June 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.
Unsafe commercial motor vehicles may be off the roads sooner with help from an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led testing facility in Greene County, Tenn. ORNL researchers are working alongside state troopers to test and validate screening technologies such as an infrared system that can automatically detect brake, wheel and tire problems as a vehicle enters the weigh station. Data from the ORNL studies will help refine the screening tools and establish performance specifications to aid in the national deployment of the technologies. "We want to help law enforcement by giving them tools that maximize their limited human resources to focus on drivers, vehicles and carriers that are out of compliance in order to improve highway safety and efficiency," ORNL's Gary Capps said. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle; 865.574.7308; email@example.com]
High-resolution subsurface exploration could get a boost with innovative approaches that take advantage of the underlying dynamics of atomic force microscopy. By carefully manipulating the oscillations of the probe and substrate in an unconventional manner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Laurene Tetard and Ali Passian are able to set up what they call a "virtual resonance" that dramatically increases resolution. They liken the process to "atomic collisions" where dipole-dipole coupling between two atoms creates new nonlinear optical processes. Their results are published in Physical Review Letters in a paper titled "Virtual resonance and frequency difference generation by Van der Waals interaction." [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Despite limitations at regional scales, climate models still provide useful information that should be considered by civil engineers and planners making decisions about infrastructure such as dams, power plants, oil refineries and water treatment plants. This is the finding of Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers Shih-Chieh Kao and Auroop Ganguly, authors of "Intensity, duration and frequency of precipitation extremes under 21st century warming scenarios," which is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres. The researchers identified intensification of precipitation extremes from models and observations over the last 30 years and applied extensive analytical tools to draw their conclusions. They cautioned, however, that additional research is needed to increase the credibility of climate extremes projections to a much finer local scale. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]