May 2008 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 new test facility recently installed at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could pay dividends for "big science" projects down the road, including the proposed International Linear Collider. The cryomodule test facility was built to test the superconducting linear accelerator's rf, or radiofrequency, components. As the SNS ramps up toward its full 1.4 megawatts of power, project engineers saw the need for an on-site test facility that can mirror conditions created by the increasingly powerful rf-generated ion beam. Recently one superconducting cryomodule was taken off the linac, repaired and commissioned in the matter of a few days. Similar systems in future, large linac facilities, such as the ILC, stand to benefit from the recent rf superconducting technologies and techniques being explored and developed at the SNS. [Contact: Bill Cabage; 865.574.4399; email@example.com]
Tractor-trailers operating with single wider tires recorded improved fuel efficiency numbers between 7.2 and 10 percent when compared to rigs operating on standard-sized dual tires. A year-long truck performance study managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Heavy Truck Safety Research program concluded that trucks carrying payloads up to the federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds had improved miles-per-gallon diesel savings because the wider tires had better rolling resistance performance. The study involved instrumenting a fleet of tractor-trailers accumulating 700,000 miles, making it the most extensive public study yet involving single wider tires. Previous studies by ORNL that involved less data to work with indicated improved fuel efficiency of only 3 percent. The funding source is the DOE Office of Vehicle Technologies. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Fingerprints that used to escape detection could soon help point to the killer. Using a field portable system being developed by ChemImage and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, investigators at crime scenes will be able to detect latent prints on human skin. The system takes advantage of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)-based agents to visualize latent prints. A team led by Linda Lewis of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division is working with ChemImage to identify fingerprint components that are SERS active, which involves identifying the fingerprint components that give a Raman emission when using a SERS reagent. The ORNL team has identified a novel dielectric nanowire coated with silver as the SERS agent of choice. This material was developed at Naval Research Laboratory. The ORNL team is now assisting Naval Research Laboratory with developing a batch processing method for producing highly active silver-coated nanowires to support a robust field method of chemically imaging latent fingerprints. ChemImage, based in Pittsburgh, has a diverse portfolio of chemical imaging technologies and envisions this technology being used by law enforcement agencies nationwide. This project is funded by the National Institute of Justice. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Using pulsed thermal processing, low-cost thin-film solar cells could see efficiency gains of up to 50 percent, increasing from their current level of about 8 percent to 12 percent. The trick is in using millisecond bursts of 12 megawatts available from the radiant high-density plasma arc lamp at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. While conventional single-crystal silicon solar cells can approach efficiencies of 18 percent, they are very expensive, said Ron Ott, ORNL's program manager for solar energy technologies. Through this effort, funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, researchers showed they can inexpensively alter the three-layer material to create a structure with fewer defects that can lead to higher efficiencies. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]