Contact: Julie Chao, (510) 486-6491, [email protected]

BERKELEY, CA-The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will receive $40.3 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support research in biofuels, fusion energy and the nation’s power grid and to ensure scientists have state-of-the-art equipment for their investigations.

This new funding is in addition to the $115.8 million allocated to Berkeley Lab in March by the DOE Office of Science, which received a total of $1.6 billion in ARRA funding from Congress. Most of those funds were allocated to the 10 National Laboratories the Office oversees.

“These new initiatives will help the U.S. maintain its scientific leadership and economic competitiveness while creating new jobs,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. “The projects provide vital funding and new tools for research aimed at strengthening America’s energy security and tackling some of science’s toughest challenges.”

The Berkeley Lab biofuels projects will explore new biofuels feedstocks as well as accelerate research into conversion of plant biomass to biofuels. Another project will investigate how advanced computational algorithms could protect the nation’s power grid and prevent another blackout like the one that occurred in August 2003, affecting 50 million people across many states and costing an estimated $4 billion to $10 billion.

“It’s an extremely exciting time at the Lab,” said Berkeley Lab Interim Director Paul Alivisatos. “We’ve been at the forefront of clean energy and energy efficiency research, and this new injection of funds will help make the work of turning scientific study into energy solutions much faster.”

Specifically, the $40.3 million will fund five projects at Berkeley Lab:

  • DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) equipment upgrade – The Joint Genome Institute, located in Walnut Creek, California, is receiving $13.1 million for various IT infrastructure and equipment purchases. About $11 million will go towards IT, including upgrades of computing, storage, and networking capabilities, $1.1 million towards sequencing reagents to help accelerate the sequencing of three plant genomes, and $1 million to buy the latest next-generation sequencing technology. The upgrades will accelerate the ability of scientists to identify plant traits that facilitate conversion to carbon-neutral biofuels.
  • Fusion energy research – Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division is receiving $11 million to construct a new induction linear accelerator (linac) as a facility for conducting research into the physics of high energy density laboratory plasmas. This facility, called NDCX-II (Neutralized Drift Compression Experiment), will be capable of producing intense, short-pulse ion beams for heating matter uniformly. NDCX-II is part of the roadmap of experiments for heavy ion fusion research and will pave the way towards making inertial fusion energy an affordable and environmentally attractive means of producing commercial electricity.  Berkeley Lab is the lead partner in the U.S. Heavy Ion Fusion Science Virtual National Laboratory (HIFS-VNL), which also includes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. NDCX-II is being developed in collaboration with the other VNL laboratories. It is estimated that this project will create the equivalent of 32 jobs at Berkeley Lab and 25 jobs externally.
  • Advanced Light Source (ALS) equipment improvements – Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) is receiving $11.3 million to help it maintain its position as one of the world’s premier soft x-ray light sources. The ALS is a national user facility serving more than 1,900 scientists annually doing research in a wide variety of fields, from biology and earth science to the study of optics and semiconductors; they use the light sources to examine structures on the atomic and molecular level. The largest component of the ALS funding, $5.8 million, will go towards acquiring sextupole magnets to increase brightness by a factor of two to three. Other enhancements will enhance the productivity and capacity of the ALS, which serves more than 1,900 scientists annually. It is estimated that this project will create the equivalent of more than 19 jobs at Berkeley Lab and 65 jobs externally.
  • DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) new instrumentation – The Joint BioEnergy Institute, one of three DOE Bioenergy Research Centers and located in Emeryville, California, is receiving $4 million to purchase equipment to enhance two areas of research: the study of conversion of plant biomass to biofuels and the study of sorghum as a bioenergy feedstock crop. Deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass remains the most difficult and costly step in the conversion of biomass to transportation fuels. To address the most significant opportunities for understanding the physicochemical mechanisms involved in biomass deconstruction, JBEI will acquire several pieces of advanced imaging equipment, including a large-format x-ray detector and advanced microscopes. To expand its range of bioenergy feedstock crops under study to include sorghum, JBEI will acquire more greenhouse space and a grinding robot.
  • Smart Grid technology – Berkeley Lab’s Computational Research Division is receiving $875,000 for mathematical analysis related to the development of Smart Grid technology. The current U.S. power grid is increasingly vulnerable as the system grows more complex. Present practices and policies limit its ability to respond to more than one failure at a time, whereas the 2003 blackout was sparked by three simultaneous failures. In this project, mathematicians and power engineers will build on previous work to develop optimization algorithms that can detect vulnerabilities, analyze cascading outages and perform resource allocation across multiple locations and times.

The first installment of $115.8 million for Berkeley Lab was largely for infrastructure upgrades, a laser accelerator project and a high-speed computer network. Together it is estimated they will create about 700 jobs, including local employees and contractors at Berkeley Lab and workers at companies in California and across the country. The computer network project will invest $45 million to $50 million directly in the telecommunications industry in the United States.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California.  It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed for the DOE Office of Science by the University of California. Visit our website at

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