January 2010 Story Tips
Story ideas from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip.
World-class computing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could be unleashed to save as much as $50 billion per year in fraud, waste and abuse in the nation's health care system. Under a proposal by Andy Loebl of the Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, ORNL would collect and analyze government data to target cost savings, quality and care management vulnerabilities. In just hours, Jaguar, recently identified in the Top500 list as the world's fastest computer, could process all of the health care data generated in the United States. Consequently, instead of taking nine months to determine the validity of a claim, it would take just minutes and would eliminate the current system of paying claims and chasing recipients who received unjustifiable payments. Under the current system, the government spends $600 million to recover $1 billion annually. Loebl also envisions the system leading to improved health care because available diagnosis and outcome data would be analyzed without compromising patient privacy. Funding for this work was provided by ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Thousands of cancer and heart patients will benefit from a new Oak Ridge National Laboratory program to make rhenium-188 generators more widely available and to streamline the distribution process. Rhenium-188, a radioisotope that has proven useful in treating various types of cancer and for a treatment that makes angioplasty more effective, has been available from an ORNL generator on a limited basis since the mid-1990s. The "current Good Manufacturing Practice" will address restrictions that had hampered distribution of the radioisotope. "The bottom line is this program will provide broader access of rhenium-188 to many patients who until now would not have access to these potentially life-saving treatments," said Russ Knapp, a corporate fellow and manager of the Nuclear Medicine Program at the Department of Energy's ORNL. Funding is provided by DOE's Offices of Nuclear Energy, Biological and Environmental Research and the Office of Science. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Scientists studying internal details of biological cells, semiconductors and virtually any material they don't want to destroy in the process may soon be able to use a new technique developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The method, outlined in Nature Nanotechnology Letters, allows them to see surface and sub-surface details with unprecedented resolution. At the heart of the technology is an atomic force microscope that uses a force-sensing cantilever with a sharp tip to measure the topography and a host of other properties. Their concept, called mode-synthesizing atomic force microscopy, relies on multi-harmonic forcing of the sample and probe. "It is like paleontologists trying to find the shape of buried dinosaur skeletons using sound waves," said lead author Laurene Tetard. "Similarly, if we take a sample and mechanically shake it, then the probe can tell what's below the surface." Co-authors are Ali Passian and Thomas Thundat. Funding for this research is provided by the Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Office of Science. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]