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Geek-Up[11.05.10]: Quark Gluon Plasma, Solar-Power Generating Windows and CCS Field Studies

November 5, 2010 - 4:08pm


A simulated collision of lead-ions, courtesy the ALICE experiment at CERN

A simulated collision of lead-ions, courtesy the ALICE experiment at CERN

More than 1,700 scientists, engineers, technicians and students from seven Department of Energy national laboratories, 89 American universities and one supercomputer center celebrated progress this week when the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) first record-setting run of high-energy proton collisions ended.

Over the past seven months, the intensity of the LHC’s proton beams has increased 200,00 times while scientists have watched the experiments and quickly converted the proton collisions into scientific results. The team is now readying the accelerator for the world’s highest-energy collisions of lead-ions which will be used to investigate the quark gluon plasma – a state of matter physicists believe existed millionths of a second after the Big Bang.

Timothy Hallman, Associate Director of Science for Nuclear Physics at DOE, explains: “The LHC’s lead-ion collisions may generate temperatures up to 500,000 times hotter than the center of the sun. The LHC experiments’ investigations into how the quark gluon plasma behaves at such temperatures will provide vital insight into why and how quarks and gluons cool from such high temperatures to bind together to form more complex particles and thus how our universe evolved into the form it has today.”

For more information on the Large Hadron Collider, visit the Fermilab website.

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists have developed a transparent thin film capable of absorbing light and generating electrical charge – leading to the possibility of creating transparent solar panels.

The material is comprised of a semiconducting polymer spiked with “fullerenes” – or soccer-ball-shaped, cage-like molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms and under controlled conditions self-assembles in a repeating pattern of micron-sized hexagonal-shaped cells resembling a honeycomb. Because the polymer chains pack together at the edges of the hexagons, the material remains relatively thin and largely transparent across the centers while the densely packed edges strongly absorb light and could facilitate electrical conductivity. With refinement of the technology, this discovery could lead to solar-power generating windows.

Find the press release here >

A field test sponsored by DOE has found that opportunities to permanently store carbon in unmineable seams of lignite may be more widespread than previously documented – findings important to the development of long-term storage of CO2 in underground geologic reservoirs.

The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership collaborated with Eagle Operating Inc. to complete the field test in Burke County, North Dakota. As part of the field test, in March of 2009 approximately 90 tons of CO2 were injected over two weeks into a coal seam 10–12 feet thick at a depth of approximately 1,100 feet. The testing demonstrated that the CO2 did not significantly move away from the wellbore and was contained within the coal seam for the duration of a three-month monitoring period. In addition, the partnership evaluated a variety of carbon storage operation conditions to determine their applicability to similar coal seams. While the results did not change the initial regional storage capacity estimates at nearly 600 million tons for lignites in the U.S. portion of the Williston Basin, they do suggest that suitable lignite seams are potential targets for carbon capture and sequestration.

Find more on the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, one of seven partnerships in DOE’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program, here >