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Oak Ridge National Laboratory entrance sign

Balendra Sutharshan, deputy associate laboratory director for operational systems at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has joined ORNL as associate laboratory director for the Isotope Science and Engineering Directorate.

The Perseverance rover

On Feb. 18, the world will be watching as NASA’s Perseverance rover makes its final descent into Jezero Crater on the surface of Mars. Mars 2020 is the first NASA mission that uses plutonium-238 produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Associate Laboratory Director Kathy McCarthy heads the ORNL directorate that manages proto-MPEX, a linear plasma device that informs the development of the MPEX tool for study of fusion materials. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy
From the helm of a one-of-a-kind organization that brings nuclear fusion and fission expertise together to pave the way to expanding carbon-free energy, Kathy McCarthy can trace the first step of her engineering career back to
ORNL recognized the small businesses that have made a positive impact on ORNL’s operations at the virtual 2020 Small Business Awards. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Thirty-two Oak Ridge National Laboratory employees were named among teams recognized by former DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette with Secretary’s Honor Awards as he completed his term. Four teams received new awards that reflect DOE responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

ORNL welder Devin Johnson uses a new orbital welder to seal a hollow target in a glovebox in the lab’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. The new welder makes a clean seam on the metal target, eliminating the need for hand-finishing afterward. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A better way of welding targets for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s plutonium-238 production has sped up the process and improved consistency and efficiency. This advancement will ultimately benefit the lab’s goal to make enough Pu-238 – the isotope that powers NASA’s deep space missions – to yield 1.5 kilograms of plutonium oxide annually by 2026.

An international research team used scanning tunneling microscopy at ORNL to send and receive single molecules across a surface on an atomically precise track. Credit: Michelle Lehman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences contributed to a groundbreaking experiment published in Science that tracks the real-time transport of individual molecules.

Oscar Martinez loads a special form capsule into the leak tester for a helium leak test in the packaging facility of the National Transportation Research Center. Credit: Jason Richards/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

As program manager for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Package Testing Program, Oscar Martinez enjoys finding and fixing technical issues.

By producing 50 grams of plutonium-238, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated the nation’s ability to provide a valuable energy source for deep space missions.

With the production of 50 grams of plutonium-238, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have restored a U.S. capability dormant for nearly 30 years and set the course to provide power for NASA and other missions.

Pellet selector

When it’s up and running, the ITER fusion reactor will be very big and very hot, with more than 800 cubic meters of hydrogen plasma reaching 170 million degrees centigrade. The systems that fuel and control it, on the other hand, will be small and very cold. Pellets of frozen gas will be shot int...

Processing plutonium-238

Since its 1977 launch, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has travelled farther than any other piece of human technology. It is also the only human-made object to have entered interstellar space. More recently, the agency’s New Horizons mission flew past Pluto on July 14, giving us our first close-up lo...