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Physical Sciences Directorate

Delivering scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs

ORNL’s Physical Sciences Directorate (PSD) is home to highly integrated basic and applied research programs focused on development of new technologies for energy generation, storage, and use.  Our mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs needed to realize solutions in energy and national security and provide economic benefit to the nation.  Our portfolio includes materials, chemistry, nuclear physics and isotopes R&D and spans the research spectrum from fundamental research to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 (and beyond).  We continually seek opportunities to integrate our research with other signature activities at ORNL, particularly in the areas of computational and data intensive science, and are committed to becoming the clear world leader in neutron scattering research in materials and chemical sciences.

Our primary responsibility is to accelerate the discovery and design of new materials and chemical processes for energy, and enhance strategic capabilities in isotope production and R&D.  This is enabled by research in the following thematic areas.

Modern Materials and Chemistry:  We deliver new materials designed with tailored functionalities and chemical processes for energy production, particularly under extreme environments; storage; and use by coupling basic and applied research with state-of-the-art synthesis, characterization and computation.

Extreme Tools for Extreme Science:  We utilize advanced characterization tools that provide opportunities to deliver highly innovative material science solutions that can be readily translated to high-impact applications.

Extreme Quantum:  We harness quantum mechanics to calculate nuclear, chemical, and materials properties to create and control quantum materials and their behavior.

Advancing Theory:  We use theory, modeling and simulation to enable the design of new materials with superior properties to address the world’s energy and national security needs, provide insights to chemical properties of matter, and enable descriptions of nuclei and stellar nucleosynthesis.

Extreme Physics:  We lead experiments searching for extremely rare decays and tiny physical effects that would help solve the puzzle of why the universe has more matter than antimatter. We also develop tools and techniques that enable the discovery of superheavy elements and study the behavior of nuclei under extreme conditions.

Rare Isotopes:  We make critical isotopes more readily available to meet domestic US needs and advance isotope science to deliver radioisotope and stable isotopes.