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Fatty acids (oils) from the seeds of oilseed crops such as soybeans, sunflower and etc. are processed into vegetable oil for consumption and food preparation. Seeds of other plants naturally contain specialty fatty acids, called "modified fatty acids" ("mFAs"), that are useful as chemical feedstocks, replacing chemicals otherwise obtained from petroleum. Unfortunately seeds of these plants are not amenable to being grown and harvested in commercially relevant amounts. Thus, there has been considerable effort devoted to developing altered oilseed crops that efficiently produce modified fatty acids. The present technology provides means to produce fatty acids having a cyclopropane ring, which makes the oil extremely useful for chemical processing into such products as plastics, paints, dyes, coatings and the like. This technology exemplifies how normal oilseed crops can be modified to produce valuable chemicals. In addition to being renewable, production of such chemicals in plant seeds is environmentally safe and clean.
The present technology provides modified oilseed crops having increased amounts of a non-native, modified fatty acid compound of interest. The system involves transformation of a crop plant with a gene encoding a synthase or encoding a fatty acid modifying enzyme specific for the mFA of interest and an acyltransferase gene and expressing both genes in the transformed plant. Specific embodiments include synthase genes or fatty acid modifying genes isolated from source plants that normally accumulate elevated amounts of the particular mFA. Preferred embodiments of the technology include acyltransferases that transfer either the substrate for the synthase enzyme or transfer the modified fatty acid of interest to, for example, monoacyl- or diacylglycerol. Preferably, acyltransferase genes are obtained from source plants that normally accumulate elevated amounts of the mFA of interest. Manipulation of the accumulation of the proper substrate for the synthase or FA modifying enzyme was useful in preferred embodiments. Enzymes that compete for the synthase or modifying enzyme substrates are suppressed by genotypic and phenotypic mutation of genes encoding the competing enzymes. A particular embodiment of the invention focuses on generating transformed plants accumulating elevated amounts of cyclopropane fatty acids (CPFAs). CPFAs are of particular interest because the presence of the cyclopropane ring creates a reaction center for facile synthesis of branched chain fatty acids. The optimal CPFA synthase may depend on the targeted crop plant. In some embodiments, an Escherichia coli cyclopropane fatty acid synthase was a preferred choice. Acyltransferase genes were selected from the group consisting of lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase (LPAT), Phospholipid Diacyl Glycerol Acyl Transferase acyltransferase (PDAT) and diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT) genes. A Sterculia foetida LPAT gene provided a particularly preferred embodiment.
Computer engineers have developed a new design to support construction of large computer systems that perform closer to their theoretical peak. This approach emphasizes scalable throughput rather than attempting to tailor systems around the highest performing accelerators, and allows selection of individual components that maximize performance against energy draw or cost. The design makes use of commodity components that are modest in computing power and energy consumption.
Most supercomputer applications require some non-local communication. As a result, the relatively high-latency and low-bandwidth interconnection network becomes a limiting factor on the machine’s efficiency. In addition, designers are extending the peak performance of supercomputers by adding multi-core accelerators such as Cell processors or Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). This introduces another high-latency and low-bandwidth bottleneck, at the point where data moves into and out of the accelerator, as well as another dimension of complexity in software.
These factors limit the kinds of applications that can run effectively on supercomputers, and increase the cost of developing or porting those applications. Algorithms that require intercommunication result in underutilized components, wasting energy and the potential of the machine. Furthermore, there appear to be some problems which perform poorly on these architectures, regardless of optimization.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) researchers have developed a new design to support construction of large machines, allowing the machines to perform closer to their theoretical peak. This approach emphasizes scalable throughput rather than attempting to tailor machines around the highest performing accelerators, and allows selection of individual components that maximize performance against energy draw or cost. The design makes use of commodity components that are modest in computing power and energy consumption.
The LANL hardware is being co-designed along with a powerful and expressive high-level programming language, adapted from a well-studied body of research languages. It is expected that applications written in this language will require no other system-level or low-level programming in order to run efficiently, but diagnostic feedback could allow selection of more efficient idioms.
