News and Events (Archive)
The MSSE Divison participates in sponsor-funded research and development and supports a number of conferences in scientific and technical areas. This area of our site contins archieve information regarding our research, publications, proposals, awards, technical directions, conferences, staffing, and student and faculty visitors.
Highlights for January-March 2011
Highlights for January-December 2010
Highlights for July-December 2009
Highlights for January-June 2009
To see our current events, please visit our MSSE Current News and Events page.
DOE grants $3.9m for SiC HEV charger development
A $3.9m award from the US Department of Energy (DOE) aims to allow electrical engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas to continue contributing to the development of a compact and highly efficient silicon carbide (SiC) battery charger for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Benefits of the project extend beyond vehicles into other areas, such as wind and solar power, and could also lead to reduced energy consumption.
The grant is part of the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program and will benefit a collaborative partnership that includes five private and public entities: project leader Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc (APEI) of Fayetteville, AK; its private partner the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (at the University of Arkansas); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Cree Inc; and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.
“This effort will lead to breakthroughs in efficiency, size and weight reduction, and overall improved vehicle performance,” believes Department of Electrical Engineering professor Alan Mantooth, director of the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (who holds the 21st Century Endowed Chair in Mixed-Signal IC Design and CAD).
Under Mantooth’s direction, the Arkansas researchers will develop basic semiconductor device models to enable other researchers to design integrated circuitry. The work will help engineers simulate circuits on computers to verify functionality before committing to fabrication. As part of the overall project, the researchers will also design key components of the charging circuitry.
Since 2009, the DOE has allocated nearly $350m to universities, small and large businesses, national labs and non-profit groups to support research that can change how the USA generates, stores and uses energy. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the funding is intended to create jobs and foster economic growth. “These innovative ideas will play a critical role in our energy security and economic growth,” says US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “It is now more important than ever to invest in a new, clean energy economy,” he adds.
“The award was highly competitive, and we look forward to delivering on the challenges in this groundbreaking project,” says Serdar Yonak, Toyota’s US power electronics R&D manager.
“This technology will help reduce energy consumption in everyday applications, such as personal vehicles,” says APEI’s director of business development Ty McNutt. “In addition, it will reduce the strain on the nation’s power grid as electric vehicles become prevalent, while helping to decrease the nation’s carbon footprint. Equally as important, the engineering and manufacturing jobs created by this award will remain in America,” he adds.
“Cree has been leading the development of the silicon carbide power components at the heart of this proposed system,” says John Palmour, Cree’s chief technology officer for power and radio frequency. “We are hopeful that this demonstration will lead to the use of silicon carbide power devices in the electric motor drives themselves, creating even more efficiency gains for hybrid vehicles.”
The National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission is one of just a few university-based research centers chosen by the DOE to investigate electronic systems to make the USA’s power grid more reliable and efficient. Five years ago, the DOE funded the center because of the university’s research expertise in advanced power electronics and longtime investigation of silicon carbide. Electrical engineering researchers at the university have developed and packaged SiC systems for more than a decade and recently won an R&D 100 Award, in collaboration with APEI, for the first 250ºC-capable power module rated at 1200V and 150A.
BIOMETRICS -- ID from afar...
Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National
Unsuspecting subjects could be identified in mere seconds with a novel recognition system being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Unlike conventional technologies that look at a facial feature or the iris, ORNL’s off-angle multi-modal biometric recognition system captures several features -- iris, face, ears, gait and soft biometrics at a distance. “By capturing multiple biometrics and combining them to achieve identification, we can overcome a failure to capture or recognize any one specific metric and thus offer superior performance,” said Chris Boehnen, a researcher in the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division. The system also can be used as a screening tool at checkpoints to ensure that only authorized personnel enter a facility. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
ORNL team races to equip RHIC detector upgrade
ORNL Today (November 29, 2010)
|One of the PHENIX upgrade's numerous custom boards.|
The Physics Division's High Energy Reactions & Neutrals Science group and the Measurement Science & Systems Engineering Division's RF & Microwave Systems group have been collaborating on an upgrade to the PHENIX detector at Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.
"We have designed and built a number of custom printed circuit boards and custom chips that are being used to read out nearly 400,000 channels of silicon sensors installed at the very heart of RHIC's PHENIX detector," says the Physics Division's Vince Cianciolo.
"The goal is to allow very precise determination of particle trajectories, thereby enabling qualitatively new measurements of the RHIC collision products," says Vince.
In the RHIC collisions, which resume in December, the charm and bottom quarks emitted decay less than a millimeter from the collision. Unexpected particle interactions in previous collisions have led researchers to try more precise experiments, in this case tracking the particle with a resolution of 80 microns by one millimeter.
"We're trying to trace the particle back to the collision vertex," Vince says, describing the experiments that generate literally petabytes of data.
Vince, Yuri Efremenko, Akitomo Enokizono and the rest of the Physics Division team are working with Miljko Bobrek and Stephen Killough of the Measurement Science & Systems Engineering Division to test the circuit boards and chips that make up the detector system "to the limits," as Miljko says.
The reliability of the electronics is critical to the experiments. Unlike a facility such as the Spallation Neutron Source, where instruments can be individually taken on and off line from the neutron source, RHIC's detectors can't be accessed without shutting down the beam used by other detectors at the facility.
With the beam scheduled to turn on soon, Vince says work on the detector system at ORNL--and installation at RHIC-- has proceeded at a "frantic pace." Collaborating with ORNL, which has supplied the electronics to the project, is a team from Japan, Brookhaven and Los Alamos national laboratories, and a number of university groups.
A Workshop on the Future of Instrumentation
Each year there are a variety of meetings and conferences that pertain to various aspects of sensors, automation, instrumentation, and applications. In many of these meetings, the bulk of the meeting/conference is focused on describing past and current efforts with a look over the horizon as to what's coming.
A strategic review that was conducted for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Measurement Science and System Engineering division highlighted the general lack of a forward-looking instrumentation meeting. Certainly there are a multitude of conferences that involve some flavor of automation, sensors, and controls—but none that we could identify that are looking over the horizon in any significant way. Discussions with my staff and colleagues outside of ORNL led us to decide that it was time to hold a future of instrumentation workshop—right here at ORNL on November 8–9, 2010.
The goal of this workshop was to provide a forum where all levels of interested parties could meet to present and discuss topics appropriate for the Future of Instrumentation. With instrumentation embedded into an expansive array of applications (biotech, medical, astronomical, industrial, consumer, etc.,) we brought together an array of technologists, analysts, and business leaders to investigate the impact of current trends in instrumentation technology on application areas including those already mentioned as well as the electric grid, renewable energy sources, modular reactor technologies, intelligent building controls, energy efficiency, energy security, and related topics. To that end, the Workshop was quite successful for individuals from the private, public, and academic sectors who participated. Given the thought-provoking topics raised and the highly interactive nature of the meeting, the discussions, interspersed with excellent technical presentations, made for a lively and engaging time.
By holding it at ORNL we viewed this as your opportunity to intersect with the leaders who are at the forefront of instrumentation for industry, government, and academia.We encountered technologies (and technologists) who fostered collaborative relationships; learned about government and private-sector funding opportunities; and broadened our horizons by learning about cross-cutting technologies that were developed in one instrumentation sphere but are applicable to other areas. Such technologies include sensing technologies, embedded computing and systems, integrated instrumentation systems, top-to-bottom cyber security methodologies, and trustworthy sensors.
Plenary presentations by Walt Boyes, Kim Fowler, and Sterling Rooke covered topics that on first appearance looked divergent but the presentations and lively discussion showed that instrumentation, industrial needs, and the cybersecurity of systems—all the way down to the instrument itself—present the appropriate framework for the development and deployment of current and future instrumentation. The mix of highly detailed technical presentations (in areas such as hybrid fiber-optic sensors, nanotechnology, etc.,) coupled with practical reviews of instrumentation (such as planning for instrumentation obsolescence) and the software/firmware implications for current and future instrumentation completed the cycle for near-term instrumentation development.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from conference attendees—both those who attending in person and the 270+ who participated in the Web broadcast of a Day 1 Panel Session—revealed that, while there are numerous conferences and symposia dealing with sensors and the application thereof, instrumentation, as defined by the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society, lies at the heart of the integration of sensing technologies with feedback systems, be they physical, computational, or mechanical. Discussions within the Workshop indicated that, from a participant perspective, there is a need for focused discussion on instrumentation in future meeting. Plans are underway for the 2011 Future of Instrumentation.
This group of industrialists, scientists, and technologists who participated are striving to examine trends in instrumentation. We're after the creation and application of instrumentation for a variety of useful applications. Industry, academia, and government—the intersection of each pillar of instrumentation, development, and delivery. It's the Future of Instrumentation.
Dr. Kenneth Tobin is the Director of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering (MSSE) Division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN. He can be reached at 865-574-0355, email@example.com.
Dr. Peter Fuhr is a Distinguished Member of the research staff of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering (MSSE) Division at ORNL. He can be reached at 865-574-5206, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winner -- Best SEED Money Presentation
During the first week in November the Lab reviewed LDRD and SEED Money poster presentations made by the staff. As stated by Dr. Zacharia, “the quality of the posters and the presenters were truly outstanding.” Two posters, one each from LDRD and SEED, were judged to be the best among these outstanding posters.
