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Materials for the world

ORNL’s Jeremy Busby with cast stainless steel. Image credit: Jason Richards, ORNL

75 years of science and technology

Jeremy Busby didn’t always understand the power of technology transfer, where fundamental discoveries are nurtured to succeed in the marketplace.

Busby, who directs ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, is older and wiser now, and he's seen the process work.

Busby leads one of ORNL’s largest and most storied divisions, with a portfolio that evolved from the materials challenges of the early Atomic Age. In those days, ORNL developed corrosion-resistant steels for nuclear reactors that became industry mainstays. Now, that expertise is applied to tough materials challenges ranging from energy to additive manufacturing to national security applications.

His division averages 70 to 80 invention disclosures and 30 to 40 patents annually. “Almost every week I get a notification that someone is interested in one of our patents,” Busby says.

When the basic-to-applied model works, the payoff can be huge. ORNL’s work with high-temperature materials in the 1990s evolved into a critical part of General Electric's LEAP jet engine.

“They have incorporated that technology into ceramic parts in jet engines that allow higher temperatures and greater efficiency. They’ve presold $150 billion worth of aircraft engines largely based on collaborative research with us,” he says.

Busby believes high-tech solutions to problems in energy and national security could make the

biggest impacts in seemingly mundane infrastructure applications, such as water pipes.

“We have all the tools and experience. We do lots of work in fusion, fission, geothermal, fossil, energy storage, wind and solar. It’s fun bringing those things together. A solution for one may also help solve others,” Busby says.