Research Highlights

GRIDSMART camera Leesburg
In a project leveraging computer vision, machine learning, and sensors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists are working with private company GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc. to demonstrate how stop lights can be programmed to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions while facilitating the smooth flow of traffic.
Wireless Coil
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a 120-kilowatt wireless charging system for vehicles—providing six times the power of previous ORNL technology and a big step toward charging times that rival the speed and convenience of a gas station fill-up. The wireless system transfers 120 kilowatts of power with 97 percent efficiency, which is comparable to conventional, wired high-power fast chargers. In the laboratory demonstration, power was transferred across a six-inch air gap between two magnetic coils and charged a battery pack.
ORNL researcher Moonis Ally with his published theory: "Thermodynamics of Highly Concentratied Aqueous Electrolytes."
Of all the roles Moonis Ally has held during his life, the title of ‘problem solver’ resonates with him the most.  Ally’s commitment to problem solving, and ultimately to helping others solve problems, is what led to the theory bearing his name and the book summarizing his work at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Biologists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have confirmed that microorganisms called methanogens, which are found in anaerobic environments such as soil, water and sewage, can transform mercury into the neurotoxin methylmercury with varying efficiency across species. Methylmercury can accumulate in fish, crops and water and potentially impact human health. Previously, bacteria that thrive on iron and sulfate were proven as producers of methylmercury along with a single methanogen.
MVP Ribbon Cutting
Magnum Venus Products (MVP), in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), recently celebrated the installation of the first commercially available medium/large-scale thermoset 3D printer at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. MVP and ORNL hosted a a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 5, 2018.
Next-generation fiber-reinforced composites may monitor their own structural health, detect damage, and issue early warnings. When enough electrically conductive fiber is embedded in a polymer matrix, the bulk composite becomes electrically conductive. Se
Researchers utilized a roll-to-roll process to coat electrically conductive carbon fibers with semiconducting silicon carbide nanoparticles—demonstrating a scalable method to make reinforcing fibers for composite applications requiring strong, lightweight and self-sensing materials.
For decades, biologists have believed a key enzyme in plants had one function—produce amino acids, which are vital to plant survival and also essential to human diets. But for Wellington Muchero, Meng Xie and their colleagues, this enzyme does more than advertised. They had run a series of experiments on poplar plants that consistently revealed mutations in a structure of the life-sustaining enzyme that was not previously known to exist.
An Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led team cultivated a novel oral microbe, Desulfobulbus oralis, present in adults with periodontitis,an advanced gum disease that affects nearly half of all adults worldwide. By integrating genomic and metabolic techniques with classical microbiology, the team combined single-cell genomic data with microbiological tricks—including using a complex “soup” made by other oral microbes—to grow the bacterium in the lab. By isolating D.
Soil samples like this one were examined at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory before and after thawing to determine how quickly molecules containing carbon are broken down by microbes.
Digging into the Arctic tundra, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered new insights into how quickly microorganisms break down organic matter in warming Arctic soil—a process that releases stored carbon as carbon dioxide and methane. The team studied soil extracted with a hydraulic drill rig from beneath layers of snow in Alaska. They found that small molecules such as carbohydrates, amino acids and lipids degrade faster than other compounds, indicating chemical composition is key to the speed of molecular degradation and carbon release.
Infected Poplar
Scientists studying a valuable, but vulnerable, species of poplar have identified the genetic mechanism responsible for the species’ inability to resist a pervasive and deadly disease. Their finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to more successful hybrid poplar varieties for increased biofuels and forestry production and protect native trees against infection.
SC18 Gordon Bell Award
Two US Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories were recently awarded the 2018 Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM’s) Gordon Bell Prize for work done on the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s (OLCF’s) Summit supercomputer, the most powerful system in the world.
Energy Storage Thumbnail
Oak Ridge National Laboratory translates scientific discoveries into energy storage solutions that boost energy efficiency, increase energy security, and create economic opportunity for the nation.  
