Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, November 2005

November 14, 2005

ENVIRONMENT -- Carbon and climate . . .

Climate change can have a significant impact on the amount of carbon stored in cropland soils around the nation, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Results published recently in Geophysical Research Letters show that about 5 percent of the 868 million tons of carbon sequestered from no-till cropping practices in the U.S. and Canada from 1981 to 2000 is due to changes in climate that occurred during this period. The effects of climate change on carbon storage vary from one region to another because of differences in soil properties, cropping practices and the influence of climate change on soil moisture and soil temperature. While carbon sequestration strategies like no-till are intended to reduce atmospheric CO2, future increases in CO2 will alter how much carbon can actually be sequestered. By integrating potential carbon sequestration dynamics into their new model, researchers can more accurately estimate where soil carbon sequestration may be increased or reduced because of climate change. Authors of the paper were Atul Jain and Xiaojuan Yang of Illinois and Tris West and Mac Post of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division. The research was funded by DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

ENERGY -- Better buildings . . .

Steel-faced structural insulated panels being developed with partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory offer superior energy efficiency, durability and resistance to fire, wind and termites. While existing structural insulated panels, called SIPs, consist of a core of foam insulation sheathed in oriented strand board, the new-generation panels are sheathed in thin steel, have a core of closed-cell polyurethane foam and incorporate a phase-change material inserts that provide thermal mass to reduce peak cooling and heating loads. Steel-faced panels also contain internal radiant barriers that reduce heat transfer and boast R-values - insulating ability - of up to R-20 compared to R-9 to R-13 for traditional framing. In addition, the new panels feature proprietary self-sealing seams that make the wall system virtually air- and moisture-tight and may withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour. The panels are being developed through a partnership with SustainBuild of Houston. The research is supported in part by the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Buildings Technology Program. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

ENVIRONMENT -- Eliminating kudzu . . .

Controlling kudzu to keep it from displacing and destroying natural vegetation on the Oak Ridge Reservation is a task being supervised by Oak Ridge National Laboratory environmental analyst Harry Quarles. While kudzu was promoted in the Southeastern United States to hold soil from eroding on slopes, the non-North American plant species from Asia has overtopped other vegetation - including plants, grasses and trees - because it does not respond well to North American natural enemies and climactic controls in the ecosystem. After eradicating patches of kudzu with mostly herbicides, the existing seed bank beneath is released and more desirable plants cover the site. Quarles has found this alternative resulting vegetation is just as effective in holding the soil while not creating the natural damage to other species that is caused by kudzu. [Contact: Fred Strohl, 865-574-4165; strohlhf@ornl.gov]
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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