Lawrence Berkeley Lab taps Ashok Gadgil to head greentech unit

8/10/2010 San Francisco Business Times - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has named UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor Ashok Gadgil as boss of its Environmental Energy Technologies Division. The EETD, which has between 450 and 500 people working for it, does research primarily in energy efficiency for buildings.

Energy Secretary emerges to take a commanding role in effort to corral well

7/16/2010 The New York Times - Energy Secretary and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Steven Chu may hold a Nobel Prize in physics, but he has no training in geology, seismology or oil well technology. Nevertheless, he has stepped in repeatedly to take command of the effort to contain BP's runaway well, often ordering company officials to take steps they might not have taken on their own.

A well-designed feed-in tariff can drive renewables in California

7/13/2010 Greentech Media - A new UC Berkeley study says the state can build renewables rapidly while making big money and adding jobs. A cutting-edge incentive program is the way California can meet its need for renewable energy while bringing enormous financial benefits to the state and adding jobs by the thousands, according to the study conducted by Dan Kammen and Max Wei of UC Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory Energy and Resources Group. A well-designed feed-in tariff will bring California $2 billion in additional tax revenue and $50 billion in new investment, while adding an average of 50,000 new jobs a year for a decade.

Damage control

7/12/2010 California Magazine - In 1985, Jack Moehle, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Berkeley, traveled to Chile to sort through the rubble left in the wake of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the coast. He was one of a number of Californian and Chilean engineers who collaborated to study the structural damage. As a result of their research, both the United States and Chile modified their building codes to nearly identical standards. This year, Moehle and a Berkeley reconnaissance team returned to Chile in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude shaker on February 27. Because of the similarity in building codes, the sort of damage Moehle has found could predict how California would fare in a major quake.

Potato power: Yissum introduces potato batteries for use in the developing world

6/17/2010 BusinessWire - Yissum Research Development Company Ltd., the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduces solid organic electric battery based upon treated potatoes. This simple, sustainable, robust device can potentially provide an immediate inexpensive solution to electricity needs in parts of the world lacking electrical infrastructure. A group of scientists, including Prof. Boris Rubinsky at UC Berkeley, study the electrolytic process in living matter for use in various applications, including the generation of electric energy for self-powered implanted medical electronic devices

Gene therapy shows promise for blocking HIV, controlling AIDS

6/15/2010 Bloomberg - Two cutting-edge medical technologies, stem cell transplantation and gene therapy, were combined in an attack on the AIDS virus that may lead to new strategies for treating people infected with HIV. "If you could develop a therapy to make HIV-proof blood cells, then you could create a true cure for HIV. This is a very promising clinical trial that takes us in that direction," said David Schaffer, a professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley, who co-directs the school's stem cell center and wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Engineer Robert Bea a student of disaster

6/6/2010 San Francisco Chronicle - UC Berkeley engineering professor Robert Bea, 73, a former Shell Oil executive, is a student of disaster. He has spent decades investigating catastrophic engineering failures, from the New Orleans levee breaches in Hurricane Katrina to the space shuttle Columbia's fiery end. Now he has assembled a team of researchers to delve into the April 20 explosions that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Ahead of the headlines

5/5/2010 - Whenever you see a headline about a new threat to our health, safety or well-being, rest assured that a Berkeley engineer is thinking of ways to mitigate that threat in the future. Civil engineer Robert Bea, for example, has spent 55 years thinking about offshore oil drilling platforms and how to make them more reliable. So, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and began gushing 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico, Bea was one of the first experts contacted and interviewed by the press.

On a Yosemite cliff, listening

5/5/2010 - About every 10 days, falling rock shatters the tranquility of Yosemite National Park. "It's a dynamic place," says park geologist Greg Stock. "Rockfall is the most powerful geologic force acting on the park today. The goal is to eventually predict rockfalls and better constrain the hazard." Enter Valerie Zimmer, a Berkeley geoengineering Ph.D. student who launched her doctoral work studying rockfall in mines using tiny acoustic sensors to document the rock mechanics and geophysical forces underground.

Could oil spill in Gulf have been prevented?

4/29/2010 Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration) - With an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 barrels of oil spilling each day into the Gulf of Mexico after a drilling rig exploded and caught fire on April 20, the Chronicle spoke on Thursday with Robert Bea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, to gain an understanding of the situation, its challenges, and the role university researchers could play in preventing and responding to such accidents. Mr. Bea has more than 55 years of engineering experience with offshore platforms.