SmartTruck, a small business in Greenville, SC, recently completed its first detailed unsteady analysis using modeling and simulation at the OLCF and became the first company to request certification from the EPA through CFD. Image Credit: SmartTruck
Long-haul tractor trailers, often referred to as “18-wheelers,” transport everything from household goods to supermarket foodstuffs across the United States every year. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, these trucks moved more than 10 billion tons of goods—70.6 percent of the nation’s total freight shipments—in 2016. But this transport doesn’t come without cost. That same year, medium- and heavy-duty trucks also produced 410 million tons of CO2 and consumed 42.5 billion gallons of fuel.
Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov (center), assisted by Edmon Begoli (left), thanks Kris Torgerson, ORNL chief information and privacy officer, for ITSD’s efforts on the MVP-CHAMPION program.
Chief Scientist of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Dimitri Kusnezov, visited the Lab on Thursday, Sept. 27, to formally recognize the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) team that has supported the MVP-CHAMPION program since its 2016 inception. Dr.
CF Fender
ORNL, partnering with IACMI (The Composites Institute), has successfully produced carbon fiber injection molded automotive fenders using TCF (textile-based carbon fiber). The novel, low-cost fiber includes PAN precursor and was first developed at the Department of Energy’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF), marking the first ever successful compounding and injection molding of a full-size automotive component with carbon fiber made from PAN.
Rose Ruther and Jagjit Nanda have been collaborating to develop a membrane for a low-cost redox flow battery for grid-scale energy storage. Image credit: ORNL/Carlos Jones
Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed a crucial component for a new kind of low-cost stationary battery system utilizing common materials and designed for grid-scale electricity storage. Large, economical electricity storage systems can benefit the nation’s grid in numerous ways: balancing loads between peak and off-peak demand times; supplying energy during outages; storing electricity from fluctuating sources like wind and solar power; and accommodating extreme fast charging of electric vehicles.
2018 MSR Workshop
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted the 2018 Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) Workshop—an annual event that brings together experts from industry, academia, DOE, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss current efforts related to MSRs.
A new earth modeling system will use advanced computers and have weather scale resolution to simulate aspects of Earth’s variability and anticipate decadal changes that will critically impact the United States’ energy sector. The Energy Exascale Earth System Model, or E3SM, release will include model code and documentation, as well as output from an initial set of benchmark simulations useful to the broader scientific community engaged in a myriad of energy research endeavors. 
Grid agent fixed and mobile orange drone iphone
Brixon, Inc., has exclusively licensed a multiparameter sensor technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The integrated platform uses various sensors that measure physical and environmental parameters and respond to standard security applications.
Tucked away on about five acres outside of Birmingham, Alabama, sits innovative technology that could change the way homeowners manage energy consumption. The Southeast’s first-of- its-kind residential microgrid is the main energy source for 62 state-of-the-art homes in what Alabama Power calls a “Smart Neighborhood.” The microgrid can function independently or in conjunction with the main electrical grid. The Smart Neighborhood demonstrates transactive energy allowing the system to evaluate all available power sources and choose the most efficient and economical.
Kaushik Biswas
Inspiration often strikes in the unlikeliest of places and for Kaushik Biswas, a mechanical engineer in ORNL’s Building Envelope & Urban Systems Research Group, a moment spent enjoying entertainment led to the idea of developing self-healing vacuum panels for buildings. “I was watching a movie in which tires on a presidential limousine could self-repair or inflate when damaged,” he recalled. “This intrigued me, and I thought, if tires can repair themselves, why not vacuum insulation panels?”
September 4, 2018 - Vacuum insulation technology called modified atmosphere insulation, or MAI, could be a viable solution for improving the energy performance of buildings, based on a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and industry partners. ORNL researchers used a specialized environmental chamber to characterize panels containing foam-encapsulated MAI cores and exposed them to outdoor weatherization tests via real building applications.
August 28, 2018 – With the combined mind share and facilities of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee, East Tennessee has long been a bastion for high-performance computing (HPC). For ORNL’s part, the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory has stood up three of the world’s fastest computers, and its latest champion—Summit—is hailed as the “smartest,” or most AI-compatible, supercomputer ever designed.