United States Enrichment Corporation (American Centrifuge -- Piketon, Ohio)
More than 40 AC100 centrifuge machines are currently operating in the American Centrifuge Demonstration Facility in Piketon, Ohio, and additional machines are being assembled each month. United States Enrichment Corporation’s prototype and AC100 centrifuge machines have operated for more than 365,000 total machine hours.
USEC is deploying its next‐generation gas centrifuge uranium enrichment technology, the American Centrifuge, at a commercial plant in Piketon, Ohio. Since 2000, USEC has performed development work on the American Centrifuge technology in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to enhance the gas centrifuge technology developed and demonstrated by the U.S. Department of Energy during the 1970s and 80s. USEC’s commercial AC100 machine reflects a decade of work between USEC and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) under a USEC-funded multi-year $336 million Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), the largest in ORNL’s history.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) support for the USEC deployment of the American Centrifuge exemplifies the expertise and commitment of its staff to facilitate solutions to challenging, nationally important problems. During the past decade, ORNL’s CRADA participants have provided cutting edge world-class scientific proficiency and experience in response to USEC’s needs. ORNL’s participation has migrated with the demands of the USEC-directed program. Beginning with advanced materials, continuing with upgrades to the computational resources required for advanced real-time control, then to a suite of novel sensors, and finally supporting USEC’s need for an analytical basis for understanding plant reliability and availability, the ORNL team has successfully addressed each challenge.
Construction of the American Centrifuge Plant will support America’s energy and national security by providing a long-term, reliable, and secure fuel supply for nuclear power plants here and around the world while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from USEC’s operations by 10 million tons annually. USEC estimates that the project will create nearly 8,000 direct and indirect jobs across the United States, including more than 1,900 in east Tennessee, and help rebuild the U.S. nuclear manufacturing base.
ORNL engineer uses research to help save colleague's life
Written by Alison Morrow
ORNL engineer uses research to saves friend's life
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab may be the brightest of the bright, but a few years ago, it grew challenging for Nance Ericson to simply live.
"I was basically just narrowing down my life to just the very essential things I needed to survive which was food, sleep, do a little at home, and come to work so I can make a living for my family," Ericson said.
Ericson, an electrical engineer, was diagnosed with a condition called hydrocephalus, or a swelling of ventricles in his brain.
"They damage the neurons in the brain. Ultimately, a person can get dimentia, difficulty walking, bladder problems, or even if they get really big, die," explained Dr. James Killeffer, Chief of the Neurosurgery Division at UT's Graduate School of Medicine.
Ericsons neurosurgeon used CAT scan images over the span of a couple years to see if the ventricles were getting bigger. Though the two-dimensional scans showed increased swelling, they can't measure the rate at which Ericson's brain was enlarging, leaving questions of severity and what to do about it.
"We want to make sure we're treating a real problem because if we treat the problem and we get a complication but it wasn't really a problem, then we haven't done the person any good," Dr. Killeffer said.
As life got harder, Ericson stopped by the office of his friend and ORNL colleague, Shaun Gleason, who used his research to turn the two- dimensional images of Ericson's brain into a 3-D interactive map.
The enhanced images calculated a 33% growth in ventricular swelling in just one year.
"It surprised myself, it surprised Nance, and I think in some ways, it opened the doctor's eyes as to what was really going on here," Gleason said.
Equipped with more information, Ericson went through with surgery.
"I feel excellent now. I'm playing soccer, indoor and outdoor. I'm doing things with both my sons," Ericson said. "Life's excellent now. I'm doing things with both my sons. Life's great. This has been a great change for me."
The experience brought the men closer together while teaching them that while ORNL research may work miracles across the globe, sometimes, miracles happen right in front of your eyes.
"It's nice to be able to use the things I've learned and the expertise that I've developed to help a very close friend," Gleason said. "We work for a lot of different customers and that's a good thing, but when you have the ability to help someone you're very close to using the technology, it has a real impact."
TRIAD, RABiTS photovoltaics win Southeast FLC awards
TRIAD selected to receive the 2010 Excellence in Technology Transfer award in the Federal Laboratory Consortium Southeast Regional awards competition.
The Telemedical Retinal Image Analysis and Diagnosis, or TRIAD, technology is a Web-based telemedical diagnostic system designed to conduct automated eye screenings of large patient populations for blinding diseases such as diabetic retinopathy in a primary health care. TRIAD was developed by ORNL, Automated Medical Diagnostics and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The ORNL team included Kenneth Tobin, Thomas Karnowski, Luca Giancardo, Deniz Aykac and Priya Govindasamy.
World's smallest antenna
Story tips from the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Instead of the conventional long piece of metal or dipole antenna, electronic devices of tomorrow could incorporate an antenna no bigger than a gnat. This is made possible by a design that allows an electrically charged nano-mechanical oscillator to be tuned to specific electromagnetic waves. "Gone will be the days when we need to match the antenna length to the wavelength," said Panos Datskos, a co-developer of this proprietary technology. The potentially revolutionary system detects very small electric fields over large frequency ranges while maintaining substantial power efficiency, making it ideal for environmental, homeland security and electric grid applications. Other developers are Nickolay Lavrik, Slo Rajic and Thomas Thundat. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; email@example.com]
ORNL's full steam ahead with wireless help
Posted by Frank Munger on September 27, 2010
|ORNL has 12 miles of pipeline that deliver steam for heat and air.
ORNL photos/Ron Walli
Oak Ridge National Laboratory hopes to save up to $675K annually, thanks to upgrades on the lab's 12 miles of steam lines and new wireless sensors to detect problems.
The lab, in conjunction with Johnson Controls, is replacing faculty steam traps,and the sensors are suppsed to provide an early-warning system.
There are about 1,600 steam traps on the pipelines, and those traps normally open slightly to discharge condensed steam with only small losses. The problem is when a trap fails and that failure goes undetected and unrepaired.
Manual inspections are time-consuming, costly and sometimes dangerous, the lab said.
According to an ORNL report prepared in 2005, steam trap failures are a major waste of energy at industrial sites.
"Approximately 20 percent of the steam leaving a central boiler plant is lost via leaking traps in typical space heating systems without proactive assessment programs," the lab report said.
Early detection is a key to minimize the losses and maximize the cost savings, Wayne Parker of the lab's Utilities Division said in a statement.
In addition to Parker, others who contributed to the lab project were Teja Kuruganti, Glenn Allgood, Joe Lake, Seddik Djouadi, Wayne Manges, Robert Baugh, Teresa Baer, Rob Crowell, Kenneth Woodworth, Mohammed Olama and Rangan Sukumar.
4th Edition "Radiation Detection and Measurement," Glenn F. Knoll
Gary Alley, Group Leader of the Monolithic Systems Development Group and Chuck Britton, Distinguished Research Staff member contributed to a chapter in Glenn Knoll’s new 4th Edition “Radiation Detection and Measurement”. Dr. Knoll is internationally known in the area of radiation detection. The new edition of his book included significant updates to the chapter dealing with electronics. Because of the reputation established by the Monolithic Systems Group in last decade for developing custom integrated circuits for physics experiments, Dr. Knoll contacted the ORNL staff members for their contribution to the Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) section of chapter 17.
Image Science and Machine Vision Group Provides Image Analysis Tools to Help Catch Child Predators
Example report from the ISMV-developed Artemis sofware that generates a ranked listing of potentially incriminating images from a suspects computer. Artemis significantly speeds the time to discovery, assisting the police in about 30 arrests over the past 6 months.
Dozens of child predators arrests attributed to ORNL software
By Alison Morrow
Posted: September 8, 2010
A year ago, Oak Ridge National Lab developed computer software to speed up the arrests of child predators in East Tennessee.
That work is now well underway.
The software breaks down the main barrier standing in the way of making arrests -- time.
KPD ICAC Investigator Mel Pierce spends hours in front of a computer, staring at images from other computers.
"There's really no misunderstanding the content that they have," Pierce explained. "It's usually prepubescent images engaged in sex acts. There's no misunderstanding."
Sifting through the images, text and videos requires a lot of work for Pierce and his small team of ICAC investigators.
"Many computers will hold 10,000 or 100,000 files, some images, video text, and it takes weeks to months to go through that," said ORNL Applied Software Engineering Research Group Leader Tom Potok.
Potok is no stranger to such a challenge. For years, he's worked on software to help the US government track down potential terrorists.
"Our hope was, can we use that technology in our own neighborhood? Can we use it in our own backyard? Help the police do a better job of catching criminals," Potok said.
So far, the answer's yes.
The program searches a computers files with unmatched speed, telling investigators everything from how what type of image it's located to how much skin tone is in it.
"It gives you everything that you need to generate a report for the D.A.'s office or to go get charges," Pierce said.
The software's cut the time investigators spend researching criminal behavior in half, which doubles the amount of work they can pursue.
"That's the real key. The sooner we can figure out somebody is harming a child, the sooner we can get the child to safety," Potok said.
"Which ultimately means a safer community. We're able to put more people in jail that would harm our children," Pierce said.
KPD's been using the software for six months.
So far this year, investigators have used the software on about 50 child pornography cases, resulting in about 30 arrests.
