Physical Sciences Directorate

Who We Are

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. Basic research seeks to understand and control physical and chemical phenomena at the atomic level for the discovery of new materials and interfacial chemical processes required to deliver revolutionary energy technologies. This research draws on ORNL’s historic strengths in synthesis, characterization and theory and is strongly coupled to ORNL’s unique capabilities in neutron science and high performance computing. These fundamental capabilities underpin breakthroughs in energy applications that include electrical energy storage, photovoltaics, catalysis, superconductivity, structural and radiation resistant materials, separations, polymers, and carbon composites, among others. In addition, unique capabilities in materials processing within the Directorate are focused on improving the efficient manufacture of energy materials. Our nuclear physics program is focused on low energy physics, fundamental symmetries, astrophysics, theory, and isotopes. PSD includes four Research Divisions: Chemical Sciences, Materials Science and Technology, Physics, and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. Areas of expertise within in the Directorate include condensed matter physics, materials science and engineering, chemistry, analytical chemistry, geochemistry, theory/modeling/simulation, nanoscience, low energy and nuclear physics, astrophysics, and neutrino physics, neutron physics, relativistic heavy ion collisions, and nuclear and astrophysics theory.

PSD provides leadership at ORNL for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences (BES) programs, including research within the divisions of Materials Sciences and Engineering and Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences. PSD also provides leadership of ORNL programs for the DOE Office of Science Nuclear Physics program, which includes both nuclear and low energy research programs, isotope production and research programs, and the National Isotope Development Center. PSD is home to the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, one of five DOE-BES nanoscience centers within the BES Scientific User Facilities Division. The Directorate is also home to two BES Energy Frontier Research Centers: The Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures and Transport (FIRST) Center and the Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE) EFRC.