December 2006 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 patented technique originally developed to measure temperatures inside turbine engines and fuel cells could play a key role in making electromagnetic weapons, or railguns, a reality. While several challenges remain, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers' ability to accurately measure the temperature of a projectile as it whizzes by at speeds up to 1,000 miles per hour is providing information critical to further development. At that speed, the viewing time is less than 20 microseconds. The same phosphor thermography technique also provides precise temperature measurements of the rails, which undergo severe strain and high temperatures as they are subjected to the 1 million to 4 million amperes used to fire the projectile. Railguns are of interest to the military for many reasons, including their incredible kinetic energy and long-range potential. The University of Texas at Austin is a partner in this research, which is funded by the Department of Defense. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Researchers at ORNL have developed a hybrid process where they use a laser in combination with friction-stir welding (FSW) -- a technique that has been in development for about 10 years for joining small metal alloys parts -- to extend its application to more materials. FSW uses a rotating tool to join metal components without melting. The process is best suited for alloys with low melting points, such as aluminum, and materials that are difficult to weld with conventional methods. However, extending FSW to high-temperature metals and alloys such as steel and titanium has been problematic because of tool wear and material requirements. Adding a laser to the FSW process to preheat and soften the metal parts reduces wear on the tool. ORNL's hybrid laser-assisted FSW technology will enable the industrial application of FSW to joining high-temperature metals and alloys. The work is funded by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Fusion Materials. [Contact: Bill Cabage; 865.574.4399; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Soon, men and mice won't be the only beneficiaries of CT technology's diagnostic wonders. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are developing ways to use a computer tomography machine originally designed for small laboratory animals to analyze wood, with potential applications in the pulp, paper and nascent bioenergy industries. ORNL researcher Justin Baba is working to develop analytical tools to determine parameters such as fiber length and arrangement, cell wall thickness and density from the CT scans. These scans could replace more destructive, chemical-dependant, methods of analyzing wood samples that compromise the information collection process. The technology could potentially be used to easily determine if a particular wood should be made into stationery … or toilet paper. For bioenergy, after some basic measurement standards are established, the scans will be able to show the cellulosic content of wood to help create a cellulose-based biofuel supply. The work is funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. [Contact: Larisa M. Brass; ; ]
Oak Ridge National Laboratory's SensorNet augmented by a system being developed by Enterra Solutions could become a first line of defense against terrorist attacks or natural disasters. ORNL and Enterra are teaming up to support SensorNet, a collection of systems to detect, identify and assess chemical, biological and radiological threats, by adding a rules-based automated system that takes the guesswork out of the emergency response equation. ORNL's Randy Davis of the National Security Directorate expects the collaboration to lead to more effective responses to disasters and attacks. Ultimately, he believes the constantly evolving SensorNet project combined with Enterra Solutions' Resilience Net could lead to near real-time actions to thwart terrorist efforts. Enterra Solutions is located in Yardley, Pa. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]