University of Texas at Austin

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Drilling deep for biofuels at TACC

Mark Nimlos, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Mark Nimlos, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

To get to some oil reserves, you have to drill deeply.

Scientists working on biofuels also drill deeply, but they drill into the molecular-level activity of enzymes instead of rock.

How energy researchers are doing this using the Ranger supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is the subject of a story by Aaron Dubrow, TACC’s science writer.

Dubrow shares some of his thoughts about the research:

“I thought some of the most interesting parts of the story were that simulations on supercomputers are the only way to ‘see’ the molecular-level activity of enzymes; and that once researchers identify the slow step in breaking down cellulose, they pass that information to a group that can mutate the enzyme and create faster, more efficient cellulases.

“Whereas, for hundreds of years physical experimentation was the primary way scientific discoveries were made, now modeling on high performance computer systems happens first and drives experimentation.

“Simulations are just so much cheaper, faster, and more illuminating than wetlab experiments in many cases. The physical experiments are still necessary, of course, but they are often guided by the results of research like what Mark Nimlos and colleagues are doing on Ranger, which takes years off the time to discovery and finds solutions that are not intuitive.”

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1 Comment to "Drilling deep for biofuels at TACC"

1.  Faith Singer says

For the complete “Productive Waste” feature story, please visit: http://www.tacc.utexas.edu/research/users/features/index.php?m_b_c=biomass

Faith Singer-Villalobos
Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC)

April 13, 2009

 

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