface heat. At that point, FALCON can swoop in to optimize the process.
For years, scientists have had an itch they couldn’t scratch. Even with the best microscopes and spectrometers, it’s been difficult to study and identify molecules at the so-called mesoscale, a region of matter that ranges from 10 to 1000 nanometers in size. Now, with the help of broadband infrared light from the Advanced Light Source (ALS) synchrotron at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), researchers have developed a broadband imaging technique that looks inside this realm with unprecedented sensitivity and range.
This peptoid nanosheet, produced by Gloria Olivier and Ron Zuckerman at Berkeley Lab, is less than 8 nanometers thick at points. SINS makes it possible to acquire spectroscopic images of these ultra-thin nanosheets for the first time.
As climate change continues to affect agricultural lands and yields, some researchers are looking at improving crops to make them more tolerant of drier and saltier conditions. Toward this end, a team including researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Haifa in Israel studied the genome of a fungus (Eurotium rubrum) that thrives in the Dead Sea, describing their findings in the May 9, 2014 issue of Nature Communications.
The DOE JGI team sequenced, assembled and annotated the 26.2-million base genome of E. rubrum. They found that the E. rubrum proteins had higher aspartic and glutamic acid amino acid levels than expected. After comparing E. rubrum’s gene families against those in two other halophilic species, they noted that high acidic residues were a general trait all salt-tolerant microbes share.
Nearly a quarter of the way through their two-year project, a team of scientists deployed to Brazil’s Amazon Basin is unraveling the mysteries of how land and atmospheric processes affect tropical hydrology and climate. Their work will go far toward improving the climate-prediction computer models on which scientists and policymakers rely for future climate-related planning.
“Our job is to go into climatically undersampled regions where there’s not a lot of data,” said Kim Nitschke, leader of DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory-based Field Instrument Deployments and Operations (FIDO) team. “Our measurements are aimed at fine-tuning climate modeling, both for more accurate design, and then for verification of conditions at specific locations.”
On May 22, the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel unveiled its roadmap for the next two decades of particle physics research. The result of a year-long process that sought input from the national and international particle physics community, the P5 report identifies the five science drivers in particle physics research: the Higgs boson as a new tool for discovery; the physics associated with neutrino mass; the new physics of dark matter; understanding dark energy and cosmic inflation; and the exploration of the unknown.
The P5 report calls for further U.S. investment in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the construction of a world-leading, international neutrino facility at Fermilab, and new probes into the nature of dark matter and dark energy.