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Blue flame generated by natural gas.

Blue flame generated by natural gas.

With the opening of a new IKEA in suburban Denver slated for fall 2011, Coloradans can expect more than affordable home furnishings: the Centennial store will be the first IKEA to be built with geothermal heating and cooling.

The retailers have partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to study and demonstrate the advantages of a geothermal heating system. By digging 130 holes, each 500 feet deep, in the store’s below ground parking garage, shoppers can expect comfortable temperatures no matter the weather while IKEA can save potentially reduce their energy consumption (and the corresponding bills and emissions) by up to 72 percent compared to traditional electric resistance heating and standard air-conditioning equipment. Find out more.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has developed a new process and patent-pending nozzle technology that could potentially enhance the use of natural gas and methane hydrate resources. Currently, natural gas provides one quarter of the world’s energy consumption – but a third or so of natural gas is located in remote areas making it too expensive to utilize. NETL’s breakthrough could lower production, transportation and storage costs making it easier to tap into these resources. Learn more.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have discovered how loops develop in graphene – an electrically conductive high-strength low-weight material (think of it as an atomic-scale honeycomb or chicken wire) that can be used as a component in integrated circuits or transparent conducting electrodes used in the application of touchscreens and liquid crystal displays.

ORNL simulations demonstrate how loops (seen above in blue) between graphene layers can be minimized using electron irradiation (bottom)

Bobby Sumpter, a staff scientist at ORNL, explains the interest: "Graphene is a rising star in the materials world, given its potential for use in precise electronic components like transistors or other semiconductors." Since structural loops sometimes form during the graphene cleaning process, the material can render unsuitable for use in electronic applications – making the discovery of these loops crucial to realizing graphene’s potential. Read more.

A group of scientists from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Texas A&M University and the University of Maryland took a closer look at some of the most frightening things I can think of – war, pandemics and strange climate events – as they explored the 1918 El Niño. Gil Compo explains what led their team to investigate this historic event, “We need to know better what El Niño was doing in the past to improve our ability to simulate El Niño conditions so we can predict how it may change under warmer global conditions.” See what they found.