Development of a curious robot to study coral reef ecosystems awarded $1.5 million by the National Science Foundation

A grant by the National Science Foundation to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Syracuse University aims to open new avenues of robotic study of coral reefs by developing autonomous underwater vehicles capable of navigating complex environments and of collecting data over long periods of time. The team led by WHOI computer scientist Yogesh Girdhar aims to build a robot capable of navigating a reef ecosystem and measuring the biomass, biodiversity, and behavior of organisms living in or passing through a reef over extended periods of time.

Pretreating Nuisance Green Algae with Lye, Urea Increases Bacterial Production of Biogas

An international research team reports their success in using urea and sodium hydroxide (NaOH, commonly known as lye or caustic soda) as a pretreatment of algae, which breaks down cellulose and more than doubles biogas production under their initial experimental conditions.

Elevated CO2 emissions increase plant carbon uptake but decrease soil carbon storage

Elevated carbon dioxide emissions from human activities increase the uptake of carbon by plants but may decrease storage in soil. An international team led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists synthesized 108 elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) experiments in various ecosystems to find out how much carbon is absorbed by plants and soil.

Cornell University to Extract Energy from Manure to Meet Peak Heating Demands

Cornell University is developing a system to extract energy from cattle manure to meet the campus’s peak demands for heat in the winter months. In the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, scientists involved with the project give a detailed analysis of the issues required to make this work, including scientific, economic, and energy policy considerations.

Study First to Tally Biomass from Oceanic Plastic Debris Using Visualization Method

Scientists examined cell abundances, size, cellular carbon mass, and how photosynthetic cells differ on polymeric and glass substrates over time, exploring nanoparticle generation from plastic like polystyrene and how this might disrupt microalgae. Conservative estimates suggest that about 1 percent of microbial cells in the ocean surface microlayer inhabit plastic debris globally. This mass of cells would not exist without plastic debris in the ocean, and thus, represents a disruption of the proportions of native flora in that habitat.

Inducing Plasma in Biomass Could Make Biogas Easier to Produce

Producing biogas from the bacterial breakdown of biomass presents options for a greener energy future, but the complex composition of biomass comes with challenges. Cellulose and woody lignocellulose are especially hard for bacteria to digest but pretreatment can make it easier. Researchers are testing plasma formation in biomass and finding a promising method: A plasma-liquid interaction forms reactive species that help break down the biomass and decrease the viscosity of the biomass material.

A New Look at Deep-Sea Microbes

Microbes found deeper in the ocean are believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy. But microbial communities found deeper in seafloor sediments and around hydrocarbon seepage sites have now been found to have more energy available and a higher population turnover. Deeper sediments in the seepages are most likely heavily impacted by the material coming up from the bottom, which means that the seep could be supporting a larger amount of biomass than previously thought.

Acetone plus light creates a green jet fuel additive

Take biomass-derived acetone—common nail polish remover—use light to upgrade it to higher-mass hydrocarbons, and, voila, you have a domestically generated product that can be blended with conventional jet fuel to fly while providing environmental benefits, creating domestic jobs, securing the nation’s global leadership in bioenergy technologies, and improving U.S. energy security.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore Lab Foundation, ClimateWorks to unveil report on California’s road to carbon neutrality

LLNL will host a briefing to unveil the new report “Getting to Neutral: Options for Negative Carbon Emissions in California,” which identifies a robust suite of technologies to help California clear the last hurdle and become carbon neutral by 2045.

How to Make it Easier to Turn Plant Waste into Biofuels

Researchers have developed a new process that could make it much cheaper to produce biofuels such as ethanol from plant waste and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Their approach, featuring an ammonia-salt based solvent that rapidly turns plant fibers into sugars needed to make ethanol, works well at close to room temperature, unlike conventional processes, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Green Chemistry.

Neutrons optimize high efficiency catalyst for greener approach to biofuel synthesis

Researchers led by the University of Manchester used neutron scattering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the development of a catalyst that converts biomass into liquid fuel with remarkably high efficiency and provides new possibilities for manufacturing renewable energy-related materials.