Tools for understanding energy materials and materials processes
As new materials are developed, it is critical to understand how these materials will perform under thermal stresses. ORNL has specialized capabilities to measure thermophysical properties as a function of temperature and correlate these properties with the processing, microstructure, and performance of materials--including thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, specific heat capacity, Seebeck coefficient, electrical resistivity, emissivity, and thermal expansion.
For example, thermoelectric materials can be used in all-solid-state devices to convert heat directly into electricity, or they can use electricity to pump heat for refrigeration. Most of the current thermoelectric research at ORNL is focused on converting “waste heat,” such as generated by an automobile, into useful electricity. These applications result in the more efficient use of fossil fuels, and in the case of an automobile or truck, results in better gas mileage. Thermoelectric devices are attractive because they are quiet, use no greenhouse gases, and the only moving parts are electrons and holes. The efficiency of thermoelectric materials is determined by careful measurement of all of the material’s transport properties, which is done at ORNL.
ORNL also uses high performance infrared (IR) cameras for both temperature mapping and process monitoring and thermal property measurement and mapping. In addition, IR thermography is being used as a non-destructive examination technique to detect cracks, delamination, subsurface corrosion, and impact damage.
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