Ames Laboratory’s Javier VelaAmes Lab chemist Vela looks to show viability of photocatalysis for biofuels

As a boy growing up in Mexico, Ames Laboratory’s Javier Vela took an early interest in science and planned to become an engineer or a physicist. But an “excellent” high school chemistry teacher helped steer him onto the path to perhaps solving one of the stumbling blocks that’s hampering the biofuels industry.

“My ultimate scientific goal is show the viability of photocatalysis – to convert biomass into fuel using only sunlight as the driving force,” says Vela, who is in his fourth year aa chemist at DOE's Ames Lab. “We’re working to develop catalysts that can harness solar energy and turn it into chemical energy. Basically take water or biomass and turn it into hydrogen or other fuels.”

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Chris Monahan, a postdoctoral research associate at The College of William & Mary, is the recipient of the 2013 Jefferson Science Associates Postdoctoral Research Grant at Jefferson Lab. Monahan's research will use a new approach for calculating how the smallest bits of matter come together to build the ubiquitous proton.Computing quarks on a chessboard

Scientists have long puzzled over how the smallest bits of matter add up to form the world around us. Now, Chris Monahan of DOE's Jefferson Lab is using the power of a video gaming system to attempt a new method of exploring those bits.

More specifically, Monahan’s project is to calculate how the smallest bits of matter, quarks and gluons, come together to build the ubiquitous proton.

"This project is aimed at developing a new way of comparing numerical data from a computer to experimental data. There are a number of ways of doing this, but none of them are ideal. This won't be ideal, but it takes advantage of some new developments," Monahan explains.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 395  |
  • August 19, 2013
  • NREL adds eyes, brains to occupancy detection

    IPOS developers Luigi Gentile Polese and Larry Brackney sit at a building automation control network while showing the small size of the essential parts of the IPOS – the microprocessor and the camera. Credit: Dennis Schroeder It's a gnawing frustration of modern office life. You're sitting quietly — too quietly — in an office or carrel, and suddenly the lights go off.

    Installed to save energy, the room's occupancy detector has determined that no one is around, so it signals the lights to turn off. You try flapping your arms to get an instant reset, and if that doesn't work, you get up, walk to the light switch, and turn the lights back on manually.

    The next morning, you put duct tape over the sensor to keep it from working, or you ask maintenance to turn down its sensitivity — so it won't turn off the lights until it detects no motion for a half-hour or hour. And of course, that quashes the primary purpose of motion detectors, which is to save the company a lot of dollars on its electricity bill

    For 30 years, occupancy sensors have relied primarily on motion detection. But now there's something new.

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  • Robot joins ranks of the National Ignition Facility

    System Manager Casey Schulz successfully running D2T3 through his paces, negotiating obstacles in the NIF Target Bay. A new employee will soon be added to the roster of those working on Level 2 of the National Ignition Facility's (NIF) Target Bay. His name is D2T3, and his duties will be a bit different than those of his colleagues at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    D2T3 — named for the hydrogen isotopes that serve as fuel for NIF's fusion targets — is a radiation-detecting, remote controlled robot. Currently in testing and training mode, he will be fully deployed in September after three years of development.

    D2T3 has found his place in the NIF duty roster due to the continuing success of the facility's experiments. As NIF laser shots continue to yield higher and higher neutron yields — a marker of the facility's ultimate goal, fusion ignition — the immediate environment of the Target Bay is inhospitable to humans. Currently, the area remains sealed for a number of hours based on radiation decay models before radiation technicians enter to verify that levels are safe. As a safety precaution, this wait is longer than models predict to provide a safety buffer.

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  • Research reveals new challenges for mercury cleanup

    ORNL researchers are learning more about the microbial processes that convert elemental mercury into methylmercury.More forms of mercury can be converted to deadly methylmercury than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. The discovery provides scientists with another piece of the mercury puzzle, bringing them one step closer to understanding the challenges associated with mercury cleanup.

    Earlier this year, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered two key genes that are essential for microbes to convert oxidized mercury to methylmercury, a neurotoxin that can penetrate skin and at high doses affect brain and muscle tissue, causing paralysis and brain damage.

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  • Quantifying uncertainty in computer model predictions

    Comparison of the actual results and MARS based response surface generated for 1024 sample runs. DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has great interest in technologies that will lead to reducing the CO2 emissions of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. Advanced energy technologies such as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) can potentially lead to the clean and efficient use of fossil fuels to power our nation. The development of new energy technologies, however, takes a long time, as the technologies need to be tested at multiple scales, progressing from lab scale to pilot scale to demonstration scale before widespread deployment. In addition to developing new energy technologies, NETL’s research is working to reduce the cost and time of technology development.

    Advanced modeling and simulation capabilities can significantly reduce the time and cost of the development and deployment of energy technologies. In particular, modeling and simulation can be used to increase the confidence as technologies are scaled up, such as, for example, when designing a 285 MWe gasifier based on data generated from a 13 MWth pilot-scale gasifier.

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