UT ophthalmologist develops program to automate the analysis of potential eye problems
By Toby Sells
Posted: August 1, 2010 at midnight
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Dr. Edward Chaum's cell phone buzzed. He checked it and spun around to his office computer. Then and there, he diagnosed and prescribed care for five eye patients in about three minutes.
Chaum, an ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's Hamilton Eye Institute, was using a program partly of his own making. The technology, called Telemedical Retinal Image Analysis and Diagnosis or TRIAD, is a kind of search engine that uses the features of many images rather than words.
The program fuses a large bank of medical images of retinas, collected by Chaum over the years, and a data-processing program developed by a team led by Ken Tobin at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Tobin's original program was also based on a library of images and used to find manufacturer defects in computer chips.
"It occurred to me that what (Tobin) was doing with these content-based libraries is exactly what I do as a clinician when I look at a patient's retina," Chaum said. "I go into my own library, which is the thousands of patients I've seen over the years, and say, 'How does this patient compare with all of the other patients I've seen?'"
This is, basically, how the technology works: Doctors take pictures of a patient's eyes and upload them to a secure website. The TRIAD program compares those images to Chaum's large bank of retina photos to see if the image has similar characteristics to a set of images in the library.
The image is matched (or not). The program assigns a general diagnosis and e-mails it to Chaum. His phone buzzes. He reviews the computer's diagnosis. Approves or disapproves. And sends his report back to the doctor.
R&D Magazine gave the TRIAD technology one of its 2010 R&D 100 Awards calling it "one of the 100 most technologically significant new products of 2010."
Since 2005, Chaum, Tobin and their colleagues have been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Plough Foundation. The intellectual property was co-owned by UTHSC and Oak Ridge. While ownership agreements like these seem tricky, commercializing science has moved along with the science industry.
"There are so many scientific collaborations these days that happen not just in one university, whether it's between a person here and the University of Memphis, or a person here and someone across the country or the world," said Richard Magid, vice president of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. "So we're comfortable working with another entity on the commercial side just like the scientists are comfortable working on the scientific side."
Chaum and Tobin licensed the technology from the two entities this year and have submitted its patent applications. They also formed a company around the technology this year called Automated Medical Diagnostics to see if the program could be used commercially.
"We are slowly trying to grow this business, to work with those in primary care and demonstrate that this can be done and that it's commercially viable," Chaum said. "The reality in modern medicine is that if you can't demonstrate that doctors can generate revenue (with a new service), it won't be adopted.
We want to demonstrate that the technology can be applied, create better outcomes and reduce the cost of health care."— Toby Sells: 529-2742
© 2010 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Automated Medical Diagnostics
— Working with doctors at Church Health Center, a medical practice in North Carolina and the Delta Health Alliance.
— Takes Chaum roughly 90 seconds to process one case.
— Computer- aided image analysis now used in radiology, mammography and cytology.
Image Science and Machine Vision publishes book chapter on x-ray micro-CT technology
The chapter is entitled “ Principles of micro x-ray computed tomography.”
Here is the abstract for the book chapter:
Abstract: Like its clinical counterpart, x-ray computed tomography (CT), high resolution x-ray micro-computed tomography (microCT) is a widely used modality for imaging anatomy in living specimens. In this chapter, we review the basic physics of microCT systems designed for high resolution studies of laboratory animals, the mathematical principles used to develop reconstructed images, the key factors that determine image quality, and some of the commonly used applications for this technology. Anatomic information provided with microCT technology is valuable in molecular imaging applications in at least two specific areas: (1) the anatomy provides a physical context or “map” that shows where in the body molecular events are taking place and (2) there are molecular events that have a direct impact on anatomic structures that can be imaged using microCT.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Media Contact: Bill Cabage
Communications and External Relations
Telemedical Retinal Image Analysis and Diagnosis, or TRIAD, developed and jointly submitted by ORNL, Automated Medical Diagnostics and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The ORNL team included Kenneth Tobin, Thomas Karnowski, Luca Giancardo, Deniz Aykac and Priya Govindasamy. The team from UTHSC consisted of Edward Chaum and Yaqin Lee.
The TRIAD technology is a Web-based telemedical diagnostic system designed to conduct automated eye screenings of large patient populations for blinding diseases such as diabetic retinopathy in a primary health care setting. The real-time low-cost screening provided by TRIAD can help primary care providers offer a more efficient and economical retina screening service to prevent blindness in diabetic patients. This diagnostic tool will allow far more people to undergo screening, especially the indigent and those in areas that are medically underserved. Research funding was provided by the ORNL Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, the Plough Foundation, Research to Prevent Blindness, the U.S. Health Resource Services Administration and a National Institutes of Health - National Eye Institute grant.
Ultrasensitive Nanomechanical Transducers Based on Nonlinear Resonance, developed and jointly submitted by Nickolay Lavrik from the ORNL Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and Panos Datskos of ORNL Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division.
The technology, based on nonlinear nanomechanical resonators, enables sensitive linear detection of force or mass that can be used in a number of important applications, including chemical and biological detection, inertial navigation and thermal imaging. It can determine the presence of extremely low levels (femtogram quantities) of chemicals in a gas or liquid with a sensitivity that is at least 1,000 times better than other comparable mass-sensitive transducers in the market. The new method used in the nonlinear resonator transducers can provide real-time monitoring in a cost-effective manner and can lower detection thresholds in both gas and liquid environments without increasing the cost and complexity of the tool. Research funding was provided through ORNL seed money as part of the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.
Mode-Synthesizing Atomic Force Microscope, or MSAFM, developed and submitted by Ali Passian, Thomas Thundat and Laurene Tetard from ORNL’s Bioscences Division.
MSAFM is a novel measurement system for noninvasive high-resolution surface and subsurface characterization and analysis of materials at the nanoscale. This technology can obtain a wealth of material information from both the surface and the subsurface domain, opening unlimited opportunities in nanoscience in a variety of endeavors, including human health, environmental studies, toxicology, nanofabrication, cell mechanics and energy research. Research was sponsored by ORNL’s BioEnergy Science Center, a DOE BioEnergy Research Center supported by DOE’s Office of Science.
From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory
People recovering from injuries, the elderly and even athletes could one day benefit from a gait analysis technology being developed by a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The patented system uses electrical signature analysis to measure, interpret and record the current drawn by a treadmill as a patient walks. “When the heel strikes, the load increases, resulting in an increase in the current drawn by the motor,” said Charles Hochanadel, a physical therapist and co-inventor of the technology. “Changes in the current represent the various phases of gait and allow us to interpret what’s going on during each stride.” Other inventors are Daryl Cox of the Energy and Transportation Science Division and Howard Haynes of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division. “We are really just beginning to explore potential applications, including expanding from the lower body to upper extremities such as shoulder rehab and other commercial applications,” Cox said. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Measurement and the "circle" of research
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review
"If you can't measure it, you're not doing science."
The expression evolved to a large extent from the fact that the process of scientific inquiry is based on the ability to produce measurable and reproducible results. Thus it comes as no surprise that Ken Tobin, director of ORNL's Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, sees measurement playing an increasingly central role in the entirety of research performed at the laboratory. "I think of measurement science as an integral part of a 'circle' of research that connects fundamental and computational sciences," Tobin says. "Measurement systems are the key to translating observations from the physical world into data that can be analyzed by computational systems. To complete the circle, computational systems simulate 'virtual' new materials providing researchers with the insights they need to create these materials in the lab, which requires significant measurement and characterization capabilities." This process starts the cycle again: materials, measurement, computation, measurement and back to materials. Tobin believes the ability to accurately measure, characterize and control physical, biological, environmental or other engineered processes is critical to all of the work done at ORNL, regardless of whether the measurements involve analyzing new materials, calculating the impact of carbon in the environment or controlling the electric grid.
|ORNL's Ken Tobin and Tom Karnowski examine a computer automation method to aid in the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and other blinding eye diseases. This program is a partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the National Institutes of Health.|
Tobin's division specializes in exploring and developing measurement systems that sample the physical world to produce highfidelity and reliable data. The systems the researchers develop often extend the reach of existing technologies or create entirely new capabilities. "For example," Tobin says, "one of our projects that links basic science to applied research is our work in developing nanostructured surfaces." These unusual materials can be used for a range of applications, including producing surfaces with an amazing ability to repel water. These surfaces have practical applications in anti-icing, fabric coatings and novel sensors. Measurement science enters the picture when researchers are required to devise ways of determining how efficiently these materials accomplish their aims. "We have developed systems that can accurately measure a material's ability to repel water by looking at the contact angles of water droplets on surfaces in a variety of ways," Tobin explains, adding "we are also using the same kind of nanostructured materials to produce entirely new measurement devices."
ORNL researchers also use their electronics expertise to produce sophisticated and highly customized measurement systems. "The electronics for the Nuclear Materials Identification System have undergone quite a bit of evolution since we developed it in the 1990s," Tobin says. The instrumentation developed for the system enables technicians to make precisely timed measurements to scan containers to determine the presence of nuclear materials. ORNL scientists originally developed this system in support of the Strategic Arms Reduction treaties. Today the system is also used by the Department of Homeland Security in a range of applications, including air cargo examination and monitoring for highways, railways, ports and harbors.
In the biomedical area, Tobin's group has developed computed tomography systems to support mammalian genetics work. "When the project began several years ago, the idea was to be able to detect nonvisible manifestations of disease in animals using a high-throughput, highresolution anatomic scanner. We made it possible for geneticists to take measurements from a large number of unique mice without having to destroy them," Tobin says. Recent spinoffs from the program include the development of functional imaging using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to show how small animals metabolize glucose or incorporate protein.
