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Background image represents the cobalt oxide structure Goodenough demonstrated could produce four volts of electricity with intercalated lithium ions. This early research led to energy storage and performance advances in myriad electronic applications. Credit: Jill Hemman/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Two of the researchers who share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry announced Wednesday—John B. Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin and M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University in New York—have research ties to ORNL.

Tyler Gerczak, a materials scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is focused on post-irradiation examination and separate effects testing of current fuels for light water reactors and advanced fuel types that could be used in future nuclear systems. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Ask Tyler Gerczak to find a negative in working at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his only complaint is the summer weather. It is not as forgiving as the summers in Pulaski, Wisconsin, his hometown.

The illustrations show how the correlation between lattice distortion and proton binding energy in a material affects proton conduction in different environments. Mitigating this interaction could help researchers improve the ionic conductivity of solid materials.

Ionic conduction involves the movement of ions from one location to another inside a material. The ions travel through point defects, which are irregularities in the otherwise consistent arrangement of atoms known as the crystal lattice. This sometimes sluggish process can limit the performance and efficiency of fuel cells, batteries, and other energy storage technologies.