A stream classification system developed by ORNL researchers shows the influence of human activity on streams in the Eastern U.S. The map shows streams classified by their alteration status, highlighting the extent of networks that are impounded (magenta)
July 25, 2018 — A stream classification system developed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help assess physical changes to United States streams and rivers from human influences and aid in more effective management of water resources.
May 1, 2018 – A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory detailed the response and recovery of certain tree species after short-term, extreme weather events such as heat waves. Scientists exposed sets of four different saplings to dramatic temperature swings that peaked above 120 F, or around 50 C, in a climate-controlled test chamber. Sensors attached to each tree and located throughout the chamber tracked telltale signs of heat and drought stress such as fluxes in carbon uptake and shifts in water demand.
April 2, 2018 - Oak Ridge National Laboratory has partnered with FCA US LLC and casting manufacturer Nemak to develop a new cast aluminum alloy for engine cylinder heads, which could lead to more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines.
Adam Witt, left, and Mark Bevelhimer
Harnessing the power of water is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, from the ancient Greeks’ use of waterwheels to grind wheat to today’s massive hydroelectric dams that supply power to millions of customers. But given the high price tag, potential environmental impact and difficulty of licensing large dams, the future of hydropower may shift to standardized projects with a smaller footprint, built with less customization and lower cost on a variety of waterways.
NSITD Joule Award Presentation
On Thursday, April 12, five researchers from the Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division (NSITD) and Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division (RNSD) received Joule Awards from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control (NPAC).
Nanoscale spikes of carbon help catalyze a reaction that generates ammonia from nitrogen and water.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 2, 2018—The search for a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly method of ammonia production for fertilizer has led to the discovery of a new type of catalytic reaction.
A team of computing researchers and physicists from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has become the first group to successfully simulate an atomic nucleus using a quantum computer.  
May 1, 2018 – Algorithms designed to parse data gathered by roadside sensors could make it easier to identify vehicles sought in AMBER Alerts and to assist researchers studying traffic patterns. Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists built a sensor platform to collect detailed images of cars, as well as electrical pulses and audio signals from engines, to uniquely identify vehicles. “Two cars with an identical make, model and color would be difficult to differentiate on the road,” said ORNL’s Ryan Kerekes.
Singanallur “Venkat” Venkatakrishnan is helping scientists get a better view of objects under study by some of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s most powerful instruments by creating algorithms that turn data into 3D renderings with fewer images. The result is a better understanding of the inner workings of everything from new materials to human protein receptors.
Christina Forrester
Christina Forrester’s meticulous nature is a plus for her work leading technical testing and analysis of radiological and nuclear detection devices, whether that work takes her to the Desert Southwest or to her own lab outfitted with specialized equipment at Oak Ridge.
Nab setup at SNS
The Nab experiment is the next experiment to run on the Fundamental Neutron Physics Beamline (FnPB) at the Spallation Neutron Source. The experiment will make precise measurements of the angular correlation between neutron beta-decay products, and the beta energy spectrum, both stringent tests of the Standard Model of Particle Physics. The Nab magnet (7m long, superconducting, 4T maximum field) passed all acceptance tests and has been installed the SNS target hall. Installation of shielding (radiation and magnetic), access platforms and utilities is underway.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory engineers have devised a testbed that lets them mimic high-voltage equipment in a safe, low-voltage setting. The Software-Defined Intelligent Grid Research Integration and Development platform, or SI-GRID, operates below 100 volts—less than a household outlet— and has been used to develop communications and controls for microgrids. The platform gives researchers crucial information on how the grid functions when loads suddenly shift during a power outage, and how it can more quickly recover.
As temperatures change, snow melts, and days grow longer across North America, a network of sensors captures these vital data, measuring key weather metrics that inform an array of scientific endeavors from wildlife biology to crop studies to modeling future environmental change.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory broke the exascale barrier, achieving a peak throughput of 1.88 exaops—faster than any previously reported science application—while analyzing genomic data on the recently launched Summit supercomputer.