Tobin sees measurement science playing an increasingly important role in the laboratory's research. "We're making inroads into new areas of measurement," Tobin says, pointing to microelectrical mechanical systems as an area in which his team is increasingly conducting research. The sensors can be used for a range of applications, from collision avoidance to instrumentation, for small modular nuclear reactors. The trend is toward integrating the sensors into wireless networks that communicate to a central control system. "This kind of comprehensive measurement and control system is an important aspect of what we are trying to achieve as we go forward in the measurement research area," Tobin says. "We continue to grow our research capabilities and generate output that supports the lab's energy mission, addressing new methods, instruments and integrated systems for energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, nuclear energy and nonproliferation technologies."
Need an eye test? Get a web cam
|Are smartphones and web cams the digital doctors of the future?|
A medical diagnostics team is developing the technology to detect diabetic retinopathy, a disease which can cause blindness, in advance of any vision problems or blurriness, announced the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in May 2010.
The vision screening will take pictures of your retina with web-based technology that uses a digital camera. The retinal image is then processed through a system which quickly sorts through large databases and finds visually similar images representing equivalent states of diabetic eye disease – giving rapid results.
Technology Aims to Trace Sub-Microscopic Troubles
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine
Application could enable military, airport security, others to find less than a single moelcule of hazardous substances.
Within the next year, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers Nickolay Lavrik (left) and Panos Datskos hope to reduce their bench-scale revolutionary chemical/biological sensor to a handheld instrument.
Scientists are pushing sensing to the theoretical limit by applying new methodology to established technology. A developmental sensor can help locate and identify chemical, biological and other dangers, but the real breakthrough is the ability to detect nanoscopic amounts of material without requiring sophisticated software or fancy equipment. Instead, humans will be able to see the readings with the naked eye. The advancement means that users in the field will be able to employ the sensor to save lives.
Nickolay Lavrik, research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the organization leading the effort, explains that it is difficult to work with tiny objects and substances, such as the ones authorities need to detect at military and airport security checkpoints. The sensor that Oak Ridge developed extracts the best possible functionality that theoretically exists, enabling a new level of operation. The performance of this sensor also is better for users from a practical point of view because it detects smaller amounts and is easier to use.
Oak Ridge Group Leader and Senior Scientist Panos Datskos explains that when researchers examine sensors or phenomena, they examine the best possible practical and theoretical operations. The ultimate limit of an absolutely perfect system is called the theoretical limit. In the case of the new sensor, the theoretical limit would be one molecule or even smaller. “To detect a single molecule, that’s a big challenge,” Datskos says. “Sometimes we’d like to detect a single molecule either because that molecule is very important or because it’s indicative of something else going on. Imagine being able to detect a single cancer cell.” Entities smaller than a molecule that the system could detect include isotopes. “The point is, can we get there and what is stopping us?” Datskos explains. He continues that the research part of the project is pushing the limit to determine the challenges involved with reaching optimal operation.
The technology itself is a generic approach to sensing using microeletromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), which have been around for more than a decade. “In this particular implementation, it’s basically ... looking at how additional excess mass due to chemical reaction with the sensor changes the property of the sensor,” Datskos explains. “In this case, it’s the resonance frequency of that particular device.” NEMS and MEMS both basically are resonators that oscillate at particular frequencies. Those frequencies shift depending on how many molecules attach to them.
Datskos compares the cantilever in the sensor to a diving board. When someone jumps on it, it resonates at a certain frequency. If weight is added to the board before someone jumps on it, it oscillates at a different frequency. In the sensor, a laser hits the target substance and then bounces back to the cantilever, causing it to vibrate at a certain frequency based on the material of the cantilever and the composition of the target substance. However, these vibrations are so minute that scientists require sophisticated equipment to determine the result.
In general, sensors deal with two effects: sensitivity and selectivity. Regarding sensitivity, the Oak Ridge sensor has a larger amplitude of oscillation than traditional sensors, allowing users to measure the signal more easily and reduce the effect of noise. The Oak Ridge sensor’s selectivity is influenced by special coatings that functionalize the cantilever. The coatings “like” certain substances more than others. Because these substances are made from molecules, the number of molecules demonstrates the amount of substance present. Developers will customize each sensor to respond to certain substances, so a reaction in the sensor denotes the presence of that substance.
Users can detect smaller amounts of materials with the new sensor “because a small number of molecules (theoretically only one) is enough to trigger a response,” Datskos says. “In our sensor, this is the result of the nonlinear behavior and the large amplitude of oscillation.” The Oak Ridge effort has found a way to immensely increase frequency modulation by modifying the devices and operating them in a particular nonlinear way. This means that the amplitude oscillation is very large compared to the size of the device. When this happens, the curve on a graph plotting amplitude versus frequency no longer is symmetric. It becomes a multifunctional curve and systems become confused. Developers avoid this situation because of the complications in dealing with it. “The novelty of our project is using that, yet the final answer from the sensor is a linear answer,” Datskos explains.
The researchers have found a way to take advantage of the distortion so that, as far as the sensor is concerned, the response is linear even though it is operated in a nonlinear regime. Even more important from the practical point of view is that this effect can be seen with the naked eye instead of laboratory equipment. Lavrik explains that the phenomenon observed is called amplitude collapse. “That’s a very dramatic effect,” he says.
In a typical sensor in a laboratory environment, the measurement accuracy of the oscillation of the cantilever can be as small as a few atoms. When traditional resonators that operate at nanometer-scale amplitudes are used, this accuracy is difficult to achieve because of noise. With the higher oscillation amplitudes, the projection line created by the oscillating beam in the new sensor measures as large as an inch. When this amplitude collapses, that line shrinks to a dot. When that happens, users know how many molecules were added to the cantilever of the device.
This silicon chip with nonlinear resonators mounted on the piezoelectric transducer in the flow cell is part of the setup of a new sensor that scientists at ORNL are developing.
“Instead of doing more complicated frequency analysis, we just look for that particular moment in time when the amplitude collapses,” Lavrik says. “So instead of trying to analyze and measure frequency, we are just looking at one particular phenomenon—amplitude collapse. The decrease in amplitude is so dramatic it’s very easy to detect, very precise.” The result is a fairly inexpensive device with a large signal, eliminating the need for sophisticated measuring tools.
In terms of applications, the sensor could detect all sorts of materials including physical, biological and chemical substances by using different materials in the construction of the physical device. By changing the surface layer or coating in the sensor, it can be used for different purposes. Datskos says it could even sense acoustics and temperature. “The cantilever platform is very generic,” he says, adding that, “It’s a tool that’s very versatile and unique. It’s a universal platform really.”
In addition to public security applications, people could employ the new sensor technology in their homes and cars. One device could detect smoke and carbon monoxide, reducing the current need to have two devices, one to detect each substance. In automobiles, the sensor could indicate a problem in the exhaust or combustion. Instead of requiring motorists to have an inspection once a year to check emissions, the sensor could provide constant monitoring. The issue is that all these applications involve cost. Datskos says if it only cost a few cents, every car would have one. But in reality, it would add a significant amount to the price.
The laboratory prototype of the sensor is geared toward chemical sensing of items such as explosives. “A lot of that is funding driven,” Datskos shares. “Basically, the funding comes from a need, either a national need to address something or it could be an energy need or a national security need or science needs.” Those funding requirements guide the researchers’ specific efforts. “It’s not like two mad scientists working in a laboratory and doing it all,” Datskos jokes. “There’s a real world we have to consider.”
As a laboratory, Oak Ridge does not create products but only prototypes to prove an idea. The scientists have created a bench-top laboratory demonstration prototype that Datskos says could be packaged as a handheld device. The next step is for a company or other agency to advance the technology by pushing it to the product stage. “That’s beyond what we signed up to do,” Datskos explains. The principle works, so now moving forward is a matter of trying to package it to be reliable, robust and operable in field conditions. An independent manufacturer would look at issues such as power and the type of laser to make that a reality. “[Manufacturers] can afford to use more cost-effective electronics and processing tools ... You don’t have to go to a high-tech processing system. So the implications are tremendous,” Datskos states.
He compares the sensor to the CD player. When it first was developed, it worked in the laboratory but not in the real world because of vibrations. “Now it works in your car; it works anywhere,” Datskos says. Manufacturers found a way to package the technology so it would operate in the field, and they were able to mass produce the technology.
Moving a prototype to a commercial product requires a high level of investment in part because the technology has to become easy for lay people to use. “The idea is experts could use this, but you also want nonexperts to turn the knob and say ‘Yes, it works. [Or] it doesn’t work,’” Datskos explains. Developers have to find a way to package the devices so anyone can use them, just as they did with CD and DVD technology. However, he also believes the hardest part of the work already is complete. “The most difficult thing is it’s an idea which has been implemented,” he says. “It works and that it essentially can be used.”
Once the initial investment has been made, however, further production of this sensor should be less expensive than other similar devices. “In the long run it will be cost-effective plus it will enable detection limits not possible before with traditional techniques,” Datskos explains. The new sensor especially can improve operations in noisy environments where the vibrations can affect traditional sensors and wash out signals.
