The Motivation for Sustainable Aviation Fuels

“Today, there are seven approved SAF pathways, but their use is limited. Airlines really want to use SAF but it needs to be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels, since fuel makes up about 30 percent of the operating cost of an airline,” said Holladay, the transportation sector manager at PNNL who helped develop a waste-carbon-based fuel used in a Virgin Atlantic flight.

The report, Sustainable Aviation Fuel: Review of Technical Pathways, was authored by PNNL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and University of Dayton for the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It outlines research needs for producing more jet fuel from renewable and wasted resources.

The report presents new insights resulting from a study of the aviation industry, commercial jet fuel, its composition, specifications and certification process, and the challenges and successes with approved chemical pathways that convert biomass to jet fuel. The report also assesses process improvements, technoeconomic analysis, and supply chain issues.

Solving another problem

As detailed in the report, the cost of sustainable raw materials can likely be reduced by looking at non-traditional biomass. The classic idea of corn or specific crops grown to produce

Artificial Intelligence for Astronauts Monitors Patients at Home

Software that monitors astronaut health in space now monitors high-risk patients at home.

When chronic pain flares, the trip from your door to the doctor’s office can seem as difficult as getting from Earth to Mars. The same could be said for the challenge faced by an elderly grandparent going to post-surgery checkups or the frequent office visits required for conditions such as diabetes. At times like these, a spacesuit could come in handy.

Collecting, sorting, and distributing data from the space station to all the departments and individuals at NASA who need it inspired the agency to automate the process. Called Brahms, the software is under an exclusive license to Ejenta for the collection and distribution of patient data according to a tailored remote monitoring plan. Credit: NASA

When astronauts go on spacewalks, their spacesuits contain numerous sensors that monitor body temperature, heart rate, how much they sweat, and more. That data is automatically sent to NASA and distributed to the flight surgeon, biomedical engineers, and others. The ground-based crew uses that information to guide its support efforts – maybe a reminder to drink some water to avoid dehydration or take a short break to lower heart rate. The

Blue Whirl Flame Structure Revealed with Supercomputers

TACC’s Stampede2 simulates 3D structure of vortex breakdown with combustion.

Lightning struck a bourbon warehouse, setting fire to a cache of 800,000 gallons of liquor in the Bardstown countryside of Kentucky in 2003. Some of it spilled into a nearby creek, spawning a massive fire tornado, or “bourbonado,” as reported locally.

Blue whirls are a swirling flame phenomenon that evolves from a chaotic fire whirl and burns with nearly soot-free combustion. Supercomputer simulations have revealed the flame structure and flow structure of the blue whirl. (A) Volume rendering of the heat release rate from the numerical simulations. (B) Schematic diagram that summarizes a final result of the blue whirl simulation showing the combination of three different kinds of flame. (C) Observed blue whirl. Photo credit: H. Xiao, University of Science and Technology of China.

Aerial video of it inspired scientists to investigate fire whirls, tornados of fire, as something promising for oil spill remediation because the alcohol burned with relatively little soot.

Their fire whirl investigations in the lab led them to find something that astonished them. The chaotic and dangerous fire whirl transformed into a tame and clean burning flame they call a “blue whirl.”

One of its discoverers

Materials developed at Sandia help extinguish solar panel fires before they ignite

Local company uses special polymer within flame prevention device

As solar panels become popular and their voltages increase, there is a need to have built-in capabilities to extinguish fires caused by arc-faults, which are high-power discharges of electricity that can create explosions or flash events due to damaged wires.

Sandia National Laboratories researcher Kenny Armijo uses an arc-fault generator that was developed by researchers to determine how dangerous arc-faults are. (Photo by Bret Latter)

Sandia National Laboratories researcher Kenny Armijo has spent 10 years working alongside other researchers at the labs and local company Guardian Sensors Inc. to understand and characterize these hazardous arc-faults. Their work led to development of electrical in-line connectors that automatically predict and prevent photovoltaic arc-faults before they can ignite electrical fires.

“As solar panels become more efficient, they’re able to produce more power,” said Armijo. “More power means that they’re going to have higher current and higher voltage levels. As you increase the current and voltage levels in next-generation solar panels, it becomes a bit more dangerous because as you increase the voltage, you get a higher propensity for arc-faults. This new self-extinguishing mechanism could solve that problem.”

The in-line connector developed by Guardian Sensors

3D-printed glass enhances optical design flexibility

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have used multi-material 3D printing to create tailored gradient refractive index glass optics that could make for better military specialized eyewear and virtual reality goggles.

Artistic rendering of an aspirational future automated production process for custom GRIN optics, showing multi-material 3D printing of a tailored composition optic preform, conversion to glass via heat treatment, polishing and inspection of the final optics with refractive index gradients. Image by Jacob Long and Brian Chavez.

The new technique could achieve a variety of conventional and unconventional optical functions in a flat glass component (with no surface curvature), offering new optical design versatility in environmentally stable glass materials.

The team was able to tailor the gradient in the material compositions by actively controlling the ratio of two different glass-forming pastes or “inks” blended together inline using the direct ink writing (DIW) method of 3D printing. After the composition-varying optical preform is built using DIW, it is then densified to glass and can be finished using conventional optical polishing.

“The change in material composition leads to a change in refractive index once we convert it to glass,” said LLNL scientist Rebecca Dylla-Spears, lead author of a paper appearing today

X-ray study explores potential of hepatitis C drugs to treat COVID-19

Experiments led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have determined that several hepatitis C drugs can inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, a crucial protein enzyme that enables the novel coronavirus to reproduce.

Inhibiting, or blocking, this protease from functioning is vital to stopping the virus from spreading in patients with COVID-19. The study, published in the journal Structure, is part of efforts to quickly develop pharmaceutical treatments for COVID-19 by repurposing existing drugs known to effectively treat other viral diseases.

“Currently, there are no inhibitors approved by the Food and Drug Administration that target the SARS-CoV-2 main protease,” said ORNL lead author Daniel Kneller. “What we found is that hepatitis C drugs bind to and inhibit the coronavirus protease. This is an important first step in determining whether these drugs should be considered as potential repurposing candidates to treat COVID-19.”

The heart-shaped SARS-CoV-2 main protease enables the virus to reproduce by cutting long chains of proteins that activate the replication process. Experiments show existing drugs used to treat hepatitis C may have potential to treat COVID-19 by stopping the “heart” of the virus. Credit: Michelle Lehman, Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy
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