Oak Ridge National Laboratory operates several designated Department of Energy (DOE) user facilities. The user facilities are designed to serve staff scientists and engineers, as well as researchers from universities, industry, foreign institutions, and other government laboratories. Those who want to access a user facility must submit a research proposal, the facility peer reviewers must accept the proposal, and one of several user agreements must be executed. Several user facilities house research laboratories where transportation-related R&D is conducted.
Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS)
CNMS is a collaborative nanoscience user research facility for the synthesis, characterization, theory/modeling/simulation, and design of nanoscale materials. ORNL researchers at CNMS help develop advanced electrical-energy storage technologies with high energy and power densities, long life, low cost, little or no maintenance, and a high degree of safety.
High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR)
HFIR is one of the world's most powerful research reactors. The High Temperature Materials Laboratory (HTML) manages a beamline at HFIR dedicated to the determination of residual stresses. Metalsa, which supplies side rails and chassis components to over 50% of the North American heavy truck market, used this beamline through the HTML User Program to validate a hole-cutting method for reducing weight by 10%-20% in several of its current production models. This represents 100-200 pounds per truck, or an annual savings of up to 30 million pounds of steel. Total fuel savings on 150,000 trucks driving 100,000 miles per year is estimated to be 3.8 million gallons each year.
High Temperature Materials Laboratory (HTML)
HTML supports the development of advanced materials, providing researchers from U.S. industries, universities and governmental agencies hands-on access to skilled staff and sophisticated instruments and facilities for materials characterization. HTML houses six user centers that contain specialized equipment designed for specific types of properties measurements. Transportation-related research areas include catalysis, energy storage, lightweighting, high-strength weight reduction, vehicle propulsion materials and thermoelectrics.
National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS)
NCCS provides the most powerful computing resources in the world for open scientific research to understand how the physical world works, and use that knowledge to address pressing national and international concerns. Transportation-related work includes performing highly parallelized multi-length-scale computer simulations to help understand the physical causes of resistance of plant cell walls to hydrolysis—the major technological challenge to developing cellulosic bioethanol.
National Transportation Research Center (NTRC)
NTRC houses about half of ORNL’s transportation R&D programs and laboratories. Its research centers focus on fuels, engines and emissions, power electronics and electric machines, heavy vehicle safety research, transportation analysis, and high-risk/high-value packaging.
Spallation Neutron Source Experimental Facility (SNS)
SNS is an accelerator-based neutron source at ORNL that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research, including transportation applications. For example, its neutron-scattering research helps determine the atomic structure of high-performance magnetic materials used in vehicles and can allow researchers to gather more detailed information on the microscopic properties and dynamics of optical fibers, leading to possible use in batteries and fuel cells for powering emission-free vehicles.