April 2003 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.
ORNL researchers and partners around the nation hope to determine which poplar genes are responsible for below-ground carbon sequestration. Soil accounts for the greatest proportion of carbon stored in terrestrial systems, totaling more than plant sources and annual average atmospheric inputs combined. Still, scientists know little about the soil storage process and which genes are related to what they call sink strength. Through this latest effort - a $5.1 million three-year project -- researchers hope to identify and characterize genes that play key roles in carbon sequestration within the plants and into the soil. Partners are the University of Florida, Oregon State University, University of Minnesota -- National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Forest Service. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Loss of energy and efficiency due to friction costs the economy billions of dollars annually. Controlling friction in large-scale systems has traditionally been done with lubricants. However, lubricant behavior changes drastically and for the worse when the size of the lubricant film is of the order a few nanometers (a few billionths of a meter). With the rapid development of nanotechnology, a new approach to controlling friction was urgently needed. Researchers from the Center for Engineering Science Advanced Research (CESAR) at ORNL have developed FRICON, an extremely efficient, fast and robust control scheme. FRICON's efficiency is not limited to nanodevices and microelectromechanical systems; the method can be implemented on systems of any size. Because friction is omnipresent in scientific, engineering, and technological applications, the scheme has broad relevance and applicability. [Contact: Marty Goolsby; ; ]
Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, ORNL researchers have developed several sophisticated airborne sensor systems that can detect, characterize and digitally map unexploded material - including items buried as deeply as 30 feet into the ground. These systems have applications for the military as efforts are under way in the Persian Gulf region to unearth and destroy mines, weapons, caches and other dangerous hidden ordnance materials. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; firstname.lastname@example.org]
An experimental natural-gas-powered fuel cell about to be tested by ORNL researchers at an 83,000-square-foot federal user center near Knoxville may serve as a model for more efficient production of electricity to supply large office buildings. Project managers believe the fuel cell will meet at least one-third of the electrical needs of the National Transportation Research Center while reducing by 25 percent the amount of natural gas consumed to heat the facility. The fuel cell - the only one of its kind in the Southeastern United States -- produces electricity with much less air pollution than conventional methods. It provides building heat by utilizing thermal energy and waste heat generated during the power-production process and serves as a backup power system for the building. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; email@example.com]