LANL’s design supports the data-intensive applications currently encountered in scientific computing, while opening the door to new levels of capability for communication-intensive and throughput-intensive applications such as molecular dynamics and signal correlation. In addition, researchers expect the LANL design can support transparent fail-over, allowing failed nodes to be replaced on-the-fly without stopping ongoing computations.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, "High Performance Hydrophobic Solvent for CO2 Capture." This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants have demonstrated that coal can be combusted with greater efficiency, but CO2 extraction from the mixed gas stream has proved to be costly. One reason for the expense is that while currently employed ethylene-glycol-based materials (Selexol) are highly selective in removing CO2, they are also hydrophilic, so water must first be removed before the solvent can be used to dissolve the CO2. In order to remove the water, the fuel gas stream must be cooled to 40 ?C—a costly and energy-demanding process. Polydimethylsiloxanes (PDMS) have overcome the problem of miscibility in water, but suffer from low selectivity.
This invention describes a method to remove CO2 from a mixed gas stream using a solvent that is not only highly selective, but also has no affinity for water. A hydrophobic solvent allows absorption of CO2 at higher temperatures while eliminating the need for a water removal step at IGCC plants, which will simplify the gas removal process and reduce operating costs while increasing thermal efficiency.
The successful integration of this technology into industrial processes could replace ethylene-glycol-based solvent and PDMS to significantly reduce CO2 from fuel gas streams while simplifying IGCC processes in a cost-effective manner.
Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, "Method for the Separation of a Gaseous Component Using a Solvent-Membrane Capture Process.” This technology is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
The current invention describes a hybrid process for post-combustion CO2 capture using a solvent-based absorption/high pressure stripping gas step coupled with selective CO2 membrane separation. The method is unique in that the solvent-based absorption/stripping process uses thermal compression to efficiently increase the concentration and partial pressure of CO2 in the gas mixture, allowing for more efficient membrane separation. The hybrid process integrates the most efficient aspects of each method resulting in a reduction of the parasitic energy demand of the post-combustion CO2 capture process.
Although research is currently inactive on the patented technology "Low Temperature Sorbents for Removal of Sulfur Compounds from Fluid Feed Streams," the technology is available for licensing from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).
Disclosed in this patent is a process consisting of a material reactive with sulfur, a binder unreactive with sulfur, and an inert material that in combination can absorb sulfur from fluid feed gas streams at temperatures ranging between 30 and 200 degrees Centigrade. Research has shown that the sulfur absorption capacity has reached as high as 22 weight percent through the application of this process.
Although vapor-phase fuel streams provide valuable commodities, such as liquefied petroleum gases, these commodities cannot be commercially used until contaminants within them are removed. The most typical contaminants are sulfur-containing compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide and others. Removal of the sulfur is necessary to preserve the environment and protect components, such as catalysts, fuel cells, and turbines, contained in power generation systems. Some techniques currently exist for sulfur removal but are limited by only incorporating high temperature ranges. Low temperature processes for removing sulfur also exist but are limited by low sulfur capacities.
The NETL-developed technology provides a solid sorbent that removes sulfur compounds at low temperatures. The process operates at temperatures ranging between 30 degrees and 200 degrees Centigrade, while exhibiting the capacity to absorb high levels of sulfur. In addition, the sorbent itself is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and maintain. The process features a combination of readily available sulfur-reactive materials with diluents and support materials to produce a porous sulfur-absorbing substrate, resulting in the use of less materials and minimal costs.
NREL has developed the following laboratory analytical procedures (LAPs) for standard biomass analysis. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) may have adopted similar procedures. ASTM and TAPPI versions may be ordered from those organizations.
Near-infrared (NIR) calibration models are created by applying multivariate calibration methods to the combination of wet chemistry data and NIR spectra of a given set of biomass samples. Wet chemical compositional data and NIR spectra exist for the following types of biomass samples: corn stover, switchgrass, mixed hardwoods, mixed softwoods, sorghum, and miscanthus. These samples may be feedstock samples, washed and dried solids from one or more pretreatment processes, liquors derived from one or more pretreatment processes, or whole pretreated slurries.
Xiaogan Liang of Berkeley Lab has invented an inexpensive, high-throughput process for depositing pure few-layer-graphene (FLG) in a desired pattern onto substrates, such as silicon wafers. This method uses electrostatic forces to print FLG in dimensions ranging from less than 20 nm to 100 μm and has the potential to be combined with step-and-repeat technology to cover large areas.
