September 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.
Band excitation, a new family of scanning probe microscopy, moves the field towards probing energy transformation at the nanoscale, say the developers. Conventional scanning probe microscopes measure the cantilever's movements over the surface of a material at only one single frequency. Band excitation excites and detects response over a continuous band of frequencies, rapidly measuring the frequency response of the system at every point in an image. The technology's ability to measure energy dissipation means it has potential use in any application for better understanding energy loss processes. The work could lead to energy-efficient nano- and molecular scale devices and materials for electricity generation, transportation or solar power conversion. [Contact: Bill Cabage; 865.574.4399; email@example.com]
The Department of Energy's Spallation Neutron Source, which recently set a record for beam power for a pulsed neutron source while operating at only a tenth of its eventual 1.4 megawatts of power, has added a fourth instrument to its growing arsenal. The Wide Angular-Range Chopper Spectrometer (ARCS) team sent the first neutrons to the instrument, one of an eventual 24 state of the art neutron scattering instruments the SNS can accommodate on its 18 beam lines. The ARCS joins the Magnetism Reflectometer, the Liquids Reflectometer and the Backscattering Spectrometer as the currently operating instruments at the SNS, which is funded by DOE's Office of Science. [Contact: Bill Cabage; 865.574.4399; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Oak Ridge National Laboratory's efforts at improving energy efficiency could save NASA more than $820,000. Mike MacDonald and Julia Kelley of ORNL's Commercial Buildings and Industrial Energy Efficiency Group led a review of the design and construction proposal of 12 packaged modular boiler systems at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The new facilities are being decoupled from an inefficient central plant by installing 29 individual boilers and six water heaters sized to meet the needs of areas where they are located at the space center. NASA management asked ORNL to review the original construction proposal submitted by Florida Power and Light. The ORNL review and input helped convince NASA to proceed with the project, which replaces a deteriorating infrastructure, reduces maintenance requirements and mission risks, avoids future capital outlays and improves safety. The funding source is the DOE-EERE Federal Energy Management program. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; email@example.com]
Different zests for beer might reveal more about alcohol's effect on the brain reward system than inherent differences in taste sensitivity, according to findings by a group of researchers led by Judy Grisel of Furman University. In a study using mice at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Grisel and ORNL's Elissa Chesler are attempting to map genes responsible for differences in beer consumption. "In our preliminary study, we have two critical findings," said Grisel, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. "There is no significant correlation between the drinking patterns and the allelic status of the taste receptor on Chromosome 2, and many strains of mice voluntarily consumed enough alcohol to become dependent." By studying self-administration of beer, this group has been able to decrease the influence of taste sensitivity that has been a big factor in previous studies in which scientists measured the consumption of alcohol mixed with water. These findings run contrary to widely held beliefs dating back 50 years. The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Furman Advantage Program and South Carolina independent colleges and universities. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
With today's unprecedented demands for power—as demonstrated by this summer's Southern heat wave—superconducting technology promises to turn on an electricity faucet and expand the current capacity of the nation's power grid. Key to that transition, is development of new and improved insulating materials, or dielectrics, to keep the flow of power in check. ORNL researchers are developing new "designer" materials and manufacturing processes that will offer improvements over today's dielectrics, used to prevent power surges and offer protection at high voltage generation and transmission sites. In a recent paper published by the Institute of Physics, Enis Tuncer of the Applied Superconductivity Group in ORNL's Fusion Energy Division describes a new technique he developed for manufacture of a nanocomposite material that holds promise in cryogenic high voltage applications. The project is supported through Laboratory Directed Research and Development funding. [Contact: Larisa M. Brass; ; ]