Last November a team of students and educators from Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge and scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory submitted a proposal to NASA for their Cube Satellite Launch Initiative in hopes of sending a student-designed nanosatellite named RamSat into space. NASA's CSLI provides opportunities for small satellite payloads built by schools and nonprofit organizations to fly on upcoming launches.
The hCA II active site is flanked by hydrophilic (violet) and hydrophobic (green) binding pockets that can be used to design specific drugs targeting cancer-associated hCAs. Five clinical drugs are shown superimposed in the hCA II active site
New insights from neutron analysis of glaucoma drugs and their enzyme target may help scientists design drugs that more effectively target aggressive cancers.   A team of researchers led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutron macromolecular crystallography to investigate the different states of three glaucoma drugs as they interact with the targeted enzyme, human carbonic anhydrase II (hCA II).
The recently discovered element 117 was officially named "tennessine" in Nov. 2016 in recognition of Tennessee’s contributions to its discovery. Researchers at ORNL, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee played a critical role in producing this superheavy element. To learn more about the discovery, please visit
A recently formulated triaxial rotor model was used to extract empirical moments of inertia of atomic nuclei from nuclear structure measurements. This model suggested that the unstable refractory nucleus 110Ru is the best candidate for ground-state triaxiality to date. Measurements of Coulomb excitation with a beam of 110Ru could give hints of a triaxial ground state for this unstable nucleus.
While most subatomic nuclei have shapes that are spherical or slightly deformed, it is known that some excited states of certain nuclei can have unusual ellipsoidal (or triaxial) shapes. Researchers have been searching for such odd shaped nuclei that exist in their ground state (lowest energy state), to no avail. Finding such nuclei can yield important information about how subatomic nuclei are held together. Theorists postulated that 110Ru, an unstable nucleus with a 12 second half-life, could be a candidate for a triaxial ground state.
The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was used to search for the formation of hydrodynamic-like excited nuclear medium being created in d+Au collisions. The team, including members of the Heavy Ion Group in the ORNL Physics Division, found near-side azimuthal correlations that are not present in elementary p+p collisions. The pattern they measured could not be an elementary particle process, but is consistent with formation of a hydrodynamic, excited quark-gluon plasma (QGP). This work demonstrates excited medium formation in systems smaller than previously thought possible.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest and most powerful particle collider, is at The European Laboratory for Nuclear Research CERN. Thomas M. Cormier, who heads the Heavy Ion Research Group at ORNL, is leading an upgrade of the electromagnetic calorimeter used in ALICE (A large Ion Collider Experiment). The 10000 metric ton, 50-foot high ALICE system is used to detect high-energy collisions of lead ions which create tiny samples of matter at energy densities not seen in the Universe since microseconds after Big Bang.
This experiment, being carried out by an international collaboration, is measuring parity-violating (PV) neutron capture in Helium-3. Together with other PV experiments (including the NPDGamma measurement at the SNS), it will provide a complete set of such measurements in simple nuclear systems, and thus determine the strength of the fundamental forces between protons and neutrons. The experiment performed well, collecting sufficient data to allow for the desired 10 ppb precision.
The nEDM@SNS experiment will measure the electric dipole moment of the neutron - essentially the roundness of its charge distribution. This measurement will help distinguish between different theoretical explanations for the existence of matter in the universe. This measurement requires isotopic purification, to the level of 1 part in a trillion, of 15 liters of Helium for every 2000 second long run cycle. The purification is achieved through application of small temperature gradients (the ìheat flushî) that move the Helium-3 isotope to the cold regions.
Two researchers in the ORNL Physics Division and the University of Tennessee (NICS) addressed the stochasticity and efficiency of core-collapse supernova explosions by using a highly simplified supernova model. With this model, they were able to run 160 simulations in 3D, by far the largest such ensemble, to explore a wide range of parameters describing core-collapse supernovae. Their model also allowed them to control whether convection or a Standing Accretion Shock Instability (SASI) was the dominant instability in the explosion.