May 2012 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.
U.S. military expeditionary bases and outposts will become more energy lean through a three-year, $6 million project that takes advantage of Oak Ridge National Laboratory expertise in a number of fields. The Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption Program will target cooling and heating, shelters and structures, lighting, data center power management, electronics, and water heating and pumping systems. To accomplish this mission, ORNL will rely on its three centers of excellence within the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center, said ORNL researcher Terry Sharp of the Energy and Transportation Science Division. The payoff for this Department of Defense-funded project will be increased operational capabilities and reduced vulnerabilities at bases that play key roles in America's military success. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Tiny rod-like nanoparticles of gold or silver able to adsorb, transmit and reflect light at the nanoscale could hold the key to faster computers, higher-resolution microscopes, more efficient light-emitting diodes and a new generation of chemical and biological detectors. In a paper published in the journal Nanotechnology, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Ali Passian describes nanorods that can be fabricated from noble metals and configured to measure the polarization state of light, a task that traditionally cannot be done at the nanoscale. "The long-term goal is to design and build nano-instruments that will allow us to measure and manipulate light," Passian said. Other authors of the paper, titled "Spectroscopy and imaging of arrays of nanorods toward nanopolarimetry," include Laurene Tetard of ORNL and Thomas Thundat of the University of Alberta. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Millions of seashells off the coast of Japan may be able to play a role in cleaning up radioactive cesium that was dumped into the ocean after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. Researchers from Japan used the NOMAD instrument at the Spallation Neutron Source to study ground seashells, which, when treated, have shown a remarkable ability to adsorb cesium in water. Adsorption involves the surface retention of solid or gas molecules, atoms or ions by a solid or liquid. Researchers compared the adsorption properties of the treated seashells with the identical synthetic compound. They found the latter did not adsorb cesium at all. Understanding what is different at the atomic level between these two essentially similar compounds may lead to improving the ability of treated seashells to cleanse the water. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel; 865.574.0644; email@example.com]
Shape-memory alloys are an engineer's dream — materials that shape-shift spontaneously to accommodate changing operating conditions. Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are studying the microstructure and micromechanics of SMAs using the VULCAN neutron diffractometer at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their goal is to create SMAs that will undergo a desired transformation/deformation precisely and reliably over thousands of cycles, said NASA's Othmane Benafan. SMAs could, for example, replace the existing airplane flap design, controlled by a heavy, complex hydraulic system, with SMA flaps that change position autonomously in response to temperature and air pressure, added Santo Padula. NASA plans to use the information gained at SNS to design reliable, high-temperature SMAs that can be manufactured commercially for many uses. The intensity of the SNS neutron beam and VULCAN's capability to test materials simultaneously under tension, compression and torsion offer unique capabilities for materials research. [Contact: Deborah Counce; 865.574.0644; firstname.lastname@example.org]