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Spice’s pigment may prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Research conducted by Livermore chemist Krishnan Balasubramanian has revealed the characteristics of the spice pigment curcumin that give it the ability to prevent and even treat Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in the east Indian root plant turmeric (Curcuma longa), can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, the natural mechanism that protects the brain from harmful substances. Plus curcumin can bind to and reduce amyloid plaque in brain cells, which in combination with oxidative stress and inflammation, causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain chemistry is difficult to understand. Few agents can penetrate the blood–brain barrier and also act to prevent or cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, some of these preventive or curative agents are toxic. “The greatest challenge for medical researchers has been to find a treatment that can penetrate this protective barrier without doing more harm than good,” says Balasubramanian.
The Livermore project builds on earlier research by Gregory Cole, a professor of neuro and brain chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles. Balasubramanian used the Advanced Simulation and Computing Program’s UV machine at Livermore to explore which properties give curcumin its dual characteristics. “By understanding the molecular mechanisms of curcumin’s preventive and curative properties for Alzheimer’s, we can discover other drugs with molecular similarity,” says Balasubramanian. Results from his work appeared in the April 2006 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Contact: Krishnan Balasubramanian (925) 422-4984 (balasubramanian1@llnl.gov).

Hydrogen storage project gets hybrid vehicle
The Energy Conversion and Storage Group in Livermore’s Energy and Environment Directorate began its second-generation hydrogen-storage research project when it received a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle converted to run on hydrogen instead of gasoline. The Prius was modified for hydrogen operation by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide of Irvine, California. Quantum delivered the Prius to Livermore with two room-temperature compressed hydrogen tanks rated at 34 million pascals (MPa). The tanks store a total of 1.8 kilograms of hydrogen, enough to travel about 145 kilometers before needing to refuel.
The goal of the current project is to modify the Prius so that it exceeds the Department of Energy’s target driving range of more than 480 kilometers. To achieve this goal, the group will remove the ambient-temperature tanks and install a cryogenic-capable pressure vessel that can hold hydrogen as a compressed room-temperature gas, a cryogenic gas, or even a liquid. “Filling the tank with high-density liquid hydrogen cooled to –253°C may allow us to achieve a driving distance as far as 800 kilometers,” says Laboratory technician Tim Ross.
In previous research, the Livermore group installed a 25-MPa cryogenic-capable hydrogen tank in a Ford Ranger pickup truck as part of a pilot project to demonstrate that a vehicle could be refueled with both liquid and ambient-temperature compressed hydrogen. The vessel used for the Ford Ranger held 135 liters of hydrogen, whereas the one for the Prius holds 150 liters in a much smaller package. The multifunctional tank consists of a pressure vessel insulated with many layers of plastic and enclosed within a vacuum vessel. The pressure vessel was custom fabricated by Structural Composites Industries of Pomona, California, and insulation was installed at Livermore. Because the tank can store different forms of hydrogen, drivers can choose the type of fuel that serves their needs on each trip. For example, a driver could use room-temperature hydrogen for running short errands and switch to liquid hydrogen for a long trip.
By testing the different types of fuel and storage options on a vehicle, the Livermore group can evaluate the effectiveness of the available options and help the nation transition to a clean and domestically produced fuel such as hydrogen.
Contact: Salvador Aceves (925) 422-0864 (aceves6@llnl.gov).



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UCRL-52000-06-10 | October 19, 2006