Though the Oak Ridge scientists already have proved their theory, have created a laboratory prototype and are ready to pass their research to an organization that wants to develop a field-ready device, their work continues. “As scientists, we’re never done,” Datskos says. “We are done with parts of this work. At this stage, where basic science has been addressed to solve major problems, we know what the next steps will be for more, better, new things.”
Again, those next steps depend on money. To continue pushing the science forward requires more research dollars. “Development funding could keep going to develop this particular sensor from this stage on,” Datskos explains. However, as a scientist, his thrust is not only to use similar approaches in different ways but also to develop new approaches to traditional methods and tools.
Lavrik echoes his research mate, saying that they can continue to explore different aspects of this type of sensing phenomena, pushing the limits of what is possible. But a technology transfer of what they already have discovered will depend on funding from a company or an agency interested in particular applications of the idea.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Nanotechnology: www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/nanotechnology.shtml
2nd Annual Biomedical Science and Engineering Conference a Success
Conference attendees during session talks
On May 25-26 ORNL’s Biomedical Science and Engineering Center brought together some of the country’s finest neurosurgeons, trauma specialists, military physicians, scientists, and students at its annual conference. The focus of this year’s conference was brain injury and neuro-regeneration. The conference goals were to identify cross-cutting tools and applications needed by medical and scientific neuroscience communities (both military and civilian) areas as they battle the dibiliating effects of brain injury and to explore mechanisms for neuro-regeneration.
Tim McKnight, MSSE Division
Joseph Pancrazio, Director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at George Mason University, and formerly Neural Engineering Program Director in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) was the keynote speaker at this year’s conference. There were several panel discussions that included civilian and military physicians and researchers whose goal was to provide perspectives on these injuries and how to deal with them. A poster session was held on the evening of the 25th which also focused on brain injuries and neuro-regeneration related topics.
L to R: Russ Langdon, Dale Wiley, April McMillan, Gary Alley, and Trent Nichols
All attendees were very enthusiastic about the value of the conference and the possibilities for new collaborations. There was strong encouragement to continue the conference next year.
A highlight of the conference was an interview done by one of the local television stations about the BSEC Conference and brain injury related work being done by Dr. Richard McCarron, Chairman, Neuro Trauma Department Operational & Undersea Medicine Directorate, Naval Medical Research Center, and Dr. Russ Langdon, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Tennessee Medical Center-Knoxville. That interview can be seen at http://www.wate.com/Global/category.asp?C=21819&clipId=4841614&topVideoCatNo=4694&autoStart=true.
For more information about the Biomedical Science & Engineering Center please contact Gary Alley, BSEC Deputy Director, at email@example.com.
ORNL light armored vehicle program to update Marine Corps vehicles
|Some of the marine vehicles are decades old, outpaced by technology.|
The US Marine Corps has picked out its newest mechanics, and they're right here in East Tennessee.
The test subject, a 30-year-old "Grizzly" light armored vehicle, just arrived at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
"It was mainly used for reconnaissance -- going out, investigating areas and getting information," said ORNL Light Armored Vehicle Program Asst. Project Manager Carl Dukes.
The one kind of reconnaissance it's bad at, however, is gathering information about when it needs a tune up.
"Like your own private vehicle, the marines generally do their maintenance based on the amount of time or the amount of miles that have been put on the vehicle," said ORNL Light Armored Vehicle Program Project Manager Steve McNeany.
When driving through deserts or rivers, facing combat situations, time and mileage aren't always accurate indicators for repair work.
"If you don't monitor for those kinds of things, you won't know about the problems as they arise," McNeany said.
Some of the marine vehicles are decades old, outpaced by technology.
"Instrumentation capabilities have developed over the years that now provide an opportunity to improve it," McNeany said.
ORNL plans equip the vehicles with maintenance monitoring systems, so the marines can monitor their mission.
"The only way I can do that, and do my job, is to know the true status of it, to have confidence in that. That's what this program will provide," Dukes said. "So that they'd know the vehicle they're in, know the status of it, the true status of it. That they'd be able to go out on their mission, accomplish their mission and get back safely."
ORNL expects the monitoring system they're developing will also cut cost for the marine corps by reducing unnecessary maintenance as well as damage that results from waiting too long to do the repairs.
Medicine - Eliminating guesswork...
Armed with neutron imaging, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Trent Nichols, a doctor of internal medicine who also holds a doctorate in physics, hopes to improve the odds for patients with cancer. The proposed work of a team that includes veterinarians and scientists from diverse disciplines could ultimately lead to less guesswork for surgeons and pathologists. “The prognosis and treatment plan after resection depends to a great extent on knowing whether the tumor is completely contained or extends beyond the block of resected tissue,” Nichols said. With the aid of a low-energy neutron imaging system and boronated tissue stains, the picture should become much clearer between normal and malignant cells. Funding for the initial work is being provided through ORNL’s seed money program. The team plans to submit a proposal to the National Institutes of Health for follow-on funding. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Study of animal tumors may bring more precision to cancer treatment
Slides of animal tissue.
"Let's look in your ears," Dr. Amy LeBlanc said while examining a cat at UT Veterinary Clinic. "What a good boy. Yes."
Spider Monkey the cat certainly has a human personality -- and his tissue is kind of like a human's too -- which is why tissue samples from UT Veterinary Clinic patients may soon help their two-legged friends.
Once removed, tumors are sliced up and turned into slides, then dyed and read by pathologists.
"You're looking for disorder in the nuclei of the cells. Sometimes it's very difficult to tell if cells are normal or abnormal," said Oak RIdge National Lab Research & Development Staff Member Dr. Trent Nichols.
Nichols practiced for two decades as a physician specializing in internal medicine, and then recently completed a PhD in theoretical physics.
Now that he works at ORNL, he's hoping to combine the two degrees, using the Spallation Neutron Source to better differentiate between healthy and cancerous tissue.
Detecting a layer of normal tissue cells around the abnormal cells tells pathologists if the doctor removed the whole tumor.
"What's needed is a better way in assisting them in their ability to say, 'Yes you got it all' or 'No, you didn't. You need to go in and take more,'" said Dr. Le Blanc, who is also the Director of Oncology Clinical Services at the UT Veterinary Clinic.
The science used to read the slides is decades old, and light microscopes only show so much.
The tumor must also be sliced into several pieces for pathologists to read, which makes their assessment less exact.
"Unfortunately that's why many, many patients -- cat, dog or human -- are proclaimed to have a clean margin, but they have a recurrence of their cancer at some point in the future," Dr. LeBlanc said.
However, using neutron imaging could change that, because neutrons are more sensitve to changes in tissue density.
"Tumor pathology in high def, it's similar to that," Dr. LeBlanc said.
Researchers plan to examine animal tissue first, but their goal is to move to human tissue.
"We want to be as precise as we can be," Dr. Nichols said.
"Then we'll compare them to say, 'Did we do a better job? Was it easier to find where the margin was?'" Dr. LeBlanc said.
Ultimately, improving precision is important, because precision determines treatment, and treatment often determines hope.
The researchers are still in the funding stage of the project, but hope to begin work within the next couple years.
'Triad' screens for diabetic retinopathy
Published: May 11, 2010
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 11 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've developed a machine that allows early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy and other potentially blinding diseases.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers said their Telemedical Retinal Image Analysis and Diagnosis technology, known as TRIAD, could be a life-changer for people at risk of diabetic retinopathy and eye diseases.
Officials said the technology -- recently licensed to Automated Medical Diagnostics, a Memphis start-up company, by ORNL and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center -- can quickly screen for the disease in a doctor's office or other remote sites, permitting early detection and referral for diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases.
"If diabetic retinopathy is detected early, treatments can preserve vision and significantly reduce the incidence of debilitating blindness," said Professor Edward Chaum at the university's Hamilton Eye Institute. Chaum and ORNL's Ken Tobin led the team that developed the device.
"With the TRIAD network, all of the computed diagnoses are sent to an ophthalmologist for review and sign-off of the computer-generated report, much like what is done for an EKG," Tobin said. "Over time, our hope is that the number of reports requiring physician review will be reduced as the performance of the TRIAD network is proven through clinical testing."
The research also included scientists from the University of North Carolina and the Delta Health Alliance.
Prevent blindness focus of ORNL technology, AMDx
News Release (ORNL)
Media Contact: Ron Walli
Communications and External Relations
|Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers Ken Tobin (left) and Tom Karnowski see TRIAD as something that could be a life-changer for people at risk of diabetic retinopathy and other potentially blinding diseases. (Photo by Ron Walli/ORNL)|
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 5, 2010 — Automated Medical Diagnostics, a startup company based in Memphis, envisions its product helping to preserve the sight of millions of people at risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
Using Telemedical Retinal Image Analysis and Diagnosis, a technology recently licensed by AMDx from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, patients can quickly be screened for the disease in their primary care doctor's office and other remote sites, permitting early detection and referral for diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases.
"If diabetic retinopathy is detected early, treatments can preserve vision and significantly reduce the incidence of debilitating blindness," said Edward Chaum, an ophthalmologist and Plough Foundation professor of retinal diseases at the UT Health Science Center Hamilton Eye Institute in Memphis. Chaum and ORNL's Ken Tobin, partners in AMDx, led the team that developed a method for teaching computers to aid in the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and other blinding eye diseases.
