March story tips

March 04, 2013

ENERGY - Reducing biorefinery waste . . .

By introducing microbial fuel cells into the corn stover biorefinery waste recovery process, a team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated a new way to produce bioenergy from the process waste stream. The process developed by ORNL's Abhijeet Borole and colleagues from the University of Tennessee and National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a direct alternative to generate electricity compared to a mature but multi-step path that uses anaerobic digestion. Major advantages of the ORNL method include the ability to convert organics, which are difficult to degrade, into electricity or hydrogen. In addition the changes can lead to reductions in the amount of fresh water required in the process and the potential to handle high concentrations of ammonia. Details of the study are available in the paper, titled "Conversion of Residual Organics in Corn Stover-Derived Biorefinery Stream to Bioenergy via a Microbial Fuel Cell," published in Environmental Science & Technology. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

HEALTH - Faster vitamin analysis . . .

Quantitative analyses of vitamins can be done in minutes with minimal processing, saving time and money with a technique successfully demonstrated by a team of Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers. Ensuring that food and dietary supplements have the prescribed amount of ascorbic and folic acids is of critical importance because excessive amounts of these vitamins can have a detrimental effect. Using a process called flow-injection tandem mass spectrometry, Gary Van Berkel and colleagues demonstrated results that were in agreement with liquid chromatography-based results obtained by National Institute of Standards and Technology methods. The findings were published recently as a research article in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

CLIMATE - Recreating the past . . .

About 22,000 years ago the Earth's great ice sheets began to decline, bringing an end to the Last Glacial Maximum. Given the growing concerns about today's shrinking glaciers and polar ice caps, scientists are interested in knowing what happened the last time the Earth shed much of its ice. Now a group of researchers has run simulations on an Oak Ridge National Laboratory supercomputer over three years to create the first physics-based test of hemispheric deglaciation. Their culprit: a combination of increased insolation (solar radiation that reaches the earth's surface) caused by changes in the Earth's orbit, and ocean circulation. Their work was published in the Feb. 7 issue of Nature. [Contact: Scott Jones, (865) 574-6944;]

LIGHTING - Brighter future for LEDs . . .

Lights at the Superdome could have been back on in minutes with an LED system developed by an Oak Ridge company that's using Oak Ridge National Laboratory technology. In 2010, LED North America licensed an application for graphite foam, which passively cools components in light-emitting diode lamps. This technology is being used in LED North America's patent-pending module, eliminating most of the weight associated with traditional luminaires that incorporate high-power LEDs. The company has now expanded the concept, enabling an array of modules to be bundled. The lights are already being used in a high-bay application at a facility that handles logistics for Nissan as well as other indoor commercial warehouse buildings. These lights, which use less energy, could potentially replace the mercury lamps used at arenas and stadiums around the country, including the Superdome, which during Super Bowl XLVII experienced a power outage that knocked out many of the lights for half an hour. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENVIRONMENT - Better hydrogen trap . . .

With the development of a new method to trap hydrogen in clathrate hydrates, which are ice-like structures, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have made a discovery that could have broad implications for hydrogen storage and astrophysics. For years, scientists have recognized that these hydrate structures would be an ideal storage medium for hydrogen if it weren't for the high-pressure requirement, which makes it too costly for industrial applications. Now, scientists at the Spallation Neutron Source have demonstrated a way to trap hydrogen in clathrate structures at much lower pressures, perhaps providing a path forward for storage of greenhouse gases and understanding the nature of matter in deep space science. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel, (865) 574-0644;]

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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