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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.

Joe Hagerman is expanding connected neighborhood research at ORNL and envisions buildings of the future as resources capable of managing the flow and exchange of energy based on economic and market signals – a concept known as transactive energy. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Joe Hagerman, ORNL research lead for buildings integration and controls, understands the impact building technology innovations can have during times of crisis. Over a decade ago, he found himself in the middle of one of the most devastating natural disasters of the century, Hurricane Katrina.

Yanwen Zhang

In the search to create materials that can withstand extreme radiation, Yanwen Zhang, a researcher at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says that materials scientists must think outside the box.

At the U.S. Department of Energy Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, this part for a scaled-down prototype of a reactor was produced for industry partner Kairos Power.

Scientists at the Department of Energy Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL have their eyes on the prize: the Transformational Challenge Reactor, or TCR, a microreactor built using 3D printing and other new approaches that will be up and running by 2023.

Starch granules

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to peer deep into the nanostructure of biomaterials without damaging the sample. This novel technique can confirm structural features in starch, a carbohydrate important in biofuel production.

Scanning probe microscopes use an atom-sharp tip—only a few nanometers thick—to image materials on a nanometer length scale. The probe tip, invisible to the eye, is attached to a cantilever (pictured) that moves across material surfaces like the tone arm on a record player. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory; U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Liam Collins was drawn to study physics to understand “hidden things” and honed his expertise in microscopy so that he could bring them to light.