August 2007 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.
As the Tennessee Valley Authority deals with record afternoon electricity demand during the current heat wave, a home in Lenoir City is actually selling power back into the system. Utilities are paying premium prices during peak demand periods to supply power to businesses and homes. Instead of contributing to the load, a Near-Zero-Energy home is contributing to the solution. Combine super-energy-efficient technologies with the ability--thanks to rooftop solar collectors--to sell back power to the system, and a Near-Zero-Energy home becomes a power supplier. The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been designing and implementing the Near-Zero Energy Homes concept in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority. The concept is working, in the near-triple-digit heat, in locations such as a Habitat for Humanity community in Lenoir City, Tenn., where the power meters sometimes run backward as the homes generate more energy than they consume. [Contact: Mike Bradley; ; ]
Supercomputing-like performance could be available for countless scientific applications through an approach that exploits the power of reconfigurable computing using field-programmable gate array. In a recent demonstration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers tripled the speed of a popular biomolecular simulation package using standard programming languages on a system offered by SRC Computers. While field-programmable gate arrays, which are a different type of logic chip than traditional microprocessors, are traditionally used for other purposes -- such as signal processing -- the team of ORNL and SRC Computers researchers has bridged the gap to exploit their incredible capabilities for improved performance on scientific applications. "This possibility could deliver performance of supercomputing devices to institutional clusters and desktop users while balancing their needs for scientific productivity," said Sadaf Alam of ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division and a co-author of the paper (http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MC.2007.108) published in Computer." This research is funded by DOE's Office of Science and the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Dwindling numbers of shortnose sturgeon in Georgia's blackwater Ogeechee River system have prompted an effort to quantify the causes and prioritize recovery efforts. Yetta Jager and colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are conducting a population viability analysis, which will provide a scientific basis for assessing cumulative and separate effects of factors thought to be impacting the shortnose sturgeon population. These factors include siltation of spawning areas, degradation of water quality in summer due to upstream agriculture, urban development and military land management, atmospheric mercury and introduction of saline water introduction through rice canals. While 19 distinct populations of shortnose sturgeon have been identified in coastal rivers, only two southern populations are thought to be viable. The Ogeechee population has fewer than 500 fish. Jager is working in cooperation with field efforts conducted by Fort Stewart and Doug Peterson at the University of Georgia in this three-year project, which is funded through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Pulp and paper plants in the future may operate at lower energy levels as the result of a new joint technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Swagelok Company of Solon, Ohio. ORNL researchers Vinod Sikka, Dane Wilson, Jun Qu and Peter Blau of the laboratory's Industrial Technologies Program have conducted collaborative research on the durability of stainless steel alloys that were treated with the Swagelok- developed low-temperature colossal supersaturation method -- a process that has hardened surfaces four and five times the normal level while not compromising their resistance to corrosion. This hardened surface has been implemented in pump impellers undergoing severe wear operation at the Sonoco paperboard plant in Newport, Tenn. The impellers in the plant are working at three times the life of regular impellers with an annual energy savings of 56 million BTUs. The funding source is DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technologies. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; email@example.com]
Oak Ridge National Laboratory research has aided in development of two new lines of wireless sensor products targeted at manufacturers by industry heavyweights Honeywell and General Electric. The instrument offerings—RF ValProbe by GE and OneWireless by Honeywell—represent a new generation of wireless technology that taps industry-standard approaches to radio frequency identification, or RFID, and wireless sensors for advanced monitoring of manufacturing equipment to more accurately determine maintenance needs for the systems and anticipate equipment failures. Such capability improves manufacturing process efficiency, reduces emissions and prevents costly outages for equipment repairs. Funding for the projects came from the Department of Energy's Industrial Technology Program and private dollars from each of the companies. [Contact: Deborah S. Barnes; ; ]