March 2011 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.
When a Rhode-Island-sized ice chunk separates from Greenland, is the calving due to typical seasonal variations or a long-term warmer world? A project called the Scalable, Efficient, and Accurate Community Ice Sheet Model, or SEACISM, on the Jaguar supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, aims to use state-of-the-art simulation to predict the behavior of ice sheets under a changing climate. ORNL computational Earth scientist Kate Evans leads the effort to develop scalable algorithms, which includes other researchers from ORNL as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, New York University and Florida State University. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not provide a prediction of ice sheet fate in its Fourth Assessment Report due to a lack of data, the Department of Energy launched SEACISM (within the Ice Sheet Initiative for CLimate ExtremeS, or ISICLES) to improve ice sheet dynamics in Earth system models. The improvements may generate data to inform the next IPCC assessment report, expected in 2013. [Contact: Dawn Levy; 865.576.6448; email@example.com]
A process called gasification can turn carbonaceous fuels—coal, petroleum, or biomass—into syngas, a cleaner-burning fuel mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Scientists from the National Energy Technology Laboratory are concluding a three-year project using supercomputers at Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories for simulations to reduce the cost and time of building commercial-scale gasifiers. The efforts will inform the design of advanced technologies to supply clean, reliable and affordable electricity. NETL's Clean Coal Power Initiative, a cost-shared venture of government and industry, aims to employ a commercial-scale gasifier system to sequester 90 percent of the carbon from coal with minimal impact to electricity costs. "High-performance computing is allowing us to reveal and study features of the gas–solids flow in a gasifier to a degree never before possible, experimentally or computationally," said Madhava Syamlal, principal investigator of the project. [Contact: Dawn Levy; 865.576.6448; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Tracking and protecting information stored on an organization's network could be more secure with a system developed by a team led by Justin Beaver of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division. The challenge arises when an organization has documents that are being copied, excerpted, changed and stored in various forms across the organization's network. Host Information Value Engine, dubbed HIVE, solves the problem by dispatching software agents that automatically and quickly review text files and assign them a subject category based on the text contents. "HIVE tells you what you need to protect because the system provides an objective assessment of information on a particular computer based on standards defined by the organization," Beaver said. HIVE development was sponsored by Lockheed Martin. Several government agencies have already expressed interest because of its automated and highly effective oversight capabilities. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Electricity generated by the ocean is gaining steam with a demonstration plant off the coast of Kona, Hawaii. The technology, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, is based on using solar energy stored in the world's tropical oceans and takes advantage of the temperature gradient from surface to depth. At the plant in Hawaii, cold water is pumped from 900-plus meters to the surface using a 1.4-meter in diameter pipe. "OTEC uses this water in conjunction with the warm surface water to drive turbines in a Rankine cycle power plant," said James Klett of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Materials Science and Technology Division. The OTEC cycle runs warm water through a heat exchanger to boil ammonia, which becomes a vapor and drives the turbine to generate power. Deep ocean cold water runs through condenser heat exchangers to return the ammonia to liquid state and complete the cycle. If the demonstration proves to be as successful as expected, the next step will be to build a 5-to 10-megawatt floating plant offshore. The technology is of special interest to the military. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Making the most of biomedical imaging data will be a huge focus for dozens of professionals participating in the 3rd Annual Biomedical Science and Engineering Conference March 15-17. With the benefits of advanced biomedical imaging and associated data come the challenges of effectively using and managing that information. Conference organizers expect several strategies to deal with the rapid adoption of biomedical imaging technologies to emerge from this meeting, which will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Knoxville. The keynote speakers will be Joel Saltz, director of Comprehensive Informatics at Emory University, and Peter Konrad, director of Functional Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Additional information about the event can be found at https://www.ornl.gov/bsec_conferences/2011. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]