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Symposia highlight smarter plant breeding for food and fuel, and nanotechnology for renewable energy

"Meeting Global Challenges: Discovery and Innovation" is the theme of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS 2014), which takes place in Chicago Feb. 13 - 17. In symposia organized by the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and international partners, journalists are invited to learn the latest about two promising lines of research: how unlocking the natural diversity of maize and other plant genomes could help nourish and power 21st-century societies; and how nanotechnology can improve efficiency and reduce costs for photovoltaics and energy harvesting.

Securing Food, Feed, and Fuel via Natural Diversity: Spotlight on the Maize Genome
Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 8:00-9:30 a.m.

Farmers and plant breeders around the world have always worked to optimize the agricultural plants that support their societies. Given the current trends of climate change, booming human and livestock populations, and increasing demand for biofuels, the pressure on crops and croplands has never been greater. Fortunately, this challenge coincides with an unprecedented moment in science. Innovative, interdisciplinary research programs are poised to deliver knowledge and tools that can help secure food, feed, and fuel for a changing world. Genome-enabled selection can accelerate the breeding of plants adapted for climate change, modified to enhance nutrition, or tailored for more economical biofuel production. Such goals can be achieved by bringing out traits hidden in a plant's own genome variations accumulated through evolution, inherited and modified down through the generations, though perhaps not expressed in modern varieties. Tapping this inherent, natural diversity is the key, whether through genome-wide approaches or by targeting links between specific genes and traits. This symposium explains genome-enabled selection, presenting recent advances and highlighting the maize genome. Arguably the world's most important crop, maize has another distinction: a genome exceptionally rich in natural diversity. Thus the story of exploring the maize genome is a paradigm for understanding the problems and opportunities associated with all agricultural plants.


Chris-Carolin Schoen, Technische Universitaet Muenchen
"Predicting Complex Phenotypes for Genome-Enabled Crop and Livestock Breeding"

Joachim Messing, Rutgers University
"Divergent Gene Amplification Based on Whole-Genome Sequences"

Edward S. Buckler, U.S. Department of Agriculture
"Identifying DNA Variants That Control Maize Domestication, Adaptation and Nutrition"

Nanoelectronics for Renewable Energy: How Nanoscale Innovations Address Global Needs
Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Sometimes it's possible to get a handle on the world's biggest problems by thinking creatively on a very small scale and advances in the rapidly maturing field of nanoelectronics prove it. Innovations that hold promise for broader and faster adoption of renewable energy technologies loom large against a backdrop of population growth, rapid industrialization in developing countries, and initiatives to decrease reliance on both fossil fuels and nuclear power. In this symposium, researchers from the U.S. and Europe will review the latest progress in nanoelectronics for renewable energy across a series of interrelated programs. For instance, new manufacturing approaches such as nanoimprinting, nanotransfer, and spray-on fabrication of organic semiconductors not only point the way toward low-cost production of large-scale electronics such as solar panels, they also enable and inspire novel nanoelectronic device designs. These device-level innovations range from ultrasensitive molecular sensors to nanomagnet logic circuits, and they are of particular interest in solar energy applications. Many lines of research appear to be converging on nanostructure-based solar cells that will be vastly more efficient in capturing sunlight (or even heat) and converting it to electrical power. In addition to outlining these promising paths toward higher-efficiency, lower-cost photovoltaics, the symposium will highlight some of the remaining hurdles, including needed advances in fundamental science.


Stephen Goodnick, Arizona State University
"Pathways to Next-Generation Photovoltaics"

Stephen Chou, Princeton University
"Large-Area Nanoimprinting for Energy Harvesting Applications"

Paolo Lugli, Technische Universitaet Muenchen
"Organic Electronics: Toward Large-Area High-Efficiency Printed Solar Cells"

Anna Fontcuberta i Morral, EPFL
"Nanowires Have the Power to Revolutionize Solar Energy"

Wolfgang Porod, University of Notre Dame
"Nanoantenna Thermocouples for Energy Harvesting"

Moderator: Sankar Basu, National Science Foundation


Contact: Patrick Regan
Technische Universitaet Muenchen

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