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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

New version of Argonne lifecycle model for water footprint of biofuels now includes cellulosic feedstocks

January 16, 2015

Argonne National Laboratory released the newest version (3.0) of the online tool Water Assessment for Transportation Energy Resources (WATER) this week. This latest version of WATER allows, for the first time, biofuels manufacturers to analyze water consumption associated with use of cellulosic feedstocks such as residue left from lumber production and other wood-based resources. The new tool also provides analysis down to the county level in the US for the first time.

WATER adopts a water footprint methodology, and contains extensive climate, land use, water resource, and process water data. Version 3.0 of WATER thus can help biofuels developers gain a detailed understanding of water consumption of various types of feedstocks, aiding development of sustainable fuels that will reduce impact on limited water resources.

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GWU team uses one-pot process to co-generate H2 and solid carbon from water and CO2; solar fuels

December 30, 2014

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One-pot electrolytic process produces H2 and solid carbon from water and CO2. Li et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at George Washington University led by Professor Stuart Licht has simultaneously co-generated hydrogen and solid carbon fuels from water and CO2 using a mixed hydroxide/carbonate electrolyte in a “single-pot” electrolytic synthesis at temperatures below 650 ˚C. The work is a further development of their work with STEP (solar thermal electrochemical process)—an efficient solar chemical process, based on a synergy of solar thermal and endothermic electrolyses, introduced by Licht and his colleagues in 2009. (Earlier post, earlier post.) (In short, STEP uses solar thermal energy to increase the system temperature to decrease electrolysis potentials.)

Licht and his colleagues over the past few years have delineated the solar, optical, and electronic components of STEP. In this study, they focused on the electrolysis component for STEP fuel, producing hydrogen and graphitic carbon from water and carbon dioxide. A paper on the new work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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ARPA-E to award $60M to 2 programs: enhancing biomass yield and dry-cooling for thermoelectric power

October 02, 2014

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ARPA-E’s vision of advanced phenotyping to enhance biomass yield. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will award up to $60 million to two new programs ($30 million each). The Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program (DE-FOA-0001211) seeks to accelerate biomass yield gains (especially energy sorghum) through automated, predictive and systems-level approaches to biofuel crop breeding. The Advanced Research In Dry cooling (ARID) program (DE-FOA-0001197) aims to develop low-cost, highly efficient and scalable dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants.

TERRA. ARPA-E posited that there is an urgent need to accelerate energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass. While recent advances in technology has enabled the extraction of massive volumes of genetic, physiological, and environmental data from certain crops, the data still cannot be processed into the knowledge needed to predict crop performance in the field. This knowledge is required to improve the breeding development pipeline for energy crops.

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USC team finds Li-Al nanoparticles produce hydrogen from water with high rate and yield; potential for industrial scaling

June 27, 2014

Aluminum and water react exothermically to form aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen; this basic property has lured numerous researchers interested in generating hydrogen from the aluminum-water reaction for modern transportation systems for at least 35 years. (Earlier post.) However, among the barriers to the practical application of this reaction are the low reaction rate and poor yield.

Now, results of large quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) simulations by a team at the University of Southern California suggest that alloying aluminum particles with lithium to produce hydrogen from water can produce orders-of-magnitude faster reactions with higher yields. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Researchers review risk to water resources from unconventional shale gas development in US

June 19, 2014

A team from Duke University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College and Ohio State University has published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology an overview and synopsis of recent investigations (as of January 2014) into one set of possible environmental impacts from unconventional shale gas development: the potential risks to water resources.

They identified four potential modes of water resource degradation: (1) shallow aquifers contaminated by fugitive natural gas (i.e., stray gas contamination) from leaking shale gas and conventional oil and gas wells, potentially followed by water contamination from hydraulic fracturing fluids and/or formation waters from the deep formations; (2) surface water contamination from spills, leaks, and the disposal of inadequately treated wastewater or hydraulic fracturing fluids; (3) accumulation of toxic and radioactive elements in soil and the sediments of rivers and lakes exposed to wastewater or fluids used in hydraulic fracturing; and (4) the overuse of water resources, which can compete with other water uses such as agriculture in water-limited environments.

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DOE releases report on water-energy nexus

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.

Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses. Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections.

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