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ORNL has modeled the spike protein that binds the novel coronavirus to a human cell for better understanding of the dynamics of COVID-19. Credit: Stephan Irle/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

To better understand the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have harnessed the power of supercomputers to accurately model the spike protein that binds the novel coronavirus to a human cell receptor.

The researchers embedded a programmable model into a D-Wave quantum computer chip. Credit: D-Wave

Since the 1930s, scientists have been using particle accelerators to gain insights into the structure of matter and the laws of physics that govern our world.


A multi-institutional team, led by a group of investigators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been studying various SARS-CoV-2 protein targets, including the virus’s main protease. The feat has earned the team a finalist nomination for the Association of Computing Machinery, or ACM, Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research.

ORNL assisted in investigating proteins called porins, one shown in red, which are found in the protective outer membrane of certain disease-causing bacteria and tether the membrane to the cell wall. Credit: Hyea (Sunny) Hwang/Georgia Tech and ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory used high-performance computing to create protein models that helped reveal how the outer membrane is tethered to the cell membrane in certain bacteria.

ORNL’s collaboration with Cincinati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will leverage the lab’s expertise in high-performance computing and safe, secure recordkeeping. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

There are more than 17 million veterans in the United States, and approximately half rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for their healthcare.

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.

This photo shows the interior of the vessel of the General Atomics DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, where ORNL researchers are testing the suitability of tungsten to armor the inside of a fusion device. Credit: General Atomics

The inside of future nuclear fusion energy reactors will be among the harshest environments ever produced on Earth. What’s strong enough to protect the inside of a fusion reactor from plasma-produced heat fluxes akin to space shuttles reentering Earth’s atmosphere?

Quantum Science Center

The Department of Energy has selected Oak Ridge National Laboratory to lead a collaboration charged with developing quantum technologies that will usher in a new era of innovation.

3D-printed 316L steel has been irradiated along with traditionally wrought steel samples. Researchers are comparing how they perform at various temperatures and varying doses of radiation. Credit: Jaimee Janiga/ORNL

It’s a new type of nuclear reactor core. And the materials that will make it up are novel — products of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s advanced materials and manufacturing technologies.