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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.

Battery materials at interface

Scientists seeking ways to improve a battery’s ability to hold a charge longer, using advanced materials that are safe, stable and efficient, have determined that the materials themselves are only part of the solution.

The CrossVis application includes a parallel coordinates plot (left), a tiled image view (right) and other interactive data views. Credit: Chad Steed/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

From materials science and earth system modeling to quantum information science and cybersecurity, experts in many fields run simulations and conduct experiments to collect the abundance of data necessary for scientific progress.

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.

microscope lens and lithium battery prototype

The formation of lithium dendrites is still a mystery, but materials engineers study the conditions that enable dendrites and how to stop them.

Weiju Ren’s knowledgebase is making the nuclear world safer. Called DOE’s Gen IV Materials Handbook, it manages data about structural materials for the Very High Temperature Reactor. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Six new nuclear reactor technologies are set to deploy for commercial use between 2030 and 2040. Called Generation IV nuclear reactors, they will operate with improved performance at dramatically higher temperatures than today’s reactors.

Combining fundamental chemistry with high-performance computing resources at ORNL, researchers demonstrate a more efficient method for recovering uranium from seawater, unveiling a prototype material that outperforms best-in-class uranium adsorbents. Credit: Alexander Ivanov/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Scientists have demonstrated a new bio-inspired material for an eco-friendly and cost-effective approach to recovering uranium from seawater.

ORNL collaborator Hsiu-Wen Wang led the neutron scattering experiments at the Spallation Neutron Source to probe complex electrolyte solutions that challenge nuclear waste processing at Hanford and other sites. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University teamed up to investigate the complex dynamics of low-water liquids that challenge nuclear waste processing at federal cleanup sites.

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.