The Web-based technology uses a digital camera that takes pictures of the retina at a primary care physician's office or other remote clinical site. The patient's medical data and retinal images are sent to a server and processed through the patented system that quickly sorts through large databases and finds visually similar images representing equivalent states of diabetic eye disease. This allows diagnoses to be made in seconds so patients will know before they leave the office if they have no eye disease or if they need to follow up with a retinal specialist. Conventional techniques require a patient to wait several days to receive results.
"With the TRIAD network, all of the computed diagnoses are sent to an ophthalmologist for review and sign-off of the computer-generated report, much like what is done for an EKG," Tobin said. "Over time, our hope is that the number of reports requiring physician review will be reduced as the performance of the TRIAD network is proven through clinical testing."
For more than a decade, manufacturers of semiconductors have used this technology to rapidly scan hundreds of thousands of tiny semiconductors for defects and to learn quickly about problems in the manufacturing process. Since 2005, Chaum, Tobin and colleagues have been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies to test and demonstrate that retinal pathology can be identified and quantified by adapting the content-based image retrieval technology.
"What separates this from other methods is that we have automated the process of diagnosing retinal disease by capturing the expert knowledge of an ophthalmologist in a digital patient archive," Tobin said.
This allows far more people to undergo screening, especially the indigent and those in areas that are medically underserved.
"Today, less than half of Americans known to be diabetic receive the recommended yearly examination because they either cannot afford eye exams, lack access to eye care providers or are unable to comply with physicians' recommendations," Chaum said. "In the next 15 years we will need to be able to screen more than 1 million patients every day worldwide in order to detect and manage vision loss and blindness due to diabetes.
"By using automated computer-assisted diagnostic methods like TRIAD and the connectivity of the Web throughout the world, this is an achievable goal."
Tobin and Chaum see AMDx and TRIAD as a game changer, providing diabetic patients with easy access to screening cameras in primary care medical practices and a variety of other settings.
Other researchers involved in TRIAD are Tom Karnowski and Luca Giancado of ORNL's Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, Yaqin Li of the UT Health Science Center, Seema Garg of the University of North Carolina and Karen Fox of the Delta Health Alliance. The project has been supported by a grant from the National Eye Institute with additional funding provided by The Plough Foundation in Memphis, Research to Prevent Blindness in New York and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Together, this funding has been used to establish a telemedical network spanning Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina to support clinical testing and validation.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. AMDx is a limited liability company.
Analog and Digital Systems Group supports NASA's Fission Surface Power Program
As part of ORNL’s support to NASA’s Fission Surface Power program, a sequence of brief irradiations were performed to determine the effects of moderate levels of gamma radiation on commercial off-the-shelf electronics suitable for use in low-power temperature data acquisition systems. Multiple copies of five different commercially available operational amplifier (op-amp) integrated circuits (ICs), an ORNL-designed application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) amplifier, and two commercial analog-to-digital converter (ADC) ICs were irradiated by inserting them into a cylindrical canister and placing the canister among spent fuel assemblies from ORNL’s High-Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). Dose rates ranging from approximately 0.3 to 1.0 Mrad/hr were obtained, depending on the position of the circuit boards inside the canister.
The electronics were powered and clock signals were applied to the ADC chips during the irradiation periods. Circuit power consumption could be monitored from a nearby experiment room during the irradiations.
To assess the extent of damage to the circuitry, the boards were removed from the irradiation facility and tested after each of four irradiation intervals. A PC-based data acquisition system generated sinusoidal waveforms for use as input signals for the devices under test, and it recorded amplifier and ADC outputs for post-test analysis.
Image Science and Machine Vision Group works with NNSA on Semantic Labeling for Nuclear Non-Proliferation
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing an algorithmic framework to assist National Nuclear Safety Administration (NASA) in the geospatial image analyst with the tedious process of searching through geospatial image libraries for potential nuclear proliferation activities. Geospatial libraries are continuously collected today in higher spatial and spectral resolution than ever before. The ability to process and comprehend this data is limited by the number of analysts and available software tools. The ultimate goal of this research is to semantically label a variety of potential nuclear proliferation-related structures and activities in satellite imagery. This program has recently achieved first promising results by modeling nuclear power facilities with an accuracy of 84%. Work is underway to improve the approach to include a variety of other structures. The project also just successfully completed an external program review (i.e. the DOE “Schubert Review”), and was given very high marks by the review committee.
First ISA Industrial Wireless Standard Approved
Automation World (September 2009)
The ISA100.11a standard will now be submitted for ANSI and IEC approval.
It’s official. Some four-and-one-half years after forming a committee to develop a wireless standard for use in the industrial environment, the International Society of Automation (ISA, www.isa.org) announced on Sept 9 that the initial standard produced by the committee has received formal approval.
The ISA Standards & Practices Board (S&P) has voted to approve the ISA100.11a wireless standard “Wireless Systems for Industrial Automation: Process Control and Related Applications,” thereby making it an official ISA standard, the Society said in a press release. The approval of this major new industry standard by the ISA S&P Board certifies that ISA’s accredited procedures have been followed in the development of the standard, the ISA said.
The ISA100.11a standard received final approval by the ISA100 committee in April of this year with 81 percent of the voting members approving, before being passed along to the ISA S&P Board. The approval represents the first fruit of the committee, which was formed initially by the ISA in February, 2005 (www.automationworld.com/news-1204).
With the ISA S&P Board approval, the ISA100.11a standard will now be submitted to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for approval as an ANSI standard, and will be submitted to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for consideration as an IEC standard.
“The ISA100.11a standard was developed by a committee consisting of over 600 end-users and equipment manufacturers from around the world, and represents a truly consensus standard created in an open, unbiased forum by a global team of industry experts,” said Wayne Manges, ISA100 co-chair, who is a program manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn. The ISA100 committee was established by ISA to address wireless manufacturing and control systems in areas including:
• the environment in which the wireless technology is deployed
• technology and life cycle for wireless equipment and systems
• the application of wireless technology.
“The committee has been very active in pursuing its charter and I am delighted that this initial standard has been issued,” said Manges.
The ISA100.11a standard is intended to provide reliable and secure wireless operation for non-critical monitoring, alerting, supervisory control, open-loop control, and closed-loop control applications. The standard defines the protocol suite, system management, gateway, and security specifications for low-data-rate wireless connectivity with fixed, portable, and moving devices supporting very limited power consumption requirements. The application focus addresses the performance needs of applications such as monitoring and process control in which latencies on the order of 100 milliseconds (ms) can be tolerated, with optional behavior for shorter latency.
“To meet the needs of industrial wireless users and operators, the ISA100.11a standard provides robustness in the presence of interference found in harsh industrial environments, and with legacy non-ISA100 compliant wireless systems,” said ISA100 co-chair Pat Schweitzer, of ExxonMobil. The standard addresses coexistence with other wireless devices anticipated in the industrial workspace, such as cell phones and devices based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer’s IEEE 802.11x, IEEE 802.15x, IEEE 802.16x, and other relevant standards. Further, the standard allows for interoperability of ISA100 devices, the ISA said. The standard is available at www.isa.org/ISA100-11a.
International Society of Automation
New Sensor Has Unprecedented Sensitivity
It can be used in biology and chemical
Researchers at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have recently been able to exploit a phenomenon that has for a long time stopped electronics manufacturers from doing what they do best in order to create a new class of advanced chemical and biological sensors. The new instrument is capable of detecting extremely small amounts of various compounds in the air, and acts pretty much like a dog's sniffer. The innovation was produced in the laboratory of researcher Panos Datskos, who is the leader of the current efforts.
“While the research community has been avoiding the nonlinearity associated with the nanoscale mechanical oscillators, we are embracing it. In the end, we hope to have a device capable of detecting incredibly small amounts of explosives compared to today's chemical sensors,” explains ORNL Materials Sciences Division Center for Nanophase member Nickolay Lavrik, who was also the co-developer of the new system. The goal here is to make detecting explosives, biological agents and narcotics faster and more efficiently than ever before, the team says.
The researchers add that the new system consists of various components, including imaging optics, a laser, a digital camera, a signal generator, a processor for digital signals, as well as other instruments. Together, they act like an artificial nose, based on micro-scale resonators. These devices are very similar to the microcantilevers used in atomic force microscopes (AFM). This observation technique recently began being explored for producing possible mass and force sensing devices. In spite of the fact that the basic principles are very straightforward – measuring changes in the resonance frequency due to mass changes – there have been many obstacles stopping researchers from constructing such devices until now.
“These challenges are due to requirements of measuring and analyzing tiny oscillation amplitudes that are about the size of a hydrogen atom,” Lavrik says. “In the past, people wanted to avoid this high amplitude because of the high distortion associated with that type of response. But now we can exploit that response by tuning the system to a very specific frequency that is associated with the specific chemical or compound we want to detect,” states Datskos, who is also a ORNL Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division expert.
“With this new approach, when the microcantilever stops oscillating we know with high certainty that the target chemical or compound is present,” Lavrik adds. The team reveals that, if sufficient funding is secured, a working prototype to demonstrate the new technology could be constructed within 6 to 18 months.
