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Planting native grasses such as the bioenergy crop switchgrass can restore habitat for birds like this Eastern kingbird. Credit: Chris Lituma/West Virginia University

An analysis by Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that using less-profitable farmland to grow bioenergy crops such as switchgrass could fuel not only clean energy, but also gains in biodiversity.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Granholm tours ORNL’s world-class science facilities

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited ORNL on Nov. 22 for a two-hour tour, meeting top scientists and engineers as they highlighted projects and world-leading capabilities that address some of the country’s most complex research and technical challenges. 

Ten scientists from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are among the world’s most highly cited researchers. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Ten scientists from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are among the world’s most highly cited researchers, according to a bibliometric analysis conducted by the scientific publication analytics firm Clarivate.

Carrie Eckert

Carrie Eckert applies her skills as a synthetic biologist at ORNL to turn microorganisms into tiny factories that produce a variety of valuable fuels, chemicals and materials for the growing bioeconomy.

The ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor, shown in green, envelops the roots of a transgenic switchgrass plant. Switchgrass is not known to interact with this type of fungi naturally; the added PtLecRLK1 gene tells the plant to engage the fungus. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy
An ORNL team has successfully introduced a poplar gene into switchgrass, an important biofuel source, that allows switchgrass to interact with a beneficial fungus, ultimately boosting the grass’ growth and viability in changing environments.
Environmental scientist John Field uses ecosystem models to analyze sustainable methods for growing crops such as switchgrass. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

For ORNL environmental scientist and lover of the outdoors John Field, work in ecosystem modeling is a profession with tangible impacts.

ORNL metabolic engineer Adam Guss develops genetic tools to modify microbes that can perform a range of processes needed to create sustainable biofuels and bioproducts. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

As a metabolic engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Adam Guss modifies microbes to perform the diverse processes needed to make sustainable biofuels and bioproducts.

ORNL’s Josh Michener, a microbiologist and metabolic engineer, led the discovery of a useful new enzyme that breaks down stubborn bonds in lignin, a polymer found in plants that typically becomes waste during bioconversion. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In a step toward increasing the cost-effectiveness of renewable biofuels and bioproducts, scientists at ORNL discovered a microbial enzyme that degrades tough-to-break bonds in lignin, a waste product of biorefineries.

Aviation contributes about 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. To greatly reduce its emissions, the U.S. commercial aviation sector needs new methods of making sustainable aviation fuel. Credit: Ross Parmly/Unsplash 

ORNL’s Zhenglong Li led a team tasked with improving the current technique for converting ethanol to C3+ olefins and demonstrated a unique composite catalyst that upends current practice and drives down costs. The research was published in ACS Catalysis.

A research team led by ORNL’s Xiaohan Yang used a gene from agave to engineer higher yield, improved stress tolerance and greater carbon sequestration in tobacco plants. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Scientists at ORNL have discovered a single gene that simultaneously boosts plant growth and tolerance for stresses such as drought and salt, all while tackling the root cause of climate change by enabling plants to pull more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.