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Xiaohan Yang is using his expertise in synthetic biology and capabilities like the Advanced Plant Phenotyping Laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to accelerate the development of drought-tolerant, fast-growing bioenergy crops suited for conversion into clean jet fuels. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Scientist Xiaohan Yang’s research at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory focuses on transforming plants to make them better sources of renewable energy and carbon storage.

Scientists conducted microbial DNA sampling at a Yellowstone National Park hot spring for a study sponsored by DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program, the National Science Foundation and NASA. Credit: Mircea Podar/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists studied hot springs on different continents and found similarities in how some microbes adapted despite their geographic diversity.

ORNL’s Fernanda Santos examines a soil sample at an NGEE Arctic field site in the Alaskan tundra in June 2022. Credit: Amy Breen, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Wildfires are an ancient force shaping the environment, but they have grown in frequency, range and intensity in response to a changing climate. At ORNL, scientists are working on several fronts to better understand and predict these events and what they mean for the carbon cycle and biodiversity.

 Illustration of a laser-based analytical method to accelerate understanding of critical plant and soil properties with the aim of co-optimizing bioenergy plant growth and soil carbon storage

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers recently demonstrated use of a laser-based analytical method to accelerate understanding of critical plant and soil properties that affect bioenergy plant growth and soil carbon storage.

ORNL researchers, from left, Yang Liu, Xiaohan Yang and Torik Islam, collaborated on the development of a new capability to insert multiple genes simultaneously for fast, efficient transformation of plants into better bioenergy feedstocks. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In a discovery aimed at accelerating the development of process-advantaged crops for jet biofuels, scientists at ORNL developed a capability to insert multiple genes into plants in a single step.

Jerry Parks leads the Molecular Biophysics group at ORNL, leveraging his expertise in computational chemistry and bioinformatics to unlock the inner workings of proteins—molecules that govern cellular structure and function and are essential to life. Credit: Genevieve Martin, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

When reading the novel Jurassic Park as a teenager, Jerry Parks found the passages about gene sequencing and supercomputers fascinating, but never imagined he might someday pursue such futuristic-sounding science.

Researchers Melissa Cregger, left, and Xiaohan Yang examine plants in an ORNL greenhouse where biosensors are installed to accelerate plant transformations. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Nature-based solutions are an effective tool to combat climate change triggered by rising carbon emissions, whether it’s by clearing the skies with bio-based aviation fuels or boosting natural carbon sinks.

Neutron scattering experiments at the Spallation Neutron Source revealed how the dynamics between copper and oxygen make a special type of enzyme excel at breaking down biomass. Insights could lead to lowering the cost of biofuel production. Credit: Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Nonfood, plant-based biofuels have potential as a green alternative to fossil fuels, but the enzymes required for production are too inefficient and costly to produce. However, new research is shining a light on enzymes from fungi that could make biofuels economically viable.

Carinata, pictured in full bloom at a producer’s field in Georgia, is a winter cover crop of interest as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel. Credit: Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists led the development of a supply chain model revealing the optimal places to site farms, biorefineries, pipelines and other infrastructure for sustainable aviation fuel production.

ORNL scientists mutated amino acids in a receptor protein, shown in green, which diminished interaction with the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, shown in red. Mutating the receptor protein hampered the virus’s ability to infect host cells. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists exploring bioenergy plant genetics have made a surprising discovery: a protein domain that could lead to new COVID-19 treatments.