October 2000 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.
With water heating consuming about 17 percent of the energy for a typical household, it's a good place to start when cutting costs. ORNL's Building Technology Center is assisting in developing a heat pump water heater as a "drop-in" replacement for a conventional 50- or 80-gallon water heater. It features the same footprint, electrical and plumbing requirements and can provide a two-year payback because of its greater efficiency. The heat pump water heater has an energy factor of 2.47 as compared with 0.95 for the most efficient conventional electric units. The unit can be installed where there is no floor drain, but where one is available, it will provide space cooling and dehumidification as well as hot water. If broadly adopted, use of this water heater could save almost 1 percent of the country's energy consumption. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; firstname.lastname@example.org]
An ORNL team will receive more than $1.1 million over the next three years to develop technology for reliable and automatic forewarning of failure in critical equipment at next-generation nuclear power plants. Such forewarning would allow timely maintenance to reduce unanticipated shutdown time and improve plant safety. Forewarning algorithms would detect changes in the dynamics of motors, belts, gears, bearings and other vital components. This technology would replace the practice of waiting for failures or predicting failure by less sophisticated means. Researchers in ORNL's Engineering Technology Division are joined in the project by a team from Duke Engineering and Services in Charlotte, N.C. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; email@example.com]
Many soldiers who die in battle could perhaps be saved if outfitted with a sensor system that could capture and identify noises generated within the chest. While the majority of combat casualties are the result of injuries that cannot be treated, a significant number die from the presence of air, gas or blood in their chest. Once detected, treatment is relatively simple with the medic or corpsman placing a needle into the affected region in the chest to release the pressure. The problem with tension pneumothorax is detection. It's difficult to detect even in a hospital, but a battlefield setting makes the job even more difficult. The goal of the ORNL project is to develop a sensor built into a soldier's helmet that would capture and classify acoustic signals from the thoracic region and would alert medics to a life-threatening condition. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Researchers at the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility recently chalked up a physics "first": the simultaneous emission of two protons from an atom's decaying nucleus. The finding, based on preliminary experiments with the Holifield Facility's unique fluorine-17 beam, also represents a new type of radioactivity. The discovery could help physicists better understand the strong nuclear forces that hold protons and neutrons together-a force that overcomes the Coulomb force, which drives the like-charged protons apart, similar to the like poles on two magnets. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; email@example.com]