August 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.
A superhydrophobic coating developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could dramatically lessen a multi-billion dollar problem that affects underwater machines, watercraft, submarines, water intakes, offshore drilling rigs and countless other types of equipment and machinery. Corrosion and biofouling costs the government and private sector upward of $276 billion, according to the National Association of Corrosion Engineers. The ORNL superhydrophobic surface can be used for a variety of metal, plastic and wooden surfaces and significantly reduce the costs of maintenance and restoration of materials exposed to corrosive environments. While researchers plan to perform additional durability tests, results obtained in harsh conditions over four months are encouraging. The material was developed by a team led by John Simpson. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Honeywell Turbo Technologies hopes to produce turbochargers with greater life expectancy and reliability through a project with the High Temperature Materials Laboratory User Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Using neutron diffraction, researchers will map residual stress generated during welding of the shaft wheel assembly that is integral to the Honeywell turbocharger. This information will help determine whether residual stress plays a critical role in limiting the life of the assembly. Tests are being conducted at the Neutron Residual Stress Facility at the High Flux Isotope Reactor. High-performance turbochargers can play a significant role in enhancing fuel efficiency and performance of vehicles. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Thermal energy in ordinary crystal materials takes the form of tiny atomic vibrations that ripple through the material in waves. Instead of spreading evenly through the material, some of the energy will clump into little packets. Scientists had thought that these energy packets, which they call intrinsic localized modes, or ILMs, form randomly if thermal energy is distributed evenly across the crystals. But an experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source shows that widely held assumption to be incorrect. The experiment shows the ILMs actually organizing themselves into patterns instead of forming randomly and then shifting back and forth among different patterns as the temperature changes. Besides forcing theorists to rethink their calculations, the discovery has a wide range of potential applications in telecommunications, optics and technologies for which heat flow is important, such as thermoelectric materials. [Contact: Deborah Counce; 865.574.0644; firstname.lastname@example.org]
In a breakthrough for neutron science, scientists used a 30 Tesla pulsed magnet and the powerful pulsed neutron beam at the Spallation Neutron Source to probe the magnetic behavior of the multiferroic material manganese tungstate. (A multiferroic material has both electrical and magnetic properties.) The magnet shatters previous limits for magnetic fields used in neutron experiments; the most powerful magnetic field formerly available was about 10 Telsa. (For comparison, the most powerful magnets encountered in everyday life are well below 1 Telsa.) The magnet, developed at Tohoku University in Japan, delivers a pulse lasting about a millisecond when zapped with an electric current. The sample was chilled before examination to 2 degrees Kelvin, just above absolute zero. At such low temperatures manganese tungstate becomes multiferroic. Multiferroic materials have many potential applications, including uses in magnetic storage devices. The pulsed magnet technique is being developed for use on other instruments at the SNS, which is part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. [Contact: Deborah Counce; 865.574.0644; email@example.com]
Polymer-based solar cells are attractive to solar energy developers because they are inexpensive and relatively easy to fabricate. But to be economically viable, they must be made more efficient. Neutron scattering measurements have shown that appropriately heat-treating (annealing) a thin film containing a blend of the polymers PSBTBT and PCBM causes the polymers to distribute and mix in a way that improves the efficiency of the device. The experiments showed that the film reached its maximum power conversion efficiency when annealed for one minute at 150 degrees Celsius after aluminum electrodes were deposited on the film. Conversely, annealing before the electrodes were deposited reduced the efficiency of the film. The neutron scattering experiments were conducted at the High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source, both at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The results are important to improving the performance of polymer-based solar cells. [Contact: Deborah Counce; 865.574.0644; firstname.lastname@example.org]
A special report highlights the accomplishments of researchers running large, complex and often unprecedented simulations on Department of Energy Office of Science supercomputers. The research community gains access to these powerful machines through the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program, which is jointly managed by the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility at Argonne National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. INCITE in Review is available at http://www.doeleadershipcomputing.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/INCITE_IR_FINAL_7-19-11.pdf. From modeling hurricanes that put people and property at risk to simulating combustion instabilities in power plant turbines and vehicle engines, INCITE projects aim to accelerate breakthroughs where major advancements would not be probable or even possible without supercomputing. [Contact: Dawn Levy; 865.576.6448; email@example.com]