Department of Energy

Geek-Up[7.8.2011]: Cyanobacteria, Biofuels and Next-Generation Batteries

July 8, 2011

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Chains of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae | Photo Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

Chains of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae | Photo Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

At Argonne National Laboratory’s Structural Biology Center (SBC) scientists are investigating cyanobacteria in hopes of advancing alternative transportation fuels.
For some background, cyanobacteria cells group themselves into long filaments that can contain dozens and even hundreds of cells -- and, like in humans, not all cyanobacteria cells are born the same. While most cyanobacteria cells aid in photosynthesis, occasionally a cell is produced that transforms atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia in a process called nitrogen fixation.

SBC Director Andrzej Joachimiak explained, “Photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation are two of the most important and ubiquitous biochemical environmental processes that we know of. If we can understand and manipulate how these bacteria differentiate themselves, we can better use natural pathways to mimic natural processes for a wide number of different applications, including the potential creation of biofuels.”
Check out more on how SBC used high-energy X-rays to investigate the bacteria and a special protein known as HetR.

With support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, three industry teams are developing computer-aided software design tools to help produce the next generation of electric drive vehicle batteries. The teams are tasked with a number of goals including: shortening the battery manufacturing processes, improving overall battery performance, safety and life and reducing costs.

  • EC Power, Penn State University, Johnson Controls and Ford
  • General Motors, ANSYS and ESim
  • CD-adapco, Battery Design LLC, A123 Systems and Johnson Controls-Saft

The industry partners will integrate different chemistries, cell geometries and battery pack configurations as part of this initiative, while NREL scientists will provide technical support on battery electrochemical-thermal modeling and battery testing.
Read more about this joint initiative here.