Spring Air and Science

Every gardener knows that the most important parts of the plant are often unseen. Flowers rooted strongly in good soil will weather storms and snowy seasons, bursting back into bloom at the touch of spring air and sunshine.

In a sense, that's true for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, especially around Earth Day. The innovations and discoveries from its labs and programs serve as the seeds for many green technologies, as well as the soil from which much U.S. economic growth springs.

For instance, scientists at the University of Illinois supported by the Office of Science devised a more cost-effective means of fabricating solar cells. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found an efficient and effective way to remove more pollutants (NOx, a mixture of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) from the exhaust pipes of trucks. And a team at the Department's Joint Bioenergy Institute developed a critter, a genetically-engineered microbe that can produce advanced biofuels directly from biomass.

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SC Communications Staff at the Earth Day booth

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Dr. Vilas Pol and Office of Science Director Dr. Bill Brinkman

Dr. Vilas Pol and Office of Science Director Dr. Bill Brinkman

Those efforts were on display during our Earth Day celebration this past Thursday (the 21st). Dr. Vilas Pol, from Argonne National Lab – who was recently featured in PBS' series MAKING STUFF – came by and described the innovative way he discovered to transform discarded plastic grocery bags into carbon nanotubes, which have the potential to be used in everything from lithium-ion batteries to components in water purifiers, tires, electronics, paints, and even printer inks and toners.

Like Dr. Pol, Office of Science researchers get their hands dirty. And the results of their experiments sometimes go into the recycling bin. But their efforts keep our country green and growing. And the green shoots of its innovations often come up in unexpected places.

For more information on the Office of Science, please go to: http://science.energy.gov/.

Charles Rousseaux is a Senior Writer in the Office of Science.