Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2006

August 03, 2006

Energy -- A warmer future . . .

Atmospheric CO2 levels are projected to increase in the future and result in the Earth's warming. A numerical economic model, driven with a climate model calculated on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's IBM Cheetah Supercomputer, has simulated and predicted energy usage and costs in the United States for the time period 2000-2025. David Erickson of ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division reports gradually increasing temperatures will create a greater demand for air-conditioning provided by electrical energy, which will heighten the demand for coal to be burned at fossil fuel power plants. The numerical economics model includes data on building codes and census figures from every county in the United States, along with expected population changes during the time period. This research was conducted by a group of scientists from ORNL's Computing and Computational Sciences, Biological and Environmental Sciences and Energy and Engineering Sciences directorates. The study is funded through ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and DOE's Office of Science. (Contact: Fred Strohl, 865-574-4165; strohlhf@ornl.gov)

Biology -- New genetics tool . . .

Geneticists studying molecular pathways of health and disease have a novel new computational method to identify networks of the interacting genes that underlie complex traits. Brynn Voy of ORNL's Life Sciences Division led a team that has developed a method to convert massive amounts of gene expression data into graphs and extract sets of perfectly interconnected genes called cliques. The method devised by Voy and Mike Langston, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee, overcomes limitations common to clustering algorithms used by genetics researchers to identify gene sets that control interactions between an organism and its environment. For their study, published in PLoS Computational Biology, Voy and Langston demonstrated the technique by applying it to the study of low-dose radiation exposure in mice, used as a genetic model for humans. The project was funded through the DOE Low Dose Radiation Research Program and by the National Institutes of Health. (Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov)

Geology -- Potential CO2 vault . . .

Depleted oil wells and deep saline aquifers may hold promise as repositories for atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a team of researchers whose study is published in Geology. For their experiment, Yousif Kharaka of the U.S. Geological Survey, Dave Cole of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division and colleagues injected 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide to a depth of 1,500 meters into a brine aquifer hosted by a sandstone formation in the Texas Gulf Coast. Researchers tracked the movement of the CO2 via chemical and stable isotope data, including pH, alkalinity, iron and gas compositions, and oxygen and hydrogen isotopes of the brine. They discovered that the CO2 caused rapid dissolution of minerals, especially calcite and iron oxyhdroxides, which could lead to the creation of pathways in the rock and leakage of CO2 and brine. Ultimately, additional research is needed to answer some key questions about whether this approach is viable for sequestering CO2. The research was funded by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy. (Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov)
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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