March 2005 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.
Engineers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are helping Russia build railcars to provide better protection and more secure transport of nuclear material. Under an agreement with the Russian Ministry of Defense, ORNL's Transportation Security Project will work with a Russian railcar maker to design and manufacture guard railcars and replace the aging fleet now used for moving guards and special nuclear materials. Heading the effort are Bill Reich and Gary Sullivan of the lab's Nuclear Science and Technology Division. The $9.9 million project, scheduled for completion in April 2006, is coordinated and funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. Reich and other members of the project team will go in May to visit the Russian railcar manufacturing plant. [Contact: Mike Bradley; ; ]
A new method of processing ferrous materials such as steel, developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, promises to produce a new class of materials with novel microstructures and superior properties. The method involves applying a strong magnetic field to a cooling alloy, which results in enhanced properties and reduced heat-treating, fabrication and energy costs. Phase transformation in a cooling alloy determines the microstructure of the final material. Applying a strong magnetic field enables the critical transformation to a ferromagnetic phase, which determines the microstructure, to occur faster and at higher temperatures. The resulting steel should be easier to machine than conventional steel, which translates into increased production and longer tooling life. The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technologies Program funded the work. [Contact: Bill Cabage; 865.574.4399; email@example.com]
Powerful new inverters incorporating silicon carbide transistors and diodes could help speed the development of hybrid electric vehicles and lead to advances in a number of other areas. Compared to conventional silicon-based power semiconductor switches, the silicon carbide devices feature much better reliability and allow for power devices and converters that are more compact, lighter and far more efficient. Working with Rockwell Scientific Co., Burak Ozpineci of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Engineering Science and Technology Division and researchers at the University of Tennessee have developed 1,200-volt 15-amp silicon carbide transistors and diodes and have produced a 7.5-kilowatt inverter. These new devices, which boast vastly higher power densities than silicon-based converters, ultimately will be used in traction drives in hybrid vehicles and could have applications for distributed power. Funding for this research is provided by the Department of Energy's FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Program. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Advances in material science, biology, climate modeling and other areas hinge on efficient utilization of massive computing power, and that's part of the focus of a project headed by Jeff Vetter of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To be successful, Vetter and colleagues must devise ways to overcome fundamental limitations of existing high-end computing systems while working to remove technological barriers to producing next-generation machines. They intend to do this by exploring three prototype core technologies: reconfigurable computing, processors in memory architectures and optical processors. Reconfigurable computing uses programmable hardware to literally plant a software algorithm into hardware. Processors in memory architectures attempt to overcome the "memory wall" by moving computation close to data in memory. Optical processors compute with light instead of silicon to improve parallelism. This project builds on ORNL's strong role in evaluating leadership-class computing machines, and researchers expect their effort to pave the way toward petascale computing for a multitude of scientific applications. This project is funded by ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]