Startup that participated in Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations program works toward cleaner fuel, lower emissions with help from John Deere
Machinery manufacturer John Deere — Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer — has made an equity investment in Geneva, Illinois–based ClearFlame Engine Technologies, helping to support an engine testing and pilot demonstration program. ClearFlame’s engine technology enables diesel engines to operate on plant-based ethanol, lowering emissions without compromising overall performance.
ClearFlame co-founders Julie Blumreiter and B.J. Johnson are alumni of the first class of Chain Reactions Innovations, a Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Working with Argonne researchers at the lab’s Advanced Powertrain Research Center, Blumreiter and Johnson were able to advance their technology through additional engineering and data collection. Since then, ClearFlame has raised more than $20 million to continue commercializing its technology, and now has its first pilot trucks on the road.
Currently, ClearFlame is testing its technology on a nine-liter John Deere engine commonly used in a range of off-road equipment. Using corn-based ethanol in place of diesel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45%-50%, with other feedstocks offering even larger reductions as the ethanol fuel pool is on track to reach net-zero for greenhouse gases by 2035.
Argonne, University of Iowa expand medicine with multiuse medical isotope
Medical research is making strides in fighting cancer by deploying radioisotopes ― radioactive atoms that provide a highly targeted dose of radiation ― to diagnose and kill certain kinds of cancer cells. In one such study, scientists at Argonne worked with a team at the University of Iowa in Iowa City to study copper-67, a category of radioisotope. Copper-67 was once regarded only as a therapeutic agent — that is, one that could treat cancer but not diagnose it unless paired with another agent, such as copper-64, that was visible in scanned images. The team proved that copper-67 is actually what is called theragnostic — that is, a radioisotope useful both for diagnosing and treating cancer.
Researchers benefited from Argonne’s high-powered linear accelerators — devices traditionally used in experiments — to generate copper-67, which they subsequently purified in the Lab’s specialized radiological facilities. Iowa scientists then loaded quantities of copper-67 into a ”chest phantom” to observe its path in treating “tumors.” Their findings are published in the journal Physics in Medicine & Biology.
Funding Argonne’s work in radioisotopes is the DOE Isotope Program, part of the DOE Office of Science. The Isotope Program leverages the capabilities of national laboratories like Argonne, using them to develop advanced production and processing technologies that, in turn, advance medical science.
Ames Lab in Iowa partners with Argonne, uncovers new way to upcycle plastics
A multi-institutional team that includes Argonne, the DOE’s Ames Laboratory, and Northwestern University has identified what promises to be a groundbreaking solution to plastics recycling.
Plastics are essential to everyday life, but the accumulation of waste plastic is a mounting issue that threatens the environment. While some waste plastic does get recycled, the resulting product is generally of lower quality and value; the team’s method converts plastics into higher-quality products.
Many plastics don’t degrade easily because of their strong carbon-carbon bonds. To deconstruct those bonds, the team used a catalyst consisting of platinum nanoparticles, depositing nanoparticles onto the plastic.
The study, described in the journals ACS Central Science and Nature Catalysis, describes how the method converts waste plastics into higher-quality products, such as lubricant oils or waxes. In turn, the waxes can be processed into everyday products like detergents and cosmetics.
While the catalyst still needs further development, results look promising.
Other collaborators include Cornell University; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of South Carolina.
Iowa corn producers benefit from Argonne research
Corn stover — those parts of a corn plant that remain in a field after the corn grain is harvested — is an important source of organic matter and plant nutrients and, as such, farmers typically return it to the soil after the spring thaw. Increasingly, however, corn stover is being seen as a promising feedstock for bioenergy: a fact of particular interest to Iowa’s farmers who, for the past 25 years, have led the United States in corn production.
Argonne led a pioneering collaboration of researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and universities to study whether removing corn stover would affect soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil health. They screened over 3,300 papers published between 1990 and 2018 to quantify the overall response of soil carbon to stover removal and to identify key drivers that can help with maintaining soil health.
Collecting and analyzing 409 data points from 74 stover harvest experiments sites worldwide, the team discovered that careful stover removal could maintain or even marginally increase SOC stock, while making corn stover a significant bioenergy feedstock.