Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2007

April 24, 2007

CLIMATE -- Thirstier trees on horizon . . .

Increased levels of ozone associated with the release of greenhouse gases are causing vegetation to use more water and may intensify the effects of global warming on ecological systems, according to findings published in New Phytologist. Researchers Sandy McLaughlin of the University of Tennessee and Stan Wullschleger of Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted studies of trees in the mountains of East Tennessee and found that current levels of ozone amplified the effects of climate stresses on large tree growth, transfer of water from soil to the atmosphere and rates of stream flow from forested watersheds. The mechanism for these effects, which has been implicated by several studies, is reduced capacity of the plants to regulate water loss through stomata, the breathing pores in leaves. Researchers cautioned, however, that they need to test these concepts further with additional forest types and climatic systems. Others involved in this study, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Global Change Program, were from the Forest Service and the University of Calgary. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

ENERGY -- Adaptable energy . . .

Adapting homes and buildings to use electricity and other energy sources more efficiently is the goal of a program managed through Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers led by Jeff Muhs of ORNL's Engineering Technology Division are examining power systems from a building or home all the way back to the original transmission source at the electrical grid to determine better efficiencies. The project is looking at automation, robotics, sensors and other tools to reduce energy consumption and taking into account a number of variables such as a building's construction, its ability to stay cool or warm, and how outside conditions impact the inside. The research is funded through DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. [Contact: Fred Strohl, (865) 574-4160; strohlhf@ornl.gov]

DIESEL -- Clean savings . . .

An innovative methodology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could help speed to market reformulated diesel fuels recently patented by the Department of Energy, resulting in cleaner air and saving consumers an estimated $3.6 billion over the expected 12-year product impact period. The patented technique, called Principal Components Regression Plus, overcomes problems inherent in other emissions predictive techniques that do not take into account real-world conditions. The ORNL system has helped to identify reformulated diesel fuels that provide significantly reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter relative to commercially available diesel fuels. The fuels can also improve vehicle operating characteristics. Savings would be derived from royalty-free nonexclusive licenses to petroleum refiners. DOE's Office of Policy and International Affairs funded development of the methodology and the patented fuels. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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