In the Berkeley Lab technology, the desired pattern is created on the pristine surface of a highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) stamp. The stamp is brought into contact with the substrate, and one to three layers of graphene are deposited with great accuracy by the application of electrostatic forces. The stamp is removed and the graphene remains bonded to the substrate by van de Waals forces alone.
The invention was used to create 1.4 μm pillars and 18 nm-wide nanolines of FLG on SiO2/Si substrates. These structures were visualized with scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy, and their graphene composition was confirmed with Raman spectroscopy. The nanolines were used to create transistors that had excellent transport properties with highly mobile holes and electrons. The rapid current in the FLG nanolines and nanoribbons and their high sensitivity to electric fields may also allow for applications in biosensors, antennae, and photovoltaics.
Graphene offers significant advantages over silicon as a potential semiconductor because of its exceptional electronic properties: high carrier mobility, stable 2D structure, and the potential to enable scatter-free electron movement at room temperature. However, several obstacles have prevented graphene from being used for commercial electronics. Primarily, it is difficult to deposit graphene in a precise and electronically useful pattern over the relatively large (6 in., 8 in., or 12 in.) surface of a standard silicon wafer or other substrate. Current methods such as epitaxial growth, adhesive application, and reactive deposition are either expensive or risk contamination of the deposited material. The Berkeley Lab technology overcomes these limitations to make graphene a viable semiconductor material.
Recent investigations by a number of groups have shown that a beta zeolite catalyst (and other solid Brønsted acids) will convert methanol and/or dimethyl ether (DME) to iso-alkanes such as triptane (2,2,3-trimethylbutane), with uniquely high selectivity to C4 and C7 (termed the DME to high octane gasoline process or DTHOG). In comparison, the Exxon-Mobil methanol to gasoline (MTG) process produces a broader mixture of hydrocarbons, which is heavy in benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX). DTHOG is milder than MTG (350-450 °F vs. 650-950 °F and 130 psia vs. 315 psia), thus offering the benefit of reduced capital and operating costs for the reactor. However, similar to MTG, this new low-temperature, selective production of alkanes is still a hydrogen-deficient process. That is, to produce alkanes, a quantitative production of aromatics is required to maintain stoichiometry—a result of oxygen from methanol or DME being rejected as water.
Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a catalyst formulation and structure that is capable of incorporating hydrogen from gaseous co-fed H2 into methylation and alkylation products without altering aliphatic hydrocarbon selectivity or lowering reaction rates. Volumetric and gravimetric activities are increased and the rate of formation of heavy aromatic residues is decreased. The catalysts are comprised of a beta zeolite modified with Cu, Ga, other non-noble metals, and combinations thereof. The metals provide sites for H2 dissociation, hydrogen addition, and hydrogen abstraction, all of which modulate critical reaction steps—providing H for alkane formation and H removal for alkene formation, bringing products back into the carbon chain growth pathway and minimizing side-reactions that produce unwanted byproducts. The metals work with the Brønsted acids of the zeolite, which act as the catalyst for alkene methylation and carbon chain growth. Physical mixtures of the metal catalyst and zeolite do not yield the same benefits. Metal loadings are low (< 5 wt%) and include metals in metallic clusters, oxide clusters, and cationic forms.
Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for accelerating the oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells. It is also expensive. Palladium-cobalt particles have been used to replace platinum to catalyze this reaction, leading to a much lower cost electrocatalyst.
Ternary alloys of palladium, cobalt, and a third transition metal are formed into nanoparticles, bound to a conducting medium, and applied as the anode in a fuel cell to reduce oxygen. Palladium-cobalt alloys may also incorporate two additional transition metals to make a four-component, or quaternary, alloy. These alloys are deployed on the anode of fuel cells as electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction. Nickel and iron are preferred transition metal components.
Low-cost energy storage solutions have the promise to make carbon-free renewable solar- and wind-generated energy readily available on the electric grid and to put more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. However, today’s 10-year lifespan of batteries for these applications cannot compete with the 20- to 30-year lifetime of fossil-fueled power-peaking plants or the 15- to 20-year lifetime of conventional petroleum-powered vehicles. Additionally, the problem of Lithium (Li) loss capacity fade plagues today’s Li-ion battery technologies, shortening their lifespan and restricting their performance.
