Research tackles a nagging cleantech development question

Pictorial representation of joint experimental and computational study of materials. The research team addressed the structure of interfaces. Image by Emmanuel Gygi, University of California, San Diego.

Centered covers a lot of research that launches new products and startups, as well as earlier stage research that could lead to future innovations. Many of the developments are powered by more advanced computing and digital simulations. But a nagging question remains in cleantech development: Do predictive computer simulations accurately represent the real world, especially at the atomic level? Researchers from several institutions — including the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory — studied that question and came up with a protocol to validate simulations of the atomic interactions between a solid and liquid water, a common synergy considered key in many energy applications.

  • The validation process uses high-resolution X-ray reflectivity (XR) measurements, which detect high-energy X-ray beam reflection at the solid-liquid interface. This makes XR an “ideal probe to obtain experimental results directly comparable to simulations,” Katherine Harmon, graduate student at Northwestern University and first author of the study, said in a news release.
  • The team admits the process was challenging and initially involved a lot of trial and error to achieve accurate results. But the resulting validation protocol is robust, the researchers say, and actually can be used to analyze other interfaces as well. That means it holds promise for work on a variety of green energy technologies.

Today’s headlines:

⚡ MICROGRID: Nebraska utility Lincoln Electric System developed a microgrid to serve critical city, county, and state facilities in downtown Lincoln that didn’t require new equipment and came at zero cost, according to Microgrid Knowledge. LES based the microgrid on an existing duel-fuel, 29-megawatt generating unit and a substation, along with five solar facilities and a thermal energy storage system.

🌱 BIOFUEL: Omaha, Nebraska-based ethanol producer Green Plains and Ospraie Management announced that recently acquired biofuel technology company Fluid Quip Technologies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is constructing a commercial clean sugar biorefinery where dextrose and glucose replace ethanol as the main product. The technology is expected to generate industrial quantities of feedstock for biochemical, renewable chemical, and synthetic biology industries at more competitive prices than other technologies.


  • The U.S. Department of Energy is partnering with Youngstown State University in Ohio and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on a $1 million project to develop an Energy Storage Workforce Innovation Center. The center will serve as a Midwest-based training center for battery and electric vehicle manufacturing technologies in an area of Northeast Ohio sometimes called “Voltage Valley” because of the number of EV investments there.
  • DOE also selected seven state and local governments to install and test promising energy efficiency, demand flexibility, and building-to-grid technologies in commercial buildings and multifamily residences. Dane County, Wisconsin, and Sumner County, Kansas, are among the regions selected to test various energy technologies in buildings.

📈 INVESTMENT: Electric truck manufacturer Rivian — which is headquartered in Michigan and constructing its manufacturing facility in Illinois — closed a $2.65 billion investment round, making it one of the world’s best-funded EV startups. Rivian expects to begin production this year.

🏃 ACCELERATOR: The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator is dissolving after nearly five years in existence, saying its original goals have been fulfilled and entrepreneurial opportunities now are available in the agtech sector. IATA will continue to support startups it previously funded but will not add new startups.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s