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ORNL’s Marcel Demarteau inspects experiments along Neutrino Alley at the Spallation Neutron Source, which makes neutrinos as a byproduct. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Marcel Demarteau is director of the Physics Division at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For topics from nuclear structure to astrophysics, he shapes ORNL’s physics research agenda.

Distinguished Inventors

Six scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory were named Battelle Distinguished Inventors, in recognition of obtaining 14 or more patents during their careers at the lab.

Six ORNL scientists have been elected as fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Six ORNL scientists have been elected as fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS.

Sarah Cousineau

Two scientists with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory entrance sign

Geoffrey L. Greene, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who holds a joint appointment with ORNL, will be awarded the 2021 Tom Bonner Prize for Nuclear Physics from the American Physical Society.

Substituting deuterium for hydrogen makes methylammonium heavier and slows its swaying so it can interact with vibrations that remove heat, keeping charge carriers hot longer. Credit: Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Led by ORNL and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a study of a solar-energy material with a bright future revealed a way to slow phonons, the waves that transport heat.

The n-helium-3 precision experiment, conducted at ORNL, measured the weak force between protons and neutrons by detecting the tiny electrical signal produced when a neutron and a helium-3 nucleus combine and then decay as they move through the helium gas target cell. Credit: Andy Sproles/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Through a one-of-a-kind experiment at ORNL, nuclear physicists have precisely measured the weak interaction between protons and neutrons. The result quantifies the weak force theory as predicted by the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

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

Fuel pellets sometimes degrade to a sandlike consistency and can disperse into the reactor core if a rod’s cladding bursts. ORNL researchers are studying how often this happens and what impact it has, in order to let reactors operate as long as possible without increasing risk.

A developing method to gauge the occurrence of a nuclear reactor anomaly has the potential to save millions of dollars.