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Expanding the use of geothermal power generation within the U.S. requires R&D investment to better locate, access, and develop geothermal resources. The products of this investment may take the form of enabling or improved technologies, increased understanding of sub-surface processes, or improvements in operational practice. ORNL supports geothermal energy production by identifying relevant needs and performing R&D that aligns with its core scientific expertise in Material Science, Neutron Science, Computational Science, and Nuclear Science and Engineering.

The activities of our researchers span basic research and technology development while leveraging our world class user facilities including the Spallation Neutron Source, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and the High Temperature Materials Laboratory where applicable.

Our focus areas include:

  • Development of neutron imaging and scattering techniques to understand flow through fractures and the hydraulic fracture process
  • Energy conversion including the exploration of improved thermodynamic cycles and working fluids and the development of more efficient heat exchanger technologies
  • Applying advanced materials to improve well construction technologies
  • Development of harsh environment sensors for reservoir characterization