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Chuck Kessel

Chuck Kessel was still in high school when he saw a scientist hold up a tiny vial of water and say, “This could fuel a house for a whole year.”

Blue sky above ORNL campus.

ORNL and three partnering institutions have received $4.2 million over three years to apply artificial intelligence to the advancement of complex systems in which human decision making could be enhanced via technology.

Suman Debnath is using simulation algorithms to accelerate understanding of the modern power grid and enhance its reliability and resilience. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Planning for a digitized, sustainable smart power grid is a challenge to which Suman Debnath is using not only his own applied mathematics expertise, but also the wider communal knowledge made possible by his revival of a local chapter of the IEEE professional society.

stacked poplar logs

Popular wisdom holds tall, fast-growing trees are best for biomass, but new research by two U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories reveals that is only part of the equation.

These fuel assembly brackets, manufactured by ORNL in partnership with Framatome and Tennessee Valley Authority, are the first 3D-printed safety-related components to be inserted into a nuclear power plant. Credit: Fred List/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

The Transformational Challenge Reactor, or TCR, a microreactor built using 3D printing and other new advanced technologies, could be operational by 2024.

Xunxiang Hu, a Eugene P. Wigner Fellow in ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, designed this machine to produce large, crack-free pieces of yttrium hydride to be used as a moderator in the core of ORNL’s Transformational Challenge Reactor and other microreactors. Credit: Xunxiang Hu/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

About 60 years ago, scientists discovered that a certain rare earth metal-hydrogen mixture, yttrium, could be the ideal moderator to go inside small, gas-cooled nuclear reactors.

A selfie from the Curiosity rover as it explores the surface of Mars. Like many spacecraft, Curiosity uses a radioisotope power system to help fuel its mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Radioactive isotopes power some of NASA’s best-known spacecraft. But predicting how radiation emitted from these isotopes might affect nearby materials is tricky

Innovation Network for Fusion Energy, or INFUSE

The Department of Energy announced awards for 10 projects with private industry that will allow for collaboration with DOE national laboratories in accelerating fusion energy development.

Paul Abraham uses mass spectrometry to study proteins.

Systems biologist Paul Abraham uses his fascination with proteins, the molecular machines of nature, to explore new ways to engineer more productive ecosystems and hardier bioenergy crops.

This photo shows the interior of the vessel of the General Atomics DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, where ORNL researchers are testing the suitability of tungsten to armor the inside of a fusion device. Credit: General Atomics

The inside of future nuclear fusion energy reactors will be among the harshest environments ever produced on Earth. What’s strong enough to protect the inside of a fusion reactor from plasma-produced heat fluxes akin to space shuttles reentering Earth’s atmosphere?