New ORNL sensor exploits traditional weaknesss of nano device
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Walli
ORNL Communications & External Relations
(865) 576-0226; email@example.com
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 12, 2010 -- By taking advantage of a phenomenon that until now has been a virtual showstopper for electronics designers, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Panos Datskos is developing a chemical and biological sensor with unprecedented sensitivity.
Ultimately, researchers believe this new “sniffer” will achieve a detection level that approaches the theoretical limit, surpassing other state-of-the-art chemical sensors. The implications could be significant for anyone whose job is to detect explosives, biological agents and narcotics.
“While the research community has been avoiding the nonlinearity associated with the nanoscale mechanical oscillators, we are embracing it,” said co-developer Nickolay Lavrik, a member of the Department of Energy lab’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences Division. “In the end, we hope to have a device capable of detecting incredibly small amounts of explosives compared to today’s chemical sensors.”
The device consists of a digital camera, a laser, imaging optics, a signal generator, digital signal processing and other components that collectively, much like a dog’s nose, can detect tiny amounts of substances in the air.
The underlying concept is based on micro-scale resonators that are similar to microcantilevers used in atomic force microscopy, which has recently been explored as mass and force sensing devices. Although the basic principle is simple – measuring changes in the resonance frequency due to mass changes – a number of obstacles have impeded widespread applications of such systems.
“These challenges are due to requirements of measuring and analyzing tiny oscillation amplitudes that are about the size of a hydrogen atom,” Lavrik said. Such traditional approaches require sophisticated low-noise electronic components such as lock-in amplifiers and phase-locked loops, which add cost and complexity.
Instead, this new type of sniffer works by deliberately hitting the microcantilevers with relatively large amounts of energy associated with a range of frequencies, forcing them into wide oscillation, or movement. Lavrik likened the response to a diving board’s movement after a swimmer dives.
“In the past, people wanted to avoid this high amplitude because of the high distortion associated with that type of response,” said Datskos, a member of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division. “But now we can exploit that response by tuning the system to a very specific frequency that is associated with the specific chemical or compound we want to detect.”
When the target chemical reacts with the microcantilever, it shifts the frequency depending on the weight of the compound, thereby providing the detection.
“With this new approach, when the microcantilever stops oscillating we know with high certainty that the target chemical or compound is present,” Lavrik said.
The researchers envision this technology being incorporated in a handheld instrument that could be used by transportation security screeners, law enforcement officials and the military. Other potential applications are in biomedicine, environmental science, homeland security and analytical chemistry.
With adequate levels of funding, Datskos envisions a prototype being developed within six to 18 months.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE. Funding is provided by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.
NOTE TO EDITORS: You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at http://www.ornl.gov/news. Additional information about ORNL is available at the sites below:
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Wireless Control in the Process Industries: Blasphemy or Common Sense?
Written by Wes Iversen, Managing Editor (Automation World)
It may be controversial, but wireless technology is already being used in process control applications. How far and how fast will this trend go? Will we ever see an "all-wireless" plant?“Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense.”
—Robert Green Ingersoll, American statesman and orator
No one would equate the cautious nature of process engineers to superstition. After all, they are often dealing with things that can blow up and kill people, among other dire consequences, so an insistence upon absolutely dead-solid technologies that have been proven to work before installation in a plant is not only prudent, but essential.
Yet, an idea that some might have considered almost blasphemous just a few years ago—that of using wireless technology for industrial process applications—is today gaining broader acceptance. Much of the recent focus is on wireless deployment for monitoring and data gathering based on wireless sensor networks (WSNs) using the WirelessHart standard, ratified by the Hart Communication Foundation (HCF) in 2007. Also gaining momentum is the ISA100.11a industrial wireless standard, developed by the International Society of Automation (ISA) and released last September.
Early work is showing that these and other wireless technologies can be reliable in real-world industrial environments. And as users gain more confidence, many would agree that for certain monitoring applications at least, wireless is beginning to look like a common-sense alternative for the future, given the potentially huge benefits in wiring cost savings and the increased process knowledge to be gained.
Now comes what for many may require the next leap of faith—consideration and use of wireless for control applications. As part of the “Control” focus for this issue of Automation World, we decided to take a look at the status and prospects for industrial wireless control. It is not a topic that many process end-users are anxious to discuss openly, for fear of controversy, perhaps. And according to vendors, there is still a mixed bag of opinion in the field.
“Most of our customers today are OK with the idea of wireless for monitoring. There might be some caveats on where they would or would not use it, but generally speaking, it’s considered an acceptable approach,” says Jeff Becker, global wireless business director for automation supplier Honeywell Process Solutions, in Phoenix. But users have a much less universal response when the topic turns to wireless control, Becker concedes. “You still get people who say, ‘No way. Never for control.’ ” Becker notes. “But you also get some customers who say, ‘Yep, I’m doing it right now,’ ” he adds. “And a lot of the customers are still somewhere in between.”
Yes, according to vendors, wireless technology is already being deployed in control applications at some process plants. In fact, between 20 percent and 30 percent of all wireless products sold by Emerson Process Management, the Austin, Texas-based automation supplier, are today being used in control applications, says Bob Karschnia, Emerson vice president, wireless.
But that statement requires some definition. There are different levels of control, of course, and neither Karschnia nor other supplier representatives are suggesting that wireless is close to being deployed for critical, high-speed control loops. Instead, users are building confidence in wireless technologies one step at a time, initially with monitoring, then by starting with the least critical control applications first and working their way up toward more critical control jobs. Early wireless control applications typically involve non-critical, open-loop control tasks, or closed-loop control applications with longer time constants such as tank level control, temperature control of heated jackets, or control of oil field steam injection for secondary recovery operations, says Karschnia.
Supervisory control applications in which operators can provide a layer of common-sense back-up in case of problems are among the early wireless candidates. “If you’re an operator in a control room and I’m sending you a data point that’s coming in on wireless, and you get to use your brain and make a decision on what you’re going to do, that’s a form of control, and I’m okay with that,” says an engineer at one process manufacturer who asks not to be named. “But for my critical control loops, I’m a long way from doing that on wireless. I don’t think any of the vendors are quite there yet.”
Whenever process users are ready to try out wireless control, however, the standards are in place to help them do it.
WirelessHart was designed specifically to support a wide range of process-industry use cases, from simple monitoring to closed-loop control using a mesh network topology. And last year, the Hart Communication Foundation published a White Paper, “Control with WirelessHart,” available on the HCF Web site, that addresses user questions on the topic. The paper discusses issues including sampling intervals, jitter and latency, and concludes that the overall control performance of a typical WirelessHart network is comparable to that of traditional wired fieldbuses.
The ISA100.11a wireless standard, meanwhile, is aimed at the process industries and is suitable for non-critical monitoring, alerting, supervisory control, open-loop control and closed-loop control where latencies of about 100 milliseconds can be tolerated. As such, ISA100.11a—which can use either mesh or non-mesh topologies—is not intended for critical closed-loop regulatory control, says Wayne Manges, ISA100 committee co-chair, and a program manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn. Subsequent standards planned for the ISA100 family will address critical control.
Manges, for his part, believes that eventual widespread use of wireless technology for control is “inevitable.” Within the next two to three years, he foresees “test cases” using wireless control becoming common across industry. “If I run an oil refinery, I’m putting in my [wireless] monitoring network right now, and over the next two years, I will start running some first control over that network, though it will all be set-point control,” Manges says. “I think regulatory control, or tight, closed-loop control, is going to take longer than that.”
Down the road though, Manges believes that even safety-critical applications will be entrusted to wireless. “I’ve told people over and over that I can demonstrate that wireless is more reliable than wired,” he says, by using various non-commercially available approaches such as multiple frequencies, multiple transmissions and multipath resistant technologies. Perhaps one harbinger of things to come is that Manges says he has even heard of one nuclear power plant operator that is already using wireless for a control application, though for a backhaul application, and not within the nuclear plant itself.
Besides reliability, cyber security is another concern for users considering wireless control, vendors confirm. “They’re more concerned about doing control over wireless from a security point of view than they are about monitoring,” observes Emerson’s Karschnia. “If you’re just getting ahold of my outbound loop bearing temperatures on a fan, I’m probably not all that concerned about it. If, however, I’m controlling feedstock or an overflow protection system, those would be bigger concerns.”
Honeywell’s Becker agrees that security surrounding wireless remains an issue for users, though, he adds, “I’d say it’s less of a concern now that it was even a couple of years ago.” Both Karschnia and Becker note that various security features built into their respective wireless platforms, including encryption, defense-in-depth procedures and others—as well as security testing done by third-parties—have generally been enough to allay users’ security concerns.
As industrial users begin taking a closer look at wireless, automation vendors are rolling out products intended to encourage and help customers move up the wireless-control learning curve.
Honeywell’s OneWireless R120 solution introduced last June, for example, features a redundant wireless system gateway, which the company calls “a critical prerequisite for wireless process control.” By offering end-to-end hardware and radio-frequency redundancy from the wireless field instruments to the process-control network connection, along with “unique failure recovery features,” the R120 can recover in less than two seconds from any field-hardware failure, Honeywell says.
The R120 is “ISA100.11a-ready,” awaiting the availability of conformance tests for the new ISA standard, according to Becker. He notes that the wireless redundancy is a feature that customers have been asking for. “Plants will control critical processes over wireless networks, which must be as reliable as wired networks. OneWireless is ready for these new demands with built-in features that enhance data availability and system reliability.”