The cost of Li-ion energy storage systems, presently around $325/kWh, is expected to fall by 45% in the next five years, outpacing most competing storage technologies presently under development. But even if costs are brought below $200/kWh, the limited lifetime of Li-ion battery devices will still impede widespread market acceptance. However, with the implementation of grid-based energy storage demonstration projects and numerous EVs on the road, hope for low-cost energy storage solutions has been renewed and technical and economic analyses are increasingly looking beyond upfront expenses in order to optimize energy storage total life-cycle costs.
Engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have invented a passively triggered excess Li reservoir for energy storage cells to overcome the Li-loss capacity fade. This technology may greatly improve the life cycle and utility of Li-based energy storage systems for both utility and vehicle applications, extending lifetime by more than 50% while adding less than 2% to today’s cell cost.
The excess Li is uniquely released from the reservoir to maintain the cell’s capacity with no need for external circuitry or sensors to control the release. Additionally, both the volume and the mass of the internal Li reservoir are minimized within this novel invention in order to keep costs low. This invention specifies multiple locations for the Li reservoir within commercial Li-ion cells depending on the cell’s packaging and methods to engineer a controlled release rate. In addition to improving capacity retention over lifetime, the invention can also be used to greatly improve the beginning of life capacity of cells employing electrodes such as silicon that suffer from large irreversible capacity loss during their first several cycles.
Iowa State University researchers have developed a flexible pathway to turn glucose into nylon or PET using inexpensive catalysts and moderate reaction conditions.
Using a combination of biological, electrochemical, and catalytic processes, ISU researchers have developed a pathway to convert glucose into precursors for both nylon and PET manufacture. The first phase utilizes an engineered strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce high levels of muconic acid from a glucose feedstock (a titer of 752mg/L). Next, muconic acid can be partially hydrogenated to hexenedioic acid or fully hydrogenated to adipic acid via an electrochemical process. Both hexenedioic acid and adipic acid can be combined with hexaminediamine to make Nylon 6,6. If hexenedioic acid is used in the nylon backbone, the remaining double bond can be further modified using controlled radical polymerization to create a functionalized nylon with potential applications in packaging and other areas. Alternately the muconic acid can undergo a series of reactions to produce terephthalic acid (one of the building blocks for PET, the most common thermoplastic polyester). These steps include electrocatalytically isomerizing the cis,cis- or cis,trans- muconic acid to the trans,trans- variant for PET and other high-value chemical production. This suite of technologies enables the production of a variety of similar polymers with different physical characteristics that can be targeted toward specialized end products. This technology is related to ISURF #4289: Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation of Muconic Acid for the Production of Biorenewable Synthetic Polymer Precursors (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4289), and ISURF #4402: Electrochemical Isomerization of Muconic Acid (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4402)
Argonne scientists have developed a super hard and slick nanocomposite coating (SSC) that significantly reduces friction and wear and can eliminate scuffing-related failures. The coating can be used in components of moving mechanical systems, including engines. Eliminating scuffing is especially important because it is a life-limiting factor in many components used under heavy loading or in heavy machinery, such as earth-moving and mining equipment. The SSC also increases energy efficiency by reducing friction by as much as 80%. SSCs can be produced at moderate temperatures (200–400°C) on almost any kind of metallic substrates at high growth rates.
Argonne’s SSCs are based on special formulations of hard and soft phases that provide friction coefficients of 0.02 to 0.05 under boundary lubricated sliding conditions and prevent wear. Therefore, the SSCs can extend wear life, reduce maintenance costs, and reduce environmental emissions by reducing fuel consumption.
Argonne researchers have collaborated with Galleon International and Hauzer Technocoating to develop a production-scale deposition system to meet the demands of large-volume applications in the transportation and manufacturing sectors. The new system uses a modified version of existing plasma coating equipment that is well-suited for demonstrating flexible, production-scale coating for large-volume industrial applications. The SSC is unique in that the ingredients used in its synthesis were predicted by using a crystal-chemical model proposed by the developers of the SSC technology. In the collaborations, the scientists are using special coating ingredients that are predicted by using the crystal-chemical model.