Hubs, Centers, and Institutes

Night view of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences, which houses BioEnergy Science Center offices and laboratories

Night view of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences.

ORNL is home to—and a partner in—a number of Hubs, Centers, and Institutes.  The laboratory is home to the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) Energy Innovation Hub, and a partner in the Critical Materials Institute Energy Innovation Hub.  CASL was the first DOE Energy Innovation Hub, established in July 2010 while the CMI is the latest hub to be funded.

Innovation Hubs

The Department of Energy's Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that combine basic and applied research with engineering to accelerate scientific discovery that addresses critical energy issues.

ORNL plays a key role in two of these hubs: the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, which focuses on improving nuclear reactors through computer-based modeling, and the Critical Materials Institute, which develops solutions for rare earth elements and other materials critical to a growing number of clean energy technologies.

Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) is the first DOE Energy Innovation Hub established in July 2010, for the purpose of providing advanced modeling and simulation (M&S) solutions for commercial nuclear reactors.

Critical Materials Institute

The Critical Materials Institute will focus on technologies that will make better use of the materials we have access to as well as eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions.


Center for Bioenergy Innovation

The Center for Bioenergy Innovation's vision is to accelerate domestication of bioenergy-relevant plants and microbes to enable high-impact, value-added, co-product development at multiple points in the bioenergy supply chain.

DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers

The Energy Frontier Research Centers program aims to accelerate such transformative discovery, combining the talents and creativity of our national scientific workforce with a powerful new generation of tools for penetrating, understanding, and manipulating matter on the atomic and molecular scales. ORNL is also home to two DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers, the Fluid Interface, Reactions, Structures and Transport (FIRST) Center and the Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE) EFRC. The goal of the FIRST CFRC is to address the fundamental gaps in our current understanding of interfacial systems of high importance to future energy technologies, including electrical energy storage (batteries, supercapacitors) and heterogeneous catalysis for solar energy and solar fuels production. The CDP aims to develop a quantitative understanding of the mechanisms of defect formation, evolution and interactions that determine material behavior under irradiation. 

Other centers

These centers also call ORNL home: 


Climate Change Science Institute

The Climate Change Science Institute was formed in 2009 to integrate climate science activities across ORNL. CCSI’s priorities are to create the science, experiments, data, and community capacity needed to:

  • Strengthen the predictive capabilities and effectiveness of climate and biogeochemical models.
  • Identify and understand how extreme events and climate tipping points impact the resiliency of human and natural land-energy-water systems.
  • Participate in national and international climate assessments and response option analysis.
  • Develop useful climate adaptation and mitigation tools and information in collaboration with land-energy-water system stakeholders.

Urban Dynamics Institute

The world is urbanizing rapidly, experiencing an unprecedented rate of population growth that is increasing demand for energy, food, water, and other natural resources and raising concern about environmental impacts and matters of human security such as poverty, crime, and pandemics. 

With this growth has come an explosion in Big Data, fed by citizens’ billions of inputs on social media as well as countless other cyber platforms. In this sea of information lies a singular opportunity to understand and anticipate human dynamics in urban environments.

The Urban Dynamics Institute at the ORNL was established to develop novel science and technology to observe, measure, analyze, and model urban dynamics—from the city to the global scale. UDI’s work gives researchers a data-driven understanding of complex urban systems, governed by the rigor of both physical and behavioral sciences.

Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials

The Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials is being formed with the specific objective of catalyzing advances in imaging technologies integrated with deep data. The Institute will be a leader in fostering the emerging synergy between imaging-related areas and computational sciences. IFIM will bring together teams with expertise in imaging instrumentation, fundamentals in physical and chemical imaging processes, and data analytics. 

Joint Institutes

ORNL, in partnership with the Science Alliance of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has a number of cooperative ventures in science and engineering research programs.  One facet of that partnership includes four UT-ORNL joint institutes that link distinct, complementary resources in select, high-priority scientific and engineering fields at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Those Joint Institutes are:

Joint Institute for Advanced Materials

The Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) promotes interdisciplinary research and education related to developing new materials with superior properties (such as greater toughness and high-temperature strength) or those that can be tailored to support new technologies (such as pocket-sized supercomputers).

Joint Institute for Computational Sciences

The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) advances scientific discovery and state-of-the-art engineering and computational modeling and simulation. JICS takes full advantage of the petascale and beyond computers in the Department of Energy National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) and UT’s National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS).

Joint Institute for Heavy Ion Research

The Joint Institute for Heavy Ion Research (JIHIR) links UT, ORNL, and Vanderbilt University research that explores the structure of atomic nuclei, via several types of experimental programs and an extensive UT-ORNL theoretical nuclear physics initiative.

Shull Wollan Center/Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences

The Shull Wollan Center/Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences (JINS) promotes worldwide neutron scattering collaboration among researchers in biological and life sciences, energy sciences, polymer science, condensed matter physics, and computational sciences.

Science and Discovery