Emerson made a similar move last October when it unveiled full redundancy for its Smart Wireless system, available with the company’s DeltaV S-series controllers. Wireless is already deployed readily for monitoring, the company says, and customers have asked for redundancy for control, as well as for critical monitoring points.
What are vendor plans for pricing on wireless instrumentation? See “Will Wireless Device Prices Come Down? The Vendors Respond,” at www.automationworld.com/feature-6502.
Smart Wireless, which is based on the WirelessHart standard, already delivers 99.9 percent reliability, according to Karschnia. “So does having redundant gateways actually increase your communications reliability?” he asks. “In reality, not really all that much,” he says. “But what it does do is bolster a lot of confidence in people. And probably the biggest reason that people are a little bit concerned about using wireless for control is that level of confidence.”
Another approach to building wireless confidence, or minimizing risk, comes from Opto 22, a Temecula, Calif., automation supplier. The company does not use IEEE 802.15.4—the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers wireless standard upon which both WirelessHart and ISA100.11a are built. Instead, Opto 22 bases its wireless offerings on the ubiquitous IEEE 802.11 standard, known commercially as Wi-Fi (for Wireless Fidelity), which is increasingly finding use in factories and plants.
Last April, Opto 22 introduced a version of its Snap PAC programmable automation controllers and input/output (I/O) systems that incorporate both wired and wireless networking options—based on the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard for the wired link, and on 802.11a, b and g, often commonly referred to as “wireless Ethernet,” for the wireless option.
While “control” is defined differently by different people, Opto 22 customers are “certainly considering doing control with wireless,” says Benson Hougland, vice president, marketing. “But they’re not willing to step into that realm without some assurance that if it doesn’t work out, they’ve got a back-up plan.”
And that, says Hougland, is the “beauty” of the Opto 22 solution. “Rather than making people choose between wireless or wired, we can give them a solution that offers both. If they elect to go wireless, and then find for whatever reason that something is not working as they expected, then they can go ahead and move to a traditional wired network—without changing out any of the hardware.”
Not so fast
Despite growing discussion about wireless control, some wireless proponents are quick to describe control as no more than a niche application for wireless in the near term.
“Wireless control is beginning to start,” allows Hesh Kagan, treasurer and past president of the Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance (WINA), a consortium that promotes industrial wireless solutions. In industries such as wastewater management, “we’re seeing some wireless control in noncritical, loosely coupled control loops,” he observes. “But it’s almost an extension of how we do traditional SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition).” Kagan, who is systems architect, New Initiatives, for automation vendor Invensys Operations Management (IOM), in Foxboro, Mass., says he is also seeing significant interest from users in deploying wireless as a redundant control communications path to existing wired links in safety-critical systems.
But Kagan predicts that the biggest near-term applications for wireless will come in areas surrounding condition monitoring, asset management, material flow, maintenance and operator mobility. “That stuff I think is going to be almost ubiquitous in the next two, three or four years.” Use of wireless for “tight, closed-loop control” will happen, he says, but only “opportunistically” in the near term. Users will not replace today’s wired systems with wireless, so there will have to be a compelling reason to use wireless for control, he says.
The only candidates for critical wireless control might be niche applications involving mobility, or applications in which “the cost of running wires is just too exorbitant…like maybe you’re trying to get a little process unit on the other side of the railroad tracks and you’ve got to bridge the tracks,” says Kagan. Even in a greenfield plant situation in which use of wireless could produce significant installation costs savings, “the marketplace is not ready for wireless actuation on a broad-scale basis,” Kagan asserts.
Looking into the future, however, some vendors are willing to step further out onto the wireless limb.
Honeywell’s Becker says that he gets questions from customers about whether there will ever be a completely wireless plant. “I think the answer to that is no,” he says, “because there are just some points in a plant that are so critical that you’re never going to want to take the risk.” Regulatory control points on critical high-speed processes such as catalytic crackers, for example, as well as safety shutdown systems, may fall into that category.
“But I think the number of points that meet that definition are probably pretty low,” Becker continues. “Depending upon who you ask and what type of plant it is, we can pretty easily get ourselves to half the points in the plant going wireless today, and I think you might be able to increase that percentage even higher in the future,” he ventures. “But I don’t think it will ever get to 100 percent.”
For more on the position of the Hart Communication Foundation on wireless control, see “HCF’s Ed Ladd Responds to Wireless Control Questions,” at www.automationworld.com/feature-6503.
Emerson’s Karschnia goes further. “I think in the future, you’ll see plants move heavily toward wireless,” he predicts. “What the exact percentage is, I don’t know, but my gut instinct tells me that in the future, you’ll see 80 percent of the plant being wireless and 20 percent being wired.” Even 10 years from now, this is unlikely to be the norm, Karschnia concedes. “But I think you’ll see some cutting-edge people who are doing it.”
The incentive, he says, will be financial, citing a typical 60 percent to 90 percent savings today for installing a wireless transmitter vs. a wired one. When multiplied across 80 percent of a typical large plant’s I/O points, that equals a reduction of tens of millions of dollars. “The cost savings associated with this are so staggering that customers will have to look at it, just because they’re saving so much money,” says Karschnia.
Becker points out too that the savings from wireless come not just from reduced wireless installation costs. Plant implementation times can be dramatically faster without the need to run wires, he notes, reducing project risk. And by taking advantage of additional measurement points made possible by wireless technology, plants can run more efficiently and reliably.
Once more plants do make the move to wider use of wireless, including wireless control, Becker figures that other plants will be forced to follow. “If all of your competitors are using wireless and it’s resulting in lower costs, higher reliability and greater profits to the bottom line, how long can you afford not to take advantage of that?”
Philip Bingham Receives DOE Office of Science Early Career Award
Philip Bingham of the Image Science and Machine Vision Group was selected to receive the DOE Office of Science Early Career Award for "Research and Development of Detection Systems for Neutron Imaging," which is funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.
His effort is to develop a high-resolution transmission imaging system that will extend the application of neutron imaging to micro-scale structures, enabling groundbreaking research in areas such as renewable energy, energy storage, efficient transportation, and biofuels.
Current state-of-the-art neutron radiography reaches the 10-15 micrometer resolution range with high cost detectors; however, typical resolutions are on the order of no better than 50mm. The proposed development will result in an increased resolution in the 1 micrometer range using less expensive, lower resolution detectors through the use of a magnified detection system.
Released: 2/4/2010 2:30 PM EST
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Newswise — Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are among the 69 scientists that will receive five-year research grants as part of the Department of Energy's new Early Career Research Program.
The $85 million program, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by the department’s Office of Science, is designed to support exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. ORNL’s grants will be at least $500,000 per year to cover year-round salary plus research expenses.
Daniel Bardayan of ORNL's Physics Division was selected for "Studies of Nuclear Reactions that Drive Stellar Explosions and Synthesize the Elements," funded by the Office of Nuclear Physics. Bardayan previously received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and is a former Wigner fellow.
Questions about how the elements were created and what drives stars and stellar explosions can only be answered with measurements of reactions on short-lived, unstable nuclei. Since targets of these short-lived nuclei cannot be fabricated (they decay very quickly) these measurements require accelerator-based experiments with beams of exotic nuclei such as those available at ORNL's Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility (HRIBF).
The goal of Bardayan's project is to combine exotic beams at the HRIBF with a new high-density supersonic gas-jet target to make direct studies of the astrophysical reactions and nuclei that drive stellar explosions and synthesize the elements.
Phillip Bingham of ORNL's Measurement Science & Systems Engineering Division was selected for "Research and Development of Detection Systems for Neutron Imaging," funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.
Bingham's effort is to develop a high-resolution transmission imaging system that will extend the application of neutron imaging to micro-scale structures, enabling groundbreaking research in areas such as renewable energy, energy storage, efficient transportation, and biofuels.
Current state-of-the-art neutron radiography reaches the 10-15 micrometer resolution range with high-cost detectors; however, typical resolutions are on the order of no better than 50 micrometers. The proposed development will result in an increased resolution in the 1 micrometer range using less expensive, lower-resolution detectors through the use of a magnified detection system.
Kalyan Perumalla of the Computational Sciences & Engineering Division was selected for "ReveR-SES: Reversible Software Execution Systems," funded by the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research.
Perumalla's proposal builds on his unique combination of expertise in reversible software systems and high-end parallel computing. "It is aimed at a paradigm shift in ultra-scale computing, called reversible software execution, which holds new promise in the area of high performance computing," Perumalla said.
His research focuses on the application of novel reversible (anti-) computation methodologies, ultimately aimed at addressing multiple challenges in ultra-scale computing, including energy consumption, performance optimization, fault tolerance and debugging.
Athena S. Sefat of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division was selected for "Origin of Superconductivity in Structurally Layered Materials," funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.
The goal of this project is to understand the fundamental mechanisms that produce superconductivity at high temperatures in structurally layered materials.
The work will be focused on materials design and synthesis but will also include significant efforts in theoretical calculations and neutron scattering. Superconducting materials have the potential to impact a variety of energy relevant technologies, including power generation and transmission, particularly if materials can be found that can carry more current and operate at higher temperatures. Ultimately this research could lead to the discovery of new superconductors with superior properties compared with current materials.
The final details for each project award are subject to contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.