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ORNL researchers win five R&D 100 awards

Researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have won five 1995 R&D 100 Awards. The awards are presented annually by R&D Magazine in recognition of the year's most significant technological innovations.

Four awards were for research done exclusively at ORNL, while the fifth was for a joint entry with 3M Company of St. Paul, Minn. Through 1995, ORNL has received 79 R&D 100 awards. The Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant and the Oak Ridge K-25 Site, which like ORNL are managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, have received 10, giving the company a total of 89 R&D 100 awards since 1963.

The awards were for the following processes or inventions: .

* Exo-Melt process. This process provides a furnace-loading method for low-cost manufacturing of advanced materials such as nickel and iron aluminides. Nickel aluminide is used for a variety of products, including furnace furniture such as trays, belts, radiant tubes and mufflers for high-temperature applications. Nickel aluminide is also expected to be useful for pumps and water turbines. Iron aluminides are typically used in heating elements for toasters, stoves, ovens and dryers. Other uses include automobile exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, mufflers and hot gas filters used for coal gasification. The Exo-Melt process offers significant energy and time savings over conventional methods of producing aluminides.

The Exo-Melt process was developed by Metals and Ceramics Division researchers Vinod Sikka, Joseph Vought and Seetharama Deevi, who is on a one-year sabbatical at ORNL from The Research Center, Philip Morris, Richmond, Va.

* Gelcasting. This is a new ceramic-forming process for making high-quality, complex-shaped ceramic parts. Gelcasting is not limited to use with any particular ceramic powder, and researchers describe it as a "robust and forgiving process" that can be quickly adapted for new materials and new applications.

Gelcasting was developed by Mark Janney, Ogbemi Omatete, Stephen Nunn and Claudia Walls of the Metals and Ceramics Division.

* Gravimetric gas flow calibrator. This device provides for accurate calibration of gas flow meters with corrosive or non-corrosive gases. It is significantly more accurate than existing volumetric calibrators, many of which can operate only with non-reactive gases. The gravimetric gas flow calibrator uses a unique, patented technique for safe, automated, in-process weighing of gases. The device was originally developed for the semiconductor industry, which requires accurate instruments to calibrate mass flow controllers. These controllers regulate the flow of tiny amounts of various gases into vacuum chambers where semiconductors are produced. Other applications of the gravimetric gas flow calibrator are likely.

Carl Remenyik of the Instrumentation and Controls Division developed the gravimetric gas flow calibrator.

* Magnetic spectral receiver. This instrument monitors magnetic fields that can affect the function and accuracy of instruments used in a variety of applications, including nuclear power plant control rooms. The receiver provides low-cost, highly accurate magnetic field monitoring diverse facilities where instrumentation is vital to the facility's operation.

The magnetic spectral receiver was developed by Steve Kercel, William Dress, Robert Rochelle and Mike Moore of the Instrumentation and Controls Division.

* 3M Ceramic Composite Filter. This fiber-reinforced ceramic composite candle filter removes particulates from hot gas streams in pressurized fluidized bed combustion systems and coal gasification plants. Advantages over conventional filters include lower weight, lower pressure drop, enhanced thermal shock resistance, enhanced chemical stability and easier cleanability.

Technology used in the 3M Ceramic Composite Filter was developed by David Stinton, Rod Judkins, Rick Lowden and Jerry McLaughlin of the Metals and Ceramics Division. Also listed on the award are 3M employees Edward Fischer, Joseph Eaton, J. Lawrence Kahnke, Douglas Pysher and Bill Weaver.

ORNL is one of DOE's multiprogram research laboratories.