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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, March 2007

ENERGY -- Nanofiltered diesel . . .

A new material developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Nanoscience Center could replace a costly process in the manufacture of biodiesel that consumes chemicals, water and energy and also reduces the yield of the final product. During production, catalysts must be applied to transform biodiesel from a thick and sticky substance into a fluid form that can easily be pumped into vehicles. Following this process, these corrosive catalysts must be neutralized and washed from the fuel. ORNL researchers Sheng Dai and Chengdu Liang, funded by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, have created a material of solid acid nanocatalysts that can be fixed inside a reusable column or filter through which the biodiesel can flow, straining out the catalyst materials. This nano-material shows promise for other applications as well, such as fuel cells, batteries and other energy storage and conversion technologies. [Contact: Larisa Brass, (865) 574-4163; brasslm@ornl.gov]


ENVIRONMENT -- Leaf litter revelation . . .

Freshly fallen leaves contribute less to the levels of carbon in mineral soil than was previously believed, according to the findings of a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers Mats Frberg and Paul Hanson. In a paper published in the March-April issue of Soil Science Society of America Journal, the researchers explain how they took advantage of a unique local release of carbon-14, which allowed them to track dissolved organic carbon movement from canopy leaves, or litter, sources. By doing so, they were able to quantify the proportion of dissolved organic carbon that originated from decomposing fresh litter. Dissolved organic carbon has an important role in the soil carbon cycle as it represents a key transport pathway for carbon in solution to move from forest floor carbon sources to the mineral soil, where it can contribute to
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Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
20-Mar-2007


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