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ORNL researchers win eight R&D 100 awards

Researchers and engineers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have won eight R&D 100 Awards, which are presented each year by R&D Magazine in recognition of the year's most significant technological innovations.

"The Department of Energy's national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I'm proud they are being recognized once again for their remarkable work," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge, increasing our nation's energy security, and protecting our environment. I want to thank this year's winners for their work and congratulate them on this award."

Bringing the total number of awards to 148, ORNL has won more R&D awards than any other DOE laboratory.

"These awards exemplify the talent and dedication of our scientists and engineers," said ORNL Director Thom Mason. "They build on a strong tradition of translating our science into applications that impact national priorities such as energy, security and economic competitiveness." This year, researchers from ORNL received recognition for the following inventions:

Alumina-forming austenitic, dubbed AFA, stainless steels, invented and submitted by a team led by Michael Brady of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division.

AFA stainless steels boast an increased upper-temperature oxidation, or corrosion, limit that is 100 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit higher than that of conventional stainless steels. These new alloys deliver this superior oxidation resistance with high-temperature strengths approaching that of far more expensive nickel-based alloys without sacrificing the typical lower cost, formability and weldability of conventional stainless steels. These new alloys have applications ranging from gas turbines and power plants to chemical and petrochemical processing equipment.

Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Advanced Research Materials Program and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The Artificial Retina Project, jointly submitted by Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, USC (Doheny Eye Institute), California Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, the University of California at Santa Cruz and Second Sight¬ Medical Products.

The artificial retina, a bio-electronic implant, enables patients with a severe form of retinal degeneration that causes blindness, the ability to recognize objects and navigate their environment. With the aid of the most current 60-pixel implant, patients can distinguish between light and dark. In order to be able to read large print and recognize faces, the implant must feature 1,000 pixels.

Funding for this project was provided through the Department of Energy's Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Second Sight Medical Products.

Fire-resistive phase change material, developed and submitted jointly by Jan Kosny and David Yarbrough of the Energy and Transportation Science Division of ORNL; Tim Riazzi, Dan Davis and Dale Work of Microtek Laboratories; Doug Leuthold of Advanced Fiber Technology; and Marc LaFrance of the U.S. Department of Energy.

This first-ever organic fire-resistive material when incorporated into conventional insulation can improve the heating and cooling efficiency in buildings. The new materials, composed of fatty-acid esters from sustainable plant and animal fats and blended with cellulose insulation, are the first phase change materials to fulfill all requirements in the U.S. flammability tests. The PCM adds thermal mass to buildings, thus generating heating and cooling energy savings of up to 25 percent in residential buildings. Temperature fluctuations are absorbed by the PCM-enhanced insulation and transferred to the environment later, resulting in energy savings.

Funding for this project was provided by Department of Energy's Building Envelope and Windows R&D programs within the Office of Building Technology.

Mass-Independent Kinetic-Energy-Reducing Inlet System for Mass Spectrometers, developed and submitted by Peter Reilly of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division.

This technology permits high-resolution mass analysis of large, intact biological molecules without having to break them apart. With this spectrometer, the large biomolecular ions are captured in a trapping field while air is pumped away. Conventional spectrometers pump most of the ions away with the air, making them less sensitive. This mass spectrometer delivers much higher resolution in the high mass range compared to conventional spectrometers. For specific use in the medical field, the mass spectrometer can be developed to rapidly image a tumor and define the boundaries so the tumor can be most effectively treated.

Funding for this project was provided through the Partnership Directorate's maturation funds program.

MELCOT: Methodology for Estimating the Life of Power Line Conductor-Connector Systems Operating at High Temperatures, submitted by Jy-An John Wang of ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division, Edgar Lara-Curzio of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Thomas King Jr. of the Energy Efficiency and Electricity Technologies Program, jointly with John Chan of the Electric Power Research Institute, Joe Graziano of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Tip Goodwin III of PBS&J.

This technology predicts the service life of conductor-connector systems. The splices connecting the conductor lines are literally the weak links in power transmission systems. With this new method of investigating performance and integrity of the power line systems, researchers can develop more durable and reliable systems for the electric power grid. Power grid operators can maintain power flow and prevent potential grid failures, and effectively reroute power distribution during emergency or natural disasters.

Funding for this research was provided by ORNL and Electric Power Research Institute.

PulseForge 3100, jointly submitted by Stan Farnsworth of NovaCentrix and a team led by Chad Duty of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division.

The PulseForge 3100 uses rapid pulses of light for high-speed drying, curing, sintering or annealing high temperature materials on plastic and paper, enabling inexpensive and flexible electronics. With the PulseForge 3100, high intensity flashlamps briefly heat inks and films to controlled high temperatures. The PulseForge and Pulse Thermal Processing systems provide a thousand-fold increase in the energy flux that is available to the surface of the processed part - cutting processing times to fractions of a second.

Funding for this development was primarily through the Industrial Technology Program within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program and through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Superconducting "Wires" by Epitaxial Growth on SSIFFS, invented and submitted by a team led by Amit Goyal of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division.

Superconducting wires are flexible, single-crystal, high-temperature cables that enable high-performance advantages for electric power grid applications. These cables are different because they are round, rather than flat like conventional wires, which lowers heat loss and eliminates energy loss, making longer transmission lengths possible. Superconducting wires can carry five times more power than copper cables and are capable of long-distance power transmission, interconnecting entire continents and providing local energy storage. For a specific device or design, wires can be bundled into larger dimension wires of any shape.

Funding for this project was provided by Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Thermomagnetic processing technology, developed and jointly submitted by a large team from ORNL, Eaton Corporation, American Magnetics, Inc., and AJAX TOCCO Magnethermic Corporation. Gerard Ludtka and Gail Mackiewicz-Ludtka led the ORNL contingent.

Thermomagnetic processing technology could revolutionize the U.S. heat-treating industry with reduced energy and processing costs. This technology enhances materials performance with an 85 percent higher stretch capability strength, enabling lighter weight designs. Thermomagnetic processing technology uses superconducting magnets to cut down on energy use in the typical heat treat processing. High magnetic fields processing reduces residual stress (post-heat treating stress) and eliminates material phases, thus eliminating specialized thermal processing steps.

Funding for this research was provided by Department of Energy's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technology Program, Toyota, Eaton, AMI and Ajax-TOCCO.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.