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Unique imaging capabilities yield new knowledge, growth for bioeconomy

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have a powerful new tool in the quest to produce better plants for biofuels, bioproducts and agriculture.

ORNL’s Drew Elliott served as a major collaborator in upgrading the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta. Credit: Robert Kaita, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Lithium, the silvery metal that powers smart phones and helps treat bipolar disorders, could also play a significant role in the worldwide effort to harvest on Earth the safe, clean and virtually limitless fusion energy that powers the sun and stars.

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.

ORNL scientists are currently using Proto-MPEX to perform necessary research and development that is needed to build MPEX. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Temperatures hotter than the center of the sun. Magnetic fields hundreds of thousands of times stronger than the earth’s. Neutrons energetic enough to change the structure of a material entirely.

Ecosystem Ecologist Verity Salmon captures and analyzes field data from sites in in Alaska and Minnesota to inform earth system models that are being used to predict environmental change.

While some of her earth system modeling colleagues at ORNL face challenges such as processor allocation or debugging code, Verity Salmon prepares for mosquito swarms and the possibility of grizzly bears.

Suman Debnath

Suman Debnath, a researcher at ORNL, has been elevated to the grade of senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Prospecting for deformations in exotic isotopes of ruthenium and molybdenum, Allmond found they displayed a deflated-football morphology. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In the Physics Division of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, James (“Mitch”) Allmond conducts experiments and uses theoretical models to advance our understanding of the structure of atomic nuclei, which are made of various combinations of protons and neutrons (nucleons).

Kat Royston

As a teenager, Kat Royston had a lot of questions. Then an advanced-placement class in physics convinced her all the answers were out there.

Researchers discovered the Tennessee cavesnail, Antrorbis tennesseensis, in caves near Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The snail measures in at less than 2 millimeters long. Credit: Nathaniel Shoobs and Matthew Niemiller

Sometimes conducting big science means discovering a species not much larger than a grain of sand.

Postdoctoral researcher Nischal Kafle positions a component for a portable plasma imaging diagnostic device at ORNL in February. The device, a project for ARPA-E, is built of off-the-shelf parts. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL

The techniques Theodore Biewer and his colleagues are using to measure whether plasma has the right conditions to create fusion have been around awhile.