Discovering and exploiting the unique properties of materials are essential to the creation of advanced energy systems. ORNL has one of the nation’s most comprehensive materials research programs, which positions the lab to lead American initiatives in clean energy, national security, and industrial competitiveness.
For instance, lightweight materials are fundamental to the future of transportation and in other energy-related arenas. By creating new polymer composites with novel properties, ORNL is ushering in a new era of vehicles in which lighter fleets consume less fuel yet are far safer than today’s cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships. And by exploiting materials that exhibit unique magnetic and electric properties, ORNL is helping the country move toward a new age of electronics in which devices such as cellular phones and tablets could exceed current data storage by a factor of housands, making all the data on an iPhone fit in a device the size of your pupil. Other lab initiatives include understanding and manipulating materials at the nanoscale—about the size of a water molecule—and materials that could increase the efficiency and reliability of systems for power generation, storage, distribution, and use, such as batteries.
ORNL’s materials leadership is supported by user facilities including the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Shared Research Equipment Collaborative Research Center, Spallation Neutron Source, and Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.
Together, ORNL’s resources compose the nation’s most comprehensive center for materials research and interfacial chemistry (processes that occur at boundaries such as between gas and liquid or gas and solid). By coupling basic and applied research, ORNL will lead the way to unprecedented performance in energy systems based on understanding and controlling structure and function at the atomic and molecular levels.